I recently had the pleasure of attending a tour of one of the best-kept musical secrets in Bucks County, Pennsylvania–Malmark Bellcraftsmen, Inc. Malmark is a leading manufacturer of hand bells, hand chimes and accessories.
Malmark was incorporated in November of 1973 by Jacob H. Malta. As a mechanical engineer, designing was Mr. Malta’s passion, and this passion enabled him to become the foremost designer of English hand bells. His first breakthrough came when he obtained a patent for the Schulmerich bell at Schulmerich Carillons, where he previously worked. Building on this success, and after two years of working from his living room, Mr. Malta obtained the first of several new patents for a redesigned bell casting and clapper mechanism. These patents enabled him to start his own company, and in 1974, the first sets were shipped to clients.
Our tour was graciously led by Joann Malta, one of two daughters of Jacob Malta.
We started in a pleasantly air-conditioned conference room where we held and viewed bell castings of various sizes and shapes, and saw historical pictures of the company. We also saw the actual bell first produced by Malmark (not pictured).
As a side note, according to Joann, the lovely fireplace in this room had been made with tiles from Moravian Pottery and Tile Works for the previous company. (The pottery’s founder and builder was Henry Chapman Mercer [1856-1930]). Since it was a fine example of the craftsmanship of Moravian, they decided to keep it intact.
Joann Malta shared many delightful facts about the company. During our walking tour of the facilities, we were able to view craftspeople working at various stages of the bells’ manufacture, and an area showing the final carving on several different bells.
I was pleasantly struck by the caring work of the employees and their attention to the details of the bells.
In the prep room where bells are given their final polish by hand, we saw rows of the finished products, with their distinctive black and white handles, which instantly identifies the bells as Malmark.
One of the most interesting and useful creations of the company involves a hand-adjustable clapper inside the bell. This clapper permits an instant change of setting to vary the timbre of the bell and adds more variety in performance.
The Company website states: “Today, Malmark continues to be a leader in the design, crafting, and tuning of fine English handbells. Its continued research into the past, present, and future of handbell ringing as a musical art provides a firm basis for continuing developments in this specialized field….” A visit to Malmark’s website will provide detailed explanation of the craftsmanship of their bells, and additional history.
Huffington Post called Malmark’s visitor tours, “One of the Best 50 Immersive Tours in the Northeast.” There are also nearby attractions and plenty of cultural attractions, but save those for another day – you will spend a good amount of time in Malmark’s quaint gift shop, where bells are sold as souvenirs, and jewelry is made from bell trimmings. Visit http://www.malmark.com, or stop by at the company’s offices at 5712 Easton Rd, Plumsteadville, PA 18949.