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Topics - Windsong

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All about Clarinets / Broken Hearted
« on: July 11, 2022, 03:33:48 PM »
Last week, whilst inspecting a home built in 1925, and never yet sold but when new, having been in the same family since then, I was in the attic, when--behind the asbestos-wrapped boiler pipes I caught a glimpse that had me do a double take.  The first take told my brain to pay attention, and the second one solidified it.  I knew immediately what I had just found.  So I reached over the boiler pipe into the eve of this massive three story home, and grabbed the handle of an all too familiar case. 

I rushed down, out-of the attic, and on bended knee, I said to the owner of the home, "Please;  I beg of you--sell me this.  Name your price, and it will have a good home forever."
She said, "Oh goodness!  Is that..?  It is!  That was Grandfather's!  We have been looking for over 50 years for that!  We thought it had been stolen or misplaced long ago!  No;  I think I'll give it to my grandson, who likes musical instruments." (Now, I should also point out that I also found a 1923 Buescher C-melody and a pre-1907 French Revalry Bugle, but it was this 1920s Martin that I had my heart set on.  Her instant but soft rejection to purchase it crushed me like being shot down from asking a cute gal to the Prom.   

Looking to have been in her mid 70s, I am assuming her grandson is likely in his late teens or twenties, but by gum--I will bet he has to gewgel it to even know what he now has. 
Ladies and gents--it was nigh perfect.  Not a scratch or a dent.  I'd have gone to $1500.00, and then I'd have had to back off, and yes--I know it is worth well more, but I will bet dollars to doughnuts she would have let it go for far less, if she hadn't been so set on keeping it.  So it goes...

All about Clarinets / A very early grenadilla Albert Harry Pedler
« on: January 26, 2022, 09:07:45 PM »
This is the first of it's kind for me. 
Model 1544. 
Missing a vital key. 
Two cracks in the barrell.
1919-1922 (diamond logo).

I have a few of the same in ebonite; a 152--absolutely excellent and cosmetically pristine, one 1544 in gentle shape, in need of a restoration, and one atrociously unfortunate 1554 horn that stayed whole, but that was sorely neglected. 

Seller states it's rare (and he is correct).

Grab it, folks, and best of luck with that missing key.
It can be scavenged from another Albert, or by the metallurgical master--created.
I am at my maximum capacity.


I have a 432 Hz Clarinet, so this drew me in.  I will wait to comment on my impressions until some of you...well, view the video. 


All about Clarinets / Feeding my Pedler Addiction
« on: March 10, 2021, 08:35:00 PM »
I received another Harry Pedler in the mail today;  this time a pre-serialized Hard Rubber 17/6 Boehm with the "Pedler Appliance" in fine shape.  It was made almost certainly between 1924-1928, and appears to be a semi-pro-level clarinet.  The old stickers on the case appear to pre-date WWII, and say Ohio University Band, so my take is that it was used in a collegiate capacity. I expected nothing from a clarinet sold in "as-found" condition, from a seller who confessed no musical instrument knowledge.  I bought it for parts, mainly, and for my "continuing education".

Upon close inspection, I saw it was marvelously intact, (with exception to one mildly tweaked trill key that I put into order directly) despite it having that ripe smell of a clarinet put away wet forever ago, and was rather dusty, so I assembled it, and slipped in a Harry Pedler mouthpiece, and was awestruck by the deep, clear sound it registered.  And by gum, it played all the way through, bottom to top, quite acceptably.  It has perhaps a tone that rivals only my pre-1928 Boehm 17/7 Pedler.  Cosmetically, it is quite nice, and the tone certainly is impressive.  I am thinking this may be my " steady" for a while.  It put a smile on my face, and felt right in my hands.

David--this one has the softer keys you are familiar with, but they are strong, and forged nickel.  I have found that Martin-era Pedlers have the strongest, most well supported keywork, followed by the Albert Pedlers, which are rather strong, too, but more malleable than Martin's products.

It came with a Selmer HS* MP, which I have no experience with, but understand many like them.  The table, tip and rails are nigh flawless, as is the chamber, but it is dirty and has tooth indentations, and needs some spiffing up, so trying that out will have to wait for a later date.

