The bells, the bells

If I were a rich man (da da da da da da da…sing it Tevye!) I would buy this company.

Whatever the theory, the practice of change-ringing church bells is peculiarly English., and the founding of bells spans the centuries. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry boasts of its foundation in 1570, though it developed from local bell foundries of a century earlier. The other English bell foundry, Taylors of Loughborough, which made Great Paul, traces its history to the 14th century, and has been in the hands of the Taylor family since 1784.

Or it had been until last month, for now it is in the hands of the administrator. Thirteen of the 28 staff have been made redundant and a buyer is sought for the company as a going concern. Bids had to be in by last week, but no announcement was made and the deadline extended.

What better toy for the rich industrialist, what better ego booster than the ownership of one of the oldest industrial companies in the world? From long before the Industrial Revolution itself?

And it\’s small enough that it could indeed be such a toy run as a benevolent, almost charitable, case. Yes, I know, I bang on about efficiency all the time but then end aim is the increase if human utility and owning such a thing would, if I could afford it, increase my utility sufficiently to make it worthwhile.

And then I would embark on a truly ludicrous project: manufacturing a set of tantalum bells. Yes, that same stuff that comes from \”coltan\” and is used in mobile phones.

Truly ludicrous because you couldn\’t use the old bell casting techniques, for it melts at 3,017 oC. And it\’s around $300 a kilo. However, however, it would be a truly glorious folly for a rich man to undertake.

For one of the things about tantalum is that it rings. Rings with the clarity, well, clear as a bell actually. For certain uses you make tantalum crucibles and the simple test for whether you\’ve got a tantalum crucible is to tap it: if it rings loudly with a clear pure tone then it\’s tantalum.

To make Great Peter or Big Ben from tantalum would cost $5 million or so just in the raw material: but what a sound they would push out over central London, what a sound.

There, a plan for anyone who wants their voice to be heard in the centuries to come.

2 comments on “The bells, the bells

  1. OK, why is tantalum a good bell metal? It’s very hard and very dense (more than lead). Its Young’s modulus is eleven times that of lead (i.e. it’s stiff). Bells don’t produce pure tones, though. That’s the job of tuning forks and Wien bridge oscillators. Bells produce overtones which is why they sound like they do.

    As a putative investor in your Ta bell project, I would want a demonstration first.

  2. There was a fascinating feature on Taylors’ on “Flog It” recently (I know, I know). Seems awfully sad they’re in such trouble.

    They showed the casting process, and afterwards how they tune them by cutting little strips off the inside of the cast bells.

    Never seek to know for whom the bell tolls……

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