Raising A Single Bell

(taken from: – John Heaton)

The purpose of raising a bell is to get it into the up position from where it can be rung full circle from balance to balance. Since a bell is too heavy to do this in one pull the technique is to raise it bit by bit by making it swing a bit further each time. Eventually the bell will be swinging through a complete circle.

Before ringing a bell up, the rope is positioned such that the untied tail end (almost) reaches the floor. Thus, if the rope were pulled by the sally there would be a lot of loose rope. In order to stop this rope flapping around it is made into coils which are held in the left hand. For a small bell, two coils are usually sufficient whereas three are better for large bells. The coils should be large enough to prevent ending up with so many coils that they will not fit into your hand but not so large that they still flap around. The coils should be tidily arranged so that they can be released one at a time without becoming entangled.

Having arranged the coils the hands are placed together on the sally in the same position as when ringing the bell (as far up as you can comfortably reach). The rope is pulled quite hard and, before it rises, the sally is released (or the grip on it lessened). The sally then rises and it is gripped again, with the hand together. Without letting the rope go slack the sally is pulled again. Each time the sally rises it should be firmly gripped and its upward motion suddenly stopped just before it reaches the top of the swing. This should sound the bell and is known as chiming. If the bell fails to chime then the stopping of the upward motion should be more pronounced next time. It is important that the bell is chiming before continuing.

Once the bell is chiming the sally can be allowed to rise a bit further before gripping (with the hands together) and pulling it. The rope should be pulled quite hard and each time the sally is gripped it should be caught a bit lower down. Within a few pulls the sally should be rising to high to be gripped and the grip should now be on the tail end below the sally. The rope should now be caught at a point which allows the rope to rise with your arms comfortably stretched. If you grip to rope too high you will stop it from rising and waste the energy of the previous pull. If you grip it too low you will not get the full length of pull and you will get stuck.

After a few more pulls you will need to start letting out some rope from the coils in your hand. To do this you must let a small amount to slide out each time the rope rises. If insufficient is let out then the rope is prevented from rising. If too much is let out then your hands will not rise far enough to get a good pull. Eventually you will have let out so much rope that your coil is getting tight around your fingers. At this stage the remainder of the first coil should be released. The technique is to keep your right hand on the rope and then let the coil go just after pulling the rope. This will release 4 or 5 inches of rope all at once, which will end up between your hands. This may not be too much but it may be necessary to take some of it back into the next coil. This can be done by immediately sliding your left hand up the rope back up to your right hand. Each subsequent loop can be released in the same way.

Once the bell is half way up the sally will start to bounce. This can be ignored for a bit longer but it will soon start to bounce several inches. Once this happens it is necessary briefly to touch or lightly grip the sally in your right hand, otherwise the rope may start to flap around. The right hand is placed back onto the tail end before it starts to rise. As the raise proceeds further the sally can be gripped more tightly and pulled.

Once the bell is more than three quarters of the way up its swing will start to take noticeably longer. When this happens it is advisable to pull a bit less hard! The final loop should be released and the sally gripped with both hands, so that the normal ringing technique takes over. The bell is now up.

Typical Problems

The purpose of raising a bell is to move it from the mouth down position to the mouth up position. In doing this the bell is also lifted up the tower because a bell which is up stands above the headstock whilst a bell which is down hangs below the headstock. The centre of gravity of a small bell may have been lifted by about 1 or 2 feet whilst that of a large bell may have been lifted by 3 or 4 feet or more. It takes a lot of pulling to raise several hundredweight by this amount. Many learners fail to appreciate this and assume that they must pull the rope with about the same force, or maybe slightly more, than when ordinarily ringing a bell.

Another way in which effort is wasted is by not starting the pull soon enough. Once the bell is moving some of the motion of the ringer’s hands is used in just keeping up with the movement of the rope. The pull of the rope must therefore start a fraction of a second before the movement of the bell is felt through the rope. In addition, there is a slight delay after the rope is pulled before the pull message reaches the bell. This delay is small but not insignificant, especially when raising a bell with a very long or stretchy rope.

The next problem is that the bell’s clapper must strike the correct side of the bell. This side is the leading side of the bell. In other words, as the bell swings forwards, the clapper must hit the front of the bell. If the clapper is not striking the leading edge, the bell is likely to be odd struck. A bell in which the clapper is striking on the wrong side is said to be up wrong whereas a bell in which the clapper is striking on the leading edge is said to be up right. A bell which is up wrong, especially a big bell, may become too finely set to stand. Also, the clapper may bounce leading to multiple strikes. The clapper of a large bell which is up wrong can sometimes correct itself, which comes as a surprise when it rings twice with just one pull.

The final problem that learners encounter is that they fail to let out the tail end at the correct rate. If it is let out too slowly the bell will be prevented from rising and so effort is wasted. If it is let out too quickly the rope will become slack and so the pull is not transmitted to the bell.