Oriental Bell Temple Shrine

I came across this brass pagoda-style bell (pictured above) at a second hand store recently.  It’s dimensions are 7″ x 5″ x  2″.  It was missing a brass knob screw (top of left post) but it did still have it’s original ringer/striker, that’s it hanging on the right side.

I really like making Shrines and as soon as I saw this I knew it would be a wonderful central figure in an Oriental Shrine.

The first feature I wanted to make was the roof.  I wanted it to be a classic pagoda look and years ago I had made another oriental-type shrine, so I dug around in my file folders and sure enough, I found the roof template I had used then.


The light green one is the original – I enlarged to 130% to fit this project.  I wanted the roof to extend beyond the dimensions of the brass bell by only a couple of inches.


I started by cutting out a couple sheets of thin craft board and painting them in a dark rust color that I felt represented an aged tile roof.



Then I ran them through my Fiskars 6.5″ Paper Crimper Tool.


Then using my enlarged template, I traced and cut out my two roof panels.


However, the panels just didn’t feel sturdy enough so I traced and cutout the panels again, only this time on a couple pieces of regular cardboard.


That’s better.  I usually use Aleene’s Craft Glue for stuff like this.  That’s it, upside down in an old coffee mug.  I always store my glue this way (with the cap on).  While I’m crafting, I take the cap off, but this way it’s ready to squeeze out when I need it – no waiting for a thick glue to feed down to the tip.


Once I got the tile panel glued on one side and it had a chance to dry some, I painted the edges all around and the “back” side of the roof.  I’ll set the roof pieces aside to dry completely.

Time to work on the base.  I decided not to do a drawer-style pedestal this time like I did on the last shrine I made (see January 2018 Spirit House).  I wanted this shrine very open and with an ‘outdoor’ feeling.


This lavender colored ‘board’ is actually insulation board, like for house construction.  It comes in a few depths, this one is two inches thick, and it also comes in a couple of sheet sizes – I buy the 10 foot x 6 foot.  It’s the best deal and I use this stuff for a lot of things including packing supports for when I’m boxing and mailing fragile items from my Etsy shop.  This material is extremely light weight but very strong.

In the picture above, I’ve cut a 1″  ‘step’ all around a 9″ x 6″ block. I just split the depth of two inches making each layer 1″.  I like the rough texture I wound up with on the sides as this is meant to represent hand hewn stone slabs.  Note:  I did not cut that top piece off, I only cut the edges off.  What looks like two pieces is still just one.


Using a plastic palette knife, I covered the entire piece with the modeling paste.  Once I covered it all, I took a wood skewer and using the pointy end, scratched lines in the still wet paste to imitate cracks in the stone like maybe these were built using a number of stone sections fitted together.  Nothing fancy, it’s more of eluding to stone work but it’s the subtle things like these details that allow for a believable overall image when the piece is completely done. Let dry thoroughly.


I picked a couple of ‘stone’ colors, a light and a dark. I started with the darker color.


Be sure you use an old brush for this kind of work and really scrub the paint into all the cracks and crevices with this first (darker) paint.  The lighter colors you’ll brush over the cracks, more or less, leaving the darker color to show through.


See what I mean?  Now we’re starting to get some character built up here.


One more color, this one’s a ‘tan’, and I watered this one down quite a bit.  I slopped it on and then, using some paper towel, blotted most of it back up leaving only a light hint of the tan, mostly in the cracks and grooves.


Old stone always looks better with some moss or lichen growing in the cracks. I used a small dry stencil brush and very little paint to get some green around the cracks and crevices. The base is pretty much done now – time to build the roof supports.

I’m sure I say this next part in almost every post I’ve ever made:  “I’m sorry, but I got so caught up in my project that I forgot to take pictures.”

Well, unfortunately it’s true.  But I’ll try to fill in the blanks with words so you’ll know what I did.


I have a natural ‘wall’ of bamboo on one side of my yard that gives my family a very nice, decorative privacy screen and bamboo stays green even in the winter (in Idaho) which is always a nice treat when everything else is white and gray.  Bamboo can also take intense summer heat, too.  But best of all, I have a continuous supply of bamboo in various widths and lengths always at the ready.

I cut four pieces with enough extra length to be inserted in the post holes I carved out of my base and what will go up under the roof.  No fancy measuring – just held the roof pieces up where I wanted them to be and then cut them all even.


A bit of hot glue in the holes to keep them planted properly.


I chose a nice big piece for the roof centerpiece.  I punched a couple of holes in the roof panels, ran some string through and tied them off underneath.


The next step will be to close off the ends, decoratively of course, and to secure the roof which, at this stage, can flop open and closed.


I used a couple of pieces of chipboard, painted with the Wasabi Green and then heat embossed some oriental characters on each.

To get the size right on these panels, make a template from thinner paper.  Once you’ve got one that ‘fits’ properly make the chipboard version.


Place the first panel where you want it, I purposely did not want the panels going all the way up to the top of the roof.  For ideas and reference points, I frequently “Google” projects ideas.  Example:  Oriental Bell Temple.  This gave me pages of images that allowed me to choose which old temple had the look I was going for and also plenty of structural clues on how to go about making something like this the easiest, most simple way.

When I got this panel where I wanted it, I hot glued the inside seams.


I repeated the process for the other panel and then I also ran hot glue along the length on both edges of the center bamboo.  When I was pretty much done with the project, I did go in and using a stencil brush and permanent ink (Archival in Coffee), colored the glue so it wasn’t so obvious.  I didn’t spend a lot of time doing this, after all, the recesses of the roof won’t really be seen much – still, I like to see to the details.


