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Author Topic: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted  (Read 4056 times)

Offline Ed G.

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Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« on: May 11, 2017, 08:27:44 PM »
Hi,

I am non woodwind player looking for information on a bass clarinet was just given.

I'd like to know a couple things:

When was it made?  Only numbers I see are 1663 stamped into upper part along with what looks to be 509 on both the upper and lower parts near where they join.

What key is it?  Doesn't match up with photos of any of the Bflat or Eflat photos of Selmer bass clarinets on the internet- the lower notes/holes are in different places.

What kind of wood is it likely made off?

Are the metal neck and bell parts silver plate and is it OK to try to polish them up with silver polish?

Is the case likely an original Selmer or an aftermarket? It's got what appears to be fake alligator skin covering and is pretty beat up.

Is this worth trying to restore or is it one of those instruments that had issues with intonation and similar problems that can't really be remedied?

Any other information or comments or suggestions much appreciated.

Thanks,  Ed


Offline andybeals

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2017, 06:07:44 AM »
It looks too small to be a bass.  What are the lengths of the two joints (Blackwood body pieces)?

Figure out what is the topmost hole covered by the first finger key.  Temporarily cover the holes above with tape.  Assemble, mount reed, turn on your tuner, and blow gently. It will sound a G in the key of the instrument. 

A bass clarinet will blow a concert F.  An alto clarinet, which is what I think this might be, will blow a B-flat. 
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Offline modernicus

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2017, 08:10:10 AM »
It looks too small to be a bass.  What are the lengths of the two joints (Blackwood body pieces)?

Figure out what is the topmost hole covered by the first finger key.  Temporarily cover the holes above with tape.  Assemble, mount reed, turn on your tuner, and blow gently. It will sound a G in the key of the instrument. 

A bass clarinet will blow a concert F.  An alto clarinet, which is what I think this might be, will blow a B-flat.
 
Is it a bass without the extended lower range that we would consider more standard now?  I'm more familiar with soprano clarinets, but I know there are altos like this as well.
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2017, 08:39:32 AM »
509 is likely the serial number but I did not find a serial list for bass clarinets and this number doesn't fit other Selmer serial number lists. It's an early-mid 20th C. Selmer Paris model. Details about the model might be found here: http://www.saxophone.org/museum/publications/museumType/1/manufacturer/1

Browse the catalogs and materials there (1938 model 37 is getting close) and you will likely find one that matches it very closely. It is a Selmer Paris and not a Selmer Bundy. It could be later than 1938, notice that there is no low E model illustrated, only low Eb models. You are probably mostly seeing much later instruments on the internet and illustrations of the low Eb models. Low E models are no longer common and there are fewer tone holes at the low end. The locations of the keys change over the years, but the key locations (-1) match instruments made during the late 1930s.

Short models (low E) like this are generally less preferred for orchestra use but not worse in any other way I know of. The smaller size might make them somewhat better for younger students, however it was built as a professional model in every way. In the catalogs I looked through the 1938 models have independent lever posts on the lower joint (left hand pinkie finger). 1930 models have a single shared post. That places it closer to 1938. It might be later. The neck looks somewhat different from what is illustrated. Your model has an adjustable neck, which could be later or substituted.

Selmer made bass clarinets in A and Bb earlier than this. By the time they looked like this it was Bb only.

Mozambique grenadilla is specified in the catalog.

The keys appear to be nickel-silver, a brass and nickel alloy. Most likely the keys are solid nickel silver and the bell and neck are likely brass with plating. This might be detailed in some of the catalog pages.

It does not appear to be silver plate which would have more colorful tarnish with blackened areas. The neck looks like it has some patch repairs on the curves. The metal parts can be polished lightly. Avoid abrasive polishes.

The case materials and style look original however most Selmer cases have a Selmer logo on them. It might have been lost at some point.

Judging by the photos, the instrument looks to be in overall "good bones" condition. That does not mean that it will play. It means it could be restored to play. If one or two small details in the set up are out of adjustment, it might not play at all. It will need evaluation by a good technician before you will know what it needs to be fully functional. The pads are leather and those look to be mostly in good shape. The corks look good but could be brittle and dry. The wood looks good but oil dry. Even though it has no damage other than whatever happened to the neck, I would assume that a complete overhaul would serve it best.

I can't comment on the intonation because I have not played this specific model but Selmer Paris instruments are highly rated in general.

