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How are Tingsha Made?

What are Tinghas? Click here to read an article described what tingshas are, how to use them and for what purposes.

Tingshas can vary in quality significantly from foundry to foundry, from artist to artist and even from one tingsha or set of tingshas to another.

Pricing reflects the variety and quantity of metals used (ie silver content), quality of craftsmanship and rarity or uniqueness. Actual notariety of a select few craftsmen may also effect the price.

NOTE: As of June, 2004, we've seen a SIGNIFICANT INCREASE in metal prices (including but not limited to silver prices). At this time we have chosen NOT to raise our prices, even though our costs have risen considerably.

Caliber of Tingshas can be broken into five rough categories (some of which overlap):

- Quality (and variety or number) of metals used to cast the tingshas.

- Quality of casting (fine details and overall finish, including raised, etched or encised symbols and characters).

- Quality and tone of the ring.

- Duration of tone/ring when struck (typically the longer the tone lasts the better the quality).

- Quality of Tuning (of individual and sets of tingshas, both alone and as a pair.)

At Zanzibar Trading we carefully select our tingshas from a select group of individual artisans and foundries. Tibet, Nepal and Northern India are the countries where we find these unique hand cymbals.

The old saying "you get what you pay for" rings very true when considering tingshas.

Most of our tingshas are produced by Tibetan metalsmiths, living in exile. Their techniques have been passed down from generation to generation.

ALL of our tingsha are purchased using Fair Trade guidelines (artisans set their own prices, facilities are inspected to insure safe working conditions, no child labor is involved, sources of materials are audited to ensure they are renewable and or sustainable, etc.).

METALS USED IN PRODUCING TINGSHAS

For centuries the basic alloy of bronze (copper and tin) has been used to create bells and other instruments. Bell bronze is an alloy of about 80% copper and 20% tinó for millennia, this has proven to be the optimum alloy, with just the right combination of hardness and resonance, to make a beautiful sounding and long lasting bell. In Tibet, this practice was taken to a new level, where "secret" combinations of rare earth metals were combined to produce incredibly long lasting and pure tonal qualities.

Silver, gold, zinc, tin, aluminum, silica, iron, nickel, manganese as well as some other "secret" metals or ingredients may be used in varying quantities.

The age-old art of bell and tingsha casting, passed down from father to son and from master to apprentice for centuries, allows bell makers to cast bells that are remarkably close to a desired tone.


CASTING OF TINGSHAS

The deft crafting of Tinghas is a learned art. While the process sounds simple, it is actually extremely complex.

The design process is critical because the tingsha's size, shape and decoration (or lack there of) directly effects its sound. The design process incorporates not only the shape, design and size of the finished tingsha, but include the actual metalurgical makeup (recipe) for the alloy to be used.

The next phase is building the mold. This lengthy phase involves many steps as the design is first translated into a 3-dimensional form, and then used to create a sand mold into which the metal can be poured.

All of the steps are done by hand in the foundry. Often the first designs will be crafted from clay, with finished designs being created in bees wax - creating a "lost wax" design. In a two-part mold, which is typical of sand castings, the upper half, including the top half of the pattern, flask, and core is called cope and the lower half is called drag.

The special alloy is mixed and is heated to approximately 2000 degrees. As the metal is heated in the furnace, a smaller burner heats a ladle or pouring cup, which will be used to pour the liquid metal into the mold(s). When the metal has reached the desired temperature it is poured from the furnace into the a ladle.

While in the ladle, tiny amounts of phosphorized copper are added to the bronze/alloy mixture. This copper bonds with any impurities in the metal and rises to the surface. The impurities are then skimmed off of the steaming mixture and the purified metal is ready for pouring.

From the ladle, the metal is slowly poured through a narrow cone and filter into the individual tingsha molds. The filter acts much like a flour sifter or a screen on a faucet, dispersing the hot bronze so that it flows softly and evenly into the mold.

Once the mold has been filled, any excess liquid metal is poured into ingot molds. These metal blocks will harden and be reused in future castings.

After pouring, the tingsha must cool for anywhere from several hours to a day or more depending on its size. After cooling, the mold is opened or broken, leaving a blackened tingha.

Each tingsha is examined for defects in casting. If any warping, voids, projections, cracks, tearing, or any visible defects are noted, the tingsha is recycled and re-cast.

The tingshas that pass the visual inspection (about 20% of those poured) are gently cleaned or sand blasted to remove the grit and blackness, and a shiny, polished tingsha emerges!

Each tingsha is struck to determine its harmonics and whether it meets strict quidelines. If these harmonics are too varied, the tingsha is melted down, and a new tingha, with a revised design or new mix of metals must be cast. While it varies from tingsha design to design, foundry and craftsman to craftman, normally only about 1 out of ten poured tingshas meet the strict quality quidelines of our craftsmen and Zanzibar Trading Co.

TONES AND TUNING OF TINGSHAS

Once cast, tingsha can be tuned a variety of ways. The most traditional way is to cast the "perfect tone" - these rare tingsha are not tuned at all and are produced only by true masters.

Contemporary tingsha are usually tuned after casting to a precise tone by hammering, removing shavings from the edges, grinding down their surfaces or by trimming them on a lathe. As mentioned earlier, in the Tibetan tradition this tuning would be impermissible, as it would ruin the bell's "personal" distinctiveness.

Exceptional sets of tingshas are actually tuned so closely that after striking them together, if you silence one (typically by resting it against your chest) then place it close to the still ringing tingsha (facing one another), and then silence the second tingsha, the one you originally silenced will ring - it can actually pick up the "sympathetic" vibration and will ring with the same tone as the first. This takes a little practice and only a VERY FEW select exceptional tinghas will do this (and conversely, usually the most expensive ones).

The actual art of tuning each set of tingshas this close to one another is a very laborious task and is very difficult, under the best of circumstances even with the best metals.

FINISHING THE TINGSHA

Tingsha are matched for sound quality and any final tuning or etching is done. Some plain tingshas have designs etched into their surfaces using acid. A strap, traditionally of leather (but as often a heavy cotton string today) joins the two tingsha into a set, ready to be played.

Zanzibar Trading Company offers one of the largest selections of Tinghas online. To view our inventory, click here

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