Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Polishing a Vintage Hard Rubber Mouthpiece

I've seen a lot of posts on various saxophone websites about how to clean up an old oxidized hard rubber mouthpiece.  Hard rubber, if left in the sun or put under hot water, can quickly oxidized and leave a dull finish.  Sometimes leaving a ligature on the piece and leaving it out in daylight can "print" the shape of the ligature on to the mouthpiece.  Just look at "vintage hard rubber mouthpieces" on Ebay and you can see what I mean.

The oxidation is often accompanied by a sulfur smell.  The smell can be removed without cleaning up the mouthpiece, but I'm going to do both.  I know that I can polish for hours with something like Simichrome to remove the oxidized layer, but that is extremely slow.  It is also possible to start with something like 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper (using water) and quickly remove the oxidized layer, but that seems too aggressive.  

I decided to try inexpensive fingernail polishing and buffing blocks used by manicurists.  Type in something like "nail polishing block" on Ebay and you will see what I mean.  They tend to have 4 sides with different grades of sand paper (it isn't even sand paper, it's way less aggressive).  They are about $1 each and one can do several mouthpieces.

I first tried it just on the beak to see how aggressive the #1 side was.
You can see there is some brown residue on the block and the mouthpiece.  It seemed to be working.


 I continued to work through the rest of the abrasive levels and finished with #4.  Above is a picture where the polisher was only used in front of the ligature lines, so you can see how bad this mouthpiece was oxidized.  I can't reface a mouthpiece and have it look like that.

 Now I'm getting close.

You can see that I couldn't get the block in to the spot right in front of the bulb on the shank.  I'll have to use a string there.  But overall it worked just fine.  I still think that finishing with Simichrome will really get this to shine like new.  And, the smell is gone.  

To keep it gone, and prevent it from oxidizing again, I recommend wax.  There are lots of food grade waxes, like the wax used on cheese (although you might get a funky smell again.  I prefer to rub it down with plain old wax paper.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Removing a tooth gouge from a hard rubber mouthpiece

Just a short blog on tooth gouges.  They are quite common on older student pieces.  Children, like kittens, have sharp teeth.  Sometimes it ruins the piece.  More often, it just looks bad.  If the mouthpiece is a good vintage blank, and many of them are, we need to get rid of the gouges as part of the refacing project.

Here is a fairly common vintage mouthpiece that is often sold on Ebay as a "Meyer blank."  It isn't, but making that claim drives the prices up.  Not that this is a bad blank, but it only looks identical to a Meyer on the exterior.  The chamber is slightly different.  Maybe better?  Don't tell a Meyer fan that.



It cost me $13.  Anyway . . .



You can see the teeth marks left by the young weasel, I mean, student.  Below is a better look once I have roughed up the beak with a file.



There are a couple of things to watch for in this process.  First, make sure that you have enough thickness to work with.  I could tell from the first picture (and the picture on Ebay), that the gouge was cosmetic.  It is possible to measure the beak thickness at the gouge with an outside caliper if you are in doubt.  Just put one leg tip in the hole and the other inside the chamber.  Chances are you will have more than 2 mm, which is plenty of thickness to rework the beak.

The second thing to watch for is the thickness of the tip right at the tip rail.  I intend to open up the tip a little as part of the refacing and I will need that thickness.  So what I am doing is making a little bit of a "duck bill" shape to the beak.  If I use a flat file, it will likely reduce the tip thickness.  I have to use a half-round file and make sure to stop my strokes before I get to the tip.  I won't end up with a uniform slope, like a door stop, but it doesn't matter.  Some vintage pieces have a scoop shaped beak and it doesn't matter.  In fact, it can be an improvement.


You can see my half-round file (actually, a rasp) with ebonite in the teeth.  The depth of the rasp scratches are about the same as the remaining tooth marks, so it's time to switch to a finer file.  As I remove the rasp marks, I will take it down to the depth of the gouge, and that is all I need.  I don't need to rasp until the tooth gouge is completely gone and then change to less aggressive filing.


