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Bell Restoration Project

While the bells were away

With the bells and their ropes out of the way there were several tasks that needed to be undertaken. First and foremost was stripping and repainting the bell frame.

The transformation from dark green to grey took more than a week - somewhere in the region of twenty to twenty five working days. During that time we used sandpaper, wire brushes, electric rotary brushes, half a litre of Fertan, lots of water, three tins of red oxide paint, more wire brushes, more water, more red oxide and finally four tins of rust blocking polyurethane enamel paint. 

Seven volunteers squeezed into inaccessible spaces, first preparing and then painting the obvious and the less obvious parts of the bell frame. They worked their way through disposable masks, plastic gloves, latex gloves (lots of latex gloves), paint brushes (around a dozen destroyed or irrevocably damaged), old plastic milk bottles, white spirit and one vacuum cleaner (which ended up in the dump). Overalls were washed and rewashed, the dirt may have come off but the oil based paints are permanent. Streaks of paint adorned faces, hands and arms; those of us that were not previously grey haired certainly were after this experience.

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The ringing chamber at Calstock church is about 27 feet high; such a long drop would make the ropes difficult to handle, so at some stage in the past a rope guide had been installed. This guide was now in need of repair and with the bells out of the way this was the perfect time to tackle the job. This was very similar to the bell frame but with the added excitement of  a scaffold tower; also the new metal lengths were coated in a material much harder to remove than rusty paint.

While Kev and Patrick erected the scaffold tower Sue started to tackle the metal bars with a grinding wheel. But this was going to be a long job and required team work and several sets of tools. By the end of the first day we had successfully put up the scaffold tower, stripped off the protective coating from the metal stripes, cut them to length and painted them with red oxide.

Then followed drilling the holes for the bolts which would hold the new brackets to the tower wall. The bolts had to be chemically bonded overnight but the following day the brackets were secured and the strengthening rods were in place. All that then remained was a little concrete and quite a bit of painting.

The last task was to sort out the Ellacombe chiming apparatus.  We had dithered for some time about what to do with this device.  Most of the chime hammers had been removed some time previously. Although it was still used for tolling a single bell that function was to be transferred to a new chime hammer with a softer action which would be operated by a traditional bell pull.

 

We contemplated selling it or hauling it up to the clock room thereby postponing any decision. But in the end we decided to strip it down, repaint the metal work, revarnish the woodwork and restring it so that at least it would look as though it were operational. Most of that could be done while the bells were away although the new ropes would have to wait until the bells were back in the tower.