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Author Topic: Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings  (Read 2652 times)

Offline Silversorcerer

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Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings
« on: July 23, 2016, 10:28:01 AM »
This clarinet is another working-artifact adventure for me. It is the first soprano I have that isn't a Bb. It lands somewhere between Mueller and Albert (http://www.clarinetpages.net/albert-system-clarinets) with no UJ rings and 2 LJ rings. We tend to think of these key systems as being used as they were chronologically introduced, but this one has a mark on the bell that puts it after 1900 and well into the era of Boehm clarinets. The explanation is simple looking at old catalogs;- clarinets with fewer keys were less expensive. Boehm key work sold for a premium price.

I think that also being built in the key of C allows for an instrument that has a similar function as the C melody saxophone and therefore can get away with less versatile simpler key work. It's made to work mostly in C and in modes of C and with other C instruments. I can thus see why an instrument like this would have been built long after it had been surpassed in function. My experiment will be to see how easily it will work in ensemble with a Concertina in C, similar vintage. I really like the spacing of the finger holes and slightly more compact size already.

Concertinas are also available in Bb, but professional Concertinas are quite expensive, and my bandmate has a really good one built in C. This clarinet should work well when used in C and modes of C. The tuning might be more problematic. The Concertina runs a little sharper than a few of my favorite clarinets. During the summer, that has not been much of a problem.

This particular Couesnon LP C was most likely sold by M.J. Kalashen of New York. Kalashen also sold stenciled Couesnon trumpets although this clarinet is not marked Kalashen, just the grease tin and reed envelope. The clarinet is marked with a familiar Couesnon banner and oval, C LP is marked on all of the parts except the mouthpiece, which is wooden and appears to be original and is also identical in size to a Bb Soprano mouthpiece. By this time, a bit after 1900, apparently C and Bb clarinets used the same mouthpieces? This is very convenient. I will have some good hard rubber options should the mouthpiece split. The rails and tip of the mouthpiece are perfect. The teeth wear is moderate and demonstrates that the instrument was played a good bit. I will treat the mouthpiece generously with oil before playing it.

The clarinet itself has not suffered from drying although I know it needs a little bore oil. The keys are all good, wood near perfect. It primarily needs pads and corks. It will be nice to do one of these simple clarinets after the last handful of Boehms, I've been bogged down with.

Typically vintage cases do not impress me, but this one is pretty sweet. The handle, exterior cloth, latches and hinges, and lock all work and are tight. It has the original key. The interior cloth looks new and the strap and snap that hold the joints in place is nice and tight;- looks new but if replaced, very well done.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2016, 12:18:04 PM by Silversorcerer »
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2016, 03:23:38 PM »
If this is the one that recently passed through, I saw it, and almost bid.  Glad I didn't, as it'd have gummed up the works for you.  Very nice aquisition you've made.  The keywork is unique, and key of C Couesnons do not come through regularly.  Both HP and LP C horns had begun to switch to Bb mouthpieces by the 1880s, so your report is not surprising.  I have several C clarinets, as I play blues and jazz with guitars, and although most guitarists say they don't care what key a horn is in, it does make it a little easier on them.
As for wooden mps, I have a few of them, and although I do tend to oil them, they sure do taste awful to play through for a while.  A word of caution:  as soon as you are done playing, remove your reed, and let the MP dry, or you run the risk of splitting it.  If you'll be so kind when time avails itself, would you mind letting us know the length from the bottom of the bell to the top of the barrel?  These horns vary widely, based upon location of keys, and it's impossible to tell a LP C from a HP C, without holding/playing it, unless it is marked, as yours is.
Regards-
« Last Edit: July 23, 2016, 03:41:38 PM by Windsong »
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2016, 08:47:19 PM »
I had the impression that somehow this one stayed off the main radar. It might have only been listed in the vintage clarinets. There were five other bidders, but the bids seemed very low to me given the "complete" package and the unique nature of it, as well as the Couesnon name recognition. The next highest bid was much lower than my max bid.

There was a Lafayette C LP in equally good shape with the same keys and equally gorgeous wood, but no case and it sold almost simultaneously for a BIN price about 5 times my winning bid for the Couesnon. Go figure. I didn't know Lafayette had that status. I have to admit that this particular Lafayette looked nicer than most of those I have seen. I think those are stencils, but that one looked equal to the Couesnon. It even had a very similar wooden MP.  I have some ideas about who made the early Lafayette models and I don't think it was Couesnon, but these two looked very nearly identical.