All about Clarinets / Repairing a Harry Pedler Albert trill key
« on: January 08, 2021, 08:17:32 PM »
My new challenge:  Bending back the low LH trill key on my new aquisition--a 1919-1923 Bb Albert system Harry Pedler.  For any of you who have ever played one of these, you know how awkward fingering can be.  Coming from anything else, it takes a lot of re-training of the mind.  After several days of scales, it becomes less awkward.  I have large hands, but it's as if these Harry Pedler Albert's were designed for hands much bigger than my own.  Clarinetists with very long fingers would appreciate these. 

I provide that "wind up" because, due to the extreme bend on this key, I am left wondering if it was deliberately bent.  Ergonomically, it actually allows for quicker engagement for larger hands.  In all likelihood, due to the inherent vulnerability of this key's location, it most likely was dropped, but who knows?  Regardless, since my plan is to restore it to its original form, I need to bend it back, and hopefully not snap it off.

These keys are reasonably malleable, so I think I will boil the key in water (so as not to burn the key with a butane torch, and also to keep the heat even) and bend it back slowly, by hand, and boil the key to re-fortify the grain.  This first photo is of the correct orientation of the network (I have a few of these clarinets now), and the second photo is of the damaged key that needs a 45° "retraining".  If anyone has a better idea for bending the key, please chime in.
(Photos to follow)

All about Clarinets / Hard rubber conditioner
« on: January 04, 2021, 06:52:37 PM »
Since hard rubber is technically a wood-gum  (reformulated, melted and molded), I suspect it may be slightly porous. Over time and kept in unfavorable temps, can become brittle, and I am wondering if there are conditioners that anyone knows of that may be used to strengthen it, like oils do for wood?  Most of my hard rubber clarinets are in fine shape, but a new acquisition has the beginnings of mild checking in the barrel and the bell sockets, and I want to mitigate this condition if at all possible.

All about Clarinets / Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« on: December 14, 2017, 08:36:41 PM »
I've been thinking about starting a thread about restoration for a little while now, and as this is a technical forum, where we share not only historical data and new discoveries and acquisitions, I like to think we also help one another with technique, and the perpetuation of this fine craft of preservation that so many of us share.  I believe everybody can chime in, and offer a tip or two, or a pitfall and perhaps we can offer a remedy to those in need, as a community.

With a resto underway, I am reminded of some rookie errors that irrevocably damage, and scare people away from finishing a restoration, and I suspect this is why we see, with relative frequency, clarinets in pieces on the internet auction sites, or in poor playing condition with newer components.

Let's face it; a full restoration by a reputable shop is not cheap.  While a re-pad can often be had for a reasonable price, an old clarinet usually needs everything, from key corks (they disintegrate over time, and must be replaced for proper regulation) to springs (they lose tension, and do not return the pad to their respective resting places effectively over time).  If there is a crack and especially if it runs through a bevelled tone hole, add an easy $100.00.  If parts are missing or broken and it's an odd-ball clarinet, just open your wallet.

I got started restoring clarinets because my interests outweighed my wallet, and knew I would have to learn how to do the work myself in order to maintain my collection.  I also once watched, agast in horror, as a local tech butchered keywork on one of my rarest clarinets, straightening a key with raw pliers and marring the surface.  I repaired the key, slowly filing and buffing his aggregious blunders away, and it took me several hours to undo what he did in 5 seconds.  While this tech had (and has) far greater experience and knowledge than I do, I knew I could do a more careful job, and would not be bound to a clock.  "Quick and effective" will never win out against "slow, cautious and methodical".

There are many hurdles to overcome in the first several restos one does--assuming a modicum of technical ability from the would-be clarinet restorer.  Without some technical skill, PLEASE do not attempt a restoration, unless it is on a clarinet that cannot be saved and you simply want to try a technique or two on a "gonner" before attempting it on something you wish to preserve.  I fully advocate technique-tempering on throw-away clarinets, and there are certainly enough of them out there. To be fair, though, if you jump into a restoration on a valued horn with no technical ability and no experience, chances are that you will never finish it, or if you do, your clarinet will be mired down in technical absurdities that will plague your conscience, long after you rid yourself of the clarinet, for pennies on the dollar for what you paid for it.  I'm genuinely not being unkind; just very matter-of-fact, here. 

