Kate Sunderlin and Ben Sunderlin shape a future in the lost art of traditional bell-making

Author: Dept. Staff

ND alums Kate (ND ’13) and Ben Sunderlin (ND ’15)  operate B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry in Ruther Glenn, VA. They recently wrote to the department with an update on their unique and successful bell-making business. As the only traditional bell foundry in the United States, they carry on the time-honored tradition of bell making techniques first developed in Europe.

Sunderlin Bellfoundry recently completed their first significant carillon project for North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. After a competitive bid process between two other companies, B. A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry was selected to manufacture a 55-bell traditional carillon as part of a $7M restoration project to NC State's Memorial Belltower.

[Excerpt taken from NC State University: Think and Do the Extraordinary - The Campaign for NC State article, "At Long Last, Bells"]

Despite COVID, they have managed to flourish as a small business gaining other large contracts restoring/making carillons, change ringing installations, and chimes across the country. Since establishing here in Virginia, they have worked with several institutions like Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, University of Chicago, Duke University, NC State Univ., The National Bell Festival, and many other municipalities. They are even manufacturing a carillon for a new $250M public high school in Fall River, MA. When complete, this will be the first and only traditional carillon in a public high school in all of North America. They are very excited about this project so that younger students might get involved with Campanology.  

[Excerpt taken from Chesapeake Bay Magazine article, "The Bellfounders"]

Sunderlin Bellfoundry has also inherited the last set of traditional bell-making equipment from another business that was closing shop. All of this equipment allows them to cast bigger bells and dates from 1856, providing a very legitimate entry into the original line of American bellmakers. Their business is stable and they are able to keep ten individuals employed full-time at livable wages, which Kate and Ben are proud of given the circumstances of 2020. They also started a significant expansion project for the foundry. This build-out will almost double the shop space and allow them to pour up to 20 tons of bronze for extremely large work in the future. 

Additionally, Sunderlin Bellfoundry has had several other stories published: 

Chesapeake Bay Magazine - The Bell Founders
Virginia Living - Ring in the New