• Barbara Le Gallez
    If you have recent experience of buying a dumbbell, please could you share it? This is to go in our tower for the purpose of teaching learners quickly and safely. It will interface with our Bagley / Abel simulator.
    We don't have much idea of who makes dumbbells and what the pros and cons of the different offerings are, so any advice would be welcome.
    Thank you
  • Philip Pratt
    There are a couple of suppliers of dumbbells. Matthew Higby makes a steel-wheeled one which quite a few towers have versions of it and St Peter Mancroft in Norwich have a set of 8 with differing sizes of weights on them for their training centre to make them feel more like a real ring of bells. The advantage of these is that they can be mounted in your clock/intermediate chamber, or bolted to the bell frame - they're much more weather resistant than other suppliers. The Higby design uses a standard size (~4ft 6") steel wheel both the flywheel effect of the weight of the wheel rotating combined with the weight on the wheel to create the effect of a ~3cwt bell and as a result it has a reduced loading requirement on the building it is in, although it is very good for training and teaching people, it isnt a subsitute for a real bell which does subtly feel different, although it is better than those which use smaller wheels..

    Saxilby simulators have about a 3ft/1m diameter wheel and I'm pretty sure there are a few rings of these around, I think Exeter (cathedral?) has a set of 10 of these. They look good, and I think the wheels are made of steel weights and MDF, so would suit a weathertight loft space rather than being fixed to a bell frame with open louvers. These are good if you have space restrictions, e.g. in your loft at home, or want to get the mobile tower they supply to take the bell to shows or other towers.

    I'm sure most of the bell hangers have and do supply them too. Whites have supplied a full sized steel wheel light weight one for the Cheltenham Minster part of their project, but I would rate the Higby ones being better for realism, but I'm sure Whites could, or might now offer a better version. I'm sure the other bell hangers have done them, but Matthew Higby's design seems to be very popular.

    I have attached a photo of the dumb bell at Leeds Minster in their clock room. It runs on an old cast iron headstock and has some cast iron clock weights bolted to it to simulate the weight of the bell. I don't know who made this, but I suspect it could be a couple of locals who put it together rather than a professional. This is probably better again at mimicking a real bell, it uses a weight that is very close to the weight of a real bell on real fittings. (I've not rung it)

    There's 3 distinct avenues and I guess it depends what you're looking for;
    • a smaller than normal size installation that's portable and could go into a loft space
    • a full size wheel with light weight utilising the flywheel effect to mimic real bells
    • a full size wheel with a heavy weight giving the weight and characteristics of a real bell.
    The second two points are the type that most bell hangers would offer. The teaching centre at Worcester Cathedral has 8 all made locally by members of the band which are a hybrid with MDF(?) full sized which give a bit of the flywheel effect wheels and a heavy weight.


  • Barbara Le Gallez
    Thank you Philip Pratt, that is very helpful.
  • Simon Linford
    I was very impressed by the use of a training bell at Abbots Bromley when I visited a few weeks ago. It is a Higby version sitting in the clock room and rung in the corner of the ringing chamber, with the ringer watching Abel on screen. It was used before and throughout the evening practice with a young recruit perfecting his handling and plain hunt, and then various other people during the practice were using it to ring other things. It was in constant use.
    I went to see it because I am installing one in my home tower.
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