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Method diagrams

When I learnt to ring, we mostly had to draw or write out methods to learn, and we soon discovered there is no single ‘best’ way to show a method. If you are dependent on a book (whether The RW Diary or Diagrams) you tend to limit yourself to a single view of the method, which is not the best way to learn. Of course, you can still draw things out differently for yourself, but it's tempting not to bother.

There is another way – using Martin Bright’s method printer  at Boojum.org.uk. It can print methods in several different ways, and if you use more than one, you should find it helps you to learn methods more quickly, and more thoroughly. These notes give you a quick overview.

There is a lot more to learning methods than that, and I recommend reading Mike Henshaw’s book Learning Methods  if you haven’t already done so. I think we have a copy in the tower, but it’s worth buying anyway.

Selecting the method

Richard will mostly send you a link to the website with the method pre-specified to , so you won’t need to select it, but you might want to. The easiest way is to type in the name and click the fancy ‘Go’ button. If you have typed the name exactly, and there are no similar methods, it will offer you a PDF file with the result. Mostly you will find that there are other similar named methods so you have to make a choice. Note that if you press ‘Return’ instead of clicking the Go button, it might not always do quite what you expect when there are multiple possible methods.


There are lots of options, but the most important ones are the ability to print the method in three alternative formats: ‘Diary’, ‘Line’ and ‘Grid’, each of which is described below. You can select these options just above the ‘Go’ button. Note that once you have produced a method in any one format, the other options disappear. You can get them back by going back to where you started. I find that a bit irritation, since I like to use more than one format when learning a method (see below). The reason is that the other fine tuning options (for layout, etc) are different for the three formats.

‘Diary’ format

This is what you get by default if you don’t make a choice of format. It is similar to the diary (though actually more like in Diagrams) with all the numbers printed, with the line of one working bell in blue and the Treble line in red superimposed. For Double Oxford Minor, it looks like this:

You can alter the layout in various ways to taste – have a look at the options.

‘Line’ format

This dispenses with the numbers to let you see more clearly the pattern of the line. The best way to do this is to use the Layout option and set the maximum number of leads per column (5 for Minor, 7 for Major, etc). That gives you the complete line//, rather than it being broken up over a couple of (non equal) columns. Alternatively you can select 1 lead per column in order to see separate place bells//.

You might want to change the Line options. By default it only shows the Treble where it crosses the working line, but you can change that to show the whole Treble line, which I prefer. By default it shows the line of one working bell, but you can add more if you want to see how (for example) course bells work together.

There are other options, for example I prefer thicker lines than the defaults.

‘Grid’ format

The grid is probably the least familiar to many ringers, but it is very useful for helping you to understand how a method ‘fits together’. It shows all the lines (unless you suppress some of them) for one lead http://boojum.org.uk/cgi-bin/line.pl?search=double+oxford&bells=&pn=&format=pdf&title=&qs=Grid&action.x=47&action.y=11

Which is best?

They each have different strengths, and I recommend getting into the habit of using more than one, which I do if I have to learn something serious (as opposed to minor variations that hardly need ‘learning’).

The Diary format makes it harder to visualise the line as a whole, but is useful after a mixup if you want to check who should have been dodging with you at the front in the third lead.

The Line format lets you focus better on the line, and may also help you to visualise better how it relates to the Treble line.

The Grid format complements the line format by helping you to understand the structure, ie how the different work fits together, and it gives you a very good view of how things relate to the Treble.

In fact I prefer a grid that extends over a lead and a half, because they you can see the block of work over the Treble as a whole. With the standard grid, the work over the Treble is split in two, with half at the top and half (plus the lead end change) at the bottom. Unfortunately, I don’t know any method printer that produces ‘lead and a half’ grids. I produce them by importing the PDF from Boojum into a drawing package and extending it. That might be possible with Windows, but it may not be as slick as with the software I use.

Here is an example of several different formats for Pinehurst Bob Minor, which was what we used for the Branch method learning course I ran a few months ago.

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