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Moscow Bell Centre has been acting since 1995 by His Holiness, Holy Patriarchy of Moscow and all Russia Alekseyís II blessing, with the aim of preparing highly qualified bell ringers for Russian Orthodox Church. All wishing to study, primarily those recommended by temples and monasteries, are accepted. The period of studies is 3 months. The program consists of theoretical courses, as well as practical studies of church toll. An official certificate is given after finishing studies.

Memo for church bellsí purchasers

About bell founding's quality
Sharikov V.

Main tones
Sharikov V.

By templesí and monasteriesí request Bell Centre has prepared a "MEMO FOR CHURCH BELLSí PURCHASERSĒ. Having a 10-year work experience and a database for over 2000 bells, Bell Centre tried to observe this question objectively.

for church bellsí purchasers


1. You have to define firmly if you want cheaper and larger bells or bells of good quality for a low price. If you are interested in the first point, you neednít read hereafter!

2. Talking about bell's quality, we should firstly concern its harmonious sounding and persistence for beating. (Bellís external decoration plays a certain esthetical and symbolic role, but isnít the main criteria.)

3. Nowadays the competition between bell-founders is as strong as it has never been. All producers and their dealers praise their bells, performing them the best bells in Russia. Some of them get down to lying and slander thoughts against their competitors. For defining the true quality of bells we recommend: ? Donít orient yourself on only one enterprise (we have over 10, which produce bells on a constant basis, but their products' quality also varies). ? Never orient yourself on exposition bells (they are specially chosen to attract purchaserís attention). ? For coming to objective evaluation, visit temples, where the bells of different producers hang, and listen to them yourself. You can also learn about the bells from the chief-priest, churchwarden or bell-ringer (it frequently happens that some of new bells have already been broken).


1. You should learn the technology of producing shapes at the enterprise, as bell foundingís quality depends on it a lot. Nowadays there are 4 types of forming, which are really used:
A) Ceramic founding Ė the most expensive way to found bells, but the closest to traditional (ancient) method of founding in Russia. This method allows receiving the highest quality by all means. Enterprises, which used the method of ceramic founding in 2005, were: LTD ďLITEKSĒ, Moscow Ė silicious ceramics, CJSC Ė ďPyatkov and CoĒ partnership association, Kamensk-Uralsky Ė sandy ceramics with addition of gypsum, and CJSC ďITALMASĒ, Tutaev, Yaroslav region - loamy ceramics.
B) Founding into molds, consisting of cold-solidifying blends Ė cheaper founding of lower quality (coarser founding, more defects in it). In 2006 most of enterprises used this technology: Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Moscow (ZIL), Minsk, Saint-Petersburg, etc.
C) Gravity die founding (i.e. to a prepared reusable mold) - this founding is rather expensive, it's quality varies from middle to good. This technology allows founding only large bells with different decoration on account of its expensiveness. In 2006 such founding was used only by enterprise VNIINM in name of Bochvar, Moscow (die gravity made of metallic graphite, maximal weight - 160 kg).
D) Founding with the use of lost wax in a ceramic cover Ė this type of founding is rather expensive, its quality varies from middle to good. Itís hard to found large bells with various decorations according to the specificity of this technology. In 2006 such founding was used only by LTD ďSYNTHESIS-AUTOMATICĒ, Voronezh (maximal weight Ė 180 kg).

2. Enterpriseís experience in producing bells.
Practice has shown that the enterprise spends 1-2 years for validation through elaboration of technology, and even more for debugging the entire set (bell loft). That why, when you are offered to buy bells of different weight and in different number by chicken enterprises, you should understand that itís nearly impossible to receive bells of good quality.

3. Does the enterprise have officially established Technical conditions (demands) to produce bells?
If not, how can in make products, if it hasnít firmly determined the demands for their quality? And how can you check such products and lay claim to the producer, if you canít compare the results of control and inspection? Surely, you can speak such demands off, when you order a bell, but it's hard to do it rightly without a specialist.

