Author Topic: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet  (Read 90 times)

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« on: May 10, 2019, 04:32:38 PM »
The Legend:
These clarinets were made out of the wooden propellers of decommissioned or destroyed WWII aircraft.
There was a shortage of African blackwood (grenadilla) due to the rationing of the war.
Additionally, it was difficult to source large, solid pieces of wood to make instruments with.
So, C.G. Conn Ltd. directed their Pan-American division to scavenge the unused propellers of downed aircraft.
These propellers were the perfect size to make instruments with, and thus, the propeller wood clarinet was born!

The Truth:
In fact, nothing of the sort happened. It sounds great and may have been used in marketing or salesmanship lip-smacking, but there are zero indications that Conn actually used aircraft propellers to make these instruments.
In fact, Conn seems to have referred to these as "violin finish" themselves, and does not seem to have made any official announcements about the propeller-nature of the instruments.
Conn also made oboes out of this "propeller wood," but these are even rarer than Conn clarinets.

The wood itself seems to be some sort of laminated something. There may be some truth in the wood shortage, but that doesn't explain how every single other manufacturer seemed to have no problem producing grenadilla clarinets...
If the French could churn out countless stencils in the early to mid 1940s, then it seems unlikely that here in America the wood shortage was so severe that aircraft propellers had to have been used.

Additionally, some sources seem to indicate that this clarinet was not produced in the 1940s at all! Instead, they seem to have been made in the early 50s.

I still like the propeller story better.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline windydankoff

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Re: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2019, 09:13:22 PM »
The propeller story does have a good spin to it.
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Offline BLMonopole

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Re: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2019, 03:27:38 AM »
Propeller wood, violin finish or whatever they call them, they are beautiful instruments.  Sadly, my experience is that they just don't play all that well.  Maybe I haven't found a good one (or properly overhauled one) yet!

Offline philpedler

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Re: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2019, 04:11:23 PM »
Thanks, Dave, for that great info!

Offline 350 Rocket

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Re: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2019, 04:33:06 PM »
The model number for them was 68N, and from what I was able to find when I looked into them previously, they were introduced in 1950.
Posted to the original The Clarinet Pages forum from my Power Macintosh 6100/60 using Netscape Navigator™

Offline Airflyte

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Re: The Legend of the Propeller Wood Clarinet
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2019, 06:57:12 PM »
The propeller story does have a good spin to it.

I see what you did there

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