Rüetschi Bell Foundry

12 Dec. 2011

On November 12th, the MIT Club of Switzerland visited the Rüetschi Bell Foundry, where we learned about the bell making industry, restoration of bells, bell acoustics, and determiners of bell longevity. The tour was led by the foundry’s general manager, Rene Spielmann-Dober, and was attended by twenty-two adults and nine children. Mr. Spielmann-Dober is an authority of the bell industry, being a third generation bell founder. Standing in front of the foundry’s ten-ton oven, he described how a company that makes products lasting a minimum of a hundred years needs to diversify to stay profitable. In addition to making bells, the Rüetschi Bell Foundry now repairs and restores bells, constructs bell towers, large rotary parts, and small- and large-scale art castings.

Mr. Spielmann-Dober showed the group that there is a lot more to bell making than what first meets the eye. For example, when designing a bell installation, one must first consider the site. There are many regional differences in the mechanics of how bells are rung (Will they invert completely or simply 90 degrees?) as well as environmental influencers like altitude and humidity (Will they be positioned to the north or south of the Alps?). To address these and other engineering issues, we learned that bell foundries across Europe regularly meet at conferences.  How to further increase the longevity of bells is often a top issue. And as evidence to the longevity of the Rüetschi Foundry’s products- sitting in the workshop were two bells awaiting restoration, both from the 1400s.

At the end of the tour, Alumni were presented with a small cast bell complete with the MIT logo. A short walk brought the group to the Gasthof zum Schuetzen restaurant for lunch, where the bell conversation continued and everyone got to know each other better. Afterwards the Carillon concert in the medieval Oberturm tower in Aarau allowed the group to enjoy the musical qualities of the bells discussed earlier. Many thanks to Viara Nedeva for organizing such a technologically and culturally interesting event!

Katie Juntilla