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 Leblanc Paradox
Author: Leon P 
Date:   2019-04-06 09:53
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Hi Everyone. I was given a Leblanc LL Bb clarinet as a birthday present, to bring back to life. There are a few questions that I have for the experts here regarding this instrument.

Firstly, the serial number. From every single piece of information that I have been able to find, it seems that the first serial number for this model was 15XXX and was produced in 1964. This is the number and year which every document I've found on the web agrees upon. The problem is that the serial number of mine is 12525, which predates this. Does anyone have any information about this? I don't know when the fire with the mysterious circumstances behind it took place, so I have no idea regarding what, if any, documents went missing.

My second question comes from inspection of the wood. This is simply the finest example of African Mpingo in a clarinet that I've ever seen. The bores of each piece are almost glassy smooth without any residue and the exterior wood has that almost-mythical blackness with red undertones which I think is incredibly beautiful. The logos are so very crisp and look to have been incised only recently. Should I use a linseed oil based bore oil, such as Music Nomad's Organic oil in the bore, and Renaissance Wax on the exterior? I don't want to make any mistakes and I'm hoping that the collective expertise can guide me.

Third, the pads. Oh, the pads... Every single pad, including the register key, are white/off white. The four largest pads have the name VITO printed on their backs. This obviously references Vito Pascucci, but I don't know anything about the history of where the instrument's pads were originally installed, or if this might have been a second set of pads. Again, I throw myself upon the mercy of the knowledgeable.

My last question is about the mouthpiece. It has the G. Leblanc banner stamped, with the letters reflecting the shape of the banner. There are no numbers engraved and I am interested in learning about this variety of mouthpiece.

Well, that's about it. My first post here, and it's probably far too long and asking too much, but I'm hoping that there will be information out there.

Thanks in advance for your help!


Léon P

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 Re: Leblanc Paradox
Author: Steven Ocone 
Date:   2019-04-06 17:44

Regarding the serial number. The internet duplicates incorrect information, so every source you could find is really one source. When Leblanc was in existence we used to plead for a serial number list. I think they finally came up with one but I would not trust its accuracy.

Personally I don't like linseed oil. I've been using Doctor's. If the outside looks great you could leave it as is. Renaissance wax would be fine.

I don't think Leblanc made its own pads - they ordered pads with their name on the back. Technicians could buy those pads.
You could use bladder pads, leather, synthetic, etc, (or a mix) depending on your preference. Some pads need added attention to the edge of the tone hole for proper sealing - I have an old Selmer in the shop with cork pads. The person who installed them did a great job except that did nothing to the tone holes. The clarinet did not seal.
Another important issue is getting a pad that fits well and doesn't stick out too far.
Leblanc clarinets often have keys where the pad has trouble opening enough for a clear sound. If the pad sticks out too far it takes up some of that space.
Some Leblanc mouthpieces were made by Vandoren.

Steve Ocone

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 Re: Leblanc Paradox
Author: Leon P 
Date:   2019-04-06 21:10


Thanks very much for all of the useful information! This project is probably going to turn into my own version of "Hunt for Red October" and have just as many dead ends and plot twists to keep my interest.

With your suggestion in mind, I looked up Doctor's and ordered a few products from them to clean and preserve the wood. Who knew that there were so many ways to care for a clarinet? :-)

The Humidity Indicators and Desiccant Canisters made me chuckle; the case came equipped with an old glass pill bottle (think Bayer, Bufferin or Doan's) which had a translucent plastic cap with hole-punched holes. The wad of dried paper towel inside, used to keep moisture in the case, put me in mind of my first clarinet teacher and his everlasting search to keep his instruments in good order. Sometimes the lowest tech can be the best...

I'm going to keep the large pads, which have "VITO" printed on them, as a souvenir and mount them in a small frame for the silliness factor.

The serial number mystery will probably never be solved, which is a shame, but it is fun to have a clarinet with an earlier number. Who knows? It might spur someone to delve more deeply into the company's past and discover more to share!

Cork for the register key is my choice, and I'll keep in mind the edge beveling. For the rest, I'm thinking of Valentino Master's Series. From what I've been able to discover, they fill all of the criteria which you've outlined.

In the meantime, I'm filling the rest of my time with playing my new Ridenour Lyrique Libertas, which Ted Ridenour helped me to select. I'm marveling at the amazing tone and sound, ease of hitting every single, in-tune, note and wondering at the marvelous timber produced, which contradicts every single prejudice instilled in me from my first lesson with Bram de Wilde back in the Dark Ages, regarding "playing a piece of plastic." This clarinet is honestly the finest which I've ever played, and that's including my first clarinet in 1965 (a Leblanc LL), as well as testing out some of the fantastic "clarinet porn" offerings (think Buffet Legende, Wurlitzer, S&S and MOBA). As I'm regaining strength after a major accident, the Libertas is bringing me great happiness from both a physical therapy point of view, as well as being able to create gorgeous sounds again.

Anyway, thanks again for your help!


Léon P

Reply To Message
 Re: Leblanc Paradox
Author: Caroline Smale 
Date:   2019-04-07 00:36

My pair of Leblancs, bought new in London in late 1960, and which I still play, have serial numbers 141xx.
The original pads (yes just a few still exist and seal well after 59 years) had no marking on the back. I bought some spare sets from the Leblanc HQ in Paris some 35-40 years ago and they have no markings on them either.

Never use linseed oil on a bore, it is a "drying" oil, such as paints used to be made of, so will cause a build up in the bore. The doctor's products are good, I have used them for about 20 years, but prior to that I used almond oil for years, and the bores on my clarinets are smooth and shiny and measure to within 0.001" of when they were new, including at the very top of the top joint, where it is very common to find inward swelling on many older clarinets.

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