[Bell Historians] This week's obscure question

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at s...
Sat Oct 18 15:08:23 BST 2003

At 11:43 +0100 2003/10/18, David Bryant wrote:
> > (From the contexts in which I've seen this abbreviation used, my best
>> guess is "rolled steel joist", but I wouldn't bet money on that. The
>> term isn't used in America as far as I know.)
>Yes - correct! Don't they call them 'I-beams' in America?

Yes. Perhaps one reason Americans don't use the term "RSJ" is that 
the same process (rolling hot steel) is used to produce other 
cross-sectional shapes, such as channel "]" or angle ">". Also, the 
term "joist" typically refers to horizontal use (i.e., floor joists, 
which is approximately the context of David's original question), but 
I-beams can just as well be used as vertical framing members, or even 
diagonal braces. (Although a vertical steel post may have a cross 
section more like an H than an I, it's still called an "I-beam".)

We could put a lower limit on the answer to David's question by 
finding out when the hot-rolled steel process was developed (or came 
into common use). I would expect to find that different bell-hangers 
adopted its use for supporting bell frames at different times, 
especially because of the variety of problems involved in fitting new 
frames into old towers. On the American side of the pond, where 
church bells were often installed at the same time the tower was 
built, the adoption of steel supports might have been as much a 
decision of the church architect as of the bellfounder.

I could write more about the evolution of American bellframes from 
timber to cast iron and steel, but perhaps that's wandering too far 
from David's question.


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