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 is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-05-04 06:55

when i began learning the clarinet at the beginning of last year i bought a Couesnon Monopole off eBay. it had been recently repadded and corked and seemed a good deal. but it didn't work as well as i thought it should. after a few months i came across a Leblanc L200 and bought that and have been happy with it.
i have just had the Couesnon looked over properly and it requires a complete overhaul and some work on the centre tenon. this would cost about 2 times what i bought it for. if i got it repaired and it was as good as some on here say they can be, then i would keep it and sell the L200.
if not, it would have been a waste of time and money.
do i just throw it away?

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Roger Aldridge 
Date:   2006-05-04 12:12

Last year I came across a series of messages on this forum about Couesnon Monopole clarinets and became intrigued. Amazingly, within 3 days I found a Couesnon Monopole for sale at a pretty low price. When I took the clarinet to my repair tech he checked it over and commented about the high quality of its craftsmanship and materials. We found it interesting that the bore measurement is exactly .580 at BOTH ends of the upper joint. This is something that's not found in contemporary clarinets. He gave it a full overhaul and used cork pads in the upper joint and several in the lower joint. I am extremely happy with this clarinet. I love its quality of sound and how it is very consistent through out its range. Intonation is excellent as is its level of projection. I enjoy playing instruments that have a special kind of personality and character rather than being a clone of what many others are using. In this way, my primary saxophone is a 1934 Buescher New Aristocrat rather than a Selmer. I think of my Couesnon as being on a comparable level of performance and craftsmanship as my treasured Buescher.

I cannot predict whether you'll perfer the Couesnon or the Leblanc. However, if your Couesnon is anything like mine then I'm willing to say that the Couesnon is a better quality instrument than the Leblanc. The only way to find out is the roll the dice and see what ya gets. Good luck!

If you don't mind, I'm curious about the serial number of your Couesnon. Mine is 285xx. From what I gather, there are no surviving Couesnon serial number lists. Thus, it's not possible to determine the date of my clarinet. However, as a quess I'm thinking late 60's. Does your Couesnon have a rosewood bell like my model?

Roger

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-05-04 22:02

hi roger - it was those posts that persuaded me too. and i saw your posts when you got your couesnon last year and emailed you then, outlining a couple of the issues with mine.

my bell is grenadilla - rosewood would have been great! and i will have to wait till it comes back before i can tell you its no., although from memory it might be 24xxx.

it's with Gordon in auckland so i am confident of a top job if i choose to go ahead with it. he has not been making the same kind of noises about the quality that your tech has.

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: stevensfo 
Date:   2006-05-04 22:24

I have a Couesnon Monopole Conservatoire, no. 31403. It was reddish when I first bought it and needed plenty of oiling to get it back to its black colour.

These clarinets are not too well known outside France and can be bought from Ebay for ridiculously low prices. Sadly, they often go unsold on Ebay.fr because the seller asks too much.

I've never weighed a clarinet, but I have the impression that its a little lighter than the others.

Steve



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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-05-05 02:23

Couesnon Monopole Conservatoires clarinets (and saxes), when in a good state of repair, are definitely professional-grade instruments. I have had a couple of these clarinets and one alto sax in the past, all were excellent, and I've recently acquired another Monopole clarinet which I'm very much looking forward to restoring, as it came with the original purchase receipt and warranty from the factory, dated 1952, and signed as having been purchased by the solo clarinetist of the Paris Opera (his signature is hard to make out, so I can't state his name for certain).

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Roger Aldridge 
Date:   2006-05-05 11:01

David,

If you don't mind, could you share the serial number with us? I suspect that your clarinet is older than mine. But, it might help to establish a serial number and date frame of reference.

Thanks, Roger

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2006-05-05 12:45

b.roke, details are as follows:

Upper end of bore: .581-.583"
Lower end of bore: .581 - .586" (i.e. somewhat oval)
The serial number is 252**
The timber of the centre tenon is a VERY sloppy fit.
The materials and workmanship of the repadding/overhaul job are what I regard as poor.