I intend to share a few cautions that I think will benefit the new restorer, that I have observed--either from my own early failures or the foibles I have evidenced in "professional" technicians' techniques, and I will also share what I derive to be the right way to restore a clarinet.  For the intermediate-to-expert restorer who is reading this, please chime in.  We all benefit from alternate perspectives and techniques.  Even if you disagree with my technique, or find my methods overly cautious, I'd like to hear from you.  I am always interested in learning a better, safer, or more efficient method for all I do.

1)  It is generally safe to use denatured or isopropal alcohol to clean varnish and shellac from pad cups.  SilverSorcerer notes recently that white, kitchen variety vinegar also cleans debris from keys, and I have found it to be quite helpful myself, of late.
2)  One should NOT use a flat blade screwdriver to scrape away at the old shellac, back and forth, scoring up the finish of the inside of the cup, no matter whether anyone ever sees it.  RESIST THE TEMPTATION!  It is simply unnecessary, and always damaging.  Get a few shot glasses, and soak the key cups in the alcohol for 20 minutes, and then take a cotton swab, and wipe out any residual adhesive, after it has been loosened by the alcohol.  You can gently pry the old pads out, often completely and before any soaking takes place, but certainly down to the cardboard under the felt with a small screwdriver.  Dig into the lowest part of the side of the pad you can access, and simply pull up.
3)  Do not use abrasive pads (Brillo, Scotchbrite, wet-sandpaper) on the keys to remove tarnish from key arms and post anchors.  Clean them slowly with a good, minimally abrasive paste, and be patient.  I use Weiman and Tarnex, personally, depending upon the state of the tarnish.  These products are NOT interchangable, and have distinctly different effects.  If a key is heavily tarnished, I first use Weiman.  Once I get to the point where the porosity of the key is still clinging to tarnish, I then soak them (after washing the key thoroughly in warm water, and drying it) with Tarnex, as it is thinner and can get into the deepest recesses of the key.  I then rinse it again, and go back to Weiman.   Remember;  "patience is a virtue", and "haste makes waste".  You may have to repeat this process multiple times, and there is no set rule OR expectation for key cleaning.  If you choose to use a high speed buffing wheel, use minimally abrasive polish, and make sure you have a very firm purchase on the key, and hold it at the right angle(s), or it may quickly become a projectile and either injure you, or bend itself into a pretzel when it hits the far wall of your garage or workshop (and it will).  At the very least, clear the room of pets and loved ones, and ALWAYS wear safety glasses.
4)  It is okay, typically, to use super-fine 00000 (equivelant to 800-1000 sandpaper, but gentler, and without the swirls) steel wool to GENTLY remove scale and grime from un-plated or thick-plated keywork, when you must.  Sometimes, you must, but go very gently, and ensure it is wet.  Doing this on thinly-plated keywork that is already starting to chip will most assuredly lead to further removal of plating, as you'll likely catch the edge of plating that was otherwise anchored, and you'll have a fine mess on your hands. (Ask me how I know).

1) When removing corks from tenons, DO NOT fire up the lathe and scrape it off at 1725rpm with a chisel bit.  I know this technique "works", and I've seen technicians do it more times than I can account.  It only takes seconds.  It also removes (or reduces, greatly) the grooves that help anchor the adhesive to the new cork, and compromises future restorations, and the inherant value of your clarinet.  This is an abusive practice.  Instead, take a small, flat blade screwdriver, and dig up, underneath the edge of the cork , and break it from the tenon.  Once you have permeated the cork, attempt to remove as much of it as you can simply with fingernails or the flat blade by pulling up, away from the tenon.  Once the tenon is clear of cork, manually saturate the tenon with cotton swabs, dipped in mild, oderless mineral spirits, so you can control the application.  NEVER soak your clarinet's tenons in mineral spirits, regardless of its composition.  There are more powerful adhesive removers on the market, but consider that the faster something removes adhesive, the quicker it does damage to your clarinet.  Again, take it slow, and leave nothing to chance.  Take a cotton rag and run it round the tenon, if need be, to remove the residiual adhesive.  If it's old shellac, be patient, and carefully take your smallest flat blade screw driver, and again pulling up and away from the tenon, slowly trace the grooves, until it is flaked away, but only after it has been loosened by a careful application of MILD mineral spirits.  If rubber cement was used, a small amount of mineral spirits, applied conservatively with a cotton swab will have it cleared in short order.
2) When clearing keywork of regulation cork, use a brand new, extremely sharp razor blade to remove all but the last 1/64"th or so of cork.  Then soak the key in alcohol for 20 minutes, and work at it with an old credit card, a fingernail or something else, softer than the key metal.  That's all it takes, usually.  For especially stubborn old shellac, you may need to revert to the use of 0000 or 00000 steel wool, but exhaust all gentler options first.

