[Bell Historians] Bell profiles

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at s...
Thu Jan 22 19:09:15 GMT 2004

It may be of interest to note that all three of the American 
bellfoundries which actually tuned bells did so with external as well 
as internal cuts.

Meneely (Watervliet), the only "old" American foundry to take tuning 
seriously, developed a 2-point tuning system and then a 5-point 
tuning system, early in the 20th c. At some point, they appear to 
have decided that machining on the outside as well as the inside 
would give them better control of their profiles, so they dropped 
_all_ decoration (including moulding wires) from their bells. This 
is true of almost all of their carillons as well as most of their 
later chimes. On such bells, inscriptions were added after machining 
using pin punches; that can be quite difficult to read if the bells 
are dirty. I think that they continued to used raised decorations on 
single bells and small peals, for which tuning was less critical. 
This foundry closed about 1951, after 125 years of operation.

H.T.Vanbergen operated a foundry in Greenwood, South Carolina, from 
the 1950s to the late 1970s or early 1980s. I visited him once there 
in 1970 or 1971; he used a catalyzed sand casting process which 
produced quite a rough surface, requiring machining inside and out. 
(Large bells for American installations were supplied by his brother 
from the old family foundry in Heiligerlee, and have typical raised 

The modern foundry of Meeks, Watson & Co., located east of 
Cincinnati, Ohio, also produces undecorated bells, though I believe 
their molding process is less rough-surfaced than Vanbergen's was. 
Incidentally, Rick Watson is the acknowledged expert in retuning (or 
tuning for the first time!) old American bells, having developed this 
expertise while head of the cast-bell division of the Verdin Company 
of Cincinnati before forming his own company. In addition to casting 
new bells and retuning old ones, they build complete chimes and 
carillons and renovate existing ones. When they require new bells 
larger than their own foundry capacity, they generally subcontract to 


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