4. Are brass or stannary junk or old bells used in the process of founding? And if used, in what number?
Bellís quality, and soundís quality first of all, depends on the purity of original metals (brass and stannary) very much. Bell bronze consists of these metals. If you ask any producer about the metals, he will answer that he uses only pure and certificated materials. But the situation at the market shows that itís rather hard to buy pure brass or pure stannary today. Thatís why when you come to producer's section; you can often see many broken bells and a lot of secondary raw materials there. The use of old bells and secondary raw materials isn't forbidden by traditions, if you can make the alloy correctly (deoxidize, clear it from detrimental impurities, etc.), but the principle is the same Ė itís better to use less old bells and secondary raw materials. Thatís why you shouldn't rely on good bells' quality when they are re-founded with no addition of pure brass and stannary.

5. What form do the clappers have and what metal they are made from?
Clapperís form must be similar to the form of pendulum, i.e. it should have a rather thin axis and a massive core, which should be barreled or spherical to receive a localized impact. Clapperís metal should consist of soft iron and should be well bet out. If you use hard iron you face a high probability of break. As for the chiseled clapper, it can quicker receive strain hardening and metal detachment. Unfortunately, hammered clappers nowadays are made only by CJSC Partnership association "Pyatkov and Co", Kamensk-Uralsky.

5. What are the requirements for bellsí decoration?
Any extra weight makes bellís sound worse in comparison with an ideal profile. That why, donít misuse complex decoration, especially concerning small bells, and donít make it thick (not more than 5 mm). Preferably the number of icons should be minimal and even-numbered (usually 2 or 4). Founded scripture shouldnít be a chronicle (it can be added by millable scripture, if needed; this scripture is more propitious from the point of sound and was traditionally used here, in Russia). To have no problems with bell loftís sonority, 1-2 toll-bells are usually made with ordered decorations, and others are chosen from standard bells.

6. How is the bellsí tone determined at the enterprise?
When the temple is choosing a harmonic bell loft, itís interested by bellsí tone, as a rule. However, Russian bell-founders donít have a unique method of determining bells' highness, thatís why you shouldnít always believe the basic tones, written in the advertisements.
You should concern the basis of Russian Orthodox Churchís bell ring Ė itís rhythm with certain dynamics and sound color interplay. According to these principles Russian bells were projected with a unique dissonance structure of overtones; basic characteristics were: sound colour (harmony) and sound duration (melodiousness). The exactness of correspondence to a certain tone (note) plays the second role in the Russian ring. The choice of bell lofts consisting of some bells is made by certain intervals using the method of selection, not by notes. As the basic tone (the hardest) in Russian bells isnít stable after the verberation, and the so-called ďverberation" tone (the tone, which is felt by personís ear in first minutes after the verberation) is very subjective, the main tone for measuring is the lowest overtone (undertone), which is easily determined and appears to be the finishing sound of every bell.
I want to point that nowadays some bell-founders began using the profiles of the western example (the so-called "octave" bell). As a result the sound colour of such bells became poorer. This doesn't coincide with the Russian tradition.

7. What is the stability of bellsí sounding?

The stability of bellsí sounding is one of the main characteristics of their quality. This item depends on a technology being used, as well as production's culture (labour management, peopleís qualification, their attitude to work and so on). So, if the basic tone, established by the enterprise, differs from real in Ī 25 cents, itís the best rate of productionís stability; in Ī 50 Ė good rate, in 100 cents - satisfactory rate, and if the number is higher Ė itís a bad rate. Unfortunately, it's hard to achieve the best rate at a large-scale production, and we donít have the enterprises with such a rate. According to the results of statistic researches in 2006, the only enterprise in Russia - CJSC Partership Association ďPyatkov and CoĒ, Kamensk-Uralsky, has a good rate. The stability of bellsí sounding at the other enterprises leaves much to be desired. Nowadays for additional money some enterprises offer to undermine the bell (usually from the inside) to correct its tone, pointing out that they are ready to correct bellís sound for every tone! The very process of undermining isnít traditional for Russian bells. But if you have decided to undermine the bell, you should remember that bellís sound can be really corrected only to basso and no more than for 25-30 cents. Otherwise, according to the opinion of western specialists, who have been dealing with bellsí maintaining for hundreds of years, you can disorganize the entire overtone range of bellís sounding (i.e. the bell will have a certain tone, but its sound colour (harmony) can take a turn for the worse).

