Home >> Preventive
Preventive Maintenance YOU Can Do
Taking care of handbells is not “rocket science.”
You can do some of it. Here are care and maintenance procedures you could
well be able to handle.
Keep your bells
cleaned and polished
Polish the outsides with Simichrome.
Don’t polish the insides.
To keep polish out of the insides, polish the
bells face down (the bells, not you!) on a towel on a table top.
Wipe your bells down with a polishing
rehearsal before you put them away.
Wipe off the residue from the polishing cloth
with a diaper, not the outside of the polishing cloth. (You can wash
the diaper. You can’t wash a polishing cloth without ruining it.)
The insides can be wiped with a slightly damp
(NOT wet, just damp) cloth.
Dust can be blown off the springs with “dust
off” or similar compressed gas in a can.
Finger prints inside can probably be rubbed off
with a polishing cloth.
You are tripling your work and trouble if you
polish the insides of your bells. Keep them clean, but don’t bother
Store your bells properly
Keep them in an environment that isn’t hot or
Heat and humidity promote tarnishing.
If your cases get damp, open them up and dry
them out in a heated or air conditioned environment.
Do not let the cases sit where the sun can
shine through a window on them. (We made that mistake!)
Polish your bells thoroughly before you put ‘em
away for the summer.
Vacuum out the cases
once in awhile.
Keep the handles tight
If you notice a handle is starting to wiggle
when you polish the bell, tighten it.
Line up the clapper,
handguard and handle so they are properly oriented with the strike
point in the casting. Then tighten the cap screw in the handle. When you
tighten, pinch the clapper against the casting so the inside is
immobilized and does not want to turn with the cap screw when you
tighten it. Then crank it down good and tight --- not with all your
strength, but tight, so it won’t wiggle when you polish the bell.
Keep the springs
We are not going to describe how to do that
here. See “Resources for Help” below. But, here’s what you’re looking
for. A properly adjusted bell is easy to ring forward, but not so easy
it rings itself when you go to lay it down. It should be difficult to
ring backward, so you do not get a back ring when you pick it up
quickly, but not impossible to back ring, so when you shake it, the
clapper will still strike on both sides of the casting. That’s called
“uneven tension” -- easy forward, difficult backward. (Some advanced
choirs advocate even tension, but we are a proponent of uneven tension
adjustment for the real world of ringing.)
Adjust the clappers
for proper voicing
Don’t fall victim to the trap of “Oh, we’re
going to ring loud, let’s set ‘em on Hard. Now, we’re going to ring
softly, lets set ‘em on Soft.”
Set the clappers on your bells (Soft, Medium,
or Hard) so that each bell’s timbre blends best with the rest of the
set. A good place to start is to set all your clappers on M
(medium) and then ring up and down the scale, listening and comparing.
Tone down or bring out bells that are relatively too strong or too
weak compared to the rest of the set by moving their clappers to a
softer (S) or harder (H) setting.
Achieve dynamics with ringing technique, not by
fooling with the clapper settings. Yes, clapper settings will affect
dynamics, but that also affects the timbre or color of a bell’s sound.
Think of your set of bells not as a collection of instruments, but one
instrument that is a collection of bells. A piano is one instrument
with 88 keys, not a box with 88 instruments in it. The piano
technician “regulates” a piano with that one instrument approach. You
can voice your set of handbells the same way.
Where to Get Maintenance Advice and
Schulmerich’s handbell maintenance guide is
available in on their
Hard copy is available from us, and is provided with every new set of
“The Handbell Workshop”, a 45 minute video
available on CD ROM ($15.00), is available to order.
It does a nice show ‘n tell of handbell care and maintenance.
If you’re uncomfortable with adjusting and
voicing your set, bring it in to us to do that for you, and stick around
to watch. We will be glad to show you how it’s done, and maybe it will
not seem intimidating to you next time it should be done. (See our
Reconditioning section which
describes our services and gives some guidelines on costs.)
You are always welcome to call or
Email with questions or
for advice. We can do a quickie emergency repair on a problem bell
“while you wait” if you bring it, or turn it around in a day and mail it
right back to you, assuming that we are in town when it arrives. By all
means, though, be safe and call for an appointment before you bring or
send us a bell.