Intro: Downton Abbey Servant Bell
This project was made many months ago when my friend Jenny was going in for surgery. To help her recover, and to lighten her spirits, I decided to surprise her with a servant bell so she could call for help to anybody in the living room from the comfort of her bed. Granted, a cell phone could do the same thing, but she really likes Downton Abbey, and it matched the style of living room so well. She still enjoys it to this day, long after she's recovered.
I started by looking around online, and came across another DIY very similiar:
It's a cool final product, but Danni (the author) made it only from supplies currently in their craft room. With a little extra cash in my pocket, I knew I could spruce it up a little, with a fancy pull cord and even an engraved name plate.
But don't worry; even with the fancy, it still only costed around $20-$30. Just play your Micheal's coupons well!
Step 1: Supplies
The first thing I had to do was a store run. I ended up needing a Lowes, a Micheals, and a Petsmart (more on that later)
To make this project you'll need:
- A wooden Baseboard
- Wood stain
- A bell
- Plumbers Tape
- Black Duct tape or electrical tape
- a Fancy button, victorian in appearance
- a small spring, I found this at lowes in the specialty boxes with all the screws and nuts
- Gold Chain
- Gold ring (Optional, if you want the other end of the pull cord to match the project)
- Dog Tag machine (for the engraved plate. I bring up other options later)
Otherwise, you'll need some nails and/or screws, and I used a soldering tool to hold these together, but you can attempt to hot glue, or even JB weld. The few times I solder I make a few suggestions for alternatives.
Step 2: The Base Board
Start by giving the board a nice stain. Since the living room is colored black, white and red, I went with a dark grey stain to match. You can finish the board as well with a gloss, but I decided to leave it matted so the few shiny parts would stand out more.
Let this dry for a bit, and while you do, hop on over to the next step.
Step 3: The Pull Chain
Next we have to be able to use the bell, so I got about 4 feet of gold chain that was broken into 2 parts (1 and 3 feet). On one end of the longer chain, I soldered on this gold ring I found at Lowes, and this will be the pull chain that goes next to the user.
Again, you can try using JB weld or hot glue here if you can't solder*, but I wouldn't recommend them for how the final look will be.
*Between this and the other chain I will be attaching my nylon cord, that way I don't have to buy 30 feet of gold chain. If you want to avoid the mess, you can just tie the gold ring to the Nylon string directly, which would have a much cleaner look and still feel good to pull on.
Step 4: The Bell Holder
Now comes that squiggly bit that holds the bell. On top of looking cool, the purpose of this is to have a little "bounce" when the cord is pulled. This way, it will shake the bell more violently, producing a better signal.
Plus...it looks cool
Start by cutting off a large section of plumbers tape. This will change depending on how big you want it, but for my base board I did around a yard, and cut it down after I bent it. Remember, it's always better to have too much than too little. When in doubt, do 4 feet.
Using a pair of pliers, bend the plumbers tape flat. This doesn't have to be perfectly flat, just flat-ish.
Once it's straightened out enough to work with, start unrolling your black tape, and placing your plumbers tape in the middle. Take your time so you don't have any creases in your tape, and when you have it all laid out, fold the sides over to cover the plumbers tape. By the end, you should have one long piece of black metal.
In the pictures I have a diagram of how I bent my tape into a spiral. You can do more or less spirals depending on your length, but use the beginning how I've shown. I have it folded over on itself so that a screw or nail could easily go through and hold it while it is being rung.
I found the best way to get it into a spiral is to bend it in a tight little roll, much like how it is originally packaged, and then let it go to it's regular size, and make minor adjustments from there.
Step 5: Adding the Bell
When this is all done, the bell will be hanging from the bottom of this spiral. The best way I found to do this was to remove the tape from the last bend, and then to cut into the plumbers tape so that I could slide the top of the bell right in to one of the holes.
I also curved the edges to make it look nicer, then you just add a small sliver of black tape, and cut to the form you need.
