..... All Tower Bells ..... Chimes our specialty.

Manual Tower Chimes - are a set of 8-22 tower bells of an octave or more, played from a clavier (in a level below the bells) holding evenly spaced wooden handles, each having its own direct connection to the clapper to ring a specific bell (note).  Of course there are exceptions - evenly spaced ropes somehow fastened below for ringing.

The pump/plow/baton handles are pushed down to make the clapper hit the bell and sound the note.  And there are those which are rung directly from ropes off the wall.  Different?  You bet.
There is usually some indication of the notes on the handles and music is written specifically for it.
They are pushed down with appropriate vigor to sound the notes.  Every chime is different.
The push is from 2 inches to several feet all the way to the floor (not recommended for humans).  A roughly 5 inch push, with a stop bar, seems to be the most usual and comfortable.

Bells cost a lot, so the first 8 bells follow an octave progression, like  'C' to 'C'  on a piano.
Most additional bells are added to allow the most number of tunes to be played.
Bb, D, F#, E, F, G are the next ones added, all played side by side, no upper black keys.
The hymns or tunes able to be played are very instrument limited.

Some other things that come along - - -
The nuances of loud and soft sound are a manual chime advantage.
Climbing to the clavier can be easy, adventurous and maybe almost 90 steps.  After two bypasses, I still do it.
The chimer might be playing from a frigid or sweltering tower.
It is a wonderful adventure when a chimer goes to a different chime - finds a similar but different clavier in spacing and notation, a sometimes drastic difference of thrust required to ring, and a different number of bells in the set.  Every chime is similar, but so different and challenging to play.

After visits to over 300 chimes, the ingenuity displayed by the caretakers of these instruments is astounding.  They have made unimaginable solutions to problems within many chime towers, due to their lack of an organization to turn to.  Add that to the fact that a chime is usually a clever unique addition to a tower already built.
The chimer can usually hear what is being played, not necessarily so for an organist or keyboarder.

If adding electrical/automatic capability, for God's sake - retain the manual capability.
When the electric breaks down, you can still play it.  Electrification often partially blocks access to the clappers or some clappers are removed.  Also, things get added or changed around in a tower which makes restoration even tougher - and seldom done.
If the institution would normally fix the electrical, it will probably do so anyway, regardless of the manual availability, otherwise the chime is lost forever.
Electrification, in addition to the manual capability has very practical positives, and should not be discouraged.

A more technical description - from handle to clapper - an interesting journey -
The connection may pass thru one or more floor levels, thru a soldered umbrella (to stop water seepage), thru a 2 or 3 level transmission (to route it without a rubbing conflict) to the clapper.  The vertical route may be by wire, wooden rods reinforced by metal or whatever.
The fun begins with the flexible routing between the transmission and the clapper (which hits the bell) and causes the sound.  It might go thru multiple pulleys (to change direction), a turnbuckle or spring (for tension), and a final chain to the clapper.
If you have a pump handle stop bar, there is about an inch of open space at the bottom of the thrust so that the clapper is actually flung into the bell and you don't get the grinding sound of a clapper against a bell.

Often, there is a spring or counterweight arrangement to quickly release the clapper from the bell to refresh the handle, similar to a key on a piano.

This data compiled through the collaboration of Gerald Martindale and Joe Connors.

Section 4 of the shows pictures of chime sites.

Send mail to  Carl Zimmerman  with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified by Carl Zimmerman:  25-Jan-2014
Last modified by Joe Connors:  11/20/12