1) Make certain that the pads you intend to install "dry fit" into their respective bores easily, but tightly, and seat level.  If you have to force a pad into a cup, and cannot free it easily with a fingernail, it's one size too large. 
2) Regardless whether you will be using shellac or hot glue to anchor the pads, go easy.  Often, the recommendation is to use too many pellets or too much shellac, which makes a mess on the sides of the pads, and compromises their ability to flex laterally when seated, leading to air leaks--perhaps not initially, but certainly prematurely.  Start with less adhesive than you think you will need, and add more, even if it means you have to let the key cool before doing so, and then re-heat the cup.  A little uniform "adhesive seep" on the sides of the pad where they meet the cup is okay.  Anything more is too much.
3)  Go easy on the heat!  2 seconds on, three seconds off, with a small torch and the flame turned low always works for me.  If your hot glue or shellac is boiling in the cup, you have overdone it.  Go slow; no point in rushing this most important stage of restoration.  When it comes time to regulate the pads to their tone holes, patience and careful application of heat not only preserves the pads, but also the body of the clarinet, itself.  A burned or melted clarinet is a throw-away item, and is so easily avoided.  If you have a Bernzomatic with a flame arrestor, this is a great item for regulating pads, once fitted to the clarinet.  It takes longer to get the heat up, but prevents damage.  Use it!
4) Do not even think about fitting the pad to a key you cannot handle by hand.  Some techs fit the key in a vice, with the pad cup level, and then torch up the adhesive and throw the pad in.  DO NOT DO THIS!  If you have applied so much heat that you cannot "bare hand" the key, you've gotten it too hot, and if the keys are silver-plated, you may well bubble the silver and destroy the finish.  Pads were never intended to be fit this way.  Once the adhesive has gone fully fluid, and covered the entire cup bottom evenly in a level pool, wait 15 seconds, minimum on a pad up to 12mm, and as much as 20-22 seconds on a pad as large as 17-17.5mm, and then drop the pad in, and push down with your finger or thumb to get it level.  You may also use a pad slick, if you prefer.  If you drop the pad into a cup where the adhesive is too hot, assuming you are using bladder pads (fishskins, etc.) The bladder will blow up like a balloon, rendering the pad useless.  I know techs who, when this happens, pop the "balloon" with a needle to settle it back down.  I've done it myself.  This technique destroys the fluidity of the bladder function, and greatly compromises the playability of your clarinet (oboe, flute, etc.).  It also wrinkles the fish skin, usually.  If this happens to you, yank the pad, throw it in the waste bin, and fit another one.  Do not feel bad or kick yourself.  You WILL destroy pads in the first few restos you do, either by over-saturating the cup with adhesive, and ruining the elasticity of the sides of the pad, fitting the pad while the adhesive is still too hot and blowing it up like a blimp, or by burning the side of the pad with a rogue flame.  I've done all of the above, as have all technicians, which is how we learned how to fit a pad properly.

If you do enough restorations or repairs, you will come across clarinets that have been dropped, banged, or bent up by a green horn refurbisher.  The top joint RH index finger trill keys usually take the worst hit.  Most clarinets that come to me with bent keywork are so affected to varying degrees, as well as a mal-aligned top bridge key.  After you determine which direction(s) the key(s) need(s) to be bent in, (and sometimes it's multiple keys in multiple different directions) never, ever put a tool to a key before attempting to bend it by hand.  Sometimes this can be done with the key on the clarinet, and sometimes, it must be done with the key removed.  If that latter, take notes.  There is nothing worse than realising you've just bent a key in the opposite direction it needed.  Many clarinets use unforged keywork, and you only get so many chances before the key simply snaps.  If this happens to you, you have 2 options: re-solder the key (very time consuming) and then grind down the excess "flash", or find a new key from a doner (potentially more expensive, but likely more effective) if you can--and you may wait months to years, depending upon scarcity.  If you've had to make an extreme bend in a key, you may consider (if it's not plated or die-cast from pot metal) heat-treating the key, and quenching it.  I will make no recommendations on this process, (though I do it when I must) and there is much to be learned in cyberspace on this process of "re-graining" quality metal.   If you are a good technician already, you assuredly have felt or rubber-lined, even-draw pliers, reserved for when you absolutely must use a tool.  There are those times (Bundy is a fine example), when the pliers must be used, but honestly, I do 95% of my key aligning with my bare hands, and most higher end clarinets have soft enough keywork that a steady hand and a good eye is all that it takes to rectify a bent key.

