Make a Copper Cowbell

You can keep an ear on your good old woods-wandering Bessie with a homemade copper cowbell.

| September/October 1984

  • illustration of cow wearing copper cowbell
    A copper cowbell will let you know if ol' Bessie is nearabout.
    Illustration by Fotolia/Mannaggia
  • copper cowbell - cowbell diagram
    Cut this patterns into a piece of cardboard by the dimensions indicated.
  • copper cowbell - cardboard pattern and finished cowbell
    The cardboard model beside the finished cowbell.
  • copper cowbell - scoring metal with cold chisel
    After scribing the copper, score the metal along these lines (being careful not to cut through the copper as you do so) with a hammer and a cold chisel.
  • copper cowbell - folding metal
    Bend the metal along the scored lines with pliers.

  • illustration of cow wearing copper cowbell
  • copper cowbell - cowbell diagram
  • copper cowbell - cardboard pattern and finished cowbell
  • copper cowbell - scoring metal with cold chisel
  • copper cowbell - folding metal

If you've ever heard the gentle tinkling of cowbells on the evening air as a herd of milkers slowly wended their way across a distant pasture, then you know what a calming effect those peaceful chimings can have on a body after a hard day's work. Maybe you even long to re-create those subtle sounds by hanging a copper cowbell around your bovine's neck (especially if the critter's given to hiding in the woods!). Then again, perhaps you've got a nostalgia-loving friend or relative who'd appreciate an authentic cowbell as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, real copper bells are pretty hard to find nowadays, and the ones that are available (in antique stores, usually) are priced out of many folks' range.

Of course, you could always make your own which case you might be able to enjoy those memorable (and practical) sounds for only pennies a bell! About all you'll need to produce one cowbell is a square foot of 16-ounce (23to 24-gauge) copper flashing, which you can find at a junkyard, a hardware store, or a craft supply shop. If you want a louder bell, use galvanized sheet metal or a heavier copper.

Besides the main ingredient, you'll have to round up:


  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Offset tin snips
  • Hammer
  • Cold chisel
  • Flatglass pliers
  • Long-nosed pliers

Other Materials:

  • Cardboard
  • A handful of self-tapping screws or copper rivets
  • 3/16" eyebolt with a 1"-long stem
  • Lock washer and nut
  • Wire or string
  • A short (or sawed off to 1/2") carriage bolt

Design Work

Once you've gathered up all your supplies, copy the pattern shown in the Assembly Illustration onto the piece of cardboard. Then cut out the model, fold it where indicated to form the "skirt" of the bell, and either tape or paper-clip it together to make sure the proportions are right. Should it not fit together neatly, make whatever adjustments are needed. Then, when the pattern checks out, open it up and trace it onto the sheet of copper.

Hamish Gale
5/29/2010 10:50:14 PM

Hi there. Great instructions and plans - thanks. I keep milking goats and have been looking for a cheap cow/goat bell for a while. Making my own was an option. After reading your instructions I decided to make my own - but with the price of copper I thought I would look for alternative cheap recycled metals. Then I realised - I could just get a small can used for tomato paste and cut one end out with a can opener. It leaves a nice safe reinforced edge. Then I flattened the end of the can into an oval shape. The drilled a hole in the top and used your idea of using an eye bolt, washers and nut to attach the bell to the goat collar and the clapper (another bolt) inside the can. So easy - takes 5 minutes to make - its cheap (free can). and being tin plated it should last a while. You could powder coat them I guess if you wanted them to last forever - but if it rusts out after a couple of years just buy another can of tomato paste for a few cents and put it on your pizza!

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