Journal: July 19, 2017

Hello Brass Ark Fans. It’s been over a year since I’ve updated this page, I apologize. Seems like a trend, me neglecting to post on this journal… but things have been busy! We’ve launched our full mouthpiece collaboration with Bob Reeves Brass Mouthpieces and have already sold over 300 mouthpieces since they went into production last year. Some prominent players are using our pieces: David Cantero from the LA Phil, Jay Friedman and Charlie Vernon from the CSO and most recently, my pal Raymond Lam from the China Philharmonic. As much as I enjoy rambling about mouthpieces, my post today actually is something I’m very proud and excited about. This project has been something I’ve been working with my close friend, Markus Leuchter, with for the past year and its a collaboration I’ve always dreamed about doing with the right partner. It took some arm twisting, so its nice to see the project near its final stages, of which I can now share with you!

Markus is one of the best brass makers in the entire world. I am 100% confident in that statement. I personally own his instruments and would have kept a handful of others that have come through the shop but people keep buying them! Markus was Heirbert Glassl’s apprentice and learned his craft from great beginnings. I think Markus is now at the top of his game, making some of the best brass instruments available anywhere. He “gets it” making each instrument with love and passion one at a time. You’ll see this care and attention to detail in the following photos. He was exactly the perfect partner for this project.

I’ve always been fascinated with the early trombones from the Conn factory. I make no attempt to hide my obsession with them. The holy grail is of course, the Fuchs bass trombone. I had the opportunity a few years ago to acquire one, which you’ll see in the journal entry below. The wheels began turning in my head… what would it take to make a modern reproduction of this instrument, made as close to the original as possible but updated to be used in the rigors of contemporary professional use… and thus my collaboration with Markus Leuchter began! We decided that it is impossible to create the exact feel of a 100 year old instrument, after all, the brass has seen 100 springs, 100 summers, 100 falls and 100 winters not to mention all of the concerts, rehearsals, shows and parades its seen. We can’t duplicate time, but we can duplicate fabrication techniques and materials.

The first step was to find the right bell from the right bell maker. Markus took a trip to the mountains to meet with a bell maker who does things the old fashioned way. He found a mandrel that matched the Fuchs bell taper and fabricated a bell for us from thin red brass, two pieces with a cross brazed seam, just like the original.

We decided to do all of the horn from thin red brass and the trim in all yellow brass, just like the original. All of the tubes are rolled, seamed and hand bent to fit. Here’s some photos of the tubes, the big back bow before bending and bent into the “J” bend of the Fuchs.

Valves were the next thing to tackle. We didn’t want to use the easily available Meinlschmidt rotors. The Meinlschmidt is a high quality rotor but for this kind of project, reproducing a vintage classic, we needed something special, smaller and all yellow brass… which meant custom making the valves. Markus was able to find an unparalleled rotary valve craftsman in Germany who was able to fabricate special rotor valves exclusively for this project. They were at great cost, but the valve is such an important part of the design that we decided we couldn’t do justice to the project without having this specifically made. Here’s a photo of the raw valve set in dependent configuration and a comparison to the modern Meinlschmidt rotor (nickel casing on the left)

Getting closer to completion, our target was to debut at the recent ITF in Redlands, but some delays meant we were just off the mark. In addition to this passion project, Markus has regular orders to complete for the full line he already offers, so he had to fit the work in when possible. Happy to say that the first prototype is nearly completed and the early testing is proving happy results for all involved.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project. We hope to be able to offer two Fuchs style bass trombones per year and I will announce that more formally soon. Until next time, Be well! -Noah