Written by Barbara Toth - Assistant.
Peregrine’s Pianos has been the exclusive London dealer for Schimmel instruments since we first opened in 2010. We have always enjoyed working with Schimmel because they are a pioneering company, eager for their dealers to be kept informed about everything new, innovative and exciting.
This year, the invitation from Schimmel was different: the dealers’ meeting was to take place in their own factory in Poland. Dawn and myself were very excited at receiving this invitation, and Carina agreed to run the shop whilst we were away. The factory in Kalisz was bought by Schimmel some 20 years ago and is where the Wilhelm Schimmel range is produced. This is now the only piano factory in Poland, although the town also has a college specializing in the training of piano technicians.
These were busy times for us at Peregrine’s Pianos because we were in the process of opening our new London showroom, but we were pleased to be flying out to Warsaw one Saturday afternoon in June in order to attend the meeting. On route, we were able to have a quick look at Warsaw before taking the train to Kalisz.
We found Kalisz to be an historical and interesting town, and felt very much at home in meeting other Schimmel dealers from around the world there. We enjoyed the city tour and later the evening meal (with some jazz, played on a Wilhelm grand piano!) at a pretty lake side restaurant.
When we arrived at the Factory first thing on Monday morning, the hundred or so dealers from seventeen different countries were greeted by the factory staff and employees. The warm welcome was followed by a busy day viewing all elements of the piano production, attending presentations and discussions. It was wonderful talking to dealers from far and wide. Although Dawn has explained a lot about piano manufacturing to me, this was the first time that I had seen it for myself, and it certainly left a big impression.
There are about a hundred people working in the Kalisz factory and as we visited various stages of the production it was clear that these are highly skilled individuals. Some of the component parts have come from the German factory, actions have come from Asia, but everything is assembled here in Kalisz and most of the work is done by hand.
We were told about new developments from Schimmel: there is a new device to keep tension in the keybed, there are new opportunities called the “Art Piano” for bespoke artwork on caseworks, there is a new super-cool black upright casework finish, the Fridolin range now includes a small grand piano and there were further developments on the TwinTone Silent System. Schimmel pianos clearly continues to look to the future.
Our day in Kalisz ended with a most enjoyable dinner in town. Dawn and myself ended up at a long table surrounded by dealers from every corner of Germany and the management team from Schimmel. Not only was this enjoyable but it was also very beneficial to hear about their experiences.
Many of the guests have previously seen the German factory, and this meant that we ended up saying goodbye to many of our new friends in Kalisz. A much smaller party, some thirty people, however were taken by coach the following day to Braunschweig in Germany. This factory was established in 1970’s and I was very pleased to see both factories within the single visit. I was surprised to learn that there are about hundred people working in each factory even though the German operation is substantially larger. This is because there are many jigs, hydraulic equipment and mechanical aids for the production in Germany.
Dawn and myself were part of a very small group shown around the whole piano production process in Braunschweig. Whilst Schimmel make beautiful wood finish pianos, this accounts for only 3% of their total production. A further 7% of the instruments have white polyester casework but the majority of instruments are finished in black polyester. Of course, we also saw the famous glass piano and two Pegasus pianos!
For myself, I hadn’t realized how many wood components are involved in the making of a piano, and how much attention must be given to temperature and humidity stability. Seeing so many time-consuming operations and the commitment of the factory workers left me feeling much more enlightened about the instruments that we sell.
The Peregrine’s Pianos team was back at work on Thursday morning with renewed energy to share the experience with our customers!