How to Make Propane Tank Bells

By Cedar Sanderson
Bells are an important part of a Zen garden.

Propane tank bells are well suited for Zen gardens with the deep, rich sound they create. Each type of tank makes a different tone, and propane tank bells grouped with bells made from welding tanks, oxygen tanks and old fire extinguishers can be used to play music or as a set of wind chimes. You can ring tank bells by hand, or simply let them chime in the wind. Although making a bell is a challenging project, your effort will be repaid with a bell that will last a lifetime.

The valve should unscrew, and the cage around it will be cut off.

Remove the top valve on the tank, applying a penetrating lubricant if necessary to loosen it. Do not bang on the valve to loosen it. Wash the interior of the tank thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Rinse two or three times.

Cut the cage off of the top of the tank with a hacksaw. Burr the remaining nubs smooth to the shoulders with the grind wheel.

This style of bell is sometimes called a temple bell.

Mark with permanent marker or grease pencil a continuous line around the tank, 2 to 4 inches above the base. The top of the tank will become your bell. With your drill, make a hole on this line large enough to allow your jigsaw blade to enter.

Cut the bottom off the tank with the jigsaw. Do this in stages to prevent overheating. Smooth the cut edges with the grind wheel. A beveled edge will produce a purer tone.

Remove any rust and old paint with a wire brush on your drill. Paint the bell with a metal-friendly paint.

Thread the 3-inch eye bolt down through the valve opening and fasten it in place with one of the nuts and a washer. Thread another nut onto the inner end of the bolt, but only a few turns. Then place the 2-inch eye bolt into that nut, creating an attachment point for the clapper.

Attach the medium-weight chain to the outer loop of the eye bolt, and the leather or rope to the inner loop. Hang a weight from the leather or rope to make the clapper. You can use an old lead sinker, a padlock without a key or a window counterweight for a clapper and stay within the recycled materials theme. Extend the leather or rope below the bottom edge of the bell if the bell is to be rung by hand. If the bell is to be a wind chime, use a flat piece of metal or wood attached to the rope below the edge of the bell to catch the wind and ring the bell.

Tip

Make the hanging frame to scale with your bell. Wrap a piece of felt or cloth around the clapper to soften the tone. Red is the Chinese color for joy and life.

Warning

Before removing the valve, make absolutely certain the tank you use for this project is empty by opening the valve and letting the tank sit for several hours or days. Propane is highly volatile, and a small spark can ignite it. Ignition in the enclosed space of the tank will result in an explosion.

Wear safety glasses when you cut. Small metal fragments at high velocity can cause injury to skin and eyes.