Skip to main content

Steps to cast a bronze bell

The craft of casting bells is both a science and an art, requiring exact calculations and precision engineering combined with delicate finesse and design. To make a bell of lasting quality, bell foundries today follow similar methods to bellmakers a thousand years ago. Each has unique variations and stylistic differences, but the process to make a bell generally follows these steps.

Design the bell

A bellmaker must first determine the size and shape requisite to achieve the desired resonance, further calculating the volume of molten bronze needed for the project.

Make a pattern

Two wooden templates called strickle boards are cut to shape, aligning with the curvature and dimensions of the outer and inner bell, to create consistent proportions and depth all around.

Style the bell

A model or false bell is crafted from stone or brick and swept with sand or loam by the strickle boards, with detailing features, figures, and inscriptions further defined in wax.

Construct the mold

After coating the false bell in fireproof clay and dried, the sand and wax are removed, leaving behind a mold of the final bell. A mold of the inside of the bell, called the core, is created similarly.

Cast the bell

The outer and inner molds are clamped together, creating a gap uniform in shape and thickness, and the assemblage is buried in a casting pit. The gap is then filled with molten bronze. 

Allow the bell to cool

Depending on the bell’s size, it may take several days or weeks for the molten bronze to cool evenly. If cooling happens too quickly, the bell is more susceptible to fracture or crack.


A circular lathe spins the bell and finely shaves metal from the inside until its ring corresponds to a desired pitch or tone.

Fit the clapper

A clapper of proportionate size and weight is cast and then fitted inside the bell. This is fastened with a metal link through pre-drilled holes in the top of the bell.

Install the bell

The bell is now ready to install in a bell tower or other location. This is often preceded by a blessing, consecration, or dedication ceremony.

All that’s left is to let it ring!

Section image: A bellmaker at the Kunstgießerei Lauchhammer foundry in Lauchhammer, Germany, sweeps a false bell with a strickle board on Nov. 12, 2002.​

Swept-loam bell casting

The swept-loam method of bell casting is a traditional technique employed for centuries in the creation of large bells. This intricate process involves the construction of a bell mold using loam – a composite material of sand, horse dung, hair, straw, and clay. Skilled bellmakers manipulate the loam mixture, gradually building up layers and reinforcing the structure with additional materials as needed.

A wooden or metal bell strickle is used as a template and carefully swept over the loam surface to meticulously shape the bell design. Additional detailing, like lettering or design embellishments, are added as desired. It is then sleeked in graphite. Once the loam mold is complete, it is left to dry and harden. The interior (core) and the exterior (cope) are then closed together, leaving a gap between the two components. 

This assemblage is lowered into the pit and covered in sand in preparation for casting, when molten bronze is poured to fill the mold. The pit facilitates slow cooling, which allows the bell to develop a refined crystalline structure for a balanced overall timbre. The swept-loam technique continues to be valued for its ability to produce unique and finely crafted bells, treasured for rich resonance and detailed aesthetics.

Section image: A bucket of loam is prepared at the Rincker Bell & Art Foundry in Sinn, Germany, on Dec. 9, 2016.

Lost-wax bell casting

The lost-wax method of bell casting begins with the creation of a wax replica of the desired bell shape. Skilled artisans meticulously sculpt and shape the wax, paying attention to every detail and ensuring the accurate reproduction of the final bell. This wax model is then coated in clay and baked, forming a hard and durable ceramic shell.

Once the ceramic shell is set, it is heated to melt and remove the wax, leaving behind a hollow cavity or mold in the shape of the bell. This step gives the technique its name, as the wax is lost during the process. The mold is then filled with molten bronze, which is allowed to cool and solidify. Once cooled, the ceramic shell is carefully removed, revealing the newly cast bell. Finishing touches, like polishing and tuning, are all that’s left before the bell is ready to ring.

The lost-wax method allows for highly detailed and intricate designs to be faithfully replicated, capturing fine nuances and ornate features. It also provides a smooth surface finish and exceptional acoustic properties, resulting in a bell with clear and resonant sound.

Section image: The canons and crown of a bell cast at the Jan Felczyński Bell Foundry in Przemyśl, Poland.