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Topics - Silversorcerer

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All about Clarinets / Classical Clarinet, 6 keys
« on: September 26, 2017, 11:06:01 AM »
Credit to noneyet for calling my attention to an auction in Phoenix, which resulted in this and two other interesting relics coming my way for way cheap.

I hope posting the photos this way works. It's a link to my FB album. This example has some details that place it about 200 years ago in origin, give or take a decade.

The missing MP was a long-tenon design. The barrel is perfect and the socket for th MP goes all the way to the upper joint tenon, which fits into a somewhat larger socket. The construction suggests England or New England. I think the wood is cocus, after doing some cursory research.

The workmanship is rare and fine, and the details suggest that this was originally a top model clarinet. The springs are installed almost invisibly, perfectly flush with a ledge on the key arms, when you can see them at all.

Photos, if this works:




All about Clarinets / The philosophy of conservation
« on: September 05, 2017, 09:03:03 PM »
Despite the fact that one can learn something of the history of the clarinet from music written for the clarinet, from patents, from concert reviews and from other written sources, the primary resource from a playing point of view has to be the surviving instruments.
- Nicholas Shackleton

All about Clarinets / "A" simple mystery
« on: September 02, 2017, 08:15:42 AM »
I purchased this antique lower joint and bell primarily for the thumb rest that I needed to complete a more complete antique. When I got the part I was surprised by several things. First, even though it looked pretty rough in the seller's photos, the wood, keys, springs, and screws all seem to be in excellent condition, just need a good bit of cleaning attention. There are no marks anywhere of any kind. And the length is longer than an LP Bb.

Length from the upper socket ring to the top of the bell socket ring is 24.5cm. Length to the lower bell ring is 38.5cm.

What I'm wondering is whether this is an A high pitch joint or an A low pitch joint? Also any ideas about the maker are welcome. The lower bell ring is flush to the bell on the top with no groove and quite wide across the bottom and of course all the key work looks like it is barely past the salt spoon cup era. Age?  ???

Given the condition, it would be great to match it up with a wandering upper joint of similar vintage and key. The same seller also sold me a vintage wooden Martin Freres mouthpiece (combined shipping helped make both reasonable), and of course I wondered if these were once part of the same clarinet. The mouthpiece looks like it could be similar vintage, also looks like it might have been competently re-faced at some point.

All about Clarinets / Imitation and flattery or obfuscation?
« on: August 31, 2017, 05:27:48 AM »
I wondered if I should even bring this up, but there's nothing like a bunch of shady monopolists except a bunch of shady monopolists: http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/

All about Clarinets / Weather or not, and what are you tuning to?
« on: August 28, 2017, 06:14:30 AM »
Intonation, or simply tuning, is often a topic of discussion. Generally when we discuss tuning, we make several assumptions, some of which might not be necessarily safe assumptions.

Woodwind instruments ultimately are tuned by the weather, which changes the speed of sound in air. The speed of sound travels faster through denser air, and hot air is more dense than cold air because it can hold more vapor, which is more dense than gases with no vapor in them. Vapor pressure is the sum of all the partial vapor pressures of all the vapors present in the atmosphere at a given temperature and altitude.

Are you testing intonation in Denver, New Orleans, or NYC? In Atlanta, the weather can change significantly in temperature, vapor pressure, and therefore air density drastically in just 12 hours time. We think about how that changes wood dimensionally sometimes, but we also need to pay attention to the effect it has on tuning by changing the speed of sound. The effect is not negligible.

See here: http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-pitchchange.htm

So you try to set a clarinet up to be in tune at A=440Hz, which in the USA is the pitch standard by law (since 1920) possibly not realizing that A=440Hz is the pitch standard at "standard temperature and pressure" which in the real world is a continuously moving target. Trying to adjust a woodwind instrument to match A=440Hz without regard to the weather is most definitely a case of the tail wagging the dog. Without constant and controlled air density, the 440 standard is not "standard".

