Meditation bell from a propane gas cylinder

Morning meditation is part of our daily routine at Abrazo House. The beautiful, resonant sound of a bell being struck (or “invited”) with a wooden striker calls us back to the present moment and reminds us that, despite all our projects and worries, were are always living precisely in the here and now: the only place and time we have.

We made this meditation bell from the bottom of a propane gas cylinder, as a simple upcycling project with an amazingly satisfying result. The sound (as you can hear in the video below) is hardly inferior to a professionally made bell that would have cost hundreds of euros. Most satisfying of all is to symbolically transform the energy of fossil fuel into the energy of mindfulness.

 

Instructions

You do need to be comfortable using with power tools, and follow some straightforward safety guidelines—but if you’re OK with that, then it’s surprisingly quick and easy. The bell and striker took less than three hours of work, start to finish.

(This project was done at the Edinburgh Forge but the tools & materials are widely available.)

Tools and materials required

  • An old propane or butane gas cylinder, as empty as possible
  • An angle grinder with metal cutting and rough polishing blades
  • An electric drill with a wire brush attachment
  • Hose and water tap
  • Adjustable wrench, wooden mallet, ruler, pencil
 

How to make the bell

  1. It’s very important to safely decompress the cylinder and remove all traces of gas before doing any cutting. Using the adjustable wrench and mallet, unscrew the valve from the gas cylinder. Be sure to do this in an outdoor area away from sparks and naked flames, and don’t point the valve at yourself while you’re removing it as it may fly out under pressure. Always assume there is gas left in the cylinder until proven otherwise.
  2. Pour the remaining gas out of the cylinder by inverting it (the gas is heavier than air).
  3. Put the cylinder right side up again and fill it with water from the hose. This will eliminate all remaining traces of gas. If you want to be particularly safe, you can leave the cylinder full of water for 24 hours.
  4. With the ruler and pencil, mark a line on the side of the cylinder at a fixed distance from the base. You can experiment with different ratios of height to diameter and find what makes the best sound. (Our bell is roughly one-third as high as it is wide.)
  5. With the angle grinder and metal-cutting blade, cut around the cylinder in as straight a line as possible. Also cut the base off, which if you’re lucky will only be welded on in a few places.
  6. Change to the rough polishing blade on the angle grinder. Smooth and round the edges of the cut surface, grind flat any remaining welds from the base, and remove the paint from the outside of the bell.
  7.  Use the drill with the wire brush attachment to take off the remaining paint from the outside and to polish the bell, inside and out.
  8. Clean the bell with soap and water. 
  9. Make a striker out of a rounded piece of wood, either by hand or on a lathe. Gluing a piece of cloth around the striking part of softens the sound considerably. Sitting the bell on a cushion or folded cloth also improves the ease of striking.
  10. Invite your bell and enjoy being in the present moment! See the Plum Village guide on how to invite the bell.
 
You can also make a second, hanging bell from the top half of the cylinder.

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