And now to hopefuly clarify a little:

You wrote, ".....he [i.e. myself] has not been making the same kind of noises about the quality that your tech has."

True, but I did not make negative noises about the quality, either. I wrote, "I cannot coment on comparative tone of different models... They [clarinets] almost all sound good to me when adjustments are good."

I consider that just as some people have far more discernment re the taste of wine than others, some people are far more receptive to nuances of tone. I do not regard myself as one of these, so out of respect fro my integrity, I refrain from making profound and seemingly learned comments about clarinet tone.

The workmanship in making this clarinet is excellent; it is only the repadding job that I regard as poor, and POSSIBLY detracting from the tone. (Squishy leather, seemingly porous, and heavily domed in the centre of each pad, with some of the pivot wear and wobbly post issues not addressed)

I am very conscious that a few faults like faulty linkage adjustments, imperfect low pad seating, wobbly centre tenon, fricition in a low lever linkage, poor throat Bb venting, and a small leak high on the instrument are sufficient to titivate a player's human subjectiveness to the exent that he thinks the overall tone is poor. May I suggest that these could be a contributing factor to your perception of disappointing tone?

This is the reason I offered to correct just these faults (and a few other minor ones, for quite a modest fee.) It is my belief that if they were corrected you may well be far more satisfied with the instrument in general, including tone. Admittedly, I think you would probably be happier still with a full overhaul/repad.

I might add, that it is quite comon for the second hand value of an restored instrument, even a high quality one, to be not much more than the cost of the restoration, perhaps more so in some countries than others, and especially for a lesser-known brand. It is this very thing that makes some old, restored clarinets, an excellent aquisition for the amount spent.

I never intended to communicate that it was not worth restoring, as you seem to suggest by the question "do i just throw it away?"

I hope this clarifies the situation a little. Best of luck with your decision making. :-)

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: PE Bb 
Date:   2006-05-05 15:23

O.K., This is my first post to this BB after lurking for some time.
I play a Couesnon Monopole clarinet that I bought used in the 1970's for $50. It was an obvious upgrade from the Martin Freres that I started out on- denser wood, reinforced tenons, tighter keywork. I played my Couesnon through music school, but put it down for many years while I persued a career that would pay the bills. I picked it back up about seven years ago, and have regained most of the ability of my youth. When I started practicing regularly again, I had the clarinet overhauled (pads, corks, adjust keywork) for the first time since I owned it. The technician used synthetic pads, and the clarity of the sound changed dramatically.
The instrument has a couple of areas where the intonation is a bit tricky:
D4 (below the staff) tends to run sharp, especially at soft dynamic levels. D5 (4th line) runs a little flat. However, when my reed and mouthpiece are really working well together, I think I can really make some music with this clarinet.
Reading the board here has made me curious about newer models and different makes, and I've gone out and tried a few horns at music stores around town, but I haven't played a horn that was so much better that I felt I should reach into my pocket and shell-out for a new horn.
My horn must be a very early Monopole, with a serial number at 01xxx.

Paul



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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-05-06 05:26

Roger and Paul,

My 1952 Couesnon clarinet has serial number 189xx.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-05-08 23:42

well i've decided to go ahead with the overhaul and repair. i'll know in 2 or 3 weeks whether it was worth it or not.

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-05-09 14:30

I'll also be done within a week with the overhaul of my Couesnon and will report back how it plays.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: eskil 
Date:   2006-05-13 21:12

I have a Monopole Conservatoire Couesnon. Looks like rosewood (all of it, not just the bell), but I guess it might be unstained grenadilla. It didn't go black when oiled, but it did get darker.

Apart from an old crack repair and a chipped upper tenon (purely cosmetical, according to my tech), it looks great.

The serial is 26053, I have no idea how old it is. I bought it a couple of months ago. Had it overhauled, and it was worth every penny. It plays great!

And this time my tech liked the sound of it, too, she was even mildly enthusiastic over it - in contrast, she was very disapproving of my Strasser, and she has never been more than reluctantly approving of my Selmers (Series 10S, Centered Tone). She is a Buffet fan, so I suppose there must be something Buffet-like about the Couesnon.

