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bells

A pre-1965 U.S. quarter buys only one 25-cent gumball from a grocery store machine, but because it’s made of 90% silver, its “melt value” is currently closer to $6. So finding a few silver quarters can make digging through desk drawers or old boxes of junk in your attic a profitable exercise. But instead of melting old quarters into $6 silver nuggets, it’s more fun to hammer them into something more interesting and valuable. You can make them into silver bells!

There are many ways to hammer a disk of soft, malleable metal like silver into a hemispherical shape. I used an inexpensive metalworker’s dapping block and punches, as sold by many vendors online, but you can also pound a quarter into a hemisphere using a rounded hardwood dowel and a dimpled block of oak or maple.

Tap carefully, rotating the coin as you go, to keep the edges of the hemisphere even and symmetrical. A nylon mallet or dead blow hammer will help absorb the impact of your tapping and lessen the bounce-back as you tap. But any hammer will do.

After dapping 2 quarters into hemispheres, you can fashion an eyelet for the bell out of a strip of thinner metal clipped from a silver dime.

And you’ll need a clapper for the inside of the bell. I made one by hammering the sides of a steel nail until it had a rectangular cross-section, then sawing off a piece to make a small metal cube.

Once the pieces are roughed out, it’s just a matter of filing the edges smooth, clamping the assembled parts in a vise, and sweating them together with a propane torch and silver solder. As soon as the bell cools, you can saw a thin slot using a hacksaw blade, drill relief holes at each end of the slot, and finish the bell with emery cloth and silver polish.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker is an author who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., and works for Cornell University. When he is not tinkering with junk, he’s a flight instructor and flies a 1956 Cessna 180 bush plane.


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