I have now moved to 400 grit paper.  If you look closely (click on the picture), you can still see a tiny spot remaining from the deeper of the two gouges.  That will disappear when I move on to 600 and 1500 grit paper.  Then it is polished and the beak is as good as new.  Maybe even better.

Besides cosmetics, there is another good reason to remove tooth gouges.  The depth of the gouge shown in the original picture tells us where the prior owner was "locked in" to a playing position.  That isn't likely to be the position that we want to be "locked into."  In fact, the original player probably didn't want to be locked in to that position.  If the player decided to take in more or less mouthpiece, either because of improving his embouchure or just temporarily for a certain sound, he will find that the gouges will take him back to the original position.

Getting rid of gouges can be more than cosmetic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Oh no, I dropped my saxophone mouthpiece!

It happens to everybody sooner or later.  I put two mouthpieces in my shirt pocket, one with a cap and one without.  Then I picked up a box.  It didn't happen because I leaned over.  I know that one.  It happened because as I lifted the box up against my chest, it pushed a mouthpiece up and out of my pocket.

Guess which one fell out?  The one with the protective cap?  No, of course not.  I heard the distinctive sound of a nice hard rubber mouthpiece clattering across the floor.  This blog is just to show you what can happen.  It didn't shatter or break.  In fact, at first I thought that everything was okay.  I get a lot of mouthpieces in that look "good" that really aren't.  They have been dropped, or knocked around in a case with other items and the lay and tips may look okay to the naked eye, but under magnification there are issues.

If you have read anything about mouthpiece facings, you know that the lay is generally fabricated by measuring in thousandths of an inch.   My bouncing mouthpiece messed things up by more than a thousandth of an inch.

You can see that the tip has been pushed in on the left hand side.  It has raised the tip edge up to the point where it won't seal correctly on that side.  There is also the same issue on the other side.  It looks like, as it bounced on the floor, it came down a few times on the tip.

In fact, it appears to have bounced three times on the tip in order to get these deformations.  Left, right, and center right.

But wait!  There's more.  Hard rubber can dent and fracture.  It has a crystalline structure that is soft enough to be dented (like the embossed name on some hard rubber mouthpieces), but if given a hard whack it can also shatter.  Just above the deformation on the right tip rail is a white spot.  Using a higher magnification than my camera can provide, I could see that his is a "chip" of missing material.  The way that it was struck on the edge removed some material, much like "pressure flaking" to make an obsidian arrowhead.

While all of this looks bad, its actually very common to find mouthpieces in a similar condition, often with the player never realizing that the tip is damaged.  Here is a picture that a friend sent me, asking if this was a manufacturing characteristic of this mouthpiece.


Nope.  It's just a vintage mouthpiece that has lived a long and active life.  

The deformation ridges can be pressed back in to place by rubbing the piece on a glass surface.  It is similar to putting a lay on the piece, but without using any sandpaper.  If the distortion is serious (and mine is), then I would probably use 1500 sanding paper and carefully remove them and rework the tip rail. 

Or, now is a good time to bump up the tip opening a step.  This is the mouthpiece that I was working on in another blog (making a Selmer Airflow from a vintage blank), so I may just rework the entire lay.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Vintage Mouthpiece Resuscitation

I sometimes buy ugly mouthpieces off of Ebay.  Ugly mouthpieces, if the seller includes good pictures, sell inexpensively and I don't really care if the tip is chipped or there are scratches in the chamber from using a brush or something that causes this:



I don't know what caused this, but it looks like this  mouthpiece was repeatedly cleaned with a nail.  I had never seen a chamber that was so torn up.

This mouthpiece was obviously attacked with really course sandpaper.



Or maybe it was dragged across a cement sidewalk in an attempt to alter the facing curve.

Beginning at the ligature line, a "new" facing curve was rasped on to this Riffault alto mouthpiece.  Here is a close up of the "workmanship."



The table was also violated, and the artisan's spasmodic alteration continues on to the mouthpiece shank.



