[Bell Historians] Re: Devon Bells

Frank King Frank.King at fFfodR6oY67Je5dtZxgt8-n10qp3EiQCVSPANjYJudflVfH_VksIXhbuG1WtQ4LBoOA7AuTCORDLQ-yIHg.yahoo.invalid
Sat Jan 20 18:00:18 GMT 2007

> I wonder how those bellfounders figured how much new tin
> to add, and how good a job they did of getting the mix 
> right - much more difficult in this situation than when
> casting a bell from all new metal.

I haven't worked in a bell foundry but I did work for a
while in an iron foundry and I was amazed at just how
foundry-men decided whether the mix was right and whether
a whole lot of other things were right too like the
temperature and the slag content.

The problems were much the same as when recasting bells.
Most of the metal was scrap and there was the added
difficulty that different grades of iron were needed
for different castings.

Absolutely no high-tech instrumentation was used.  The
foundry-men would look at the top of the molten mass
(without any eye protection!) and would then run off
a little metal, letting it splatter onto the sand on
the foundry floor.

Somehow, by looking at how the metal spattered and
making judgements which seemed utter magic to me,
they would say things like, "still too cold", or
"needs some steel".

I particularly enjoyed the latter comment.  Some
guy would then come up with a wheelbarrow full of
old railway chairs (hey what is the American for
these things?) and toss half a dozen into the
melt.  There would then be a bit of shouting
as to whether that was enough and sometimes a
few more were tossed in.

As the day's metal was run off, decisions were
made as to how it was going.  "Better use that
for the oven doors", or, "it's OK for the small
gate posts now", or whatever.

Some of the foundry men had "worked non-ferrous"
and told me that much the same magic was used

This was all in the early 1960s.  I don't think
much had changed in a couple of centuries.

I would guess that the itinerant foundry-men
would have been just as good at assessing their
melts before pouring the castings.  I can just
imagine them saying, "needs more tin".

Frank H. King
Cambridge, U.K.


More information about the Bell-historians mailing list