We want you to be thrilled to own Malmark instruments, not just when they are brand new but for many years to come! Since October 1,1984 Malmark has offered a Lifetime Warranty to the original purchaser on all handbells. This warranty is a statement about the quality and care we put into the design and crafting of our handbells. However, it is not intended to be a statement that handbells won't need regular maintenance and care by the customer, nor setting an expectation that parts will never wear out. Our Warranty is your assurance that Malmark will stand behind every instrument that we sell.
The ease of ownership is a big part of why our customers choose Malmark, so we would like to encourage you to become familiar with basic care and maintenance. In between your factory refurbishments you will find that your handbells will ring with fewer problems if you choose to perform basic maintenance tasks.
Do you tune your piano regularly? What about your guitar strings? Don’t they need tuning and replacing occasionally to perform as intended? Brass instruments need valve oil and cleaning, flutes need new key pads; and so it seems that all musical instruments require regular maintenance. Handbells are no different than any other fine instrument.
Most handbell musicians know that using a polishing cloth after each ringing session is a must to prevent dirt and smudges from becoming permanent stains on castings. If you routinely skip this small but important task your castings will tell the story: even using handbell gloves won’t completely keep smudges and spittle from forming stains. Your only defense against stains etching the bronze is to wipe down castings after each rehearsal, by every group who uses them.
Further, your handbell castings need thorough polishing using a high quality and gentle metal polish, such as Blue Magic polishing cream. We don’t recommend other brands because they are not as gentle and our own experience in the factory has proven that Blue Magic cleans well and wipes off easily. How often to polish? At least yearly or when there are smudges, smears or spots that can't be removed by your polish cloths. And, when insides of castings show spots or smudges we recommend disassembling the handbell and polishing inside the castings and the crown (underneath the handle disc/guard,) too. An added plus to disassembling handbells is that you will be more "in tune" with the overall condition of each handbell. (Don't forget to vacuum the insides of your cases, too!)
Most Crucial Tasks
Aside from the aesthetic of clean castings, there are a few tasks that will help you avoid problems that may silence a bell unexpectedly. First, let's consider how the Malmark handbell is constructed: Jake Malta’s unique design features a clapper assembly in which all components are in alignment from the handle through the clapper head. If any one of these components becomes loose it affects the remaining bell parts by putting added stress on them. Especially critical to the integrity of this system is the main assembly screw and handle screws. Failure to routinely check and tighten these screws will be evidenced by cracks around the handle screws, horizontal cracks on handles and in hand guards.
How often do we recommend you check handle screws and main assembly screws? Obviously, the more often you ring the more often they should be tightened but a general rule is to check every 3 months. This is a great task for that ringer who never has enough to do!
Some things to keep in mind: start at the bottom or lowest bell in your set as the bigger bells tend to loosen more. Also, on handbells E6 and higher take care to not over-tighten the main assembly screw as tightening too much will “choke” the casting and not allow it to vibrate as freely as it should. Do: tighten to avoid looseness but don’t crank the screws as tight as you can. Also, teach your ringers to use an up-and-down motion when polishing instead of holding onto the lip of the casting and wiping side-to-side as this may loosen the main assembly screw. Keeping the main assembly screw and handle screws properly tightened will avoid the majority of problems leading to breakage of handbell components, in addition to the following information concerning clapper adjustment via restraining springs.
Easier Ringing - Fewer Problems
Incorrect adjustment of handbell restraining springs continues to be seen in the majority of our customers’ instruments. Check that your springs are adjusted for the minimum amount of resistance necessary and be sure proper ringing technique is being followed. Bells adjusted for too much restraint require the player to use force to overcome the resistance to ring the bell. This extra force puts stress on bell components, such as the handle and handle guard. Contact your local representative or Malmark for details on proper adjustment.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, so sometimes handbell parts will wear out and need replacing. The good news is that if you are routinely maintaining your set you will often be in a position to see issues before they cause music-stopping problems.
And, speaking of ringer musicians, a little bit of education can be big help when it comes to awareness of potential handbell problems. If your musicians understand how the handbell should function and respond when they ring it, they can tell you when something isn’t working as it should. Consider starting the year with a polish party where you teach ringers to disassemble (and re-assemble!) their instruments. We promise their appreciation for the design and function of the handbell will increase as well as empower them to be more active in the care of your Malmark handbells. (For a PDF version of our Bell Care manual, follow the link at the end of this article.)
When is it time? When your castings have stains you can't remove, when you have mechanical issues that you can't resolve, if you hear strong overtones or beats in the sound of some bells or if it's been 10 years or more... it isTIME! The value of your Lifetime Warranty is protected, as well as any new parts on pre-Lifetime Warranty bells, only by servicing by Malmark at our factory in Pennsylvania. Only Malmark offers the same knowledge and care in servicing bells that we bring to the design and manufacture of your instruments.
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