Definitely a keeper!

/E



Post Edited (2006-05-16 19:56)

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-05-15 03:31

i received an email today from another couesnon owner who has the original warranty slip dated oct, 1960 for his monopole SR 28 5xx.

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Roger Aldridge 
Date:   2006-05-15 12:50

Could you please pass my email address to this person? (If you click on my name link you'll get the address. ) It appears that we have Monopoles in the same serial number range. I'd like to confirm the serial number info with him and see how similar our models are.

This is great news! Thanks so much, Roger

*****

We connected via email. There's only a difference of 6 between the serial number of my Monopole and his. Amazingly close! It's possible that they were made in the same batch.



Post Edited (2006-05-16 01:29)

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: stevensfo 
Date:   2006-05-15 20:49

-- "I have a Monopole Conservatoire Couesnon. Looks like rosewood (all of it, not just the bell), but I guess it might be unstained grenadilla. Apart from an old crack repair and a chipped upper tenon (purely cosmetical, according to my tech), it looks great.

The serial is 26053, I have no idea how old it is." --

Oh that made me laugh! I think I said almost the same thing at least a year ago about my Monopole Conservatoire Couesnon, not quite as old as yours.

David Spiegelthal suggested it had dried out and needed oiling. This I did, very methodically, over a few weeks.

Sure enough, it turned back into a typical black clarinet and has stayed like that ever since.

I've seen another Cousnon exactly the same. Perhaps they used a different stain?

Steve

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-05-15 21:44

My current Monopole project is somewhat dried out and and so is a bit lighter than black with visible grain, but I still wouldn't confuse it with rosewood. My guess would be that Couesnon used less black stain than most manufactures, but the wood is definitely grenadilla.

From the above thread we seem to be able to propose a timeline, using linear extrapolation:

S/N Year of mfr.
18,900 1952 Confirmed
26,000 ~1958 Extrapolated
28,500 1960 Confirmed
31,400 ~1962 Extrapolated

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-06-01 11:54

The promised follow-up report (better late than never): Finished overhaul of my 1952 Couesnon Monopole Conservatoires clarinet, and all expectations were met. Intonation and sound are first-rate, as is the quality of construction (wood and keywork). I really appreciated the presence of properly-designed locking posts nearly everywhere on the bottom joint -- for the non-techs, these are posts with an offset 'foot' having a second screw going into the clarinet body to prevent rotation of the post due to torque from the associated needle spring pressing against the key tube. Many clarinets do not have locking posts at all, and some that do have poorly-designed locking features which allow so much play as to be ineffective.

I'm very pleased with this instrument (newly crowned Primary Bb Clarinet in my fleet).

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Roger Aldridge 
Date:   2006-06-01 13:03

David,

Bravo!!! Great news.

I also have some good news about mine. It had been needing some minor adjustments. So, I got around to taking it to my tech (Eric Beach). Whenever Eric sees my Couesnon he raves about its quality and craftsmanship. He often says the dense wood in a vintage Couesnon cannot be matched by the quality of wood used in a modern Buffet. Anyway, Eric's adjustments made a noticable improvement in the clarinet's performance. As an additional touch, I'm having Phil Muncy custom make a set of tuning rings for my Couesnon as its barrel and bore measurements are different from those of the modern Big-4 clarinets. Eric took the measurements that Phil needed. I'll let you know if I notice any differences with the tuning rings.

Roger

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: glin 
Date:   2006-06-01 17:05

B. Roke,

Be prepared not to get a whole lot of $$ for your Leblanc 200. You might just want to hold on to it-you are happy with it, and it could serve as a good backup. From my experience, take it for what it's worth- Leblancs don't command a lot of attention and high resale value. Nothing against them-it's just a Buffet world out there. It seems everyone plays Buffet-I wouldn't be surprised to see a first rate high school band with 3/4 of the section playing Buffets.