Well, that's all for now.  I have been typing for a while, and I have a lower Pedler joint that isn't going to restore itself.

All about Clarinets / A pad's true composition
« on: December 07, 2017, 06:03:31 AM »
I've been meaning to address this for quite some time, as I have many questions about clarinet pads various true compositions.

Are Roo pads really made from Kangaroo leather?

Are fish skin/bladder pads really made from the bladders of fish, and if so, what types of fish?

What were leather pillow pads made from 100+ years ago?  (Certainly not Kangaroos, I'll wager.)

All about Clarinets / A New Aquisition: Mid 1930s MBIC Pedler
« on: December 03, 2017, 07:34:01 PM »
Much thanks to Lisa for reminding me again of this fine gem that re-surfaced, and which I purchased.  Opportunity does indeed occasionally knock twice, it seems.  It arrived a few days ago, and photos will follow when time allows.

Believe it or not, this is my first wooden Pedler.  It's really not much different than my hard rubber models of similar vint and pedigree, but this is the first of which I've had that has (nearly flawless) silver plated keys.  I say "plated" as the keys are quite heavy--much heavier than nickel-silver, and while similar in weight to "junk silver" (40-50% silver, and a terrible name for a wonderful alloy), I know of no solid silver alloy-keyed Harry Pedlers or MBIC Pedlers.  That's not to say they weren't made, but I've not seen one, nor have I heard of one.  I've made no attempt to bend any of the keys, as they all align nicely, so I suspect a solid brass substrate, as brass is quite heavy, (though there is no wear-through).

This has the 17/6 configuration, 4 top-joint trill key posts, and the preferred Pedler Appliance, in lieu of a conventional crow's foot.

Curiously, the barrel is a bit odd.  It's the only piece not stamped with "The Pedler Co.", making it the first MBIC Pedler I have without one.  While not entirely definitive in and of itself, the curiousity continues.
The socket rings on the bell and lower joint are a nickel-silver alloy, as is standard, but on the barrel, they are most certainly aluminium.  That's right, and I'm certain of it.  No question at all.  Further murking the already silty waters is the fact that, while the rings share the same design (or a masterfully crafted "tribute" to the original) they are poorly fitted to the barrel.  The lower barrel ring sits flush to the joint, but the upper barrel ring stands proud a tremendous 1.5mm, creating extremely poor fitment for a mouthpiece.  It's entirely unsatisfactory, and while I made no attempt to play it (unusual for me, but it was filthy and the pads were falling out of at least 5 cups, so I didn't even bother), I'm nigh certain it would be a poor player in its current configuration.

I am led to believe that this barrel is not original, despite the fact that the wood it's made from resembles the rest of the clarinet identically.  I suspect this has far more to do with similar age and materials than it does to any claim to originality.  Neither Harry Pedler nor MBIC were this sloppy with ring fitment, even on novice models.  For now, I'll conclude that a master mettalurgist with a poor ability to fashion things to exacting tolerances made the rings and the barrel, to replace one that either went missing or failed miserably.  I'll never know.  While this issue is easily remedied by relieving 1.5 mm of wood from the barrel ring landing, I have no shortage of appropriate, period-correct barrels to try with it once the clarinet is sorted, so enough about that for now, though I'd be interested to hear from readers who have aluminium rings on a Pedler.

