Restoration of a Hand Rung Iron Church Bell

Restored 35” in diameter steel bell.

Restored 35” in diameter steel bell.

Carl Rickershauser of Coastal Clock and Chime in Cinnaminson, NJ restored a beautiful sounding little hand rung iron bell in the tower of the Atlantic United Methodist Church in Ocean City, MD. To begin with, it had typical tower bell issues, starting with loose and broken bell clapper return springs. These are indicated if the bell, when pealed, is muffled or stutters in one direction. It takes some experience to reproduce and install these springs, as they must provide a measured and precise resistance to the force of the clapper. These springs were equipped with rubber clapper pads for long service.

An unstable wooden frame base, compromised by rot, can cause the bell standards to spread and the bell to take a catastrophic tumble. This condition was indicated here as the bell was supported by improvised props mounted from the belfry walls. In reproducing frame elements, particular care was paid to accurately copy the factory joinery and to use dry, stable materials. White oak and, especially, hemlock were used in the original work and will support the specialized joinery well. Fabricators must remember that they are producing a machine part and not merely an architectural element and take appropriate care. Originally, the bells were mounted and tested at the factory, disassembled and shipped flat.

Carl Rickershauser is a Member of the Guild of Building Artisans.

List of Bell Restoration Specialists.

Missing clapper return springs caused damage to bell.

Missing clapper return springs caused damage to bell.

Bell sits in unstable cast iron standards.

Bell sits in unstable cast iron standards.

 

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