Sunday, December 16, 2018

German-American Trombones by Wunderlich

Hello cyclists, sorry we are off the subject again...


Hello trombone geeks, here are two transitional instruments from an early Chicago maker, Richard Wunderlich:
Both instruments are made of brass with nickel trim, typical of high-quality instruments even today.  The snake decorations on the slides are from the older tradition (German), as are the thin bell brass, turned stays and ferrules, large bores, floating slide brace, and the nickel bell rim and leather valve hook of the bass horn.  Most of these features have been dropped from modern instruments, however the large bore continues to be standard for orchestral instruments.  Both examples have tuning slides, water keys, and internal leadpipes, which continue on all modern instruments until the present.  The original mouthpieces are lost.  Both horns are beautifully crafted, with seamed tubing throughout, and the attention to detail is stunning; you can make out the snakes' scales, eyes, and fangs!  And there are no manufacturing marks or crooked braces or sloppy original soldering anywhere.  Wunderlich was an importer of instruments at the time but also employed immigrant workers from Germany, including the respected horn maker Geyer.  Which components were made in Germany and which were made in Chicago and where assembly occurred is hard to tell.



The instrument on the left, a tenor trombone, is built in high pitch with a dual bore of .525/540 and an 8-inch bell.  This bell is very thin and fragile and super-responsive, and the whole instrument is very lightweight.  Its sound is intimate and colorful and voice-like and runs off the rails pretty quickly when confronted with forceful playing.  The slide is surprisingly good.  It's fun and instructive to play at home, but I can't envision a use in the modern ensemble.  Almost every component is made from rolled and brazed metal sheet, even the ferrules and inside slide tubes!  The brass (bronze?) components are oxidized to a delightful bluish brown.

The instrument pictured on the right is a "tenorbass" trombone.  Its valve works well and is very comfortable on the thumb, however the small diameter of the rotor is the source of some restriction.  It is built in low (modern) pitch with a bore of .508/.551 and a 9.5-inch bell.  While pedal notes are quite playable, I think the valve is useful mostly in limiting the necessity of longer positions; the slide is fairly smooth in positions 1-4 but starts to drag in 5, and sixth position is awfully sticky.  Seventh-position notes better not be followed up by others because you have to rattle the slide back in from that extreme distance and it completely upsets everything.  A 'benefit" is that the player is unlikely to toss the slide because it gets stuck in seventh!  Aside from this slide problem the instrument plays much like a modern large-bore instrument; free-blowing, with a big wide spready sound and you can really lean into it! I have been tempted to take this one to rehearsals, but it's a struggle to get the right sort of core and projection on principal parts; I think it would work better for middle parts, or as a lightweight bass trombone.  This bell has very nice engraving of a style that I have only seen on American horns:

Extremely similar engraving appears on a 1914 Holton (Chicago) and also on a 1912 Harry B. Jay (Chicago) in my collection; I suspect they were all done by the same person traveling from factory to factory.

As there are no serial numbers on the instruments, we cannot precisely date their manufacture, however Wunderlich conducted business from 1891 until 1916/17, when the U.S. entered WW1.  It might be that anti-German sentiment at the time contributed to the company's demise.  Richard Wunderlich himself is said to have gone on to work with Conn, and indeed in playing these instruments one can sense some of the qualities that were retained in the 78H and 88H of later years.

Cheers!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Weltklang German Alto Trombone

Hello trombonists!  Any of you know anything about this instrument?  I have not been able to locate much on the web.

Made in or near Markneukirchen by the DDR conglomerate Weltklang, possibly as late as mid-1980's.  It has a very small dual bore, around .440/.460, no leadpipe, no bell nut, no water valve, and minimally braced.  And a tight scratchy slide.  I believe the mouthpiece is original; it seems a perfect fit, small diameter and funnel-shaped.  The horn has a clear, elegant sound and is very easy to overpower.  I think it would be appropriate for Mozart Requiem, most choir accompaniments, maybe Brahms Symphonies.  Especially with small ensembles.


Shown here beside my Yamaha for scale.

Monday, February 5, 2018

High-Mileage Bicycle

There were at least 500,000 miles on this machine before it was lost:


A mid-80's Schwinn mountain bike, totally rebuilt multiple times.  A good bike, bought new and owned by the same person all this time.  Three cranksets worn out in the years I worked on it, also dozens of tires, four saddles, three forks, three wheel sets, many chains and freewheels and brake pads, etc. etc.  I think not a single component was original to the bike.  This rig survived numerous accidents, in weather of all types, on- and off-road, and was stolen and recovered at least once.  The owner found a number of local "bike shops" who refused to work on it, who only wanted to sell him a new bike.  "Too old," they said, "not worth the repair," they said, "can't get parts for it," they said.  "Bull," I say.  It's too bad, that kind of snobbery which is one of the things driving customers out of bike shops and onto the web.  Or in some cases out of cycling entirely.

New Gig

Hey friends, I'm wrenching at REI Denver flagship now-come in with your bikes for a spring tuneup or just to say "hi."

Cheers!
-Paul

Friday, January 19, 2018

Early Bach Trumpet Mouthpiece

Made probably by himself, Vincent Bach, in the nineteen-twenties.  A hundred years ago, practically. Maybe before he envisioned the numbering system?  Shown alone and with a later piece to illustrate its greater mass:


Friday, September 29, 2017

STILL HERE

Yes, the shop is closed.  That's a long story and maybe I'll go into it one of these posts.  But I am still here, riding more than I have for years, working on my house, driving the kids around, traveling some, playing my trombone, working on my bikes, looking for the next Big Deal.  And maybe now writing again.  Stay tuned, cheers!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Charlie White Great Cyclist

Charlie rode 36,875 miles in 2015.  I know this because I repaired his bike constantly during the achievement.  I know this also because I have seen his calendar.  And because I've been watching his cyclometer.  Also because he wrote his numbers on a piece of paper which I have right here.  This on an nondescript hybrid bike, his only bike.

Thirty-six thousand eight hundred seventy-five miles.  In  2015.

Average daily 101.03
One day off all year
Best day 187
Worst day .25
Best week 985
Best month October 4110

This is the highest yearly number among all the cyclists I know, or have known, or of all the twenty thousand or so lesser bicycles I have worked on.

Charlie was killed while riding January 30, 2016.

So the long ride comes to an end.  Rest in peace, my friend.

-Paul