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 Too worn to be made playable?
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-21 07:09

Well, kind of a trick lead-in, actually, because with enough money, the horn COULD be made playable.* It's a Selmer CT full Boehm, purchased from you know where, that I just got back from my favorite tech. He worked on it pretty thoroughly, but stopped at what he called "the point of diminishing returns." Thing is, the mechanism is VERY worn, so much so that it won't actually hold an adjustment. (The rings are worn very thin and bend easily, the hinge tubes are worn both diametrically and end to end, resulting in lots of slop etc.) The way forward at this point would be serious keywork: building up or replacing the rings, hinge tubes, and whatnot. So the repair might be doable, but to the tune of well over a grand* (before you scoff at the price, bear in mind that this tech is incredibly reasonable for the caliber of his work, which is extraordinary--and indeed, for the type of work the horn would require, you don't want some cut-rate yutz doing the repair).

I did not actually intend to buy a "project horn" when I bought this thing, but that's what it has turned out to be. I'm mulling options at this point: put a few hundred bucks more into it and hope that somehow a magic repair gets done that makes the thing play (but realistically may have no effect); solicit recommendations for techs outside of the metro area who are technically able to handle the work but perhaps charge less; re-sell the horn honestly as-is (but at something of a loss); or go whole hog on the repair, after which I'd have a CT FB that plays, but is still a CT FB (with all the tuning and blending issues that make section playing with newer instruments such an adventure!) but a very expensive CT at that, amounting to (counting past and future repair costs) almost two thousand bucks.

Anyone have any ideas they'd care to contribute? If you were me, what would YOU do?

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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2018-08-21 22:53

This is a tough one.

If I already knew this clarinet was something special, I would discuss with my technician the possibility of acquiring a second, junker CT--say, one with the centre tenon snapped off or some other fatal wood issue--and transferring keywork from it to your current CT.

A significant portion of the CTs I come across have enhanced Boehm mechanisms that might be usable on your full-Boehm. A tech would know for sure.

While it sounds as though you haven't been able to give this CT an audition, I'd take some comfort in knowing that somebody thought it was good enough to put a LOT of hours on it. A vintage clarinet in mint condition may be in mint condition because it's awful and nobody wanted to play it!

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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-08-22 00:24
Attachment:  r4430.jpg (330k)

How worn out is the keywork? Things like worn ring keys and touchpieces can be rebuilt by preparing them, hard soldering nickel silver sheet or prefabricated parts onto and then hidden under a generous amount of silver plating. Tonehole chimneys can either be skimmed or built up to make them level and any chipped or wonky toneholes repaired and levelled or bushed and recut in the worst case scenarios. Cracked tenons and sockets can be repaired as can other cracks and not have any impact on playability. Worn, rusted, broken or missing screws can be replaced and the whole instrument can be brought back up to full playing condition.

I'm not entirely sure why you consider it not compatible with new clarinets as chances are some players on new clarinets can't play them in tune or have a good tone even on the most expensive clarinets they can afford (in the belief the top model Buffet or whatnot will make them a better player when they struggle with the basics).

My main clarinet is a 1958 CT full Boehm which was in a horrendous state when I got it having been kept somewhere damp and then dried out leaving the wood very dry with chalky mineral deposits leeching from the grain. The bell socket was cracked, but on the plus side it had stainless steel rod and adjusting screws fitted, so none of them had rusted and needed to be extracted which made it plain sailing removing the keywork.

This is a closeup of what it looked like when I bought it:

I found a 67mm barrel for it (the original had been shortened to 62mm which is way too short for me) and did all the work on it myself before having the keywork plated. The biggest expense (besides the purchase price) was the plating which I had done by Buffet's platers who did an excellent job and it's still looking good to this day.

I play it in all settings from wind 5tet, small chamber groups, bands, orchestras and never had any problems with tuning, intonation or blending with other players - consider this was in its time the ONLY clarinet Selmer made - the only others being played professionally were Buffet (one model), Leblanc (maybe more than the one model) and B&H (definitely two pro models). While the CT was (and still is) popular with Jazz and big band players, they were played by some orchestral clarinettists as well.

See attachment which is how my CT turned out.


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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-22 06:51

Ursa: thanks, you totally get my dilemma. I appreciate the idea about looking for parts on damaged instruments. That's another possibility I'm looking at; key assemblies differed slightly even in the same model range, as changes were incorporated, so whether it's better to sub-in a new key assembly or beef up the existing one (as Chris mentions) would be for the tech to decide.

