When it comes to bells...You can't always judge from an online photo!
When we ran out of our popular 10-inch diameter polished brass bells earlier this year, we decided to supplement our inventory by purchasing a large number of similar looking bells from another American importer. From the photo, their bell and ours looked similar, and while we wouldn't be making much money selling a competitive product, we thought it was important to offer this bell to our customers. Besides, we wondered how their bell could be cheaper!
Not only was the "ten-inch bell" considerably lighter and thinner than ours (their bell weighed 7.5 pounds; ours 12 pounds), which resulted in a tinny, high pitched ring, but the clapper itself was attached to the bell by what looked like a strand of coat hanger cast into the inside of the bell! By comparison, we use a heavy brass eye that is securely screwed into the top of the bell.
Competition's 10-Inch Bell Clapper Attachment Our 10-Inch Bell Clapper Attachment
We've since purchased other bells online to not only size up competition, but also to see if there are things we can improve upon. When you, the customer, look at two hand bells photographed online, to you they look very similar and the choice often comes down purely to price. Unfortunately, it's what you can't see that is more important.
The next two pictures are examples of actual comparative photos of bell clappers--the part that gives each bell its rich, unique tone. These clappers are from the 10-inch diameter bells mentioned previously and a five-inch hand bell. Our 10-inch bell clapper (seen at top of picture) is not only much larger and heavier, but it's designed to impact lower on the bell, in the widest diameter section where a bell is designed to be struck.
10-Inch Bell Clapper Comparison 5-Inch Hand Bell Clapper Comparison
The differences on the hand bell clapper designs are even more glaring. Our longer, heavier model (at top of picture) is designed to strike low on the rim of our large five-inch diameter hand bell and is held by a secure brass ring. The competitive clapper (at bottom of picture) is much too small for the bell and hangs from a twisted strand of brass wire, which can kink and break after extended use.
There are cow bells, and then there are Cow Bells!
Lately we've had a few groups try to return small, tinny sounding cow bells (like the blue one in the photo) that they bought at other websites, so they could buy our larger, better built, louder models (shown on either side). Unfortunately---unlike us---some websites charge a re-stocking fee! Not only do we not charge a re-stocking fee, but we also offer a full refund (minus shipping) if you're not satisfied with your purchase because we know you will be! And we can even engrave your bell with your team's name, your organization or whatever else you can dream up. We can also engrave logos (with minimum order quantity and set-up charge).
Our cow bells make great fundraisers. Order larger quantities at a discount and sell to your fan club at retail price. Just give us a call at our toll-free number or email us for large quantity discounts.
Learning from past mistakes
We've manufactured bells for many years overseas in India and know all about cheap (or even unsafe) bells having had the misfortune of getting a container of them at various times. In fact, we've had to sell large quantities of bells as scrap when customers complained of mounts actually breaking. In this picture on the right, compare the mount of our seven-inch polished brass bell (on right) with the mount of one we received a few years ago (on left) after an ill-fated attempt to improve our costs on this best seller.
In the photos we received from the manufacturer, the bell we ordered was the same size as the one we were selling--but a lot cheaper. As the mounting arm is probably the most important (and overlooked) part of the bell, we found our order was good only for the scrap yard.
We've learned from our mistakes and have developed a relationship with a trusted, quality manufacturer who listens to our suggestions for improvements. It's been an expensive lesson, but one that has made us a better company. If you are like most customers, you may only need to purchase one bell in your lifetime, and you want to purchase the best quality bell for the best price. So, keep in mind that all our products can be returned for a refund (minus shipping) if you're not happy with the quality. And we even offer to replace any bell that malfunctions in the first two years you own it.
We think we offer the best combination of price and quality on the Internet. And we appreciate your business very much.
Putting Our Bells to the Test
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