07 January, 2020

Holy Bells!!

By Scott

I'm a bit young, not by much, but still a bit young, to remember the whole drillium craze of the 70's. Losing weight was the be all, end all of that time frame. People would drill out their chain rings, derailleurs, brake levers, etc. It's where we got the inspiration for the drillium cranks. It was 100% a racing thing. Touring cyclists never jumped on this trend, but lately I've seen a couple pictures of folks drilling out our bells! I wondered, hmmm, how tough is this and does it change anything as to the actual usage of the bell? I mean, it's all good and well to drill the bell out for the looks, but if the tone goes off, it isn't worth it as I do need the bell to be useful/effective in its job.

For reference, the weight of the bell prior to the holes being drilled (with the clamp) is 57 gr.

Some lessons I learned while drilling out a brass bell:

1- Mount the bell in a vise. Trying to drill the bell while holding it in your hand will not end well.

2- Marking where you want to put the holes is ideal. I eyeballed it in terms of hole pattern, so a couple are a bit off the others. I used a sharpie to mark where I wanted to drill the holes. If I wanted to be more precise, using a paper template of where to put the holes would be helpful.

3- Start small. Use a small (sharp) drill bit to start with. The domed/curved nature of the bell means the drill bit can skid about if it is not at a 90 deg angle to the surface. A good sharp bit can dig into the brass a lot easier then a dull one. Use the small hole as a pilot hole to go a size or two up, depending on what sort of look you are going for. As with anything involving drilling- make sure you have proper eye protection.

4- Fine sandpaper is your friend. You can use it to get into the inside of the holes to smooth them out. Small round files also help to clean out the inside of the bell and can help channel your inner Peter Weigle.

Ideally, I'd use a drill press for this, but I had a portable drill and it worked fine. I think a sharp bit is one of the keys to drilling the hole.

So in the end, I drilled it out and...how does it sound? The tone is a bit lower then the non drilled original. Our resident musicologist Kevin stated that, "because there is less metal, there is less to vibrate and therefore it has a lower tone." Weight saved (3 gr with the holes I drilled out), cool factor increased, and it still works as a bell. A win/win/win all around.


mike w. said...

Does it whistle in the wind?

VeloOrange said...

@mike w.,

Good question! I have it behind my handlebar bag, so I haven't noticed any whistling. But a spin around the block didn't produce any whistling sans Rando Bag.


Anonymous said...

oh geez you guys are just talkin' crazy now...