Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Repair, Restoration, Parts, Cleaning different metals in the same bell

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    • #11217

      I am cleaning a church bell that is displayed in the front yard of our church. I was concerned about cleaning it properly and it does look pretty good now. What I don’t quite understand is that the middle portion of the bell is pale bluish green while the top and bottom portions (a band of about 5 inches high around the bell) are darker and seem to be the base metal while the middle portion seems like it is coated, even has sections which look like the material was scraped away. The middle portion looks similar to the patina on the Statue of Liberty. I inspected the bell again this morning and there are little spots toward the bottom which seem almost like steel, they are not brown or copper colored and they are slightly shiney. I received an email this morning from someone at LargeArt.com and he suggested that the upper portion of the bell may not be bronze. Does anyone know if church bells were cast from more than one material, for example, cast iron at the top and bronze in the middle and at the bottom? It sounds crazy but is it possible? This bell has the following writing at the top: Meneeley, West Troy, NY. 1884.

    • #14847

      The bell is bronze. Most “Bell Metal” Bronze is about 20% Tin (a white metal) and 80% Copper (a pink metal) with small amounts of Nickel and other metals. The copper oxidizes to a brown color, reacts with sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid to a blue or green color. The tin remains white. As the alloy cools, copper and tin atoms are adjacent to each other, but as the surface metal is eroded by acids in the air and rain, the bell becomes pitted with many tiny pits where metal has been dissolved. Lighter spots have more tin and darker brown or blue-green spots more copper. If the metal cooled unevenly, the crystaline structure of the bell may even show wrinkles or folds similar to those seen when candy cools and hardens. These folds are not readily seen in a polished bell, but when it becomes weathered, these patterns may become visible due to the acid etching from the weather.
      Harry Long, MD

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