Case Studies


Musical gongs

It was music to the ears of Columbia Metals when Philip James got in touch in search of nickel silver sheets to make a gong. Nickel silver has unsurpassed sound resonating capabilities and Columbia Metals stocks the alloy in sheet form in several thicknesses.

Philip, a musical instrument maker from Bristol, has been passionate about sound and music all his life. Gong making is a relatively new and hugely exciting adventure for him.

“The first time I ever heard a gong being played,” says Philip, “it took me to such a magical place. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by them. For the past year or so, I have been researching heavily into the mysterious art of gong making. I have also been trying to get a better grasp of metal work, specifically how heat affects metal and the resulting sound it produces when struck.

“It is quite a niche thing, gong making, but gongs are really picking up in popularity,” he continues. “Although most gongs nowadays have the lip turned over, this is more accurately known as a tam tam rather than a gong. I decided, for my first creation, to leave the lip flat and, in shape and sound, make a gong closer to its original form. These are often marketed as wind gongs.”

Gongs originate from sixth century China, where they were used for spiritual drumming in rituals and tribal meetings. Nickel silver is now regarded as an ideal material for making these musical instruments due to the sound quality and timbre it produces after being tempered and annealed.

“The sound of a gong is quite unlike anything else,” explains Philip. “It helps one to reach a deeply meditative, transcended state of consciousness. From this place of being, deep relaxation, psychological and spiritual healings often take place. Gongs are really good at bringing things to the surface.”

Columbia Metals has been stocking nickel silver sheets for many years to both the NS104 and NS106 specifications. Philip required NS104 for his project and was encouraged that Columbia Metals hit all the right notes in customer service.

“After my initial email enquiry, I was fortunate enough to be contacted via phone by one of the sales team,” Philip enthuses. “I found the staff member to be really helpful, friendly and warm. This, for me, is what makes a company shine.”

About Philip James
Philip James is a musical instrument maker specialising in the production of gongs. With a huge passion for anything that makes sound, Philip lives in a house full of musical instruments, from guitars, bass, cello, piano, drums and percussion to turntables and modular synths. For the past 10 years, Philip has suffered from chronic health issues but, when his health has allowed, has been making and designing raw, organic, vegan chocolates and running a very small chocolate business from home. In 2020, however, he decided to make a big change and let go of his chocolate business in favour of following his dream of making music instruments. Sound has always played an important part of Philip’s life and he is over the moon to finally be following his true passion.

Philip James on Instagram
Philip James on Facebook

About NS104
NS104 is the standard grade of nickel silver for general purpose applications. It contains 12% nickel which provides corrosion and tarnish resistance to levels well in excess of normal brasses. Columbia Metals stocks NS104 in sheet from 0.8mm to 1.6mm thick. NS106 nickel silver, which contains 18% nickel, is also available in sheet between 0.3mm and 1.5mm thick.

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