I thought for a first proper blog piece I’d let you have a look at my clarinet, the one that I made as part of the three year woodwind making and repairing course I attended in Newark of Trent.
As well as carrying out repairs on all instruments in the woodwind family, in the second year we also made a start on construction of our clarinets.
We quite literally started out with sheets of nickle silver and blocks of African blackwood. Each piece of the body is hand turned and bored, the tone holes hand measured and drilled and finished.
Each of the pillars started out life from a round bar which was then cut with a profiled lathe tool and hand threaded for fitting to the body. Similarly, the key cups also started out from a solid bar and were then cut and profiled with a shaped lathe tool as well as having to be individually threaded for attachment to the body. Of course, those pillars also needed to be drilled and tapped themselves to accept the steel rods which hold the keywork on as well as also drilled to accept key springs where appropriate.
As I mentioned, the keys and ferrules started out as sheet nickel silver and had to be cut, filed, hammered, shaped and generally cajoled into being. There were template pieces to follow but since each clarinet was individual to the person making it they were all slightly different and each required fitting and soldering particular to the instrument.
There was some latitude to specific details of how the keywork would look. For example in my caseI opted to make the B and C# lever ends similar to how Buffet have them on some of their instruments, that is to have a pin on the end which inserts into the actual key instead of it moving that key from underneath. You can see it in one of the images. Incidentally I also didn’t bevel the tops of those keys, preferring the look of them being flat.
I also opted for simple, flush ferrules instead of a beveled or angled ones. I just preferred them that way!
I wouldn’t like to guess how many hours went into making it all. Certainly many more than you might think but thats usually the way of things when it’s not anything that you’ve done before. There are mistakes and errors to make along the way, techniques to learn and practice as well as the odd, “I have to start this bit again, don’t I…?” But then, it’s all part of learning.
I should add, as mentioned the keywork is made from nickel silver which explains the tarnished colour. I did look at getting the parts plated at the time but cost and time was against me then, however it might be something I’ll readdress going forward…