Bell Casting & Tuning Cast Bells

The art of casting a bell can be traced back all the way to the 12th century. The earliest bells recorded are said to have been made from pottery and evolved using stronger materials like bronze.

Over time the general process of casting a bell has since remained fairly much the same. With each foundry using their own expertise and traditions to put their unique touch on bell casting, you can see the process and techniques vary from company to company. For centuries, bells have been a notable symbol in many societies. Overtime, advancements in technology have made the way we cast bells more efficient.

The bell casting process

The Bell Casting Process

  1. Moulding – Once a bell design has been established, it’s time to start the moulding process of the bell. An exact model of the outer part of the bell is made using either stone, brick or coke. Once the the model has been made, it is then covered with sand or a type of soil call loam. Between the coating of each sand or loam layer, which usually consists of 3 layers, the bell is placed in a kiln to dry. Once the final layer of sand or loam has been applied, designs and inscriptions can be made into the bell.
  2. Pouring – After the outer part of the bell has been moulded, it is then lowered into an inner bell mould and clamped together leaving space in between each piece. This space between both moulds is there to allow for a molten material, usually tin, bronze or cement, to be poured in between.  Once these 2 pieces are clamped together, the molten material is then poured in between them.
  3. Cooling – After the moulding of the bell is complete, the bell needs to cool for a few days. Some bell casting companies will lower the bell into a pit or straight into the ground, depending on the method they choose to use and the traditions of the foundry. Depending on the size of the bell, the cooling process can take a couple days. For larger bells the cooling process can take up to a whole week.

Cast Bell Tuning

Bells are casted uniquely to ensure certain amounts of metal can be removed to adjust the harmonics within. Removing these metals allows the bell-operator to accurately tune the bell and adjust the harmony. Metal from bells can’t be added, so the process of tuning should be done carefully and by an experience professional. There are 5 principals of bell tuning:

  • Hum
  • Fundamental
  • Tierce
  • Quint
  • Nominal

Over the years, there has been new tuning technology developed. Some of these technologies include a tuning lathe, which can manually remove metals from the inside of the bells the help adjust the tone. However, some bell-founders still like to do the tuning process by hand for an individualistic sound.

Since early civilization, bells have been symbols of significance across multiple cultures. From hanging outside churches to ringing in town squares, bells have shaped many of the cities and cultures we know today. With advances in technology, we’ve seen the bell casting process transform become more efficient, while still reflecting ancient casting practices.

McShane can provide you with new cast bells or even refinish your existing ones!



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