In 2008, after years of selling brass bells and getting hundreds of questions about how well our bells stand up outside, we finally got the bright idea to start a visual experiment that would show our customers first hand.
I know what you're thinking, "You're in the bell business, and you haven't tested the durability yet?" In our defense, while we love our bells and get the pleasure of ringing and hearing them every day, having a bell on our own deck would kind of remind us of work. So, over the years we've relied on the number of complaints by former customers who were not happy with the way their bells were weathering. And I'm happy to report that to this day, that number is...ZERO!
We know that brass (and its close cousin, bronze) has been used on ship bells and nautical instruments like ships telegraphs and portholes for hundreds of years because it's one of the few metals able to withstand the corrosive nature of the sea. And items made of those metals are among the sturdiest found in archeological digs from much earlier. But we weren't sure how much upkeep would be necessary to keep a polished ship bell looking shiny, or what color an antiqued patina bronze would turn when weathered.
So for over four years, we've hung a pair of bells on the owner's porch---one in antiqued brass and one in polished. While the owner thought it would be a good idea to hang out on his porch and watch this experiment every day, his wife (and his wallet) thought differently.
Our Bell Test Results (So Far)
After four years---despite being hung on a wall with almost constant southern sun exposure, with no overhang, and in temps ranging from the teens to over 105 degrees---they look pretty good! We've never polished them and have only wiped them with a paper towel once a year (very similar to our kitchen floors, but that's a different story).
From 5 to 10 feet away, in my opinion, the bells look almost new. As expected, the antiqued patina bell looks almost like the day it was hung (it was supposed to look old already). The screws have darkened to match the rest of the bell, and the mount itself is slightly darker.
The polished bell, while still shiny, has slight "spidering" in the protective lacquer that we used to protect the finish from acid found on things such as your fingers. Without the lacquer protection, it probably would not have stayed polished so long. If you are the kind of person who likes "spit and polish" (like some of our military vets), after four years, you might want to strip the lacquer, use a little elbow grease and brass polish and re-spray with lacquer (found in hardware stores). For the rest of us, we can probably wait a few years!
Antiqued Bell Test 2008-2012
2008 2010 2012
Polished Bell Test 2008-2012
2008 2011 2012