Pyatkov & Co— Profile

Pyatkov & Co was the first bell manufacturer to begin production in the Ural Mountains area after Perestroika, and one of the first in post-Soviet Russia altogether.


In 1990, Nikolai G. Pyatkov, manager of the casting and mechanical workshop of the Ural Aluminum Plant in Kamensk-Uralskij, near Ekaterinburg, and Modest V. Oshchukov, its senior technologist, decided to try casting a bell for the newly reopened Holy Protection Church in their city. Fr Ioann Agafonov, the young rector of this church, and now dean of the Southern Deanery of the Ekaterinburg diocese, financed their first journeys to the Russian Campanic Arts Association (AKIR) in Saratov and to the bell fair at Gorky Park in Moscow to study bells. These first trips allowed the Ural masters to become acquainted with the leading campanic specialists of the country, whose advice was decisive in the development of their first project.

They cast the first zvonnitsa of seven bells for Holy Protection Church at the aluminum plant’s copper foundry, and successfully installed them at the church’s bell tower. The local media began talking about these bellmakers and, under the new freedoms allowed by Perestroika, they decided to continue their project as a new business enterprise. Thus in October, 1991, Messrs. Pyatkov and Oshchukov, together with a young artist named Andrei P. Zorozheikin, and Irina M. Tarabukina as bookkeeper, became the founders and owners of Pyatkov & Co, JSC.

To their co-workers’ astonishment, the young team quit their jobs at the aluminum plant and rented a small space in the copper foundry of Sinarsky Pipe Plant, where they worked until 2003, making bells of up to 200kg in weight.

A year after starting up, in 1992, the company also rented another small space at the Kamensk-Uralskij Metallurgical Plant, in order to increase the weight of their bells to 1500kg. The number of employees soon increased to 8 people, and for specific needs on an occasional basis, the firm began to hire independent contractors. Today, there are regularly 30 employees at the plant.

Between 1991 and 2000, business at Pyatkov & Co steadily increased and the company developed its technology. Pyatkov bells came into great demand in the Russian market. From about 1998 through 2003, production had increased to 50 to 60 sets (zvons) comprising a total of some 40 tons of bells annually— but a serious backlog began to develop by the end of this period, due to the company’s ever-increasing recognition.

Faced with loss of market share because of a backlog that was threatening to get out of control, and also faced with increasing demand in the Russian market for bells of 3 to 5 tons and heavier, Pyatkov & Co engaged the Unipromed Research Institute to design a special new foundry with an advanced furnace design, the first of its type in Russia.

Again, the Diocese of Ekaterinburg generously supported the foundry by pre-paying for several very large bells so that the company could bring its new facility into production. The great chessmaster Anatoli E. Karpov also gave the company a large financial push— and the foundry is profoundly grateful to both. Construction of the new plant began in July 2002 and, on March 18, 2003 Archbishop Vikentii of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturie consecrated it. On March 20th, its first bell was cast, weighing 140kg.


The main material which Pyatkov & Co uses in making the moulds is ground quartz from the quartz mountain quarry near Ekaterinburg. The foundry uses sand of three grades: dust (<0.1mm), crush (0.1-0.2mm), and sand (0.3-0.6mm). The compounding material is gypsum (plaster), prepared manually for the outer surfaces of the bell, and by industrial mixers for the internal surfaces. For larger bells, coarser sand is used for filling the forms. Supporting rods for larger bell moulds are made from quartz and polymer by the Elitak Technology Co, but for bells of to 42kg and smaller, permanent moulds of carbon steel are used. The larger models are made from gypsum, and must be renewed from time to time.

The material used for moulding the ornamentation is wax obtained from used candles supplied by the churches, as is traditional. Thus the prayers of the Church go into the making of bells.

The casting team prepares 3 to 7 sets of forms each week, which take a week to dry. On the following Friday, the metal is poured. On Monday, the bells are freed from their moulds and taken to be finished. A week later, they are done. The full production cycle for bells of 92 to 1300kg is thus 3 weeks, and at any given time, three overlapping cycles are in progress. Production cycles for larger bells (2.5 to 8.2 tons) parallel those of the main line, but have their own drying facilities and schedule.

Bell bronze itself is an alloy of about 4 parts copper to 1 part tin. A bell must be made of “uniform, pure, delta-phase bell bronze with impurities of less than 1%”, as any impurities or bubbles will eventually cause cracking. To avoid hydrogenation of the copper and to minimize impurities, Pyatkov & Co. uses only the highest-grade, “A-1-1” copper scrap, instead of electrolytically smelted cathode copper. The tin comes from the Novosibirsk Combinate company, as well as from China and Peru. De-acidation of the alloy is achieved with phosphorus copper, and final refining is done with argon gas.

Once the bells are cast, Pyatkov & Co. hand-finishes them with pneumatic sand-blasting tools. However, they are not lathed in order to achieve abstractly “pure” tones, as are Western-style bells; in accordance with the traditions regarding Orthodox bells, each bell, although cast for a specific tone, is allowed to retain the unique, distinctive voice with which it is born.

All bells are tested for sound and metallurgical quality at the production warehouse. Defects are exceedingly rare. All bells are guaranteed unconditionally against any defects of workmanship.

As mentioned, the foundry brought forth 40 tons of bells over the 5 years prior to building the new facility. It brought forth 50 tons of bells in just the first half-year at the new facility, including three 5 and 8-ton bells.

Production is still growing to meet ever-increasing demand for Pyatkov & Co’s premiere Russian church bells.