When a modern woodwind instrument was built, it was built in a factory environment that was more or less climate controlled. More or less? Plus or minus how much variation? Most climate control systems are not capable of control better than plus or minus 5 degrees F. That is a variation of about 10 degrees F between when the heat/air is activated and when it is turned off. When the temp changes 5 degrees from the target temperature, the system comes on, when it accomplishes 5 degrees beyond the target it turns off. When the temperature changes by a total of 10 degrees F, it come back on. The target for tuning instruments is constantly moving. Unless the testing and tuning equipment is constantly computing the effects of air density on the A=440Hz standard and changing the reference pitches accordingly, the instruments are being tweaked "out of tune".

When in doubt, tune to the oboe (If you are strings or brass). And if you are tuning a clarinet or any other woodwind, check the weather before you start, and monitor the weather as you proceed. The best possible result will be a woodwind that is in tune with itself and reasonably in tune with other woodwinds tuned at the same air density.

When the variables that are dependent on altitude and relative humidity are added in, the difficulty of achieving repeatable intonation tests becomes apparent. The science is exact, but only when parameters that vary widely in real world situations can be held constant, which is not generally possible outside of carefully controlled laboratory conditions.

This is on my mind presently because the temperature yesterday in my shop was about 85F, this morning it is 75F and if I check a clarinet against a tuner today, the pitches will not be what these were yesterday.

All about Clarinets / Harry Pedler 175A Eb Alto
« on: August 23, 2017, 08:24:56 PM »
This is my first alto clarinet. When I was learning jazz tunes on my Bb soprano, I realized that quite a few of these lead lines I was reading were a bit awkward and seemed displaced in some passages. Thinking about the recordings these lines were transcribed from I realized that these were probably transcribed from alto saxophone lead lines, then scored for Bb. These might sound truer to form played on an alto clarinet than a soprano, I decided.

I began looking for an alto clarinet that fit my generally nonexistent budget, and after missing several, finally won this antiquated Harry Pedler model 175A (The "A" designates that it plays low Eb on the bell key, the 175 is the model plays E on the bell key). Accessories included the original case in great condition, the marching lyre, and the metal mouthpiece cover. No mouthpiece.

This alto model was presumably available for about a decade when Harry Pedler was completely in control of his company, beyond his partnership with Gronert and before his brief partnership with Martin Band Instrument Company. An alto Harry Pedler is a model that is seldom seen;- genuine Harry Pedler sopranos and basses are rare enough.

Most of the Pedler altos and basses we see are the Custom-built model that debuted after Pedler became part of MBIC. These instruments are completely redesigned consistent with later features and more complex mechanics.

If this one had a mouthpiece, I think it would have played as it came, but it needed a good bit of optimization to make it play well. While I waited for a mouthpiece to materialize, I got the optimization underway. Like many antique instruments, it's service history included an accumulation of errors and half measures among some more professional repairs. I spent about 3 days cleaning it up, tightening up a few posts and limiting the key action everywhere with fresh corks as needed.

It has tan leather pads new and old, and I'll use similar when I replace any. The pads look like the same type that are on my 201A bass model of the same era.

Whenever I get one of these USA built ancient relics (circa 1925), and go over the mechanics, I'm impressed with the care and precision of the original manufacturer that is evident in every detail. All of the parts are high quality, no shortcuts taken, and the whole is the sum of the parts. Harry Pedler instruments were not that fancy, well, until you start looking at the sheer elegance of form and fit. It goes beyond the audacious bell engraving which Harry might have inherited from C.G. Conn.

The pivot screws are not the pointed type, but rather a screw with a short rod attached to it. This positions the key rods very positively. It also means that post alignment is critical. If expansion and contraction have loosened the posts, those need to be tightened up.

The keys are solid nickel-silver, soft enough to be adjusted where needed without breaking but hard enough not to bend under normal use. Springs were blued needle springs, most of them in good enough shape to remain in service.

