MAKING HANDBELLSHandbells are cast in sand moulds using metal patterns which closely resemble the finished bell and the casting takes place in the main foundry area. Here quality control is strict - not all castings end up as finished handbells. A set of bells is assembled by carefully matching castings for tonal balance, and in the tuning process each bell is turned on a lathe and burnished to give a highly polished finish. Each set is regarded as a single musical instrument and tuned as such - a quality of individual production not available elsewhere. Our traditional tuning skills, handed down through generations of craftsmen, are now augmented by sophisticated electronic equipment capable of registering pitch to within one hundredth of a semitone. The individual character of every set is accurately recorded and kept on file so that future augmentations up to the full five octaves or more may be pefectly blended with an original set.
The Foundry's handbell patterns have been continually improved and extended and, in addition to the five chromatic octave range with a bass bell of 29C, bells are available in the lower range down to 32G and a full octave of higher bells range 007D to 001C.
Refinements have been made to the fittings of handbells since they were first manufactured, but the working principle of an English handbell remains the same with the clapper being held clear of the bell by felted springs. The fittings of Whitechapel handbells are individually crafted to give the correct balance of timbre across the full range, using a variety of materials to strike the bells, from nylon pegs at the highest end to split-ball clappers for the lowest notes. This is just one of many design features which give Whitechapel handbells their unique musical quality. The clapper assemblies are of polished bronze and brass construction, strong and positive in function whilst complementing the burnished finish of the bells themselves.
Handles and caps are made from finest English leather, cut and exquisitely tooled by hand, and with the note of each clearly stamped upon the handle. Leather undoubtedly gives maximum comfort to the hands of ringers, particularly when the bells are played "in hand" for tune ringing and for change ringing where the bells are held for long periods.
The bell shank has been extended further into the handle to give greater support while maintaining the standard open loop preferred by "four in hand" ringers.