8. Bellís sounding and its quality.
Bellís sound is one of the most important criteria of its process quality. What shall pay attention to when ordering bells and their receiving?
A) If you compare the main tones among the bells of the same weight, but different producers, you can see that they vary in some half-tones. Bellsí profile (Olovyashnikovís profile) is practically similar with each of our producers, thatís why this difference depends mainly on alloyís and foundingís quality Ė the higher the tone is, the firmer and more qualitative the founding is and on the contrary Ė the lower the tone is, the more packless and porous the founding is; there are more internal defects in it. Unfortunately, some producers make advertisements on the fact that their bells sound lower than others, thatís why they proclaim rhetorically Ė why buying the bells with the same tone, but bigger in size? In fact, this anti-advertising and practice has shown that such bells are less harmonious and are being destructed quicker. B) Bellís ringing should be calm, without ďcroakingĒ and strong beats, which tell about foundingís defects, bellís wrong shape and asymmetric allocation of its mass.
C) If high tones are quickly disappearing (so called ďclusterĒ sounding) after a beat (especially with large bells) and only rumble remains (i.e. only undertoneís sounding), this means that the alloy is of low quality or the founding is porous, friable and has internal defects.
D) One of the most important qualityís criteria is the time of sounding. It should be at least 5 seconds for little (over-toll) bells, at least 10 seconds for middle (under-toll) bells and at least 20 seconds for large (toll) bells, at 1 meter distance. Otherwise itís a defect in founding or presence of flaw in the bell.
E) Some remaining tension, which can somewhere make the quality of sounding worse and can lessen the impact resistance, is usually gathered in a bell after its founding and long-term caring. As there is no tradition of high-temperature processing in bell-founding activity, the process of drawing usually happens in a natural way after bellís hanging, as a result of which itís gradually rung out. Itís recommended that you should lessen the power of a beat during this period (usually 1-3 months).

9. Does the enterprise offer an official guarantee of quality and what guarantee does it offer?
This moment is very important as the bells are broken nowadays, as well as before. If you donít officially speak the period of guarantee off anywhere, you have only two weeks from the day of purchasing for laying claims according to the law. Some producers give an official guarantee for 1- 5 years (itís a common practice in Russia and in other countries). But recently some producers give 50 and 100 years of guarantee for their bells in advertisements. Itís simple to check the seriousness of such proclamations, asking them to write these guarantees to the convention or the other document officially (with a signature of the enterprise's director and a stamp).
Nowadays CJSC Partnership Association ďPyatkov and CoĒ, Kamensk-Uralsky, is an undoubted leader in bells' strength (as well as their harmony). It has had no breaks for 15 years of its work.

10. What does the bell's price consist of? What privileges and additional services can the enterprise offer? Itís clear that the prices vary much. Determining the enterprise, where you want to order the bells, you should know not only the price, but also the details it consists of.
The bellís price may consist of:
- the price of the bell itself, with VAT or without it;
- clapperís price and the price of its hanging;
- bellís decoration with icons and scriptures;
- foundingís quality checking with the help of ultrasound diagnostics;
- bellís strengthening and ďcuringĒ using the high-temperature processing;
- bellís undermining to a certain tone;
- bellsí certification, including their acoustics;
- bell loftís selection according to harmony;
- the official guarantee;
- working out a special technical project on bell loftís equipping;
- delivery to the place of destination, including freight insurance;
- bellsí lifting and hanging;
- equipping of the ring management system;
- setting the beams for hanging bells, and their processing with wood;
- making the bell-ringerís board;
- bell-ringerís teaching on-site or with the help of special courses;
- holiday and other privileges;
- privileges according to the form of purchasing;
- bellsí selling on credit;
- receiving the certificate from the Ministry of culture to export the bells abroad.

11. We advise to invite a specialist when receiving the bells, to do everything thoroughly and to check the entire bell loft, but not the certain bells.

   common questions: info@bilo.ru
   director: bells-centre@yandex.ru
   the museum: museum@bilo.ru
   work: (495) 957-27-10,
   tel/fax: (495) 438-29-53,
   mobile: (903) 768-45-65
   113035, Moscow, Raushskaya embankment, house 26/1,
   the temple in honour of Saint Nikolay in Zayaitskoe (in the bell-tower).
   It works on weekdays from 10 till 19.