Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What got you started making bells?
A: Something vaguely reminiscent of a slow-acting cosmic railroad tie to the head. Some twenty years ago while visiting Orcas Island, Washington, I [Bill] saw the jaggedly torch-cut upper half of an oxygen cylinder bolted to a hanging chain. You hit the thing with a pipe. It sounded truly awful and looked ever bit as bad, but that first encounter with a pressure vessel bell planted a seed that germinated and, eventually, helped redefine my life. Intrigued, and believing there was room for improvement, I began collecting old pressure vessels.
Some years later I became terribly ill [Chronic Fatigue sort of stuff] During the next thirteen years I worked with over forty alternative healers in a desperate attempt to regain even a semblance of the life I had so taken for granted.
I tried most anything that came my way. Dabbling in frequencies and working with subtle energies piqued my interest in bells as instruments of healing.
Now, many years later, I've had several Japanese visitors tell me our Temple Bells offer ever bit as lovely a sound as the bells they grew up with. While I honestly don't know the tonal quality of the bells of Japan, I take this as a compliment.
As a Recycling Affectionado, an even greater reward is to have one's chakras tantalized and ears nourished by such unlikely candidates as industrial castoffs.
Bells are amongst the most complex and sensitive creatures I have ever worked with. There are always further refinements to explore. I'm never fully satisfied. As an individual whose focus is to tweak his work toward greater and greater levels of perfection, the art of bell making is a perfect match, and has become one of my greatest passions.
Q: How much wind does it take to activate the Wind Chimes?
A: This depends on the height of the chime. Our shortest Wind Chimes require the most wind. A shorter Single Tone needs around a 15 mph breeze to play. Our Small Multi Tone Wind Chimes will play at around 10 mph, while the tallest Multi Tones will begin to play in a 5 mph breeze.
Q: We get so much wind, the little tinkly chimes either drive me crazy or self-destruct. Can your chimes survive high winds?
A: Our chimes thrive on wind. [We usually have at least 50 Wind Chimes around our gallery/home and routinely experience 30-40 mph breezes, with an occasional 60+. The melodic cacophony of this Grand Ensemble is absolutely spectacular. Now after 14 years, we've never come even close to tiring of their voices] The leather wrapped hardwood disc allows our Chimes to play softly even during high winds. In a 60 mph wind, the copper sail will be nearly horizontal, but still play gently. [If ever you do want to silence your wind chime, or to protect the sail during transport, slightly flex the sail and stuff it up into the bell.
Q: I seem to have plenty of wind, but not much play. what can I do about this?
A: Two possible solutions: First, check the sail's curvature. Looking at the sail from the bottom, you should see the shape of a descending spiral. To reshape, invert the sail, upside down, and press it to conform to the Bell's outer surface. [The tail end of the black cord should be facing you, away from the Bell] The sail will usually spring back a bit, this is OK. Now bend one side of the sail slightly tighter. What you want to end up with is to have the sail's side to side curvature going from slightly larger than the Bell's curvature to slightly smaller than the bell's curvature. This configuration usually yields the best performance. [A flat sail will do little more than spin in the wind. A properly curved sail may spin a little, but will primarily swing side to side]
Second, you may have placed your Wind Chime in a "dead zone". Buildings, privacy fences, trees or shrubs can sometimes block wind flow enough to impair operation. Try moving your Bell to a less protected area.
Q: Tell me more about your Multi Tone Wind Chimes
A: The Multi Tones have curved slots cut into their sides which provide different pitches, depending upon where the striker hits. Each Multi Tone Bell is hand sketched and cut, and each has it's own unique tonal signature. While the range of some of our Multi Tones is subtle, others have two to four clearly distinct pitches. Our customers consistently voice "Westminister Cathedral" when they hear the Multi Tones. I would describe them as more gong-like than our Single Tone Bells, with a shorter duration resonance. Again, some individual Multi Tones are more range expressive than others.
Our Multi Tones are by far our most labor-intensive bells, each receiving over thirty grinding / buffing operations.
You can also play a pair of Mallets over the Multi Tone's surface. Quite a treat!
Q: Where should I strike my Meditation or Temple Bell?