The wood is very dark rosewood (as reported in the brochure) and this is obviously a wood that is a good bit less dense than grenadilla. The joints feel lighter than they look. It's not a heavy clarinet until the bell and neck are added and it is still lighter than it looks.

One previous repair that was very well accomplished was the replacement of the LJ F# key cup with what looks like a silver-plated sax cup. It's not something that jumps out at a glance, and it's so perfectly fixed to the rod that it looks like factory solder work.

So how does it sound? I can't get a note out of it without the mouthpiece!  ::)

There are not many reviews of Harry Pedler alto clarinets. The discussion I could find is primarily for the Custom-built model that followed the 175A and was a Martin Band Instrument Co. product, and it seems that the owner had not ever faced up to having the keys properly serviced, and blamed the instrument's performance on being worn out. Such is the type of review that indicates an instrument being judged while in poor condition. Big surprise that an instrument in poor condition has issues?

Before I discuss how this one sounds, it will have been brought into at least optimum mechanical condition. It will feel tight and solid under the fingertips. How well an instrument is set up makes a huge difference in how well it plays and older instruments that have never been totally rebuilt probably do not have very carefully set clearances and key motion limits. This one Is getting all the tweaks and corrections.

Feature limitations due to era of construction:
1) Left thumb and LH 4 ( C ) plateaus, 5 open holes.
2) Manual double register keys

Desirable features:
1) open holes for note bending
2) Eb bell key
3) Mechanics are as simple as a full Boehm Bb soprano.

A few photos:

All about Clarinets / Copper pipe Bass Clarinet
« on: August 21, 2017, 10:13:23 AM »

It gets the sound, not much range, but it's got the sound.

All about Clarinets / It's about thyme
« on: August 20, 2017, 10:27:14 AM »
I did a forum search for fungus and found mentions of it on several threads, but no threads dedicated to removing, permanently eradicating, and preventing future infection of wooden instruments by fungus or mold.

If you restore antique clarinets, sooner or later you will find one that the worst thing wrong with it is that it harbors a healthy fungus bloom, which is often coating a good part of the bore, tone holes, as well as some areas of the exterior of the instruments and sometimes also the pads.

The good news is that it can be killed by the essential oil of white thyme. This is far less destructive than treating wood with chlorine or other caustic chemicals.

Since I don't have an alto mouthpiece yet, and I have an old alto that needs a little maintenance, I decided to break it down and clean it real well while I'm looking for the right mouthpiece. And it has a bit of a fungus infection. This is something I want to nip in the bud so it doesn't spread. Fungus like this can make some people sick.

The typical appearance of the fungus we find on clarinets looks like a fine white lint or dust on the surface. Inside the bore or tone holes it can have almost a crusty appearance depending on how long it has been there. Using a disposable swab soaked with white thyme oil to saturate the bore will kill and remove all of the white residue and spores. A cotton swab soaked in thyme oil can be used to treat and clean up all of the tone holes. If the mold is severe and covers a good part of the bore, I give it three treatments 3 days apart and wipe down the whole exterior of the joints as well as swabbing the bore and the tone holes.

Thyme oil is a light oil that soaks into the wood very fast, saturates it, and then begins to evaporate. If you treat the joints and put them back in the case, the fumes of the thyme will fumigate the instrument case and kill any fungus spores that might be in the case. It's also a good idea to vacuum the case very well if there is any mold or fungus detected in the case. The odor to me is something between pine oil and gasoline. It doesn't smell good when concentrated and first applied. Because the oil is light, it does evaporate much faster than the vegetable oils we typically use for bore oil and the odor will dissipate leaving the instrument having a very light and fresh sent after only a few days.

This white lint-like mold does not typically smell like mildew. In fact it has almost no odor (and I don't recommend inhaling it). But it can make you sick, and it can cause pads to wear out and need replacing sooner.

Thymol has long been the industry standard for elimination of fungus in paper documents. Thymol is a water soluble derivative of thyme oil, and thus better suited to fumigating artwork on paper. The natural thyme oil contains the same active ingredient as thymol, but as an oil based version, it is far more suitable for eliminating fungus in wood.

