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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000639.txt from 2004/10

From: "Lelia Loban" <>
Subj: [kl] Re: genuine French Grenadier wood
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2004 14:56:51 -0400

Mark Thiel wrote,
>Hmmm, I guess I should insert some ;}'s or
>some "the following is my attempt at humor"
>warnings in my messages lest someone should
>actuallythink I am seriously recommending (or
>trying to sell) something, especially if Sue is
>the only non-humor-impaired member of the list.
>I couldn't imagine anyone on this list reading
>that auction item and NOT snorting coffee all
>over their keyboard.

I snorted Diet Coke all over the front of my formerly-clean plaid flannel
shirt, if that counts....

>Actually the item might be of slight interest if it
>actually is a Bundy made of some kind of wood.

Yes -- I recently picked up an old wooden Bb Bundy at a yard sale, because
it has a good mouthpiece and I'm curious about an unusual left hand thumb
key where there's normally the thumb ring. The keys are nickel and big.
This thumb key is solid except for a pinhole in the center. Rocking the
thumb to use the register key exposes this vent hole. The mouthpiece, in
fine condition, is a hard rubber Selmer HS, marked, "Made in France." The
logo stamped into the wood is a shallow shield, divided horizontally, with
"Bundy" above and "Selmer U.S.A." below. "U.S.A." is stamped in extremely
tiny letters.

>I suspect, however, that it's really just a composite
>made from the ground-up bodies of French Grenadiers
>(much darker tone than French Musketeers) along with
>their uniforms and grenades.

I like your explanation much better than mine! ;-)

The Bundy I bought looks like decent-quality grenadilla, somewhat more
checked (loose-grained) than the best wood. I bought the clarinet from the
original owner, who told me his parents bought it for him new in 1956 or
1957, when he started band. That date agrees with the type of mouthpiece
and with the style of the case, which is heavy wood, covered in black
grainy plastic with red lining and a music pocket in the inside of the lid.
The design of the case is similar to the green and white case for the
wooden Conn Director my parents bought for me in 1958. The same company
probably supplied cases to most of the Elkhart manufacturers then.
However, the serial number, in the low 78000s, would date the clarinet to
the early 1920s.

There's no question of misreading either the number or the logo, both very
clearly stamped. Also, the nickel keys have grayed down to a color that
IMHO would be surprisingly dark and dull for a clarinet made as recently as
the 1950s. Bundy was running Selmer's Elkhart factory in the 1920s and
it's possible that the serial number indicates the correct date, despite
the owner's memory. Maybe he forgot that his parents bought him a used
clarinet with a new case; or maybe they told him it was a new instrument.
Well, anyway, I don't know the real date of the clarinet, but the original
owner's parents did well to buy him a better mouthpiece than the rubbishy
plastic Bundy mpc from the fifties when they bought the instrument.

The case is shabby, but the instrument is in pretty good condition, except
for the corks and pads and some superficial nicks in the outer surface of
the wood. The owner, who quit playing in high school, said he'd already
tried to sell the clarinet to dealers, but no local music store wanted
anything to do with it. He just seemed to want to get rid of it. When I
suggested eBay, and then suggested he show dealers the mouthpiece
separately, he shrugged off those ideas as not worth the trouble to him.
Well, okay -- I paid him his asking price of $15, closed up the case and
made off with it.

I'm curious to try out this clarinet, but haven't set it up yet. I plan to
do the work myself. Professional restoration would cost more than the
clarinet is worth, IMHO. The wood may be the best thing about it. I own a
plastic Bundy from the 1980s that's pretty good, certainly good enough to
play outdoors in iffy weather, but the plastic Bundies from the 1950s that
most of my friends in the grade school band owned played like pigs. The
bad reputation of Bundies from that period is probably why local dealers
wouldn't buy this one, if the dealers assumed the serial number is wrong
and this is a clarinet from the fifties. It's possible that the wooden
models were better made than the plastic ones -- this will be the first
wooden one I've tried playing -- but I don't hope for much from the sound.
I own a Bundy case from the 1930s that came with a completely different
clarinet, so maybe I'll swap out the case if it turns out this Bundy does
date from the 1920s.

Lelia Loban
More trees, less Bush: Kerry and Edwards in 2004!

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