A: The deepest, richest tones are obtained by the Mallet striking the side of your Bell near the lower curve. With Temple Bells you have options: You can remove the Mallet from the inside hook, and use it to strike the outside of the Bell; or, with the Mallet left hanging inside the Bell, grasp the hand grip and strike Mallet to Bell either as a single strike or in a back and forth striking motion. To achieve an even greater volume and tone while striking outside your Bell, try a fairly firm and rapid, slightly undulating succession of strikes with the Mallet. Experiment with this. You may discover the Bell's natural beat, or cadence. As you draw upon and enhance this cadence, you can usually coax the Bell to considerably richer tones and volume.
Q: Tell me about your Mallets.
A: Bill is constantly seeking opportunities to breathe new life into cast-off materials. We form our Mallets from Aromatic Cedar Limbs left behind during fuel wood gathering here in our lovely Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We have spent years perfecting these Mallets to obtain the best grip, shape and heft. We now double or triple-wrap our Mallets with Elk or Buffalo hide. This extra thick cushion allows for a robust blow, and a deeper, richer distortion-free resonance. Each Mallet is fitted with a lanyard. A pair of Mallets also provide a lovely treat when played on the surface of our Multi Tone Bells.
Q: How do the Door Bells work?
A: Our Door Bells have a leather wrapped hardwood disc and a cedar handle. Grab the handle and shake vigorously. We can hear the Door Bell in our home even through it's foot-thick adobe walls.
Q: Do you sign all your Bells?
A: I sign our Temple and Multi Tone Bells, our Torii Arches and larger works of art. The signature is hand-welded, then lightly ground and buffed. At least for now our smaller Bells remain unsigned.
BELL HANGING QUESTIONS: [Please Also See SUPPORTS]
Q: What guidelines/recommendations do you have for hanging my Bell?
A: First, it is always good to avoid the possibility of one's head impacting the Bell.
For Wind Chimes, it's good to remain flexible in your desired placement, as there are sometimes "dead spots" in wind patterns due to shrubs, privacy walls etc.
You may also want to position your Bell to provide the best visual and audio to your most frequented locations.
Any of our Bells can be suspended from an eye hook fastened into a beam or rafter. We consistently over-engineer our work. For our smallest bells, as an example, we use a 1/4" screw eye, with at least 1" of lag threaded into the beam. It's good to drill a pilot hole. For a 1/4" lag, a 1/8"-3/16" hole is usually about right. You want the lag to screw in quite firmly. However, too much resistance can result in breakage. A pair of Vice Grips works well for this installation. We usually have old rusty chain as well, if needed, to hang your Bell at desired elevation.
Q: Can I hang my Bell from a tree limb?
A: We've had excellent results using a length of rope strung through a short section of garden hose. The hose cradles over and protects the tree limb. Form a big loop with the rope. Couple the ends in a fisherman's knot. [If desired, the entire loop can now be rotated so the knot is less conspicuous] Now, simply hook the Bell's "S" hook into the loop. Even the larger Bells can be successfully hung in this manner. As an example, Bill suspended four 60 # Wind Chimes from a Russian Olive tree on branches no larger than 2- 2 1/2" for a couple of years, with no injury to the tree. [Russian Olives are tough] Of course use caution when assessing the structural integrity of your desired limb.
To determine rope length, measure from the top of your limb to top of where you want your Bell to hang. Double that distance and add around 18-24"" to accommodate for limb and knot.
Q: I need a bracket to mount my bell from a column. What do you have?
A: We offer a "Long" wall bracket to hang Single Tone and Small to Medium size Multi Tone Wind Chimes. [Our Large and Big Boy Wind Chimes are too heavy for these brackets]
We offer "Short" wall brackets for Door and Meditation Bells. [A "Short" bracket is too short for our Wind Chimes]
We also offer heavy duty wall brackets for our Temple Bells.
Q: Do you have Floor Stands?
A: We create Floor Stands for our Door and Meditation Bells, using an old brake rotor or drum as the base. These stands measure 37" tall. [The Floor Stands will not work with our Temple Bells or Wind Chimes]
Q: While at your gallery I saw several Wind Chimes hanging from Tripods. Do you sell these?
A: We usually use 7'-8' latias for our Tripods. Our largest Tripod to date is a 16', made for an extra large Wind Chime. [Bill loves to play with bigger toys!] you can also make your own tripod. We shall provide details on recommended assembly and securing methods in the near future.
