Bells Are Ringing
It’s no surprise that the bronze bells rung outside thousands of churches and other public buildings in North America were made by the Verdin Company. It is the oldest and only surviving American maker of large bronze bells, according to Vice President David Verdin, a member of the fifth generation of Verdins that own and manage the company. (A few other American companies cast smaller bells. See Call to Worship, below.)
Founded in Cincinnati 162 years ago by three brothers from a clock-making family in France, the company, which now has 130 employees, soon diversified into bell restoration and then into casting bells out of durable, melodious bronze. The company still makes large outdoor clocks.
Among the many famed sites with Verdin bells are Princeton University and the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The Verdins also cast the largest swinging bell ever, the 12-foot-high, 66,000-pound “World Peace Bell,” which is in Newport, Kentucky. Cast in 1999, its multimillion-dollar cost was borne by a wealthy contractor. When rung at noon each day, the bell can be heard from up to three miles away. The only larger bell is in Russia. It sits on the ground and can’t be rung.
In addition to making bells and clocks, the company also casts statues and monuments, makes carillons and buys and sells used bells. Verdin has technicians all over the country to cope with any problems involving its products and similar products made by others.
Operates Mobile Foundry
The company is also the only one with a mobile foundry, says Verdin. The equipment, housed in two big trailers, was assembled when the State of Ohio insisted that each of the 250-pound bells honoring its 88 counties be cast in the county in which it resides. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans watched as the bells were cast.
The bronze in the bells is “bell bronze,” C91300. This attractive, durable, corrosion-resistant alloy, favored for its appealing tone, was created centuries ago in Europe. It is supplied by the G.A. Avril Co., Cincinnati.
Often asked if he knew why the Liberty Bell cracked, Mr. Verdin opined that it was made of scrap bronze at a time when the right casting temperatures couldn’t be measured accurately. In addition, it might not have cooled long enough in its molds — Verdin lets its bells cool for up to 14 hours before the molds are broken.
Call to Worship
If you live within earshot of the Camelback Bible Church in Phoenix, you can hear its wind bells. Hung in the church’s open belfry, the bronze bells (see photo) were made by Cosanti Originals, Inc., Paradise Valley, Arizona. Most of its wind bells are made of bronze, although Cosanti also makes ceramic bells, according to General Manager Chris Ohlinge
The decorative bronze bells come in dozens of varieties, and range widely in price. They are made in two finishes, burnished or with a patina. In addition to bells, Cosanti also makes bronze pots, bowls, tiles, chains and wall brackets. The bronze is Everdur C87300. It is supplied by Ingot Metal Co. Ltd., Toronto, or Sipi Metals, Chicago.
The linkages holding some of the larger, custom-designed wind bell assemblies together are one-of-a-kind items made by a process similar to lost-wax casting called lost foam casting. The linkages are carved out of Styrofoam™ which is then packed by hand in sand. Usually molten bronze but sometimes molten aluminum is poured into the mold displacing the Styrofoam, which burns away.
Ingot Metal: 800-567-7774
Sipi Metals: 800-621-8013
Also in this Issue:
- From Spools to Jewels
- Model Home Inspires Nation’s Builders
- Brass Is Best for Clocks
- Bells Are Ringing