If you can't get a hold of a dremel tool, or any good way to do precise cuts on the plumbers tape, one option would be to use a small metal key ring through the last hole on the tape, and then add the bell to the key ring.
Okay, crazy story on the bell. I couldn't do a fancy one like I wanted because of price and shipping time, so I had to find one in a store. All the ones in the craft stores were cheap plastic ones and didn't have the ring that I wanted, so just when I was about to give up, guess where I happen to spot one? Petsmart! When I was getting the name plate, I walked by the bird isle and saw a bunch of bell toys, including a $2 metal one in silver or gold! How crazy is that?
Finally, add everything together so far and line it up on the board, make a mark where the center of the spiral should hang on the board, hit a long nail into it, and put it together. Already this project is taking some shape!
Step 6: Attatching the Chain
To attach the chain, you want to put it on the bottom of the center coil, below where the nail would be.
There are many ways to do this, but I found hot glue was not one of them; it immediately broke when I tried to pull it. I ended up soldering, but again, you can try JB weld, or even do the key ring trick I mentioned in the last step.
Step 7: The Name Plate
This one I had the most fun with. I searched all over the internet to find a cheap engraving solution, but the best I could find was still at least $35. It dawned on me to try the pet name engraving machines at petsmart, and I was able to find a basic name tag for only $6 that would fit perfectly with the style!
The only catch was that I had to drill a hole on one side of the tag so I could hang it, but it didn't give me much trouble.
Since this was made specifically for my friend, I decided to go the more permanent route and get something engraved with "Jenny Bell", which a play on her nickname "Jennebelle". When I had trouble finding a good engraving though, I came across another interesting option, using a name card slot from a drawer! (picture included) This would allow you to change the bell title by changing out a small paper card, and I found them for less than a dollar at some craft stores. Even an antique one was only 2 or 3 bucks if you want it to look older, and it was probably more fitting to have something like this in the servants quarters than something as classy as an engraved plate.
Just my opinion though. Moving on.
Step 8: Final Steps
There's only a few more things to do, and theirs not much explaining to go around it, so here we go:
- Using super glue (or soldering like me) attach a fancy button on top of the nail that's holding the spiral in the center. This will give it a small touch of class. I couldn't find my glue, so I just soldered it on.
- Grab a few eyelets and place them on opposite sides of the spiral, closer to the edge. One of these is going to hold the chain, and the other is going to hold a spring
To be honest, the tutorial is broken up a bit here because I already tried to hang it, used it, and found out I needed a spring. The weight of the chain and cord is too much and pulls the spiral on its own, so when you try to ring it, it doesn't have any room to ring. The small spring I added was just enough to pull the spiral back to its default position anytime you pull the cord, letting it ring as much as it wants!
- Add two screw holes on the sides so that you can hang it up. I measured mine out halfway vertically and one inch from the sides so it would be symmetrical.
- Give the metal a nice cleaning, and head off to whatever room you plan to hang this in!
Step 9: Hanging
Find yourself a good spot to hang your bell. Outside of a bedroom for example, or in a common place like a kitchen or family room. Use the screw holes you made to screw it into the wall. If you don't want to screw into the wall, I imagine you could use a lot of hanging tape made for picture frames, but remember that this will be receiving a good amount of force whenever someone pulls the cord, so make it strong.
To hang the string, I just used a few screws placed near the top of the room so it would have something to rest on.
Again, rather than buying 30 feet of gold chain for this project, I decided to make it look like I had. I got just enough chain for the beginning and end, and then used a gold nylon string to connect the two. Sadly, I came up with the nylon idea later, so I haven't got any pictures of it.
The string, and surprisingly even the chain, was thin enough to go through the top frame of a door when it's closed, and was still able to ring. This way Jenny could still have her privacy, but call for help if need be.
Well, that's it! You've got yourself a hanging servants bell, ready to spice up your decor and help anyone in need! I hope you liked this tutorial, and be sure to check out the video at the beginning if you get lost!