Journal: April 6, 2020

Hello loyal Brass Ark fans. It’s have been a long time since I’ve updated this blog… a long time… and I sincerely apologize for that. Things have been very busy around here. I’ve opened my own recording studio with my colleagues at Hollywood Scoring and we’ve been producing lots of music content for companies all around the world and that takes up a lot of my time. I still love The Brass Ark and I dedicate as much of my free time as I can to answering your emails, working on leadpipes and mouthpieces, finding rare gems of instruments and restoring them and finding them new homes. I thank you for all of your support and patience with me. I’m writing this blog and we are currently in the throngs of this Covid-19 pandemic… like many of you, all of the sudden we have time on our hands without being able to go about our daily routines. I thought I’d post here about some exciting things at The Brass Ark.

Firstly, I am starting a podcast with John Snell from Bob Reeves Brass, called The Trombone Corner. We’ll feature hour long interviews with trombonists, makers, repairmen, composers and all things trombone. We’ve already recorded interviews with David Rejano and Martin Schippers… Jay Friedman is on the schedule this week. It’s sure to be a lot of fun and informative for all. I will be posting links to The Trombone Corner soon, so stay tuned!

The other fun thing I wanted to post about was a neat project I collaborated on with Bob Reeves just before we all went into quarantine. As you all know, I’ve developed a line of mouthpieces with Bob Reeves (thanks for all of you that have ordered and play on our stuff, it’s a honor to bring these pieces to market and makes me really happy to know that I can help musicians achieve the sound they desire with these mouthpieces). Al Almont has always been a mystery to me. For those that don’t know about Mr. Almont, he was a trombonist and mouthpiece maker and is famous for making mouthpieces for the Tommy Dorsey trombone section. His pieces are very rare, they were all handmade and you had to be in the know to get one. What sets these pieces apart was that they were made from solid sterling silver… yes SOLID SILVER. Now, I’ve seen a lot of instruments and gear over the years, but I have yet to see an Almont piece in person… it is something I’d love to experience (if anyone out there has one you’d be willing to sell me, let’s chat). I’ve been bugging John and Brett at Reeves to make me a sterling trombone mouthpiece for years, to no avail. Material costs along is really expensive and finding bar stock in the correct size is nearly impossible.

So I took it upon myself, unannounced to the boys at Reeves, to order a bunch of casting grade silver. Reeves makes their own tooling, and as such, they have hardening ovens that can achieve extremely high temperature… enough to melt silver. Much to their chagrin, they reluctantly were willing to experiment with me and see if we could cast and fabricate a solid silver trombone rim. The rim being smaller, would be a first test to see a proof of concept. After all, this hadn’t been done before, at least not by any of us. Enjoy a quick tour of the project! John made a whole video of the process, we’ll post that online soon.

We took the casting silver and put it into a high temperature vessel, I found one that was the correct size to cast an ingot large enough for the diameter of the rim. Doing all the necessary preparation, we placed the crucible into the over and waited for it to get to temperature. The result… molten metal.

Ok! Super cool… don’t try this at home. We had protective gear, this is so hot it would melt anything it touches. After the metal cooled and solidified, Brett cleaned it up and prepared it to go into the lathe. After facing the end (making it flat), he drilled the center bore in order to prepare to cut threads. Finishing this allowed us to thread the ingot onto the underpart (made of brass… this time)

Next, it was time to flip the rim around and actually cut and shape the rim! We used our 5G cutting tool (which is a hardened steel cutter in the shape of our 5G model, which was based on my best playing Mt Vernon 5G) by slowing inserting it into the rim until it perfectly forms the rim shape. We now have a rim made of sterling silver! Check out how much sterling was left over from the scrap chips from the original ingot!

Then it was time to make the 5G “Gladstone” underpart… we used the cup portion of the cutter to remove the brass from the blank to just the right shape. Brett then cuts the backbore using a special cutter (sorry I didn’t get a photo of that) and then we plated it up! This underpart is for my Conn, so we put a Remington shank on it and then silver-plated. While I was there, I had Brett thread my rose gold plated 5G Gladstone model with a morse shank to accept the new sterling rim.

Fun fact, don’t need to plate the sterling rim, it’s just polished and raw! So you want to know how it plays… of course! I like it a lot, the extra weight of the sterling vs brass feels very good on the face. It feels a little bit more “grippy” to me, but I’m not sure if that’s just in my mind.Here are the final glamour shots! You can see the subtle color different from the plated silver and the sterling and of course the silver colored threads inside the rim.

I do hope you enjoyed the blog though and please drop me a note if you have any comments or questions. I wish you all health and safety right now during these trying times. Please follow The Brass Ark and Bob Reeves on our social channels, facebook and instagram. Until next time! – Noah