This clarinet was dry as a bone, yet un-cracked.  Frankly, I've not owned a dryer clarinet that was not a basket case.  I allowed the clarinet to settle to room temps, and then wiped the barrel and bell down with luke-warm, watered paper towels to remove 80 years of dust.  I then chased that with dry paper towels, and let them air-dry.  This morning, I fully saturated both in Almond oil, and within 2 hours, there was no oil residue left on the bore or outer surface, so I completely soaked them again.  They have nearly absorbed all the oil again, and I expect to have to repeat this process at least once more, before the wood is ready to be handled and used.  Poor, poor neglected clarinet, indeed, but I aim to have that remedied, shortly.  I also stripped the lower joint of its keys, and fully cleaned, dried and saturated it in oil, today.  The top joint will have to wait with my crazy schedule for the next week, but with the degree of neglect to the wood, accompanied by the quickly changing temps it's endured in its shipment to me over the past week or so, I was instantly concerned that it might crack on me, if not given an instant "salon treatment".
I think I may have a fine one here.  It has the makings of a solidly-made survivor, and I have high hopes, at present.

All about Clarinets / Troubles with LH pinky C#
« on: November 16, 2017, 08:46:18 PM »
I have been really fighting with this this Harry Pedler Albert 1544 top joint.  
The C# pinky key is too short to cover the unbevelled tone hole, and the pad cup is too small.
Personally, I think the hole may have been drilled a wee bit too far from the key, but it's done, now; not much benefit in fretting about tone hole placement 100 years after the fact.  

Aside from bending the key arm lower, and changing the angle of the cup, I'm sort of at an impasse.  That would be some radical bending, and I'm not sure the key is up for that sort of modification.  The pads that were originally on it were billowy--not something easily found these days, it seems

Are there offset pads made to accomodate issues like this?  I've not seen them.  I'm already using a stepped pad, and it does not quite cover the hole completely--almost, but not quite.
Horseshoes and hand grenades...

All about Clarinets / New interpretations for old problems
« on: October 26, 2017, 01:25:07 PM »
Back in my day, we called these (very) poorly repaired cracks, not deep scratches.  It appears the goop that was placed over the crack...er, "deep scratch" was just not finished before being painted with a sharpie.
In my line of work, doing trim carpentry, I will often use a little caulk to fill in "scratches".  Perhaps that's what was used, and hopefully the elastomeric weatherproof variety, so the "deep scratches" don't return.  Do you suppose roof tar, toothpaste or American Cheese might work too, in a pinch?  (Never actually tried any of those yet, but there's still time, thankfully, as I'm a bit shy of retirement age.)

I reckon the little round circles we see adjacent to the deep scratches are not filled pinning holes, but rather old unneeded lyre holder sockets, placed strategically for ergonomic versatility.

It's good the seller took it to a pro.  I agree that fixing a stripped screw thread in a rod key is a total waste of time and money.  A little lateral slop in keywork is good for pads, so they don't get too used to one particular landing spot on a tone hole.  It makes them self-ritious, and lazy. 


Forgive me if I have published this before.  It's an esential reference point, I think, and believe you all will find it beneficial as well.


All about Clarinets / Requesting Assistance on Leather Pad Installation
« on: September 21, 2017, 09:31:07 PM »
I am quite comfortable setting and floating double bladder fish skin pads and cork pads, and a little less comfortable but slightly proficient with Valentino weatherproof pads, but I must admit, I have no experience with leather, and have a few ancient clarinets that need repadding and really require leather.
Specifically, I am concerned about the effects of residual torch heat on leather, and scorching them.
Any helpful words will be well received, specifically regarding technique, pad size selection in relation to cup size, the use of a slick, key clamps, time between adhesive solvency and introduction of the pad, etc.
With the cost of leather pads at an absolute premium, I'd like to achieve success without scorching the product.
Thank you all.

All about Clarinets / "Send This Topic" link
« on: September 09, 2017, 07:18:14 PM »
This link appears to be broken.  Do any of you use this feature? 

This may be why we see so few alto clarinets.  I'm not really sure I fully follow his theory, in terms of true relevance, but it's an interesting rant, just the same.  While alto range is covered by the abilities of soprano and base ranges, collectively, I remain unconvinced as to the arguement that it is invalidated, thusly.  I have only ever seen ONE person play ONE clarinet at once, and it seems to me that Alto provides a good balance between the two, especially in non-ensemble work.
Have a gander:


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