Bell Metal – the tradition of making copper bell metal in Bhuj has been practised for a long past. Different stages of the process are involved in the production of the product. Initially, Waste metal is collected from the community as well as from nearby industries. The artisan cuts the scraps into rectangular strips and hammers them into a hollow cylinder. For the cap of the bell, the artisan draws a circle of the required size on the metal sheet using a compass. The circle is cut and hammered to obtain a dome shape. The circular dome is then fitted onto the cylinder and hammered to attain the bell shape. A metal strip is bent and attached to the top part so the bell can be hung. Once the bell is shaped, a woman artisan dips the bell into water. After dipping, the wet shaped bells are covered with a mixture made of brass, copper, zinc and iron powder and kept to dry.
The dough of clay, which is brought from the village called Zura and raw cotton (Kapaas), is made. This dough is beaten and mixed with the help of a small wooden log. The powder-coated bells are wrapped in the dough and baked in a kiln at high temperatures. Baking is done to fix the copper powder on the surface of the bells and bring out lustre and shine. The baking time depends on the size of the bell and varies between 30 minutes to about 2 hours. Once cooled, the clay/cotton mixture breaks off to reveal the bell. Once the bell body is ready clapper (wooden piece) is attached to the centre of the bell which determines the sound it imparts. The clapper is made of a dense wood called (Khirad tree). The wooden piece is generally inserted after the bell is polished with brass and copper.
The sound that emanates from each bell depends on the artisan’s skills and three Factors:
•The size and shape of the bells body,
• The size and shape of the wooden strip hanging within the bell, and
• The shape and curve of the bell’s bottom rim.
Denting of the bell to get the perfect pitch is also done by hand, by repeated thrashing with the hammer. There are 14 standard sizes, which range in length from 2 cm to over 30 cm.