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Messages - Ken Rasmussen

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Yes!  Dan Oberloh of Seattle did a stellar job of freeing up my stuck adjustable tuning neck, removing the stuck bell, fixing a problem with a rod that wouldn’t screw in, and improving a couple buggered up tiny screws.  This was all work that he did on my 1929 Buescher model 731 True Tone clarinet. 

His shop is a place of wonder, his instrument collection is unbelievable, and the experience could not have been more positive.  However, he’s not doing overhauls.  He’s too far behind.  He’s trying to do stuff that other shops can’t do, which makes good sense.


Hey! I got it fixed. I took it to Dan Oberloh, in Seattle. He made it look easy. Here’s a link to a photo tour of his shop: http://www.oberloh.com/gallery/Shop.htm

I had gotten a photo from someone else with the same horn, and I was finally able to fully comprehend the mechanism after viewing the photo.  That made it easy to explain the mechanism to Dan, and when he understood it properly, he knew how to approach the problem.


Are any of you aware of a reputable technician who can work with metal clarinets? I’m specifically interested in getting the adjustable tuning barrel on my Buescher True Tone 731 clarinet un-stuck. The bell is also stuck, though I’m less concerned about that. I don’t want some bozo destroying the horn, and I’m happy to pay for a good job.

If any of you have an adjustable barrel of this type that works, I’d really like to see some photos. I can’t tell exactly where some of the joints are.

I just received my 1929 Buescher True Tone 731 metal clarinet in the mail today. It looks pretty good for an unrestored horn that is nearly 100 years old! The principal difficulty is going to be getting the adjustable tuning barrel to work. If I understand things correctly—and I’m not certain that I do—I think that I should be able to rotate the barrel one turn at a time, and it will get slightly longer or shorter with each rotation. I think that my problem is that there are two threaded tabs that engage with threads in the lower part of the barrel. These are keys that engage the keyways in the upper part of the body of the clarinet. When the barrel is twisted, these tabs ought to slide in the female threads that are cut into the bore of the lower part of the barrel. Mine are immovable. I’m soaking the assembly in a mixture of acetone and hydraulic fluid. The tabs protrude slightly, and I can get a screwdriver corner under the end and pry. The end flexes up out of the thread when I do that. It puzzles me, if the pieces are loose enough to wiggle, why I can’t just pry them out?

I thought that they would be brazed in.  They’re interesting tone holes.  They are stepped.  I surmise that this was Buescher’s solution to the question of how to undercut toneholes in a metal clarinet.  I have heard that one can bend the notes on these horns a long way, and I suppose that the stepped tone holes would be the reason.  Mind you, I’m no expert, and I haven’t even had the horn in my hands yet.

It sounds like the synthetic pads would be the thing to use, then.  Are they available from the sources that you mentioned previously?

You misunderstood my question regarding the thumb rest.  I’m proposing to have it un-brazed and then silver brazed into a much higher location.  My concern is that the heat could possibly affect the brazing in a nearby tone hole, and damage it.  My other concern is that there might not be any plating beneath the original thumb rest location, thereby creating a blemish in the plating where the thumb rest originally was.

The internet abounds in mentions of Buescher True Tone clarinets with frozen tuning mechanisms.  Folks who have one that isn’t stuck are mighty smug about it.  I can’t find any record of anyone having successfully un-frozen one.  Hence my thought that a month might not be too long to try to soak penetrating oil into the frozen zone.  I’m also thinking of making a stepped and threaded driver to insert below the stuck mechanism and protrude from the top.  The step down portion of the driver would be a close fit on the inside of the mechanism to assure good alignment.  The step up portion of the driver would bear against the end of the frozen mechanism.  The threads would engage with a slide hammer, so that I could tap the mechanism out.  I’m talking through my hat.  The horn hasn’t arrived yet, and I may not be understanding things clearly.  The seller did send some photos, which I will try to attach.

Red rot attacks brass wind instruments like trumpets, and it destroys them.

I’ve ordered a Buescher 731 True Tone metal clarinet that was made in 1929.  When I receive it I’ll have to recondition it, and I’ve got a number of considerations that I’d enjoy getting advice upon.

I’ve seen recommendations for using leather pads on metal clarinets.  What is the reason for that?  Where do you order them from?  What measurements does one need to get the correct sizes?

Due to thumb injuries, and maybe an unusual shaped hand, I like my thumb rest to be 5/16” above the center of the tone hole that lies beneath the right forefinger.  I won’t play a horn that hasn’t had the thumb rest moved to that spot.  This particular horn (I presume) is silver plated, and an antique.  I’m concerned that when the thumb rest is unbrazed, that there will be a scar there in the plating.  I hate to be the guy that damages the finish on an antique horn, but I don’t see that there is much choice if I want to enjoy playing the horn.  Also, is there much danger of my repairman accidentally unbrazing the nearby tone hole while he is working?

Do you have advice on getting the tuning mechanism on the neck unstuck?  From past experience I’ve discovered that a 50% mixture of acetone and hydraulic oil is a more effective penetrant than any commercial variety.  I thought that I might give the neck a lengthy soak—like a month—and then pass the horn the repairman to see if he can unstick it.

One of the latches on the case is broken.  Is there a source for these?

What are people doing regarding the finish on these old horns?  Do people polish them as well as they can, and call it good, or do some people actually have the horns re-plated?  If so, who does it well?

Is red rot a concern with these horns?  What do you do if you have some, and what do you do to keep from getting it if you don’t have some?

All about Clarinets / Playing by Ear
« on: January 25, 2022, 07:11:57 PM »

   I’ve picked up my horn again, after a long layoff.  I have the ambition to try to play it as if I were singing.  I’m wondering whether it is possible to play with little or no consciousness of what note I’m playing, or what key I’m playing in.  I’d like to try to play as nearly as possible as if I were producing the sound by singing.
   I’ve been practicing along with recordings, or with my wife while she sings and plays guitar.  That works fairly well some of the time.  I don’t do nearly as well if I’m playing without the crutch of having music to follow.  I’m thinking that my extreme left-brain beginning with clarinet really screwed me up for playing by ear, so I gave up reading music some time ago.  I used to try to identify the key that the tune was in, and then drill on the scale a bit before trying to play the tune, but that strikes me as a bit too left-brain.  Now I just want to play.  I’m thinking that if I play with recordings for awhile, and get fairly facile with that, then perhaps I can eventually get myself to shunt into right brain mode whenever I pick up the horn, and I may be able to find the notes without having to follow someone else.  At present, I go into a weak trance when I’m playing by following someone else.  If I could substitute the weak trance for a stronger trance, and then do it without following, I think I’d have it.  Is that possible to do?  Are any of you able to play as if you were singing, without thinking about notes or fingerings?

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