For our first dip into The Tower Handbook we will jump ahead to section 13 on page 213. It is the longest chapter in the book, on “Learning”. Section 13.1 is about learning to handle a bell and answers 13 questions. There is not space for them all, so here is a selection.
d. What is the difference between pulling and checking?
This is one of the most important questions in ringing. You must know when to do which, and train your arms to be able to do one without the other.
- Pulling is applying force as the rope comes down. It makes the bell swing higher and more slowly.
- Checking is the opposite, ie applying force as the rope rises. It makes the bell swing less high and more quickly.
If you pull when you ought to check, or vice versa, you will make the problem worse. If you pull and check all the time, you will rapidly tire yourself but still not be able to control the bell very well.
Separating pulling from checking means you must be able to turn on or turn off the force in your arms between the rope rising and falling. This takes some practice, especially when you want to exert more effort. It is easier just to heave for the whole way up and down, but you must resist the temptation.
e. How much force should I put on the rope?
This is another important question. There are three things you need to do with the rope, and they affect how hard you should pull and when.
- Keep your rope moving tidily
This means a straight pull, and also a long pull. Keep a little tension on your rope for as long as possible. As soon as your rope goes slack it can start to swing sideways if there is any misalignment in either the rope run or your hand movement. Because you keep tension on your rope for a long time, you must keep it light or the cumulative effect will be quite strong whether you want to pull the bell or not.
- Feel what your bell is doing
This is vital for everything else. You need as much contact with your bell as possible. This too means there must be some tension, and if you are pulling hard you will not be able to feel what the bell wants to do.
- Control how your bell swings
This needs accurate, measured force at the right time. With a long pull (or a long check on the rise) you need to apply less force for the same effect. This means you can be more accurate (a more delicate touch), and you can adjust how much force you apply as the bell rises on each stroke (based on how it responded during the early part of the rise).
In summary, pull long and light as a baseline and modulate this with extra force as needed. Always use the minimum force to make the bell do just what you want.
f. Why does the rope always try to slip out of my hand?
If you pull too hard and/or ring with too short a rope, then it will tug at your hand at every stroke. If you then take in rope (because you are afraid it might pull out of your hand) it makes the problem worse. But if you were to lengthen your rope and not pull too hard, you would find the rope pulled less, so being nearer the end of your rope would not be a problem. Other questions answered:
- Is learning to ring different from learning any other skill?
- What sort of bells should I try to ring?
- What are the main things to learn in bellhandling?
- How can I control my rope length?
- How do I know where to catch the sally at the handstroke?
- Is raising and lowering part of bellhandling?
- What do people mean by a good handling style?
- Does it matter how I ring so long as it feels OK?
- How will I know when my bellhandling is good enough?
- Will I get taught all I need to know about bellhandling?
Where can I get it?
The Tower Handbook is available from: Central Council Publications