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Commission reviewing sites for bell casting

The Lawrence County Fair Grounds could be the home of the county’s Bicentennial Bell.

Friday, March 08, 2002

The Lawrence County Fair Grounds could be the home of the county’s Bicentennial Bell.

In a letter to County Commissioner Paul Herrell, Bill Lowe, the bell project coordinator for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, has reviewed five sites in the county for the ceremonial bell casting.

According to information from the Bicentennial Commission, bells will be cast in all 88 Ohio counties. The bell casting will be held where the public can observe the event and participate in the ceremonies.

The Bicentennial Commission said this project is the signature event for the whole state and serves as a guarantee that every Ohio county will take part in and benefit from the Bicentennial.

On the Bicentennial Commission’s web site, Stephen C. George, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, said that 200 years ago, as the Northwest Territory opened, there was a great need for bells in Ohio schools, courthouses and churches.

"Bells no longer order our lives as in years past, but they continue to inspire," George said. "This project, while re-establishing the tradition of early bell-founders, guarantees a lasting Bicentennial legacy for the generations that follow."

The bell commission enlisted the world’s largest bell company to produce the 88 bells. The Cincinnati-based Verdin Co., in business since 1842, has provided bells and ringing equipment to more than 30,000 churches. Perhaps best known for creating and casting the 33-ton, 12-foot-tall World Peace Bell for the millennium celebration, Verdin commissions include the famed "Big Ben" bell in London and the 1804 San Juan Capistrano mission bells.

The bells will be handmade in the centuries-old European tradition, when bells were cast close by a structure to minimize the high cost and difficulty of transportation.

The bells will be molded in the "American" style of the Liberty Bell, and will be personalized with a county name, forging date, the Great Seal of Ohio and the Bicentennial logo.

Craftsman will be busy during the two-day bell casting event.

On day one, 500 pounds of bronze bricks, called ingots, are added to the furnace.

Over a period of two hours, the furnace is heated to 2,200 degrees. While the furnace is heating, a personalized bell mold is being prepared. The mold, customized for each county, is held in place by a mixture of more than 200 pounds of sand and resin. The mold is contained in a box, called a flask. It is made of steel and weighs more than 500 pounds.

Once the molten metal reaches a temperature of 2,200 degrees, it is ready to be poured into the mold. Using a specially designed crane, bell casters will transfer the molten metal first into a ladle, and then into the mold. The bell then is left to cool overnight.

On the second day, while using a large sledgehammer, the ceremonial first swings crack the hardened, sand-resin mixture.

The bell is then sandblasted, the first step in cleaning and smoothing the surface of the bell.

Over four hours, the bell is polished to a high shine. Some sections are treated with stain and polished again to produce a unique look.

The bell is then ready to be dedicated and rung for the first time.

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BELL FACTS

Each Bicentennial bell will weigh approximately 250 pounds and stand about 2 feet tall.

Approximately 12 bronze ingots, each weighing about 40 pounds, will be needed for each bell. The ingots are a mixture of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin.

Bicentennial bells will chime the note, "E"

The pouring furnace will be tapped when the temperature of the molten bronze metal reaches 2,200 degrees. The furnace can turn 500 pounds of metal into molten liquid in two to three hours.

The furnace and mold-making equipment is specially designed and built.

Most of the material involved in the bell casting is produced in Ohio.

The bell mold is held in place by a mixture of more than 2,200 pounds of sand and resin. The steel mold box, in which the mold is stored, called a flask, weighs 500 pounds.

After cooling overnight, the bell can still be hot, more than 120 degrees, depending on the outside temperature and other factors.

A "peal" of bells is the ringing of a set of two to six bells. The most common peals consist of 3 bells.

A "chime" of bells is the ringing of eight to 22 bells. The most popular range is 14 bells; the number needed to chime "The Star Spangled Banner." To chime "Silent Night," 13 bells are needed.

A "carillon" has a greater musical range and usually consists of 48 or 49 bells.

The World Peace Bell, which was also made by the Verdin Company, weighs 33 tons, stands 12 feet tall and is 12 feet in diameter. It is on display in Newport, Ky., in the Millennium Monument Pavilion.