Gong forging is a centuries-old art developed in a land rich in copper and nickle. Since bronze melts at a relatively low temperature, artisans use coal fired by forced air to create not only gongs but metalaphone keys and pot gongs.


Forging fire: coal oxidized with forced air. Traditionally, the tender used a hand-operated bellows. Now electic fans are used.

Materials used to create bronze: a ratio of ten-parts copper to three-parts tin. Mostly, copper is gleaned from used copper wire, seen below. The molten mixture is poured to make giant disks, which will then be reheated and shaped.
Forgers use steel sledge hammers to stretch the bronze, spreading the diek into shape. They alternate this with wooden sledges, which shape the metal. Pictured to the left is a group of four men swinging hammers in sequence (and in rhythm.) As they go, a handler turns the instrument using large steel tongs. When one revolution is completed, the gong goes back into the fire until it's white hot. The forgers then perform additional hammerings.
Here, the gong is mostly shaped. Striking the hot metal can send up sparks: notice how a forger is sheilded with a fan.



Additional shaping is done when the gong is cool. This long wooden beam is used with an awl to fashion the hub and frontal contour through sheer kantilevered weight.

Gongs are finished by filing the rough, hammered surfaces smooth. This reveals the golden bronze sheen below. Some gongs are filed on the hub alone, leaving the rest of the body black. Javanese instruments are given a shallow groove around the hub, whereas Balinese gongs are not.