A bell maker is someone who produces bells. Typically, bell makers also maintain and tune bells, applying their expertise to bells which need some assistance to perform at their peak level. People often learn this job through apprenticeship to an experienced bell maker although there are some college classes which can be useful for a prospective bell maker. People who work with bells need a deep understanding of metals and music to produce instruments of high quality.
This term is actually used in two different senses. One type of bell maker is someone who works in a foundry, casting bells such as those hung in church steeples. Other bell makers are responsible for making the bells of brass instruments. These professionals work with sheet metal which is beaten into shape, rather than cast like a church bell. Each job requires slightly different skills.
For bell makers who cast their bells in a foundry, knowledge of foundry operations is essential. The bell maker works with liquid metals and molds to cast bells of a desired size and shape, and then uses special tools to polish and tune them. This type of work is hot and extremely dirty. In addition to working in the foundry the bell maker may also install bells, perform maintenance on existing bells, and restore historic bells.
Bell makers who work in the production of brass instruments do not have working conditions quite as dangerous as those in a foundry, but their work does involve working with sharp tools and corrosive chemicals. The bell maker must have an excellent working knowledge of brass instruments to create a bell of the desired size and shape. In addition to making new bells, a bell maker who works with brass instruments can provide maintenance and repair services for people with instruments which need work.
Careers in bell making tend to be pursued by people who are interested in music and/or metalworking. Bell making is a specialty trade and someone with a great deal of skill and experience may be able to request very high fees for services. One of the best ways to gain experience is to work for a reputable firm which casts bells or makes brass instruments. With experience, the bell maker can eventually start his or her own business, or opt to remain employed by a company and move up through the ranks to become a senior employee.