ADDITIONAL HANGING OPTIONS: TORII ARCHES
A Torii Arch [or Torii Gate] makes a beautiful support for your Multi Tone Wind Chime or Temple Bell. Torii Arches provide a powerful yet subtle presence. Aesthetically, Torii's should be matched to the size of your Bell. We generally stock four sizes of Torii Arches, measured by the top tube diameter, and available as Planted or Footed. For our Single Tone Bells, Door Bells and most of our Meditation Bells, even the smallest Torii Arch is a bit too large to present well, and is not recommended for use with these smaller Bells.
TORII ARCH QUESTIONS:
Q: I want a much shorter Torii Arch than I find on your site. Is it possible to get a shorter version?
A: Yes, shorter is possible. The main concerns here are to place the Torii Arch high enough so one's head can not contact the upper crosspieces, and, for placement of a Wind Chime, to allow plenty of height for the sail to catch a good breeze.
Q: Should I use concrete to set my Torii arch?
A: We've never needed concrete. Out of the last 20 or so Torii's we have planted, we've seen only one instance where, during extended periods of irrigation, the soil became too unstable. [This was 6 years after planting a 10' wide, 5 bell Torii] For that installation we reset the Torii using small stones below and around the columns, with excellent results.
Q: How do I choose the right placement for my Torii arch?
A: Great question! Here are a few basics:
First, a Torii Arch and Bell carry with them a subtle yet powerful energy. They enhance and blend well with many existing settings, and can really "set the stage" in a new construction. The experience of a Torii in your chosen space can be truly delightful.
A consistent guideline is to place your Torii at a slight angle to nearby buildings or other larger structures. Torii's seem to present better when placed somewhat "out of square" with the world.
If you plan to position your Torii at eye level or above you, say on a hill, you may want to consider ordering a Standard height Torii. If your Torii is to be placed below you in a valley or below your deck, a Tall version will better serve your needs. And again, take care to install your Torii high enough above ground so that an individual's head cannot contact the Torii's cross members. There are additional placement considerations as well: Say you've purchased a Torii and a Multi Tone Wind Chime. You want to see/hear them from your deck and be able to hear from your bedroom. Or you've purchased a Torii and a Medium Temple Bell for use in your practice, and want the installation to be a beautiful centerpiece as well.
Also consider how the use of your area may change with the seasons. You get the idea. Determining the best placement will take some thought.
[You may decide on a Footed Torii. A Footed Torii is quite stable, requires no hole digging, can be easily relocated and works well on a deck or slab. The down side is it's not as secure]
TORII ARCH PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS:
Tools needed: power auger or two handle post hole digger, shovel, digging/tamping bar, level, and, possibly,an 18- 20 year old with an attitude. [Depending on soil conditions, this can be serious work!]
If safely possible, have one or two people hold the Torii in place at your intended location, and then view it from different vantage points, just to confirm.
Once you have determined placement of your Torii, it's time to dig the holes. 8"--9" dia is usually adequate, with a minimum of 24" deep. You will want the overall width, from outside edge to outside edge of these holes to be about 2" wider than the overall width of the Torii's legs at their base, so the outside of the Torii's legs just fit into the outside faces of the holes. This will accommodate for the out-of-plumb angle of the legs. With the Torii set in place, the legs at ground level will fairly well center in the holes. In order to achieve desired height, you may need to dig deeper.
Use the level to insure plumb and level. Back fill aprox. 4" at a time, compacting each layer of back fill with the tamping bar. Even considering the displacement of the post, a well compacted hole will require more soil than removed., and this degree of compaction will help insure a stable installation. Continue to recheck for plumb and level as you perform the back fill process, making adjustments as needed. You are done! Ready to hang your bell, take an image of yourselves with your new installation and enjoy!
Q: Do I need to do anything to protect the coating on my Bell?
A: In most climates your Bell should last several lifetimes with no maintenance. The coatings we use are primarily aesthetic. A rare exception would be something like salt spray, where a protective coating would be important.
Q: What should I put on my Bell to keep it looking new?
A: We've discovered a company by the name of BioShield, which works exclusively with green products. The BioShield folks have a very resilient coating called Hard Oil # 9. Use a light coating applied with a rag. The glossy sheen will flatten in a couple of months, leaving a lovely finish.
[Contact BioShield at <BioShieldPaint.com> Find their Hard Oil # 9 under the Floor and Furniture heading.]
You can also use a blend of one part Linseed Oil and three to four parts Kerosene. [Three parts lasts longer, 4 parts dries much faster] This finish rapidly flattens to a great looking matt finish, but lasts only around six months. And again, except for aesthetics, no maintenance coating is needed for the Bells.