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Bell making

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David Snaith23/02/2019 00:28:40
8 forum posts


I need to make a small bell. It can only be about 17mm dia x 15mm high. I need it to ring as loudly, richly, and sustained as possible.

My first thought was to try spinning some brass or nickel silver into a bell shape. But I am also open to the idea of machining it out of solid.

Does anyone have any experience with such a thing? Specifically I am looking for insights into materials, hardness, shape, wall thickness, and anything else that might help me produce a beautiful, loud, sustained ring from a ridiculously small bell.

Thanks in advance.

David George 123/02/2019 07:35:46
797 forum posts
282 photos

Hi David have you been to the bell foundry in Loughborough they make bells of many sizes from Big Ben to hand bells they are all cast in bell metal a hard brass material it cannot be spun but only cast and machined to correct thickness and size to get right tone etc. Have a look at their site looking for small and hand bells. well worth a look and visit.


Nicholas Wheeler 123/02/2019 07:58:30
240 forum posts
13 photos

That's a tiny bell and very odd proportions, that are extremely unlikely to give the sort of noise and tone you want.

Bell metal is a bronze alloy, not brass.

Michael Gilligan23/02/2019 07:59:47
13108 forum posts
570 photos

I agree that a visit to Taylor's foundry should be interesting

... 'though it must have been the early 70s that I went.


You may also try contacting Dr. Hibbert, who appears to be rather good on the theoretical side:



Ian S C23/02/2019 11:09:25
7349 forum posts
229 photos

David, the size is fairly large for putting on a cat's collar, but not much, but a bell that size will tinkle rather than ring, or chime.

Ian S C

Baz23/02/2019 13:49:44
189 forum posts

Ian SC how do we know the bell is destined for a cats collar? I have read every word of the previous posts and nowhere is a cat mentioned.

David Snaith23/02/2019 17:57:40
8 forum posts

Baz, I think Ian was just using the cat collar bell as an analogue, implying that a bell that small is unlikely to ring like big ben.

Thank you all for your input - I really appreciate the benefit of your combined experiences.

I have a sample bell that is only a little larger than the bell I need. It rings beautifully. It is deep drawn on a 7 stage progressive die. I believe it is made from UNS C75200 nickel silver. It gives me hope that what I am trying to do might be possible, but alas, I don't have a progressive die.

Ian S C24/02/2019 11:03:33
7349 forum posts
229 photos

I imagine that after the final tooling the bell would be left in the work hardened state as metal in the annealed state has a dull tone. The reference to the cat was a bit tongue in cheek, and not to belittle your efforts.

Ian S C

Neil Wyatt24/02/2019 11:10:43
15990 forum posts
674 photos
73 articles

But bear in mind what Liberty Bells are celebrating


george Aldous24/02/2019 12:47:49
14 forum posts

Neil, I always say a liberty bell celebrates the fact that we had the good sense to get out of the americas before it all went wrong..

David Snaith24/02/2019 14:00:02
8 forum posts

Ian, no offence taken at all. I appreciated your analogy.

Neil, leaving geopolitical history aside, what I find interesting about the liberty bell videos is that, while pitch is related to size, resonance is not. Some of the smaller bells rang much more clearly that some of the larger ones. There is a magic going on that I do not understand.

Michael Gilligan24/02/2019 19:05:59
13108 forum posts
570 photos
Posted by David Snaith on 24/02/2019 14:00:02:

Some of the smaller bells rang much more clearly that some of the larger ones. There is a magic going on that I do not understand.


I suspect that there are two significant 'variables' at work:

  1. The spectrum of harmonics [i.e. the tuning of the bell]
  2. The stiffness of the material from which it is made [generally speaking, stiffer materials have higher Q]


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