Making of Atoke Bells

Finished bells
Finished bells

These pictures represent the process of making Atoke bells, a forged iron bell used in West Africa, particularly from the Ewe nation in and surrounding Togo. The bells are held in the palm of one’s hand and played by striking the edge with a metal rod. I was asked to make some bells for a local band in Oakland that plays traditional African music, as well as a mix of funk and blues.

Layout for the Atoke bells
Layout for the Atoke bells
Cut pieces
Cut pieces

The most challenging part of making these bells was to make sure the intonation was correct and in sync with the other bells. I figured the easiest way to play with the tone was to gradually decrease the thickness of the walls, but this process proved to be very slow and tedious.

Adding texture to the inside of the bell
Adding texture to the inside of the bell
Curving of the sides
Curving of the sides
Shaping a "banana" curve
Shaping a “banana” curve
Tools used in the shaping
Tools used in the shaping

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