I think it is worth restoring but some of our more experienced restorers might want to comment. I've only restored one similar bass clarinet that needed a good bit of work. That particular one was definitely worth the effort. This one appears to be in similar condition just looking at the photos. Be aware that there is quite a lot that is important that can't be seen. The regulation could be terrible and still look real good. If you are planning to sell it, expect to get the price of a fixer-upper, not a player. Typically a Selmer Paris instrument of any vintage and configuration is worth fixing and can be a good player in most contexts excepting orchestral use where it is now more common for the bass clarinet to have low notes descending to low C.

Speaking as a technician, it is worth fixing if it can be obtained for a price that allows many hours of tedious labor and a healthy investment in materials. Selmer Paris instruments are very rarely cast aside.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2017, 09:00:00 AM by Silversorcerer »
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2017, 09:31:41 AM »
Not much more I can add beyond Silver's essay...

But yes, it's a normal Bb bass. Alto clarinets never have a curved neck like that. LeBlanc alto clarinets had a similar curve, but it is never that extreme.

Basses sans low Eb are kind of extinct now, as there is literally no reason not to have that extension.
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Offline Ed G.

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2017, 03:11:47 PM »
Thanks everyone especially Silversorcerer for the great info.  Some more photos uploaded...

Having fun trying to track down the facts. Upper part measures 14 3/4" not including the section with cork. Lower section 14" not including cork section. Found the number 3 stamped inside the neck piece near cork if that means anything. Found label in case "Stone Case Co. Brooklyn NY so not a Selmer case. Found old repair tag and contacted Elefante Music here in NJ to see if they have records, long shot but worth a try.

I'd like to find the model number so more questions of course!

Does this clarinet have 15 keys or 17 keys? I count 16 but must be in error.

Does this have a single automatic octave key?

Is this Albert System or Boehm System?

Any chance at all this is a Barbier (Paris) model?

Horn and neck are most likely brass covered with nickle plate? (sorry wasn't clear in previous reply)

This is definitely a Bb bass clarinet (please correct if wrong) but am not sure what "low E" means.  Can this be both a Bb and low E? I know it's not a low Eb. Yes I am NOT a clarinet player.

Can any of these models be eliminated: 26, 28, 36, 37, 38?

What look like four small filled in holes above the serial number in second photo wondering what this was from?

There is some old cork grease in the case and a small tin with some strange but not unpleasant smelling goo in it. Photo of same uploaded... Is the goo for the pads or something else, and would it be safe to apply a little of it to the leather pads and also the old cork grease to cork?

Thanks, Ed
« Last Edit: May 12, 2017, 03:26:40 PM by Ed G. »

Offline Ed G.

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2017, 03:14:58 PM »
Forgot one photo:

Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2017, 08:20:29 PM »
You're not a clarinet person? Bear with us. We have patience.  :)  And we hope you do also.

I made a mistake. That adjustable neck threw me off date wise and it is clear now that it is something added much later;- the adjustable feature doesn't appear until the 1953 catalog.

Yours is a model 26, from the late 1920s or early 1930s. The keys in the upper joint match the illustration in the 1928 catalog, page 25. http://www.saxophone.org/museum/publications/id/684  You can also see the Boehm and Albert side by side on that page. Yours is a Boehm. It does NOT have the single automatic register key (on a clarinet it is not an octave key, it raises the pitch above the octave to the 12th), which is apparently the big difference between the model 26 and the model 37. Your photos don't show the back of the upper joint so the mechanism is hidden. This one is probably like my Harry Pedler, similar vintage. It has manual double register keys. If you take a photo of the back, that will show it. Is it similar to the back of the Pedler (photo 3)?

They don't illustrate the 17 key model in the catalog, which is what it is. So it's positively a model 26 and a decade earlier about than I was thinking, but it has been retro-fitted with a neck that became available around 1953. It is a B-flat instrument and the lowest playable note on the instrument is a low E.

The model 37 listed in the 1938 catalog replaces model 26 and appears to be replaced by model 822 around 1958.

It is not a Barbier. It is clearly marked Selmer Paris, a very distinctive mark.

Stone may have made the fitted cases for H&A Selmer USA, the distributor. Supposedly these cases are listed in the 1928 catalog, but I didn't find them. I am inclined to think the case is original to the instrument. It matches the pre-war era of production style that was used by many makers. The covering is quite similar to the Selmer case that my G.M. Bundy, Paris soprano came with and that is also about 1930 Selmer Paris production. One thesis I recently read covering Elkhart companies indicated that C.G. Conn, Ltd. was the only maker that had a case making division internally.