These are a couple of photos of the rosewood Harry Pedler alto upper joint that show the white fungus growing in the tone holes and around the crowns. I'm not pushing any particular brand of thyme oil. The one shown is the one that works for me.

Trading Post / (Sell) Selmer Paris C* BBb mouthpiece and ligature
« on: August 17, 2017, 11:53:23 AM »
This one didn't fit my Harry Pedler bass neck so I have never played it. It's hard rubber, pretty clean, corks look OK, comes with a two screw metal ligature. I see some very minor imperfections. I zoomed in as close as possible. See photos.

Make and Model lists and research / Amati Kraslice and stencils
« on: August 14, 2017, 06:16:44 PM »
With only a few examples represented on this forum so far, I still think it is not to early to begin a thread on Amati clarinets and various brands that were Amati made. These two photos are not ones I made, but are seller's photos I have borrowed from past listings. They are sufficient to identify the stencils because the Amati key work is very unique and easily distinguishes these other brands. Amati resulted from the consolidation of many independent makers under one name and after a decade or more, the quality of the instruments improved immensely. Some of the other trade names that are common are Meyer and Artist. Expect to see other names less frequently. As usual, be sure to compare the key work features because any maker could mark a clarinet Meyer or Artist and certainly I have seen the "Artist" name on clarinets by other makers.

Trading Post / (BUY) pre-WW2 hard rubber alto mouthpiece
« on: August 14, 2017, 01:48:19 PM »
I'm not picky about brand, tenon cork, cosmetics. I do need to know the tenon diameter to make sure it will fit. The neck socket is 24.4mm.

Condition of tip and rails is important, and I prefer an original facing, something like a Bundy #3.

PM me if you have one to spare for sale or trade.

All about Clarinets / Antique barrel height and match?
« on: August 12, 2017, 10:02:19 AM »
"Starting at the top with the barrels (first photo), L > R, is the PMP - 63.5mm, the PM - 67mm, and the P - 69.9mm. When the barrels are long, the upper joint is short by the same amount." - Silversorcerer

That observation regarded a Pruefer, Penzel-Mueller Pruefer, and Penzel-Mueller all from the same decade about.

Recently I have three European clarinets from around 1900, all Albert LB Bb models, two from France and one from Austria from different makers. Left to right in the 4 photos below are an M. Dupont / Paris, a Lafayette / Paris also marked France, and a CH JEROME marked Austria. The barrels get shorter as we look at them from left to right, but as observed with the P, PMP, and PM, the distance from the top of the barrel to the register port remains about constant within .5mm. (roughly 8.4 mm).

I was sure the barrels on the two French were original by the markings, but the CH JEROME barrel was hard rubber on a wood body, no marks, and looked unusually short. The socket rings were a match so it was very plausible that it was original.

The long and short that we can conclude from all of this with a fair degree of certainty is that we really cannot look at a barrel length as being short or long relatively unless we also check the distance between the top of the barrel and the register port. Without that measurement the barrel height is almost meaningless.

This information could be of great value when one is trying to find an appropriate barrel substitute for a missing barrel. For European clarinets, it seems that you might want to aim for a barrel that completes the measurement to about 8.4 cm. With a USA make, the measurement to aim for is about 9 cm. This of course only applies to LP Bb instruments of the particular eras illustrated.

As you might have suspected, the Lafayette Paris in the center is the same one that suffered the electrical tape bondage ritual. Recovery is in progress.

All about Clarinets / Stephen Fox, the clarinet time machine?
« on: August 07, 2017, 05:05:04 PM »
A while ago, I stumbled onto a page that explained "basic" clarinet acoustics. http://www.sfoxclarinets.com/baclac_art.htm
Basic? Maybe for a rocket scientist. For me, I just keep reading the page over and over trying to grasp the basic concepts presented and the ramifications for new clarinet bore designs that might go beyond the typical polycylindrical notions.