I had a Leblanc L300 and it was a good horn. Like David S., I have too many clarinets in the fleet, and wanted to find a good owner. Tough sale. I sold the horn eventually at a price just below cost.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2006-06-01 17:57

I agree 100% with glin --- Leblancs are (IMHO) highly underrated soprano clarinets -- they often tune better than R-13s, and to my ear sound just as good if not better.

There are some things I've never understood: the dominance of R-13s in the clarinet market, and the dominance of Selmer Mark VIs in the sax market. I've played far too many dogs of both varieties.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-06-01 21:18

Gordon rang me last night - he should be doing the finishing touches right now and will courier it later today to arrive probably tuesday.

i am looking forward to getting it back and experiencing a clarinet that has no issues - except the ability of the player.

re the L200 - i have been enjoying it greatly over the past few weeks. it is sounding better than ever. i have even managed to repair the crows foot cork and now the middle B works wonderfully. no extra pressure required.

i will not be 'giving it away'. i paid $350 for it on ebay last year and its worth at least that. i will see how different it is from the couesnon as they may complement each other.

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-06-01 21:43

There are some things I've never understood: the dominance of R-13s in the clarinet market, and the dominance of Selmer Mark VIs in the sax market.

I guess it's that "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" idea, combined with "the others all have ....". And some brands become archetypes, like eg Sony's Walkman.

Or are you thinking "why R-13 and not E-11, why Mark VI and not Super Action 80"?

--
Ben

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2006-06-08 12:12

I completed work on b.roke's Couesnon clarinet, and am now intimately familiar with it. Just a few comments.

- The instrument plays really well for me. Disclaimer: I am not a professional player, and I am currently 'rusty'..

- The post locking was mentioned further up this thread. I don't really see a need for such post locking. If the thread of the post is a loose fit, it still needs attention, whether it has a lock or not, because the lock keeps the post from turning, but does not stop it from wobbling. But yes, these locks were of a good design. I had to secure several slightly loose posts on this instrument.

- The timber seemed to be of excellent quality.

- Some key cup arms were of thin profile and somewhat weak by today's standards. This instrument will have to be handled with care.

- Unless extraordinarily thick pads were intended, for several keys the key cups extended rather far over the tone holes. I had to tilt some pads in their cups to avoid using very thick pads. (I don't like using VERY thick pads because they project a long way and are far more subject to abrasion damage.)

- The centre tenon seems to have suffered over the years because the width of the timber sections was very narrow.

- There are several signs of older design in this clarinet, such as the flat-springs on the C#/G# and F#/C# keys, and the lack of milling around the C#/G# key's tone hole.

- The pads I replaced on this clarinet were appalling in my estimation - the worst I have ever seen. They had very thick seemingly synthetic leather with a very thin leather-look-alike layer laminated to the surface, probably also polymer. They had seemingly synthetic felt which was extremely squishy and also springy, rather than being able to assume the shape required of it. The leather was very poorly attached at the back to cardboard, but some pads did not even have that. They were attached with a very thin layer around the perimeter of the back only, with what resembled PVA glue. The centre of each pad was totally unsupported.

On the whole, a clarinet exhibiting signs of high quality for its era.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2006-06-12 23:38

my Couesnon finally completed its journey and returned yesterday after some courier problems. my anticipation and expectations were high after my conversations with Gordon and what others had told of the quality of his work.

the invoice was highly detailed. i like to know what was and what wasn't done and to have it all listed - it took up both sides of the invoice - is great and will be even better next year when i start to wonder if anything was done to suchc and such a part.

assembled it looked very like it did when i sent it - i did not opt to get the keys polished - but it had been oiled with the doctors bore oil.

the real difference came when i held it - everything was tight, firm, smooth and quiet. all the notes came out easily. everything worked as it should. the tone - previously unheard properly because of the atrocious pads - rang out beautifully from pp to ff. wow! and control was wonderful.

i play for my own pleasure and this instrument will give me plenty of that over the coming years. i don't know enough to comment on tuning.

was it 'worth it'? totally!

was it a wise economic decision? if i keep it and use it for the next 20yrs it will be!

