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Silver Bell Rattles


As a gift for a person who doesn’t wear jewelry, I adorned a collar
for her cat, using bezel set jade alternating with silver domes (it
is on my web site under “Earrings and Things”). I added an ID tag
and wanted to include a bell. The bell is important for outdoor
cats because it warns birds of the cat’s intentions.

The bell I made is a 24-gauge sterling closed sphere (9.5-mm) with a
pierced design opening. It has a solid 4-mm sterling ball loose
inside. I tumbled it in steel shot.

The bell does not ring. All I got was a rattle. Even when it bangs
against the tag, it only clanks. I also tried a larger sphere with
a large opening and a bell clapper. Still no ring. A half-sphere
with a clapper makes a tiny ring but if it is not swinging free of
the collar, it too doesn’t ring. The ordinary steel bells that come
with cat collars ring no matter which way it is moved.

Has anyone made a silver bell out of a more or less closed form.
Anyone have any ideas? Thanks for help.



Hi. I know it may seem too obvious, but did you by chance check to
see that the steel tumbling shot didn’t sneak through the piercings
into your bell ? I don’t tumble things like that - Murphy’s Law
says the little morsels will stick in the strangest places, no matter




I haven’t seen many responses on this one so perhaps I can add a
musical perspective… To ring like a bell, the metal needs to be
hard - very hard. Most silver is just too soft and will only produce
a dull thud so, to make a successful bell of any type, the silver
needs to be well hammered. The silver bells which were popular on
babies rattles in the 19th century were made by repousse techniques
and not annealed, soldered etc. after they were formed. For this
reason the design of the bell must be carefully thought out. It can’t
be made by soldering together two halves of a sphere for example but
two halves of a hard hammered sphere could be press fitted together.
Many of the Victorian silver bells are found cracked simply because
they were very thin and highly stressed by being so hard. Perhaps you
could get a feel for what’s needed by taking a piece of silver sheet,
hanging it from a string and tapping it with a steel rod - then
hammer it all over and try again - keep doing this until it rings
properly and you will have the state you are trying to achieve…

Best wishes,

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


All of what Mr. “Watchman” says is true, except for one tiny, little
itty-bitty detail- Those aren’t bells. Bells are cast. When you
make a “bell” out of sheet metal, it is a gong. This is, in fact,
what a bell is, and what a gong is, although in common usage people
call them what they want - a cow bell is actually a cow gong, but
who’s going to argue? The difference is not just a label - sheet
metal goes “clang”, but a bell is a complex mechanism, tonally, that
has a thinner top, graduating up to a heavy band of metal -forget
what it’s called, offhand - (which is, btw, the point where the
clapper strikes). The variation of metal gives it nuance- a richer
tone, and also volume - loudness.

Since it’s on the topic - how bells are made is pretty cool, too -
One makes two metal templates - one of 1/2 the profile of the inside,
and one of 1/2 of the outside, with a piece of tubing on the common
center. On a board, with a rod fitting the tubing sticking up,
plaster is built up around the rod, the inside templated put on the
rod, and the template is turned around until the plaster is in the
shape of the core - then wax is applied to the plaster, and the outer
template is put on the rod (same center, you see), and turned on the
wax until the outer shape is formed. The wax is removed and

 Those aren't bells.  Bells are cast.  When you make a "bell" out
of sheet metal, it is a gong.  

According to the dictionary, my “silver bell” isn’t a bell or a
gong. A gong is a saucer-shaped bell that is struck by a mechanical
hammer, such as a door-bell or telephone. Actually I’m trying to
make a cascabel. A cascabel is a small hollow perforated spherical
bell enclosing a loose pellet. Kind of exciting to know that there
is a word (new to me) that exactly describes what I have in mind.



All this info about bells and gongs is quite interesting. I have to
ask though: isn’t the difference between a bell and a gong really
the tonality of the sound made? A bell implies a clear ringing, like
the ring of a fine piece of crystal when you strike it with your
fingernail. I choose my wine glasses on the basis of the sound they
make: the clear ringing I get from the glass indicates the purity of
the glass material: more sound waves generated are " in phase " and
is perceived by the ear as a musical sound versus the sound made by
cheaper glass. In this situation the sound waves generated are out
of phase and the sound perceived is that of a flat, non-musical
sound or can even be described as noise. A gong sound can have some
tonality and be slightly musical because the metal crystalline
construction is more linear or regular. This is about all I can
recall from physics 101. I suppose one can build any kind of bell
or gong any old way as long as ultimately the actual part of the bell
resonating is that perfect crystalline structure I am trying to
describe. Where are the resident physicists?


Hi, Since I have been taken up on a question of semantics, lets be
perfectly correct and say that the little silver globe-shaped ‘bells’
that the first correspondent referred to are not gongs but are
properly called ‘Jingles’ . As to bigger bells, the ones for
churches etc. are made in a similar manner to that described by John
Donivan but sand is used as the moulding material and no wax is
involved. The inside (the ‘draw’) is made as described by rotating a
half pattern around a pile of compacted sand and the outside (the
’cope’) is made by rotating a half pattern around sand compacted
inside a steel or iron bell-shaped former. Then the lettering etc. is
pressed into the sand before the two parts are put together and
filled with molten bronze or steel. Tuning of the bell is done on a
large horizontal lathe and is a highly complex and fascinating
process to watch (or listen to!!)

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK