Author Topic: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet  (Read 222 times)

Offline Timbog1

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Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« on: April 17, 2020, 06:35:15 AM »
Hello everyone,
I am new here, but have enjoyed reading posts for some time.
I recently bought an interesting wood clarinet on ebay.
My best guess is that it's an Albert-style wood clarinet from the late 1800's, but I can not find a maker's logo or serial numbers of any kind.
Also, on the lower joint there is an open hole (near the right-hand pinky finger) with no key.  I thought it was missing a key, but once I received it there is no indication that a key was ever there to begin with.
The bore in this hole is much deeper, and not rounded like the others.
Please see photos attached.
Any help is greatly appreciated!

Offline Dibbs

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2020, 12:14:43 PM »
That looks completely unplayable.  I've seen instruments like that but with a chimney rather than a depression for the F/C hole, harking back to much earlier instruments where there was a hole on a bulge on the outside of the tube.  I suspect there used to be an insert in there.  Is there any sign of old glue?  Are low G and clarion D significantly sharp? 

If you have, or know someone with a lathe or a 3d printer it would be fairly straightforward to make a replacement.  I doubt that the instrument has much value so it probably wouldn't be worth having it fixed professionally.


Offline Timbog1

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2020, 12:27:01 PM »
Thanks Dibbs,
It looks like there may have been glue in there at some point.
I'm a wood worker and can easily make a plug for it, but I have seen this missing key before in some old La Chapelle clarinets (see attached images).
I can actually play (some) notes, but since it's missing some pads, it's difficult to do so.
I don't imagine this instrument to be of any significant value, but I thought it might make a good collectors piece.
And it'd be nicer if it played - even if it can't play a full spectrum of notes.
I'd also like to track down when and where it was made.
No markings can be found, making it difficult to track down.

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2020, 08:29:02 PM »
These clarinets always have two keys down south. If its only got one key, then itís not complete.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline Timbog1

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2020, 08:49:03 PM »
Thanks Dave.  That's what I thought, but where was the key connected to the body?  I see nowhere where it could have been.

Offline Dibbs

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2020, 11:44:01 AM »
These clarinets always have two keys down south. If its only got one key, then itís not complete.


They don't always Dave.  They're quite unusual but I've definitely seen some with just a hole for F/C at the top of a chimney with a nicely rounded top to facilitate sliding to the Ab/Eb key.  As far as I can see, there's nowhere a key would have been mounted so I assume it's one of those. I don't know who made them but they turn up occasionally on German Ebay so I guess they're mid European. 

Offline Timbog1

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2020, 01:06:44 PM »
Thanks Dibbs!
Tracking this clarinet down has definitely been a challenge.
Was it typical for clarinets at this time not to have any logo or emblem on their pieces?
Or perhaps is there somewhere else I could possibly find it on the instrument?

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2020, 09:11:40 PM »
Very true, I did forget that some oddballs didn't have the second key.

Ironically, I have one myself that I totally forgot about. But it looks markedly different from Timbog's example. The open hole is raised significantly from the surface, as I suppose the pinky isn't long enough to reach all the way down into a hole like that.

The only possibility that makes sense is if there was an insert, either plastic, rubber, or wood, that was formerly glued into that socket. That would make it the first and only clarinet I'll have ever seen with an open hole insert in that position, but stranger things have happened....



David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2020, 09:15:39 PM »
Thanks Dibbs!
Tracking this clarinet down has definitely been a challenge.
Was it typical for clarinets at this time not to have any logo or emblem on their pieces?
Or perhaps is there somewhere else I could possibly find it on the instrument?

It appears that a good number of European clarinets in the 19th century didn't have maker's marks. I personally have 3 mid-1800s clarinets that are most certainly European, but most certainly do NOT have any logos, emblems, or even any serial numbers or any other identification.

The best we can do is try to narrow down the country of origin by key style and shape. However, I'm not good enough at 19th century key identification. But it IS possible.

If our community here can't help further, then you could try contacting the National Museum Museum in South Dakota. Several years ago I wrote to a Dr. Deborah Check Reeves with some instrument questions and received a prompt and highly knowledgeable response.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline Timbog1

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2020, 08:43:15 AM »
Wow!  Thank you everyone!
Dave, I think I will try contacting the National Museum and see what they have to say.
I'll keep you all updated.
Thanks again!

