Historical methods of bell tuning

Richard Offen richard at UwHPIP7YeQRP1X8F7OnJffuq0t2h8b4tMqrSYBivfgSUlkKCvD5_BVaN8AKrZO5IAb-cG6Hx7HF6.yahoo.invalid
Thu Aug 3 04:21:41 BST 2006

> One associated question that fascinates is when bellfounders became 
> aware of partial tones. The Hemonys and Van Eyck knew, of course, but 
> the practical application of the knowledge died with them. The 
> written reference I have found is Helmholtz (1877), who appears to be 
> quoting other earlier German sources. Does anyone know if any UK 
> founders were aware of partial tones in the 18th or early 19th 
> centuries? The written descriptions and drawing of the Rudhall tuning 
> achine suggests it could only remove metal near the soundbow, i.e. 
> only used for tuning nominals.
> Cheers,
> Bill H

I suspect that many of the better founders were quite aware of partial 
tones (most good musicians that I know easily pick up on the minor 
third, fifth, etc), but were probably not so aware of their 
significance in improving the tone of their product and didn't fully 
realise the process they were going through when the changed the 
profile of their strickles.

You are indeed right that the old Rudhall machine was incapable of 
cutting a bell anywhere much below soundbow - this is why Whitechapel 
installed its first boring mill style tuning machine when is started to 
experiment with harmonic tuning.

Returning to my earlier comment about musicians and their observation 
of bell harmonics, the Head Percussionist of the West Australian 
Symphony Orchestra visited Swan Bells the other day (they're borrowing 
three of our, as yet, unhung clock bells for a performance of Mahler's 
Sixth tomorrow evening).   He tapped one of the former Ascot Racecourse 
clock bells and instantly remarked, "Oh!   Minor third, I wasn't 
expecting that!"

Once my library stops bobbing about on the high seas and arrives in WA 
(mid-September), I'll go through  my science of music books (I have 
quite a collection!) and see what early references I can dig up.



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