The filled screw holes were for an endpin bracket that was replaced by an endpin bracket soldered onto the rear of the bell bow. My Harry Pedler bass has similar filled holes but more of them. The endpin bracket screws into the wood chronically failed, hence the new type bracket on the bell. You can get a replacement endpin. The one I use for the Pedler is a Selmer replacement pin. The bracket on my Pedler is most likely a Selmer bracket.

For a clarinet approaching 100 years old, I think the condition is quite remarkable. Keep your eyes open and you might find a more original type neck, but the adjustable one will work just fine. There are some things about this one that are definitely antiquated, but I still think it is worth putting in order. My Harry Pedler from the same era is a great sounding clarinet with very rich tone. A Paris Selmer from the same era is bound to be a good instrument. The double register keys take a little getting used to, but this is a much easier mechanism to set up and keep working properly. It's a trade-off to have the automatic register key. It makes playing easier when it is working and nearly impossible when it is not. The double register mech requires you to pay more attention and get the right one open, but there is no complex linkage arrangement to the lower joint keys to keep in adjustment.
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Offline modernicus

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2017, 08:27:58 PM »
I'd say the tin looks to be lanolin,  presumably for conditioning the pads?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2017, 08:33:53 PM by DaveLeBlanc »
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Offline Ed G.

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2017, 05:28:23 AM »
Thanks again everyone for sharing your knowledge. Great to know the details about this model 26 bass clarinet.  Adding a few more photos just in case they will be helpful for anyone in future researching their instrument.

Ed

Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2017, 07:59:40 AM »
Those are great photos. Thank you for adding some more and surely these will be helpful in the future. Photographs of the real artifact are far better than catalog illustrations and descriptions. A few things worth mentioning after seeing these:

The pads look to be in great condition generally. This instrument might have been in playing condition quite recently. It might need a few new pads (one is apparently missing on the lower joint) mostly it will just need some of them re-seated and some careful regulation. I can see that there is some play in the upper joint regulation that could be improved. If I see pads that are this good, I generally just make sure they are securely glued and sealing. There are probably decades of use left on most of those pads. Springs and corks? I can't see most of the springs. Where I can see the regulation corks they look pretty brittle and worn. All of the cork everywhere on it should be replaced.

The mechanisms everywhere, including the manual register mechanism, are quite similar to those on a Harry Pedler 201 model of the same era, the one I put in order recently was a 201A, so I am comparing that one directly to your photos. These work very much the same way.

The sum of the features indicates that this is a later 26 because it has the separate lower joint LH5 lever posts which can be seen in your photo, 3rd from the top, just above. The early illustrations of the 26 show a shared lever post. This 26 is moving toward becoming a model 37. Very rarely do all the changes between consecutive models take place all at once. How closely an actual production example matches the catalog illustration depends on how often a company updated their catalog.

Looking very closely at the wear areas of the bell and neck, I don't see any bare raw brass. It appears that those parts are solid nickel-silver like the keys. Selmer was making brass saxophones at the time;- I considered that brass might have been used but looking at the wear on the bell edges and the bow, I just don't see any raw brass tarnish at all.

This one should make someone quite happy. I use my 201A in two duets. The only note this one is missing is the very first note low note of "The Pink Panther".  ;)
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Offline andybeals

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2017, 12:00:41 PM »
The lanolin-smelling goo is another kind of cork grease.  Instrument Clinic still sells it and I find it to work not just merely well, but really most sincerely well, especially on the Selmer Contra Alto I play.  Using standard stick-type cork grease, I have to apply more every time.  The IC lanolin-based goo only needs to be applied every other time or so, and it's a heck of a lot easier getting it apart!
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Offline rezzie

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Re: Info on older Selmer bass clarinet wanted
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2017, 10:34:18 AM »
I've been scarce around here, but this was right in my wheelhouse.  You guys have pretty much nailed it for the model (yes, 26) - outstanding feedback from the always reliable @silversorcerer.

First time I've seen a genuine Selmer bass without the low Eb, so we all learn something new every day.  It's a great old horn, and likely sounds wonderful in the right hands.  If you need help sorting it out, PM me.  I'll be happy to play it and let you know what I think if you're in my area at all (metro Jacksonville).
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