My interest in falconry bells started with my beginnings in falconry back in 1971. During my search for information I met an avid bell collector with some very old literature on bellmaking. As they say “there’s nothing new under the sun” and so it seemed with bells.
I discovered that the bells we know as falconry bells are “single throated” “crotal” style bells. Single throated because of the single slot. Double throated have two slots like a cross or X pattern slot, such as you will find in some “jingle bells.”
Bells were very important in centuries past, often being used for distant communication and important ceremonial functions. Wagon pulling horses were adorned with them so that drivers could hear oncoming traffic in narrow streets and forest pathways. Some of the larger bells were technological wonders then and even to this day.
Their use in falconry of course dates back many centuries. In the old literature I found metal alloy combinations that were used in casting bells of all sorts. No individual metal makes a good bell by itself but it was found that the right combination of metals made fantastic bells with beautiful tone and loudness.
My bells are not cast but formed from sheets of alloyed materials so that they are as light as possible. During my early falconry bellmaking experiments I found that the available metal alloys corresponding most closely to the very old, time proven alloy combinations also made the most beautifully toned and loudest bells!
Bells are essentially like a tuning fork. Take a good bell and hold it upside down carefully by the attachment strap, taking care not to touch the sides of the bell and strike it. It should continue to ring for a while after striking. The bell halves vibrate in opposition to one another with the end of the slot as the “hinge.”
All of the metal alloys that ring loudly will work harden over time so a round hole at the end of the slot (hinge area) is essential to longevity. Of note when considering bell alloys is loudness as opposed to longevity. As noted by the late Peter Asborno, renowned “ye olde bellmaker” in a mid-80’s NAFA publication article, he stated. “All metals that ring well will eventually work harden and crack. You could make a bell from metals that will never work harden, but they will not ring either”. Vibration causes flexing at the “hinge” and this causes any corner or imperfection to send off a split which will ruin the harmonics and deaden the bell (often at the ‘peak’ of sound). My bells have round holes carefully drilled at the end of the slot so there are no corners for cracks to start in easily which adds significantly to bell life.
My bells contain a specially designed, stainless steel, multi-faceted clapper so that they ring with the very slightest of motion. They are also soldered with a very high grade of silver solder with the proper hardness and great tensile strength.
I strive for the utmost in quality as my last name is on every bell I’ve ever sold. Bellmaking is a family tradition here at the Noble household. My son Doug has been helping in the bell business for nearly two decades. He is just as concerned with quality as I am. After all, his name is on them too.