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Unlined strap with chimes and 22 bells

This unlined body strap with chimes is an unusual piece dating to the late 1800s or early 1900s. It was sent to us to be restored by a charming Texas gentleman. The Starr Bros. Bell Co. listed a similar item in their 1915 catalog, so I suspect but cannot confirm that this is a Starr Bros. product.

The strap is about 7 feet long and 1" wide with a steel and brass chime set in the center and a leather pad under the chime set. Our challenge was to reconstruct the piece as close to the original as possible, striving for an "old but nice" look. Click "Enlarge" to see close-up pictures of the finished restored strap and the original strap parts.

The leather straps on either side of the chime set originally had 30 lightweight "Dexter" bells made of nickel-plated solid brass, 1 1/4" in diameter. Only 22 bells remain. We installed 11 bells on each strap, leaving the ends bare of bells. When matching bells are available, the owner has the option to add bells to complete the set of 30.

The nickel plating on the Dexter bells was in very good condition, so we just cleaned the bells and gave them a light lacquer coating. They were installed on the new straps with brass machine screws. We oxidized the screws to a dark brown to blend with the leather color. We reused the original steel buckle.

The brass chimes had originally been plated with nickel, but almost all of the plating was gone. We cleaned, polished, and lacquered the chimes and cleaned and repaired the internal clappers.

The steel bracket that supports the chimes still has much of its original black japanned finish, so we did not remove or paint over it. Instead, we gently removed patches of light rust and lacquered the bracket to prevent further rusting.

A shaped pad of leather with a line of decorative stitching around the edges had been fastened under the chime bracket with metal rivets. We made a new pad with the same decorative detailing and fastened it in place with darkened brass rivets.

This particular item is a custom, one-of-a-kind project made for a past client. Items in this Custom Projects section are for information only; they are not available for regular sale.

Price: For inspiration, not for sale