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Author Topic: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.  (Read 223 times)

Offline Ken Rasmussen

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Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« on: March 30, 2022, 09:09:14 PM »
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?

Offline philpedler

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2022, 12:31:56 PM »
Do we still have someone who is a wizard on metal clarinet issues. Silver Sorcerer are you listening?

I can't answer your questions, but I would appreciate knowing who we have in the forum who can answer questions that I sometimes receive about metal clarinets.

Anyway, Ken, I hope you get good answers.

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2022, 01:42:39 PM »
Hello,

A year or so ago I restored a really lovely Silver King for a client, selling for a whopping $1,300. Quality metal clarinets are quite popular, even the 100-year old ones. Some of them are truly nice, and the Buescher is a solid one.

Response to your questions:

1. Leather pads. Why do we use leather pads on any clarinet to begin with? In my opinion, there are a couple major benefits:
a) rot and insect resistance. Ever notice that just about every old clarinet with bladder pads is completely infested with pad mites? They love the felt material, and can easily chew through the outer skin layer to reach the felt. Leather is much more resistant to these types of insects.
b) conformance to tone hole defects. Leather pads are often somewhat more soft and pliable than skin pads, and can more easily conform to small chips or other defects in tone holes.

To be fair, all of the above also applies to synthetic pads, which overall is probably the best option for any modern clarinet restoration.

You can get them super expensive from musicmedic.com, or cheaper from China, or medium-price from Instrumentclinic.com

2. Thumb rest. I don't believe that your clarinet has an adjustable thumbrest; it is likely welded onto the body and unable to be moved in any easy fashion.
You can try the Ridenour Thumb Saddle, or a similar style from Kenny Woodwinds.
As for the silver plating - wearing off of the silver plate is an occupational hazard. Unless it's never been touched since manufacturing, some amount of the plating WILL be worn off. Anything over 80% plating for one of these older models is a feat in and of itself. So, I wouldn't worry about it.

I can't imagine anybody managing to damage a tone hole while working on the thumbrest unless they're amateur or just being careless.

3. Tuning mechanism. I assume you mean there is an adjustable barrel/neck? A month seems like a long time. I don't see why an overnight soak wouldn't loosen it right up.

4. Case latch. It's highly unlikely you can find this specific latch. Unless this is a museum piece that demands pure originality, any tech can replace both latches with a modern equivalent.
If you wanted the same one, you would likely have to cannibalize a contemporary case. You can find garbage metal clarinets for like $50, and just grab the latches off that case.

5. Silver finish. If you want to spend a couple G's, MusicMedic can replate entire saxophones, so I imagine they can do the same for clarinets.
The Silver King I worked on was pretty solid with about 95% coverage, so I just did a hand-polish and called it a day.

6. Red rot. Not sure what you refer to, but I will infer that this is a rust/oxidation issue? You might see a few rust spots, but typically this is not a structural issue. The only part of a clarinet that really rusts to the point of damage are the screws and rods. I once had a metal that looked like it'd been in the bottom of the ocean, but the only structural problem was the hardware.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline Ken Rasmussen

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2022, 11:59:24 PM »
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.

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2022, 03:46:31 AM »
As far as synthetic pads, you can find them all over the place, including the ones I mentioned above. Valentino brand are probably the best of them all.

I see your concern with the thumb rest - tone holes on metals are often cast into the body itself, thus tough, if not impossible to unbraze. There's always the possibility of this clarinet having brazed-on tone holes, but I can't tell without it in-hand.

Yes, it will leave a blemish, but seems like a small price to pay if you intend on using this instrument with any level of comfort.

As for the tuning mechanism - beyond me. Acetone dissolves organic gunk, penetrating oil lubricates; longer sounds better.

I haven't heard or seen of red rot being any kind of problem for metal clarinets.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2022, 04:45:00 AM »
Revision: tone holes ARE brazed in. I was thinking of something else.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline Ken Rasmussen

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Re: Questions about restoring a Buescher 731 metal clarinet.
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2022, 01:03:02 PM »
Dave:
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.