Bells. Bell metal has been and is most usually used for the casting of high-quality bells, as its colloquial name suggests. The metal used is a high-tin alloy of copper and tin with a copper-to-tin ratio of around 4:1. (78 percent copper, 22 percent tin).
The term "bell metal" is also sometimes applied to other metals that sound good when cast in large quantities, such as iron and zinc. These are not true metals, but alloys or mixtures. Zinc-copper alloy is the most common type of foundry sand used when making castings. Iron-brass is another common foundry material called "bell metal" because it makes good-sounding bells when cast in large quantities.
Iron is used for making bells because it is easy to work with when molten, and its density helps them keep their shape while they are being molded into shells.
Zinc is used for its low melting point (420 degrees F), which allows it to be used in processes where other metals would break down under similar conditions.
Brass is a common alloy used for making bells in large quantities because it produces a metal with a rich tone when melted down with other metals. The two main components of brass are copper and zinc.
Bronze, which contains roughly 23% tin, is the typical metal for these bells. This alloy, often known as "bell metal," is the typical alloy for the best Turkish and Chinese cymbals. Brass and iron are two other materials that are occasionally used for huge bells. The key function of the bell is to give off sound when struck by a hammer. The more metal in the bell, the higher its pitch will be.
The largest bell in Europe is held by the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Müllerthurgau, Germany. It is called the Great Bell and it has an amazing weight of 740 kg (1 631 lbs). It was cast in 1488 by German artisans at the command of Rudolph II, who was the king of Bohemia and Hungary at the time. The Great Bell is still used today to mark important dates in the church calendar. It can be rung by pulling on a rope next to which a button has been mounted.
There are several large bells in North America too. The most famous one is probably the Boston Town Bell, which is also the oldest surviving town bell in America. It was built in 1713 and weighs about 20 tons. It hangs in the Old South Meeting House in Boston, Massachusetts.
In England, there is only one large bell left in working order.
Bronze, an alloy (combination) of copper and tin, is frequently used to make bells. While the proportions have been tinkered with for thousands of years, the most widely accepted optimum composition is 80 percent copper to 20 percent tin for a bronze with broad resonance and pleasing sound. Bells are cast in molds and often include core samples of wood or stone to improve their tone. As they are used, they wear out and must be replaced.
Bells were first made from metals that could be worked by hand. Bronze, which can be cast or wrought, was the first choice because it has better vibration qualities than iron. The earliest bells were hollow shells called cobs whose tones were tuned to match those of musical instruments at the time. They were used by temple musicians and found on ancient sites around the world. Records show that some cobs were made from silver but most were made from copper. Some cob bells were large enough to be worn like hats by several people at once.
In the 11th century, Benedictine monks in Burgundy developed a new type of bell called a cloche. These bells were covered with leather or cloth and taken outside to be rung by hand during worship services. Cloches are still used today in some parts of the world. They can be very loud when struck properly!