I had my eye on the Lafayette even though it was a bit pricey and this one turned up a a few days before the Lafayette listing ended. I think there were no other bids when I first bid on it and I only entered two bids. The Lafayette sold the next day and probably went to someone that was also bidding on the Couesnon. If I had been outbid, I probably would have jumped on the Lafayette as well although I think what I paid was more in line with the practical value of one of these. When these simple / Albert clarinets were sold they were less than half the price of the corresponding Boehm model. Now the novelty factor sometimes places them above a Bb Boehm, which is probably far more useful to most players.

I had been looking for a good deal on a C clarinet for a couple of months. The Boehm models get away pretty fast and are not as common as simple or Albert C clarinets. The Albert and German ones with more keys and rings usually bring more. I am probably going to wish this one had the rollers and the two extra rings but the price I got this for was low enough that I dare not complain.  :)

Bell to the top of the barrel on this one is 52.5 cm. The bore is 14.5mm.

That was one of the reasons that I would have sprung  for the Lafayette if I had missed this one. It's parts were also marked from top to bottom insuring original dimensions. It's fairly rare to find one of these with all the original parts in good shape and this being my first experience with a C clarinet, I figured I should get one with original parts. The barrels for these and proper mouthpieces become an impossible guessing game if the originals are missing. With this one even the fancy little original key for the case lock was included. It was stuck up in the bore of the LJ and fell out while I was oiling the keys.

Thanks for the tip on the mouthpiece. I rarely remove the reeds on my rubber mouthpieces. The string ligatures I tie do not cause any warpage in the reeds, but I can see that leaving the reed on a wooden mouthpiece would trap moisture and encourage uneven drying / shrinking. Good advice.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2016, 09:07:38 PM by Silversorcerer »
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2016, 10:58:46 PM »
I too had my eye on the Lafayette, and was surprised as to its final purchase price.  I would not have paid that for it, to be sure.  You have a very good horn there, and frankly, I believe, with your wordsmithing abilities, you'll have no trouble fetching more than what you paid for it, should you decide it's not for you.  I suspect, however, that you'll fall in love with the LP C sound.  It is by far my favorite among the soprano line.  It is warm, intimate, and welcoming.  Perhaps most important, it is incredibly versatile, if you just want to "jam" and "noodle" with friends who play the conventional instruments of folk/blues culture.  Tis true that the rollers make a simple system just a hair quicker in transition (if they are working correctly) but their absence is not a deal breaker, as you'll soon see.  What you have will likely turn out to be a horn you cherish all your life through.  I still love my 17/6 Boehm Bbs, and I always will feel an attachment to them, as that was the first horn I ever held and played, but different horses for different courses, and the C is a purely inspirational instrument all its own.
I too, typically leave a reed affixed for a few days at a time on my HR mps, but one must never do this on a wooden piece for the exact reasons you describe.  Once you oil the mp, wait a day before playing through it, and wipe it down well.  Almond oil, while a great preservative, has an awful taste.
Welcome to the "C club".  I think you will fall in love with the sweet sounds it delivers, and to my knowledge, Couesnon never made a bad horn, so you're dealing with expert craftsmanship.
Thank you, also, for the dimensions.  19.25-20.5" is right where just about every C horn is, regardless of pitch.
Regards-
« Last Edit: July 31, 2016, 07:56:47 PM by Windsong »
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Couesnon C LP, 13 keys, 2 rings
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2017, 11:06:12 AM »
I decided to resurrect this thread. This instrument has been a work in progress for about a year and is finally all up to speed for general use. It took a good deal longer than I anticipated to find some gremlin sporadic leaks in the lower joint. What I finally found was that side to side motion in the long levers was resulting in pads that sometimes sealed and sometimes landed in almost sealed positions. This was not a problem below the break but caused unpredictable squeaks and squawks just above the register break. I think it might be a good idea to always look for side to side free play in the long levers on Albert clarinets and eliminate it by carefully swedging the ends of the tube so that the pads always lands in the same placement on the tone hole crown. Otherwise it is going to leak a little bit sometimes.

