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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000383.txt from 2001/05

From: "Dave Spiegelthal" <Spiegelthal.Dave@-----.COM>
Subj: [kl] Re: Further beating of the [materials] dead horse
Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 16:44:18 -0400

To comment on Richard Bush's post:

Richard wrote:
"I feel that, if all things were equal, wood is probably better than plastic.
The question is (or questions are): how can one actually make such a
determination? The only possible test presently available is to compare
Buffet's Green Line R-13s to wooden R-13s. They hold their own. Some added
benefits of the Green Line instruments are that they will probably remain
dimensionally stable for more decades than any wooden instrument and best of
all, the Green Line model will not crack."

---Comment: The Greenline material is not really a plastic or hard rubber
(which are homogenous, uniform polymers). Greenlines are made of grenadilla
powder mixed with epoxy resin and cured under high pressure, thus it is a
granular material dispersed in a resin matrix. Nothing at all like solid
plastic or solid hard rubber. Pardon the crude (and unflattering)
simplification, but Greenline is more akin to wood patching putty, or
metal-filled epoxies such as "JB Weld" or Devcon.

"The problem with trying to compare other, lighter density plastic clarinets to
wooden instruments is that the plastic instruments (mostly student level
clarinets) have lower tolerances in all acoustical areas, and less time is
spent on the set-up, padding and regulation. Where makers to lavish similar
attention on plastic bodied clarinets, I believe the differences would be quite

---Comment: First of all, although most plastics are less dense than grenadilla,
I believe that hard rubber is actually more dense. I really should measure this
before I write, but I've seen postings from people complaining about the
excessive weight of hard rubber bass clarinets -- certainly mine is no
lightweight! Secondly, at least with hard rubber (which is machined after
molding), assuming that sufficient time is allowed for the molded blank to cool,
shrink, and attain final dimensional stability, the tolerances of the complete
machined product should be every bit as good, if not better, than with
grenadilla. Hard rubber machines VERY well, better than wood. If a manufacturer
chose to do so (and in the past many did), a hard rubber clarinet could be made
at least as precisely as current top-of-the-line wood instruments. As I've said
before, it all boils down to perception, marketing, and good business: Because
people THINK wood is the best, they will only pay top dollar for wood, thus
there is no financial incentive for Buffet, et al to make their professional
instruments out of hard rubber (or some of the better engineered plastics),
because they wouldn't sell as well. Greenlines don't figure in this argument,
because (a) they are not true homogeneous polymers, as I explained above, and
(b) Greenlines exist because they won't crack, and Buffet (and all the current
makers) have a lot of trouble with cracking wood instruments.

"I don't think a lot of players realize just how important a professional set-up
is or can be. The quality of the mouthpiece is the single most important part
of it all, and most student instruments are judged as a complete package, lousy
mouthpiece included."

---Comment: Amen! Absolutely correct.

"I would like to see a maker do their ever loving best on a plastic instrument
so that all of us could decide once and for all just how much difference there
really might be. It probably won't be in my life time, if ever. I doubt this
will happen until high quality wood runs so low that Buffet, Selmer, Leblanc
and Yamaha must raise the prices of their premium instruments beyond a point of

---Comment: Again, there's no marketing reason for them to do this. They are in
the business of making money, not advancing science or satisfying our curiosity.
At present, and for the forseeable near future, the price of the grenadilla wood
itself is relatively insignificant compared to the other costs of making a
clarinet. Until this situation changes, I don't think you'll see any plastic or
hard rubber R-13s.

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