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Vytas 
Date:   2006-06-13 00:50

b.roke wrote:
"was it 'worth it'? totally!"
________________________________________________________

Judging from the posts on this bulletin board Gordon (NZ) is very knowledgeable and helpful technician. I wouldn't expect less from him.

Vytas Krass
Professional clarinet technician
Custom clarinet mouthpiece maker
Former professional clarinet player




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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2006-06-13 04:28

Thanks, b.broke. I'm so glad you are happy with the result.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2007-07-31 11:41

I just had a look at a Couesnon Monopole Conservatoire this morning belonging to a local(ish) sax player - he didn't know much about it other than it doesn't play very well due to a poor overhaul as it leaks like a sieve (plus the use of too thick pads, wobbly middle tenon and dodgy tenon cork work - in fact, the whole 'overhaul' done to it is dire), but I had a look at it in sunlight (yes, it does shine here sometimes!) and the wood is in remarkable condition. Highly polished, yet the light shines through the grain and highlights all the features of unstained, well machined and exquisitely polished grenadilla.

The serial number (129xx) is stamped on every section (barrel and bell included), and I don't think the barrel has been shortened. He wasn't sure if it's worth having rebuilt considering he paid very little for it. Though I told him I've read good reviews of these clarinets, and from what I can see it's a top quality item and well worth having a thorough going over to get it into top notch form.

Do all Couesnon clarinets have the C#/G# tonehole left as a plain hole drilled into the body but covered with a pad rather than having it countersunk as all the others covered by pads? I've seen a Couesnon A clarinet with the same thing. I'll probably countersink it so I can at least seat a cork pad on there as and when he decides to have all the work done, but at present the last person to do their (dirty) work on it put a cork pad on there, and it only adds to the rest of the leaking pads.

What his main concern was, "Is it worth the cost of a full overhaul when I can buy a student Yamaha for around the same price?" I reckon it's well worth doing, and will outlast any student or intermediate clarinet.

Chris.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: b.roke 
Date:   2007-08-01 00:12

since Chris has resurrected this thread it might be appropriate for me to comment 1year on. i happily played the Couesnon daily for about 6mths, until a 1976 R13 popped up locally at a very good price so i thought i would try that. also i got a selmer 9* from ebay. both were bought to try and then repad and resell.

both were , in my opinion, significant improvements on the Couesnon. since then i have bought a 1961 R13, 1964 Leblanc LL, YCL61 & YCL64. the Couesnon is almost as good as the yamahas, but not the in the same ballpark as the other two.

my Couesnon may be an inferior example or my judgement may be poor - i certainly lack experience - but i would place it at the higher end of the intermediate model range.

.

steadfastness stands higher than any success

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2007-08-01 03:24

Chris P: Earlier (pre-Monopole) Couesnon clarinets, like many (if not most) pre-WW2 clarinets, had a plain hole for the sliver C#G# to which the pad had to conform (curvature-wise); but the postwar Monopoles, like just about every other 'modern' clarinet, had the leveled and 'coned' tonehole for that note.

I have two Monopoles myself, both have the modern-style tonehole; and I just completed overhauling an earlier non-Monopole Couesnon (also a very nice-playing instrument) which had the plain drilled hole for the C#/G# (although I flattened and radiused it for better pad seating, it was working fine before modification). I use leather pads, which have no trouble seating over a slightly curved tonehole (e.g. saxophone octave pips).

I still feel that the Couesnon Monopoles are, sample-to-sample variation notwithstanding, comparable to R-13s and Selmer Series 9s.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: xiki 
Date:   2010-07-14 14:03

couesnon paris
nÂș 018xx

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2010-07-14 14:06

Couesnon #018 is not a Monopole Conservatoires model, it is much older so we probably cannot find a manufacture date.

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 Re: is an o/haul for my Couesnon worth it?
Author: xiki 
Date:   2010-07-14 14:24

http://a.imageshack.us/img641/862

Uploaded with ImageShack.us5/dsc00572h.jpg

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