So having finally sorted that problem out, I put on new tenon corks and finally arrived at the finishing stage where I set the intonation for standing closed keys by the thickness of the corks behind the keys that stop their motion when opened up. This sets the clearance between the pad and the tone hole crown. Less clearance is flatter, more clearance is sharper. The question then arises, what am I tuning these notes to? This is an instrument designated LP built in France around 1900. There was a pitch standard at the time but it was not A=440Hz. It was A=435Hz at whatever the standard temperature and pressure was considered to be in France at that time. Add into the mix that it was 85F and not "standard temperature and pressure" in my workshop.

So how does one even start in this kind of situation to produce an instrument that is reasonably in tune with itself?

I start with the open G throat tone. Why not? Better question is why. I start there because with an instrument that is original from mouthpiece to bell, and no rings on the upper joint, this key is a fixed and unchanging reference regardless of the pitch it produces at any temperature. With the open G throat pitch I can see how far off it is from an equal temperament G (A=440 standard). Yesterday this note was about 20 cents sharp. If it had been about 30 cents sharp, the room temperature at 30C would be the reason. If I could magically set the room temperature to 20C then this note would be considerably flat. This morning it is a little flat compared to the 440 standard because the temperature is about 25C.

I can't just use an electronic tuner to set or measure the intonation. I have to use an electronic tuner in conjunction with a good thermometer. I'm using a dial type Beseler color darkroom thermometer that  was built to measure color photographic chemistry temperatures which were critical to .5 F. It's about as good as themometers get.

The goal is to have the same deflection in cents from A=440Hz for all the notes that are produced by opening up the sequence of standing closed holes. If the deflection can be attributed to the variable temperature (and perhaps the 435Hz LP standard to a lesser degree), the deflection at open G is the only logical place to start. It's the one note in the throat that is not affected by the pad clearances of lower  standing open keys and is fixed by the dimensions of the original barrel and mouthpiece. So that's where it starts.

The next note up is G# and the pitch is set by the thickness of the cork pad behind the G# touch piece. I start with one that barely lets the hole open and reduce the thickness until it is in tune. This morning it needs to be about ten cents flat. Yesterday it would have needed to be about 15 cents sharp. Weather you know. You have to consider the weather.

The A is not produced on this instrument by a G#/A combination. It's only dependent on the A key which does not lift the G# and would require a skyscraper cork between the two keys to work like what is typical on a Boehm clarinet. So the cork behind the A touch piece gets reduced until it is also about ten cents flat.

Above that is Bb, which is produced by opening the register key. Same kind of relationship, but the register key clearance also affects the tuning of the C, so both notes have to be considered when setting the clearance of the register key pad.

On this instrument, the B is produced by the combination of two throat levers. The first one also determines the pitch of F below open G. That one has to be set first. After that one is set, then the upper lever is set to give a B that is in tune (with the rest of the clarinet at the wandering room temperature).

Considering the wandering temperature, what I am really doing is not tuning this instrument to the A=440Hz standard, but rather to whatever standard was built into the instrument and results in the pitch produced by open G. I might never know what that pitch is unless I find a room at 20C and the correct altitude.

Everything is going swimmingly until I reached the top open throat C just before the break. Yikes. It's a good bit flatter than my reference open G. There's a little that I can do perhaps. I am not going to bore out the register port on an antique. What I did was remove the register key to see if getting the pad out of the way made enough difference. It's a slight improvement. What I will do is refit the register key with a cork pad carefully shaped into a dome that will give maximum clearance when the register key is open.

So that covers the upper joint tuning. This instrument now has very acceptable tuning. The C above the break is far better than the one below it. It's nice to have two ways to get that note. The B is a good match above and below.

The biggest challenge with the lower joint was getting it all synchronized, which is very much like the crow's foot adjustments on a Boehm lower joint. You get it all synchronized, check the the tuning, and there are a few adjustments in pad and key clearances that can help intonation there depending on the note.

I could still improve the cosmetics of my corks and clean up some stray shellac, but the pad clearances are now set by these corks and the instrument is play ready. Now I just have to learn how to play an Albert type with 2 rings.....
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 11:30:54 AM by Silversorcerer »
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