Journal: October 17, 2020

Hello friends! Can you believe it, another blog update within the year! This is a special one, as it is a continuation of my last journal entry! We completed our sterling silver trombone mouthpiece and I wanted to share some photos of the process with you!

Back in April, we finished making a sterling silver rim for my 5G mouthpiece and while initially we were going to stop there, curiosity and ambition pushed us onward to try to make the rest of the mouthpiece out of solid sterling silver. It was quite a journey, some failure and a lot of learning. With each failure, we learned something new and we’re finally getting really good at casting. I wanted to give you a little behind the scenes tour of what goes into making a special mouthpiece like this one and also let you know that we will be offering sterling silver for our customers, so you too can have a mouthpiece in this special material!

Step one in casting our underpart was to melt down our silver. Here’s a photo of Brett (in his protective gear) topping off our crucible in order to have enough material to be able to turn the underpart. That crucible is about 1750 degrees! We have to be very careful as it will literally melt through whatever it comes in contact with.

Once the molten silver has cooled, Brett removed it from the crucible. After a few failed attempts, this time we decided to cast the underpart in a rough shape of the underpart of the mouthpiece. This one turned out just perfect! After that, Brett faced it up on the lathe and aligned it to start cutting the taper in the outer shank.

Once the shank was straight and correct, it becomes easier to hold in the lathe. Brett was then able to start turning the piece down and cut threads into it. It mated up perfectly with the sterling rim we made back in April and things were going along smoothly! Once the rim was on there, he began to hand carve the outer shape of the mouthpiece with special tools. I opted to go with our Mercury shape because that’s my favorite design, Brett is quite the artist as he was able to replicate this shape by eye! Things were getting exciting!

Then it was time to cut the cup! We’d gotten this far before on a previous piece and that’s where things started to fail. Sterling is extremely difficult too machine and the cup cutting tools generate a lot of force and a lot of friction as the piece turns on it. Getting your lathe speed correct and having the right tools are imperative to success working in sterling (plus a lot of patience). It took us a few hours to finally get the cup correctly cut without destroying the piece. I credit Brett’s amazing skill that he was able to do this so well and have it be so accurate.

After the cup was done, we cut the backbore, another stressful and time consuming step, but then, the piece was done and ready to play! What can I say… my first notes were shocking. I own an Almont sterling piece which is very cool but extremely small and not practical for modern use… having a piece in sterling silver in my normal size mouthpiece is amazing, I was speechless at how focused and responsive and clear the sound of the mouthpiece is. It’s a challenge to put playing characteristics into words, but the best way I can explain my first reaction was that I could really “feel” the notes vibrating and responding in my chops. There was a depth to the sound and a feedback that I wasn’t prepared for… the sound was smooth and full and brilliant and dense all at the same time. Upper register felt extremely solid and flexible and the low range wide and full but the middle register so focused and direct. The guys at the shop were just as taken aback… we had expected a drastic change but nothing quite this drastic! Brett then stamped the mouthpiece up for me and gave it a final polish. No plating since its already silver! The results, a totally unique and special mouthpiece that I will be playing the rest of my career!

Bravo to my friends and partners at Bob Reeves Brass for indulging me with this crazy project and I hope that you all enjoyed this blog post as well! I always enjoy getting comments and messages if there’s something here that you like or have any questions! I wish you all health and safety right as we round out the end of 2020. Please follow The Brass Ark and Bob Reeves on our social channels, facebook and instagram. Until next time! – Noah