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 Older Buffet Key Design
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-10-07 21:30

I've been asked to re-post a description of the differences between the key shapes on the older Buffets and the R-13s. Here it is:

Dee wrote:

Carl Fischer did not manufacture clarinets. Instead they
imported them or bought from US makers and distributed
them. *** I believe they also distributed horns by
Buffet under their own name but the only way to identify
them is to know enough about the details of the key
styling since in this case they did NOT include the
Buffet name on them.

Dee -

Here are some key styles that identify the older Buffets:

The C#/G# key for the left little finger has a flat spring rather than a needle spring. It is held on by a brass screw that goes all the way through from the bottom of the key to the top, so that the end of the screw is visible from the top of the key. Also, the hole that this key covers does not have a countersunk rim, but is even with the surface.

The F#/C# key for the right little finger has the same flat spring and screw design.

There is no adjusting screw on the throat Ab key.

The two long keys for the left little finger (for low E and F) are mounted concentrically on a single axle, like the two top trill keys.

If you hold the instrument horizontal with the bell to your right and look across at the two long keys for the left little finger, you will see a different shape from the modern keys. The keys arch higher and have an extended tip pointing down.

The first trill key for the left index finger (Eb/Bb) will stop against a small curved metal extension sticking out from the bottom of the post that holds the upper joint ring keys and the C#/G# key.

On the oldest instruments, the register key curves around to about the 11:00 position. Also, the thumb end of the key has the same extended tip as the left little finger keys, and there is a small depression carved out of the wood just above the thumb hole to accommodate the tip.

The left ring finger hole will be somewhat larger than in the modern design.

If the instrument has a ring for the left ring finger (to make the forked Eb/Bb with the left index and ring fingers), the tiny extra pad attached to the left middle finger ring in the modern design will not be there, and the left middle finger will have a large "pancake" key shaped like an open-hole flute key.

The bridge keys will have the edges rounded, and there will be no tabs to protect the keys as you put the instrument together.

The keys will be unplated German silver, which tarnishes to a flat, grayish silver color.

The thumb rest screws will be on two "ears" above and below the thumb rest, and the screw ears will be mortised into the wood.

The wood will in general be denser and more deeply dyed, so that it is difficult to see the grain.

The outside diameter of the instrument will be slightly smaller than the modern Buffet (though not nearly as small as the Elite), and the instrument will be a bit lighter in weight.

The serial number will match the Buffet series on Sneezy. It will be stamped twice on the back of the instrument, at the very top of the upper joint and the very bottom of the lower joint in small, lightly stamped letters and numbers. You will usually need to wet the surface slightly and use a magnifying glass under a strong light to read them accurately.

The keys were all hand forged, and the worker who made them stamped his initials in a favorite place, which varied from worker to worker but which was always hidden inside a pad cup.

I'm sure there are more differences. The easiest feature to see is the single axle for the left little finger keys. The feature that absolutely identifies a Buffet is the arch and extended tips on those keys, which can be produced only by laborious hand forging and would appear only on the top quality instruments. These will also identify Buffets made without a trademark and "stenciled" with other makers' marks.

Carl Fischer had the exclusive license to import Buffets in the later 1800s and the early 1900s and stamped their name on the bell of each imported instrument. I think I've seen stenciled instruments with this stamp, but don't hold me to it. By the 1950s, the Carl Fisher license had expired and the stamp was gone.

The instruments had a larger bore than the polycylindrical R-13. This gave them a larger but less centered tone. Also, the pitch could be lipped up or down further than it could on the smaller bore horns and was somewhat less stable. You have to *play* these instruments in tune rather than rely on them to be in tune. The instability can become unmanagable if the bore has been enlarged by years of swabbing. You always have to check the intonation on an old Buffet very carefully because of this.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 Topics Author  Date
 Older Buffet Key Design  new
Ken Shaw 1999-10-07 21:30 
 RE: Older Buffet Key Design  new
Meri 1999-10-07 23:33 
 RE: Older Buffet Key Design  new
Doug P. 1999-10-08 00:09 
 RE: Older Buffet Key Design  new
Mark Charette 1999-10-08 01:04 
 RE: Older Buffet Key Design  new
Doug P. 1999-10-08 22:36 

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