It is important that the pulleys over which the rope passes turn freely, and do not have great gaps by their side for the rope to get caught in. Periodic inspection is advisable, and where appropriate, to lubricate, and otherwise adjust to ensure that the mechanism is functioning without offering undue friction in any way. Some older style of pulley box have a groove for a little drop of oil to be run down to the bearing - do not overdo this, or the pulley will become sticky and dirty on it's sides, and cause more friction than you hoped to remove. Others have a grease nipple - use a general purpose grease when re-loading. Wipe away any spilt or un-necessary lubricant after you have finished - it only makes things messy in the future if you leave it there. Modern pulleys (wood or nylon) are fitted with a pair of ball races which require no further lubrication - however, the pulley boxes are easy to dismantle if these do need to be changed in course of time; they are standard sizes and can be replaced easily. If any work is done to the pulleys or their boxes it is important that the alignment of the pulley in the middle of the space available is maintained, so check this again at completion. There should be only about 1 to 2mm gap on each side of the pulley.
Whilst it is not often that anything further is required of the Steeple Keeper on this component, there are sometimes reasons why we should question the existing design or condition. Maybe other components have been changed over the years - wheel, position of pulley block, holes in floor etc.. or maybe general deterioration results in a rope 'slipping wheel' occasionally, or a bell is 'hard going'. So, just go over the geometry of the rope path: if the rope falls 'plum' from the wheel (bell down), then it should pass through the middle of the space for it in the pulley block, and thence down through the middle of the hole/s in the floor/s. The top of the pulley should be just below the level of the bottom of the wheel, to ensure an obtuse angle for the rope. This is an ideal situation however, and often the holes are 'drawn' under the wheel to improve the rope-circle, and the pulley is much lower still. Then check any rope guides, which may be just bushes or maybe some long box-like tubes or planks with brackets on, to ensure there are no sharp edges, restrictions, loose screws, or other problems. Remember, the objective is to help the rope move in it's path without any undue friction, and that the last drop (to the ringer) is meant to be vertical! If there are any other pulleys they are usually because the rope is drawn enough to warrant it.
Normally there is only one pulley under the wheel. Where there are two, it is because the main pulley position, and hence the drop for the rope, is moved under the wheel in order to move the rope in the circle, or to avoid an obstruction. This is often done with bells swinging 'in line' in the frame (typically, bells 5 & 6 in a ring of 6), because the ropes would be too close otherwise. When this is done, it is usual to move the position of the garter hole in the wheel round in the same direction, in order that the length of rope used feels the same at the two strokes (and also to ensure that the height of the sally when set is approximately the same as when the bell is down). The general rule is that the off-set of the pulley box from the vertical should be the same as the distance the garter hole is moved from the normal position (which is 45 degrees, or just above the 45 degree spoke).
So, if you are unsure of the situation with YOUR pulleys, and you ought to know; just get up there and have a look. . . (bells down of course!)
DWS - 4/2014
Document last modified 3-APR-2014