Quasimotor? A Robot Bell Ringer

In large churches that still use real bells in their bell towers, a large number of them ring bells using a method called full circle ringing. In order to get the bells to sound at exactly the right time, the bells are rung by swinging the entire bell in an almost complete 360-degree arc. This helps to mitigate the fact that often times, the bells weigh more than the person ringing the bells. However, if you don’t have access to a belfry, you can practice ringing bells using this method with your own full circle bell simulator.

The frame for the bell was built from some leftover aluminum extrusion and allows the bell to easily swing on some old skateboard bearings. The mechanism is electrically controlled, too, using a hall effect sensor and a USB adapter so that it can be interfaced with a computer running a virtual bell ringing suite. Once some timing issues are worked out, the bell is all set up and ready to practice ringing changes.

If you’re as fascinated as we are to find that there are entire software suites available to simulate bell ringing, and an entire culture built around something that most of us, perhaps, wouldn’t have given a second thought to outside of walking past a church on a Sunday, there have been a surprising number of other bell-related projects over the years. Bells have been given MIDI interfaces and robotified, and other church instruments like a pipe organ have been created almost from scratch.

Router/Twitter/Arduino clock


[Kyle] decided to build the above LED clock for his church. Though it may look impressive enough, it is also hiding loads of features. [Kyle] wanted to make the clock as easy to control as possible, so rather than use buttons or dials to control what is being displayed, he used Twitter. The clock is connected to the internet through a Linksys WRT54GL. The router was hacked so not only does it supply the connection to Twitter, it also parses all of the replies the clock’s feed gets. The clock responds to commands to turn it on or off, run a countdown before service, display the number of viewers on the church’s live stream, and display a sequence of numbers. The time never needs to be set, as it is synched from the internet. The circuit for actually driving the display is based off a PIC, but it was changed to run off an Arduino.

James R. Knight memorial organ

IMG_1613 (Custom)

[Jared] wanted to do something monumental to commemorate his late father. His idea was to take this organ console and convert it to a digital beast powered by Hauptwerk software. The project is slated to take 18 to 24 months to complete, at which point he’s going to donate it to his church. You can follow along as he guts it and replaces all the mechanicals with new parts to interface the computer. He also finds that he needs at least 42 individual speaker cabinets to achieve the sound he wants. This thing is massive, we would love to see it in person.