The Stedman Spinner
A handy tower aid for conductors
Once a learner is reasonably solid on the blue line of Stedman Triples, it’s common for the tower captain to call for a touch which will mix up the other bells but leave that learner unaffected. Once the learner has begun to learn calls, on the other hand, it’s similarly common for a tower captain to call for a touch specifically aimed at affecting that learner.
The most popular and well-known practice night touches of Stedman Triples all affect four bells and leave the other three unaffected, so they work well for both of these purposes. What’s more, there are several options to choose among, all of which affect different bells; so no prior planning is necessary — the experienced Stedman conductor can catch hold of any bell, call “go”, and watch for his or her opportunity to begin making calls at a time when the learner is at the front or back (as appropriate). Only then will the conductor even realize which touch he or she is calling!
These ubiquitous touches — traditionally described as “calls at Q or S or H or L, repeated” — are also generally the first ones attempted by novice Stedman bob-callers, and, again, the fact that there are several options to choose from, all of which can be called from any bell, offers useful variety.
What is to be done, however, when a practice-night band includes both a learner with a specific request (either to be unaffected or affected) and an inexperienced conductor who is not able yet to select a touch on the fly? The conductor would be happy to call any of these four touches, but how to decide which?
The answer is the Stedman Spinner, posted on the tower bulletin board! Simply rotate the wheel to indicate the conductor’s observation bell and it’s easy to see which other bells are left unaffected by the various touches. Even if the band has already caught hold of bells and ringers are stubbornly unwilling to trade, one of the touches will always be suitable.
When a tower boasts several learners, of whom some wish to be affected and others un-, even the experienced conductor may find the Spinner useful when assigning ropes.
(The four very common touches mentioned above all involve twin bobs. Since a tower captain will sometimes specifically request a touch giving learners the chance to practice odd bobs, the Spinner also includes information about the simplest of these, in which a bob is called whenever the observation bell is about to begin or end its slow work. This touch is two courses long and leaves the observation bell and two others unaffected, just like the twin-bob touches.)
Instructions for making your own Stedman Spinner:
Print the ‘background’ image on heavy paper or card-stock. Print the ‘wheel’ image on transparency film and cut with scissors on the dashed line; using a pin or brad, attach to the background at the indicated center-point. Spin away!
Special thanks to my mother, Margaret Kepner, for laying out the Spinner in Illustrator.