Chris P: As a result of extensive searches here, I think I have read every word you ever posted here about your CTs and Series 9's, and your posts have been a terrific source of information on the instruments. I'm not at all disagreeing with anything you wrote, and in fact I'd hoped (or perhaps 'STILL hope') to use either the CT or the Series 9 in the playing situations you mention in your last paragraph. Where we maybe differ is that I'll have to pay for someone else to do the work, whereas you're accomplished enough to do it yourself, and I suppose I'm quailing at the cost, and the uncertainty of outcome (in terms of whether this particular instrument will sound as good as the work that will have gone into it).

And Ursa--yeah, the horn looks like one guy played the s*t out of it all day, every day, for decades. And it does have a really nice sound. I'm lucky that it's as intact, and original, as it is.

Thanks for the additional thoughts! Really glad I asked.

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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-08-22 09:58

An early CT (N or P series) definitely has different keywork (and some pillars)compared to a later model (Q to S series) and some even had a mix of old and new because of the slight overlap from the previous model (BT) to the next (Series 9) where they'd use up the remaining parts wherever possible.

I've got a Series 9 full Boehm which is a mix of early and late Series 9 keys, but they are all original to that instrument. It's most noticeable with the lower joint pad cups as some are scalloped and some are conical on top.


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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-22 16:39

Chris--yeah, I remember reading that; so, using scavenged keywork from another CT might be more problematic than fixing the existing keywork, whatever that would take.

Also, this horn has a distinct K prefix on the upper joint; I believe that means the upper joint is a replacement? So the exact year of manufacture would be anybody's guess (lower joint s/n is illegible, to my eyes anyway, but both joints have clearly been together a very long time) thus adding a dash of mystery, perhaps!

My Series 9 FB is a V series, purchased from you know where, that came to me in almost perfect condition. (I didn't unearth your comment about preferring earlier series 9s over later until after I'd made the purchase, otherwise I might have waited.)


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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2018-08-23 18:45

Hi All,

I am interested in the "made playable" aspect of the query. Let me set the stage.

In the past 40-50 years, I've played a Selmer Mark VI alto, Mark VI tenor, and a Selmer 9* clarinet almost exclusively. Over the past year or so, I have sold all of them for very nice prices; all were still in exceptional condition and needed little if any adjustment. More recently, I picked up a very nice Selmer Series 9 bass clarinet and played it heavily.

My current performance instruments are a Selmer Super Series alto, a Yamaha YTS tenor, a Selmer Series II soprano, a Selmer Privilege bass, and a Yamaha CS Custom. All are definitely not vintage in any way.

So, what does that have to do with the topic and my "made playable" interest? Quite simply, all my newer instrument play rings around any of my vintage models. Intonation, response, ergonomics, timbre, etc. are vastly superior.

Don't get me wrong, I had a very strong emotional bond with the vintage instruments that I sold off. Each one played a significant part in my musical development and playing career. But it was time to move on (granted, being a tad older did influence my decision somewhat).

To DougR, should you decide to spend the money and endure the possible frustration of finding any parts needed to bring the CT FB clarinet up to speed, would it be better than buying a new clarinet? I found through the sale of my Mark VI saxes that finding a buyer who is willing to pay the going price for a vintage sax is getting harder; if you decided to sell a reconditioned CT FB, would there be buyers?

IMHO the bottom line here is does nostalgia trump practicality.



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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-24 02:31

Hi Hank--I regard you as one of the stalwarts around here, so always interested to read what you have to say. Nostalgia? Guilty, I guess; there's something intriguing about the idea of getting a senior instrument like that playing at a good level, bringing it back from the dead, so to speak. (Mind you, not $1500 worth of 'intriguing,' but still...)

It's not too different from the collector-car market, I guess; people get fixated on a certain marque, buy an example of same, spiff it up at eyebrow-raising expense, and when they're done, they have a car they can be proud of, perhaps, but one that's never EVER going to sell past a certain price point, perhaps far below the money they've already put into it.

I absolutely take your points. Maybe someday someone will assume the challenge of getting this horn to play, but I'm slowly deciding that I'm...maybe not that guy.

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 Re: Too worn to be made playable?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2018-08-24 04:21


Thank you for the kind words; I am humbled.

Your analogy of the collector-car market was one that I had thought about in your situation. However, I could not have described it any better. You hit the high points of having a certain marque, lots of expense, etc. perfectly. Most certainly, the idea of passing time engaged in a project of love and nostalgia has its place. That is important, of course.

You have a very well thought-out post, DougR. I enjoyed reading it.


PS It's OK to not be "that guy."

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