Offline Windsong

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2020, 11:21:20 AM »
Timbog, 
That's a neat old piece you have there.

Notice the pins instead of the screws holding the keys in place through the posts, and the long "knife-edge" keys.  The string used for the tenons is a reassuring and often fleeting clue.  These are all characteristics of a certain time period and locale.  Your clarinet was almost assuredly made in the last quarter of the 19th century, in what is now the Czech Republic or immediately adjacent region (Austro-Humgarian Empire at the time). 

My best guess on that odd open note is that either someone modified it and counter-drilled the protrusion that once was there, OR there was another key in place between the posts, and it has since been removed and modified.  As has been said, that is unplayable if left open, but your idea to fit a plug ought to suit the instrument well until such a time that another option avails itself.

Thanks for sharing!
The Clarinet Pages forum court jester, and expert bubblegum welder.

Offline Timbog1

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2020, 11:42:01 AM »
Windsong,
Thanks for your comment.
Since a lot of this country is still closed, I've had no luck finding people with definitive answers on this clarinet's origins.
But I did make a plug for the open hole, as pictured.  It's simply friction-fit dowel with a metal cap for now until I can figure out a way of making it open and close.
The clarinet is a Bb clarinet, and I actually made a chart of all it's fingerings (also pictured).
With the plug in place the clarinet plays from Low E all the way up to High C.
But it doesn't play Low G and Middle D with the plug. 
Without the plug I haven't figured out how to play those notes, but also, without the plug the clarinet will not play below a Low G ( or Middle D, C and B).
It's a brain tickler!

Offline Windsong

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2020, 09:19:31 PM »
This is a rare time in history, indeed, and the good lot of us have had to resort to more basic methods for a wide range of things.  That's good that you have mapped it, and are enjoying it.  I wonder how many instruments are simply scrolled away and written off for a slight handicap.  I must believe that the original keywork was damaged, or someone "cannibalized" the key for it's usefulness, or somesuch.  Developing a prototype that enables it to be actuated as intended would be a triumph, if not a rather complex ordeal, depending upon available resources and skills.  As it stands, it can still be used, and it's found a good home, I'll wager.
The Clarinet Pages forum court jester, and expert bubblegum welder.

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2020, 10:52:58 PM »
One of my dreams is to 3-D print replacement keys for unique or oddball clarinets. The odds of finding the key you need in a box of parts is slim to none. 3D printing should be able to produce the strength, if not the chrome look, of an original key. A bit of woodworking/engineering will allow you to mount the key properly and use it as intended.

Anyone got a 3D printer and a lot of knowledge?!
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline Dibbs

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Re: Help identifying a supposed 1800's clarinet
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2020, 08:04:42 AM »
I've got 2 3d printers but not a lot of knowledge.

The hardest part for me is acquiring the CAD skills.  I've been using Fusion 360 on and off for the last year and although I can easily design simple parts I find keywork difficult.  There are a lot of complex curves and odd angles.

Once you've got your model you need to decide on printing technology.  There are two options for consumer grade machines.  FDM printers, the ones that melt plastic filaments don't do well with fine detail and give a poor surface finish.  DLP printers that harden a UV sensitive resin are far more capable from that point of view and are more appropriate for keywork in my opinion.  However, the cheap(ish) standard resins are very brittle.  Tougher engineering grade resins start to get expensive.  (and medical grade ones are through the roof as you might expect)

Even then the strength and rigidity of the 3d printed parts is nowhere near that of brass or nickel silver.  You would need to redesign appropriately.  Padding needs to be done differently somehow too.  Traditional methods would melt or burn plastic keys.

I have recently been experimenting with casting small parts in brass from 3d printed patterns but my setup is very primitive at the moment.  I've had limited success so far.  Taking it to the next level involves more investment than I think I want to make.  (programmable kiln, vacuum setup)

Have you seen jdbassplayer's latest video?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbu22Hkysmo

Although he says at the beginning that everything on it was 3d printed, it's clear that the keys weren't.