It's some heady stuff, but beyond that is Fox's participation in a rescaling of harmony based on an alternative scale, uniquely appropriate to the clarinet: http://www.sfoxclarinets.com/bpclar.html

If Fox were into aircraft design he would be making everything from hot air balloons to starships. This family of clarinets is something else: http://www.sfoxclarinets.com/BP_sale.html

All about Clarinets / I(?) refute technology?
« on: August 07, 2017, 02:09:54 PM »
"These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy...in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."

John Philip Sousa, testifying before the US Congress, 1906.


All about Clarinets / The clone-inet is arriving
« on: August 07, 2017, 08:43:48 AM »
The present or the future ???

The clone-inet may have arrived before I could get this typed.

Between the time I type this and the time I post this, 21st century technology will have leapfrogged over my iMac, past my iPad, glanced at 19th and 20th century clarinets as a minor roadside attraction, and traveled at warp speed into a world imagined in the 19th and 20th centuries only by science fiction writers of extreme foresight.

Regarding the implications for musical instruments and the manufacture of these, ideas that we might now regard as important, will be no more than meaningless trivia.

Because the complete records of the history of clarinet manufacture have been obscured over the decades, or may have never existed in the first place, I resort to methods best described as 20th century forensic archaeology to piece together what maker's hand or factory's machinery started or finished a particular musical instrument. Why? Because in those centuries, it made a difference sometimes.

In 50 years no one will be able to imagine the world in which these instruments originated. Even now, it is difficult to relate to the antiquity of just 150 years ago.

Mass production was limited to objects like bricks, cannon barrels, the many solid forms that could be cast into molds;-  and those were far less uniform than current objects and if any fine detail was important, that was laboriously accomplished by hand tools in the calloused fingers of humans. Assembly lines? Robots? 3-D printers?

We can interpret the marks left by imperfect machinery, the shapes and designs produced by imperfect molds, the thread count of a particular screw, and reconstruct with a remarkable degree of accuracy who made a manufactured object, when it was made, and where it was made, if it belongs to "antiquity".

Such methodologies will soon be obsolete regarding 21st century manufacture (if not already obsolete) and the question "Where on earth?" will be a trivial detail of no practical importance whatsoever.

It has been possible now for a few years to describe an object to the breadth of an atom. Manufacturing of most things doesn't require that degree of precision, and certainly not musical instruments. However as these capabilities of precision manufacture become integrated into all manufacturing, there will be no reason to make anything with a lesser degree of precision than what is possible. Once the current machinery creates the possible machinery, it will be inefficient to do do it otherwise. For example, obsolete chemical based photographic film was capable of producing resolution that far exceeded the needs of printing presses, but almost all fine chemical photography was high resolution, primarily because it was possible, not because it was necessary. It was no more expensive to produce and process high resolution film, so why not use it all the time?

We discuss newly built instruments and wonder which subcontracted factory in China made which instrument that might be stamped with Brand X. For practical purposes in the next decade or two, every factory will be a clone of the other factories and it will be possible for all of the output of any factory to be identical to the output of any other factory;- anywhere on this planet. Fake Chinese Buffet-Crampons, now a joke, will be completely indistinguishable from one made in France. At that point everything can be accurately regarded as a fake, or alternatively as authentic. Any distinction between mass produced items will require some kind of applied unique code of some kind. Even serialization will be nearly impossible.

It will also be possible for any new design to be immediately implemented anywhere there is a manufacturing facility within seconds of it leaving the "drawing board", if I might use such an antiquated idea.

This might be a reality that is startling, even disturbing to those of us that are used to musical instruments having some individuality imbued by the variations in natural materials and the differences between the hands that made them and the minds that conceived them. While we should embrace the efficiencies and possibilities of this new manufacturing reality, we must also do our best to establish  and preserve the long history of hand accomplished and even early machine accomplished musical instruments, lest these become mind boggling ruins of an age that will vanish in the space of one human generation.

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