Reverberations #5 - How to Clean a Gong & Gong Factory Pics!

by Andrew Borakove October 05, 2008

I. How do I clean my gong?

This question has been asked by generation after generation of chocolate ice cream loving gong players! We hope this Newsletter from the Malletheads at Gongs Unlimited, will help!

II. How they make gongs in Wuhan China?

This question has been asked by generations of humans who do not live in Wuhan China making gongs.

Hello Customers and Friends of Gongs Unlimited!

If it’s summer and it’s been a long time since the Head Mallethead has written one of these missives, then it must be time for the… 



Before we get started, let us get this stuff out of the way.

You are receiving this because either 1) you requested to be on the mailing list – Thanks Everyone! Or 2) you bought something from us – Thanks Everyone Again!  

Of course, if you just bought a gong you may not want to receive the newsletter, however infrequently we send it.  Sooo, if you don’t want yourself no newsletter, follow directions at the bottom of the newsletter!

Also, please note – this newsletter is copyrighted.  You have total sweet joyous permission to pass it around, just keep it attributed to us. We have discovered some other sites have been lifting our pics and quasi-comedy and using them without attribution and that makes us “sangry” which is sad and angry at the same time.   Bwahhhhhhhh…grrrrrrrrrr.


This newsletter concerns itself with two basic down-to-earth gong topics.


We do get a lot of queries about this issue.  And we know that so many of you are prone to throw away your gong as soon as it gets a fingerprint or two on it.   Just like your Styrofoam cups and pet ostrich. Dirty, dirty ostrich! Sure, another person’s lipstick on your ostrich is weird, but no one else should be kissing your gong.
HENCEFORTH, you don’t have to throw it out. You can clean that gong!

There are different methods for cleaning different gongs. And of course there are different dirt issues, so if we don’t answer your specific question here, email us.

Let’s start off with Chinese Gongs.

These are mostly made with an amalgam of Copper and Tin that we call Bronze, but my Chinese gongmakers translate as Brass. But it is Bronze. Brass is Copper and Zinc. Bronze is Copper and Tin. Thanks to extra double secret translation from Gongmaster Michael Bettine. (You will see his gong care tips below.)

If you just have some fingerprints and general dirt, try it first with just a soft clean cloth. Sometimes the fingerprints will just leave with just some good focused rubbing.

If they don’t, we recommend Sabian Cymbal Cleaner which we usually have in stock!

You spray it on and rub it off – following the specific directions. Which are basically rub it a few times, like Aladdin’s lamp, to get it all shiny again. You can use paper towels, or terry cloth towels.

That was easy, right? EXCEPT FOR THE FACT that sometimes you have a gong that is more...yucky.   

Maybe you have water stains on the brass, left there by the rope which leaned against it? Or your gong has been outside for a long time and it has lost its luster? Or it is just plain DIR-TAY from use and years.

Well in that case we do recommend using  Brasso or Noxon. While some old school band teachers would flinch at this above suggestion PLEASE NOTE: We are not recommending this technique for cymbals or other metal instruments besides Chinese gongs. Not Paiste Gongs.  

1) Squirt on Brasso or Noxon to SHINY parts of Chau Gong, or all of the Wind Gong.    

2) Wipe it around with paper towel. Evenly coat it. Throw paper towel out.

3) Take terry cloth towel or similar rag and begin polishing. Your gong will get darker as you move the iron oxide particles around. Keep polishing. It will start to get shiny. Keep using clean part of rag when polishing.

4)  Once the shiny part is shiny, if a Wind Gong you are done as it is all shiny.  

5)  If you have a Chau Gong, the bullseye design, you can make that part darker again by using a little bit of Olive Oil or furniture oil, dabbed lightly on a clean rag and rubbing it around the dark part.


(It looks all gloppy and is a pain in the butt to clean off. Do it slow and be careful.)

NOTE: If you have a brand name logo on your gong, be careful!

The Brasso or similar will mess it up. If you are into having that logo, cover it up or steer around it if you use Brasso or Noxon. It will be fine with Sabian Cymbal Cleaner.

Email us if you want to get rid of the logo. We are expert logo getter-ridders. Some people could care less about some name on their gong. And you can clean your gong and make it look prettier without the logo!



GONG CARE Tip from Gongmaster Michael Bettine

For Care of Gongs, after you clean them, coat them with a microcrystalline wax. This is what museums use to preserve their treasures. There's a brand called Museum Wax that is readily available. You can also use a good furniture or auto wax. What you want to do is coat the bronze to protect it from the elements (finger prints, smoke, grease, dust, etc.) You can see and hear Michael by clicking this link.



Well Mallethead, you may say, that’s all fine and good, but what about my fancy professional Paiste Gongs!!!

How do I clean my Paiste Gong?
Do NOT use what we just said for Chinese Gongs on your Paiste Gong.

Paiste Gongs are not the same kind of bronze as Chinese gongs.

They are made from a metal amalgam called Nickel-Silver - which is really another version of Bronze which could be called Nickel Bronze. Of course, it is not a combo of nickel and silver, but this - an alloy of copper with nickel and often, but not always, zinc. It is named for its silvery appearance. A representative example, but not the sole one is this: 65% copper, 18% nickel, and 17% zinc. In metallurgical science, such alloys would be more properly termed nickel brass.



