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What kind of bells do you wear?

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  • What kind of bells do you wear?

    I have seen dance bells on Straight Dancers ranging from a single row of old brass sleigh bells (my personal preference), to three rows of chrome-plated bells.

    What kind of bells do you wear?

    How many rows of bells on each leg?

    Is it proper for a Straight Dancer to wear bells any place other than just below each knee?
    Last edited by Historian; 11-05-2005, 11:24 PM.

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2
    Brass is my preference also and I wear a dozen on each leg. I have them on one strap that I wrap around my leg and buckle. They have a tang on the back side of them and I have a piece of heavy wire holding them to the leather. I have not had any of them come off in more than 20 years.


    • #3
      I used to wear bells but now I wear deer toes. I also have a set of deer toes that have 2 rows on top of 357 bullet casings. Actually, they have a good sound.

      I don't think anyother location for the bells would not be appropriate. Simply my opinion.


      • #4
        I was fortunate enough to have inherited Abe Conklin's "beehive" bells. They have the suggestion of an old fashioned beehive shape on top, above the central flange. They are thin gage brass, probably nickel plated. Some of the nickel has worn off, and I had to braze/repair a few cracks in the bells. They also needed restringing. There were 17 1½"D bells for each leg. I mounted 17 on about a 1" x 30" strap and riveted them on with Tandy's copper flat head rivets. I made a slender tool to reach down inside each bell opening, so that I could upset the shanks. One string takes two wraps around my leg and I tie with leather boot strings, which are probably an oil treated russet latigo.

        Conklin's beehive bells look as though they were manufactured cold or hot in dies, and not cast. A friend gave me another set of beehive bells, and on close inspection, I found they were made of steel, and probably nickel plated. I am unaware of the history of either the brass or steel beehive style, pertaining to place of manufacture and age.

        At my age, my legs can tire, so sometimes I wear a single string of 10 old, brass sleigh bells on each leg. I acquired these at an antique store in Pennsylvania, and they are fairly smooth and light, with a plain, single slot, and no cast ornamentation like the old Swedish sleigh bells had. The Swedish style are much heavier than mine.

        My Pennsylvania sleigh bells had the lug projections, so I cut them off and drilled and tapped holes to receive flat head Phillips-head screws.

        I've always seen the bells worn just below the knee.


        • #5
          Originally posted by CHEROSAGE
          I used to wear bells but now I wear deer toes. I also have a set of deer toes that have 2 rows on top of 357 bullet casings. Actually, they have a good sound.
          I wear deer toes as well, but without the bullet casings. Your idea sounds quite interesting. Could you post a picture of them here?


          • #6
            Sorry, right now I'm not sure how to post pictures. Not really very computor knowledgable.

            I will tell you about what they look like.

            The deer toes are on the bottom row. The top 2 rows are the bullet casings. I took the primer out of the base of the bullet and used artificial sinew with a bead to hold the bullet case to the leather base. What I like is that they have that clank but not real loudly.


            • #7
              I wear Crome Sleigh bells. Two rows of six on each Leg. They are awsome!! But I am thinking of doing, three rows of six on
              each leg, instead of two. To give it a nice Sound.
              Dance hard like there is no tomrrow. Hoka!

              Being Native American isn't JUST about blood. It is a Spiritual way of life.

              "Tell me and I will listen, Show me and I will understand, Take me in and I will learn." -A Lakota proverb

              “We need to start standing up to people who tell us ‘no,’ that we can’t do things in the way of our culture.” -Aloysius Dreaming Bear


              • #8
                Machine-stamped Bells
                Taken from:

                By about 1870, machines were developed to stamp sheet brass into bells. The process is faster than hand casting, and less brass is used per bell. Both of these factors greatly reduced manufacturing costs. The downside is that most types of stamped bells are much more fragile than their cast cousins.

                Some bells were stamped from one piece of brass -- the jingle (arctic) bell is the most common example. Many other styles were created from two pieces of lightweight brass crimped together in the middle.

                Almost all stamped brass bells are all fairly small -- no more than 1 3/8 inch in diameter. Lightweight sheet brass is not rigid enough to be formed into bells much larger than this.

                Many stamped bells were nickel or chrome plated. Stamped bells were usually attached to a strap with copper or mild steel rivets.

                Rivet-style Bells
                In the 1860s, molds and stamping machinery were developed to produce bells that had no shank at all. Instead, a hole is drilled or punched through the base of these bells after they are formed by stamping or casting.

                The bells are attached to a strap with a heavy-duty copper or steel rivet or (less often) a screw. The smooth heads of the rivets or screws on the inside of the bell strap do not require a protective liner.

                To keep the bells from rotating when mounted on a strap, two to four small pins or prongs surround the rivet hole. These pins bite into the leather to keep the bell from rotating when it is riveted or screwed onto a strap.

                Even though the bases of shank- and rivet-style bells are different, the bells designs can look otherwise identical. Shank-base petal and rivet-base versions of round ridge bells and petal bells are especially common.

                Bell 1 photo:
                Typical two-piece egg bell. Egg shaped, light-weight brass, nickel plated.

                Bell 2 photo:
                Beehive bell. Two piece design, nickel plated.

                Bell 3 photo:
                Octagon-shaped bell. Two-piece design, originally nickel plated.

                Bell 4 photo:
                One-piece jingle bell. Also known as an arctic bell. Made of heavier brass than most stamped bells, this bell has two throats, unusual for a stamped bell. About 1 1/4 inch in diameter.

                Bell 5 photo:
                One-piece jingle or arctic bell with "PAT. OCT 24. 76 & MAY 14. 78" stamped on the base.

                Shank-style bells
                The shank is a tab of metal on the base of a bell. Through the early 1800s, most bells had a shank with a U-shaped hole cast into it. (see Bell 6 photo )

                In the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s, the shank on many bells was cast solid with no hole. The hole was later drilled through the shank after the bell was removed from its mold.

                Molds commonly used today form a shank with a circular hole that is usually cast in place. A cast hole has rough, irregular sides, but a drilled hole is smooth.
                Attached Files

                "Be good, be kind, help each other."
                "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

                --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


                • #9
                  Part 2

                  Part 2

                  Bells 4, 5, and 6
                  Attached Files

                  "Be good, be kind, help each other."
                  "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

                  --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


                  • #10
                    Do most people use a single diameter of bell for their straight dance set?

                    Also, I've come across what I now believe to be a Sarna bell (example at This bell comes from India I believe and has a very pleasant and lastnig 'ting' as opposed to the louder ring of tradtional brass sleigh bells. I've thought that these bells would sound good on some dance clothes. But I've not seen them before. Anyone else seen these bell used?
                    "It doesn't really matter, they don't know any better anyway."


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