Thursday, June 02, 2011

Copper Coated Iron Bells, Nirona

Located in a small dirt floor room whose main light source was the open door, was a young man who quietly demonstrated the craft of making copper coated iron bells. Currently, only two villages make these types of bells – Nirona and Zura. It is done by the Lohars of the Muslim community. Although the entire family is often involved (women and children help with the less technical aspects), only the men shape the bells and define their sound. These bells were traditionally hung around their necks of cattle and goats to help locate them. Now they may be made for musical instruments, wind chimes, and even for churches.

First the young man a rectangular strip of iron and shaped it into a cylindrical hollow. A cap was then formed by pounding metal into a die called a paroni. A Nero iron strip shaped like a horseshoe was then pushed through the Bell top to the inside of the Bell with both ends twisted and locked, forming the clasp loop at the top of the bell. We did not see the process of creating the burnished copper coating that includes baking the powdered brass & copper with stretched cotton. The metal is then buffed to create a lustrous polished tone. A shaped piece of dense hard wood was then hung in the inside to create the clanger. Using such simple tools and materials, it was amazing to hear their beautiful tonal quality.

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