PAISTE GONG TIP from Michael Bettine

The Paiste Gongs have a great coating from the factory that should last indefinitely, unless you use harsh cleaners that can remove it. The only problem I've found is that if you don't wipe off/clean your gongs regularly, finger prints/etc. can sort of get into the coating, leaving spots.



They are not going to get dirty the same way either. Hopefully you never have to clean them, but if you do…

These gongs can be cleaned naturally – with a diluted vinegar and water combination and a soft cloth. This will take off most light dirt and markings.

HELPFUL THOUGHT: We always suggest starting with the lightest natural-est cleaner first and working your way to the harder stuff.

Some people suggest a 50/50% solution in a spray bottle and spraying it on the gong and wiping off.

Another well respected gongmaster suggests White vinegar, approx two tablespoons of salt and add white flour until it becomes a watery paste. Then rub it on, let dry, and then rub rub rub with pressure to get off.

Vinegar and water was a little too “douchey” for you? Didn’t clean it enough?

You can also clean them with a Paiste Cymbal Cleaner. Yes, we usually have plenty in stock!



Then of course, there is the case for Silvo.

Don Conreaux, gong teacher to gongphilics, suggests in his workshops, and we have heard elsewhere, that you can clean your Paiste gongs, should they ever really need cleaning with dear sweet cousin to Brasso, SILVO. We have not tried it, but have heard positive things from people who have.



Say it’s NOT so! A scratch on your Paiste Gong. Aiiiieee!

We will be experimenting with a special Paiste Product this summer that is supposed to do a good job of fixing the scratches. All we have to do is find a scratched Paiste Gong. If you have this concern, please email us at and we can tell you how it worked. Or maybe test it out on your scratched Paiste Gong.




A pictorial essay Many gong customers have asked us Malletheads: “How exactly are the gongs made? We want to know! Are the workers exploited like in factories that make Nike plimsouls or Miley Mouse Montana’s flip-flops and ringtones, or those Beanie Baby breeding grounds that force different species of stuffed animals to mate to get those new weird ones?!”

And we answer, “No. Gong makers are skilled craftsmen who ain’t bein’ exploited!”

Then others have asked, “Should I even purchase a Chinese Gong because the Chinese leaders are nasty to Tibetans, Uighers and Tiananmen Squarites? And all communists want to destroy the environment?”

AND then we answer, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, yogurt yogapants Momma with your eyebrow pierced and your wheatgrass seeded and weeded. We’re confused… Are you asking us about China OR That America place that got genocidal on Cherokees, Sioux, etcetera, AND didn’t pay good wages to slaves, actually any wages at all really, AND killed protesting students at Kent State, AND is pockmarked with Superfund sites?”

Because we Malletheads often get That America and That China confused.

Actually we think of our two nations as a blended family - the United States of China - bonded by a love of noodles, cheap electronic gizmos, Ang Lee and Jackie Chan.

Remember -- those of you who do your civil disobedience in sivasana pose -- people are people, as Depeche Mode once sang, so why must it be, political leaders are often mean to you and me? (INSERT DRUM MACHINE)

Well, the answer is simple of course- most leaders are jerks because they have cut themselves off from the compassion and love of God. Oh and because until we change it, the essence of politics is about power, so you have lots of greedy power-lusters involved in it. So they do shitty things until we stop them or they die. (Think about fave tyrant and his exploits here.)

So don’t judge a gong by its country of origin. Or a citizen by their leader. Or yourself by that tattoo you got in college.

NOW EVERYONE, the Gongs Unlimited bus has stopped in front of a gong and cymbal factory in Wuhan China to see how gongs are made! Yes, these fine Asian artisans are practicing an art developed 1000 years ago.



Gong Smelting

They are smelting the copper and tin, separating out the impurities. Then mixing it (80%+20%) and pouring into a alloy plate which will allow them to make the bronze gong or cymbal.



Now that the alloy plate has the metal poured into it, they heat the alloy plate in a coal fired oven. As far as we know, no mesquite is used to enhance the flavor of the gong.



The Alloy Plate is now out of the oven. Yummm. It is now hammered the first time in this machine to create the basic shape of gong or cymbal.



A cymbal head is shaped. If this was a gong, they would be working on rim and angle of slope on the gong.



Now they use another machine to hammer the gong or cymbal into specific shape and sound for that instrument. They make certain is has correct strength and can handle stress of playing.



Final hammering is done by hand. The Hand hammering to make the shape perfect and to make sure the sound is correct. Human ears and expertise are involved here.



The last thing they do is lathe the metal, cymbal or gong to make it brilliant and shiny. (This is before the final testing.) Some gongs only have portions lathed. The Chau gong has dark parts which are not lathed.



And there you have it gong fans, sinophiles, magic metal meditators, and feng shui all-the-way’ers. It’s a simple process, made more simple by mechanical hammers. Gongs made by the Men in Blue.

That was fun, wasn’t it?

Okay, everyone back on the bus! We’re off to see how they put the Pow! in Kung Pao Shrimp.


Hey technological wizards and OCD communicators! Now you can follow us on Twitter. If we get enough followers we will start offering special deals via Twitter.

Andrew Borakove
Andrew Borakove


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