Now it’s just a matter of setting the roof on top of the ends of the bamboo.  It will pretty much rest where it should go, you might have to tap down a side to make it even.


When you’ve got it where you want it – generously hot glue the bamboo to the roof and side panels.  I inked these in later, too.


Using a couple of different ink pads, Archival Coffee and Archival Olive, and a stencil brush; I went all over this piece smudging on patina.  Every surface (except for the brass bell unit) got aged a century of two including the poles, the stone and the roof.  It takes lots of layers to get a really great authentic patina of age.

Oh yea, I also added a couple of wood beads with Oriental writing to the tops of the bell supports (remember, the brass knob that was missing?).  And in the top of those beads, I added jade colored glass drops, inverted, to finish off the tops.


It’s really starting to pull together now.  Still, the roof doesn’t look “old” enough to me yet.


I made a wash of grays and greens and then brushed it across the top of the roof panels and let it run down.  I blotted it off before it could drip.


Once the wash dried I had the patina I was looking for.

Next up – I wanted to enclose the shrine’s base, so I decide a little fence would work.

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Anybody out there remember inchies?  They were a fad a few years back.  They were literally one inch square pieces of craft board that you could decorate however you wanted, thus becoming inchies (one inch squares of decorative art).  For this project I pulled out some old inchie boards and painted them green, both sides.


I’ve got a nice large stamp that has rows of small oriental characters.  Working with one at a time, I carefully covered the symbol I wanted with embossing ink, pressed the inchie over it to ‘stamp’ it and then followed normal embossing procedure.


Be sure to ink around the edges (Archival in Coffee).


And don’t forget to do the back of the panels, too.


I decided that my ‘fence’ would be a wire going from one bamboo post to the next from which my inchies would be suspended like prayer panels.  To attach the panels, I would need a strong tape.  I like the double sided tape that comes in these big sheets though you can find it on rolls, too.


Using craft paper a close color match to the roof, I cut 3/4″ squares that already had the double sided tape on one side.  Once the square is cut, peel off the second layer from the tape and sandwich the wire between the panel and the 3/4″ square.


Be sure you press the square on securely.  A bone folder or bone knife works very nicely for this.


As usual, I don’t really plan what I’m going to do much beyond a basic design, so in order to make my fence I had to drill the bamboo after I’d already installed it.  I just ran the wire through one end and using jewelry pliers, bent the end around to the inside.  I did the large back section first, and then I did the front two sections.

Now this is one of the places I missed getting photos.

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I wanted to have the front section mostly open as if inviting the faithful to come in and make a prayer and ring the bell, so I needed to make a “gate”.  I used two decorative straight pins.  These pins had really large head balls on them (almost 1/2″ diameter) and they were a pretty light jade green.  I just sponged some Coffee ink over the balls to give them a bit more patina.  These pins were also quite long at 2½” so there was plenty of pin barrel to stab down into the insulation board.  But first, I added a green glass bead with gold engraved lettering to each pin.  The beads are about an inch long.  They made perfect gateposts.  The single fence panel per side was done by making a hook to slip around between the top of the bead and the ball of the pin.  Then the other end went through a hole drilled in the bamboo, and again, the wire was bent to the back to secure it.


The side fence panels went in last.  Their holes needed to be drilled a bit higher on the bamboo and far enough away from the first holes so the bamboo wouldn’t split when I drilled them in.  So, the side panels are a little higher than the front and backs, but I like it.


Just a bit more ink applied with a stencil brush and this time I was paying special attention to the base of the brass bell unit.  I went really heavy on the stone here.  The reason is that I knew from the beginning I would not be ‘attaching’ the brass bell unit to the stone platform.  The bell unit is quite heavy whereas the rest of this project is very light.  There’s no way the bell unit would stay secured in shipping to that base.  So, I decided to not even try and now will be able to wrap both pieces carefully and separately when it’s time to ship them.  They will go in the same box, but just wrapped separate.


But I wanted to make sure the customer who buys this knows exactly where the bell should be placed so darkening the edges covered two purposes.  One, to add to the authenticity of the piece’s age.  The base of such a bell would surely have darkened just so over time.  And two, now there’s a shadow  square to make placement very easy.

So that’s it.  A second hand store upcycle.


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This piece is now listed in my Etsy shop Old Raven.  I love how this piece turned out.  I’ve always admired the serenity in a simplistic Oriental design and I think I’ve achieved that here. But one more bit of beauty awaits – this bell has a lovely sound, one strike and the tone is long and clear, fading slowly into utter silence.  This piece would make a wonderful meditation bell.

Hope you liked the show – now Craft On!


3 thoughts on “Oriental Bell Temple Shrine

  1. Incredibly awesome piece and I was laughing how suddenly you went from the platform to suddenly it had a bell etc on it. Maybe you went to sleep and the crafting fairies came at night and filled in that part? 🙂


    1. Oh man – did I flub up big time? The pagoda bell is a completely separate and pre-made unit, I made the temple to house the bell which just sits on the temple platform. It was easier to work on the temple without the bell but I inserted it off and on throughout the construction process to keep the design and dimensions true to the bell units style. Sorry if my blog came out poorly and failed to express the reality there. I’m just an old lady and though my blogs make sense to me, I’m sure I’ve left others scratching their heads over what I meant, too. I’m really sorry for making a mess out of this but hey – at least you got a laugh out of it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I am totally teasing you 🙂 I enjoy whatever you share on the process. There is no way I have the skills to try and make the awesome pieces you do 🙂


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