I suspect that it was not a person who modified this, but rather, a chimpanzee.  None of the pictures on Ebay showed this damage when I purchased it.  It was simply a vintage hard rubber alto mouthpiece with a nice brass cap and ligature.  I recognized it as a Riffault and spent $25.  

Be careful when buying an old vintage mouthpiece as a "carcass" to work on.  $25 is okay with a nice ligature and cap.  That way, after you put a new lay on the piece, you know that you have a ligature that fits and a cap that protects your new work.  

Keeping a cap on a vintage hard rubber piece is very important.  Little nicks and dents to the rails and tip will effect how it plays.  It also protects it from ultraviolet damage.  You can polish off discolored areas with some difficulty.  A brown residue will be left on your polishing cloth.  Undamaged (black) ebonite will not leave a residue.  This should tell us something.  Brown discolored ebonite is softer than undamaged ebonite.  You might not see sun damage on the rails and tip, but it's there, possibly making the area softer.  Keep a cap on it as discussed in this blog.

When shopping for a carcass, don't buy something like this!!!  Click on it to enlarge.


Yes, Dau-Han bought generic mouthpieces like this one from Riffault.  Yes, they are not common (I think that they may have been a small Eastern European distributor).  This is not a Dau-Han mouthpiece.  Dau-Han stamped their logo on the mouthpieces that they distributed.  Don't pay $300 too much, plus $3 too much on shipping.

Back to my $25 Riffault mouthpiece.  The damage to the shank will be hard to correct, but the rest of it doesn't matter that much, as I was intending to reface it anyway.  The goofy table and lay will make that a little more difficult at the beginning.

How goofy is the table and lay?  First, I slide my .0015 inch feeler gauge under the mouthpiece while it is face down on my granite bench top.  That tells me instantly the approximate length of the lay and whether it is straight.  This should be good.


Eu tenho um pepino no banco de trabalho!  That's a crooked facing.

As you would expect from the pictures, it is a mess.  I've never seen a mouthpiece this bad before.  Here goes.

First I need to flatten the table.  Because it is such a mess, I'm going to start with aggressive 220 sandpaper.



I used the outside calipers to measure the thickness at the back edge of the table and the thickness of the beak.  It's not really necessary, but just gives me some figures to work with.  As we have already seen from picture #4, the prior owner has ground down the back of the table near the shank just about as far as possible.  Still, it is possible to flatten the table.


Getting the table flat is not enough.  I'm going to have to work the table flat and make a decent "take off point" for my lay.  That means the table has to be flat past the window opening (about 1/3 of the window length).  That is doable, but when I flattened the table, I ended up with a tip opening of approximately 1.20 mm or .047 inch.  That's the smallest Riffault made for alto (Riffault tip openings are shown in this blog).  This piece started out as a Riffault 3 (1.45 mm).  I'm starting out by going backwards.



Once the table is flat and long enough, I have to start thinking about the tip.  But not the entire tip.  Before I open the tip back up to something that is usable, this is a good time to clean up the baffle and chamber.  It is a disaster.  As are the side rails.  Now is the time to clean up the inside and then I can put the lay on and not have to mess with the interior very much. 


Here is a purpose made "specialty tool" for cleaning up all of the gouges on the inside.  It is a thin strip of emery paper glued on to an old reed that was split into thirds (old reeds are wonderful to have on the workbench).  I use plenty of water so that the paper doesn't load up with dust.  Repeated rinsing of the sanding tool tends to loosen the contact cement that I used, but I can generally get by with two of these tool per mouthpiece chamber work.  The first one (shown here) is 320 grit and the second finishing tool will be 600 grit.  The paper extends past the sides of the reed, and that allows me to finish the chamber right up to the side rails.


Here it is with the big gouges polished out of the chamber and the rails cleaned and straightened a little.  I still haven't really done anything to the mangled tip rail.


You may have seen this aspect of mouthpiece refacing in my other blogs (which also show how to measure your progress).  What looks like a contour line inside is simply where I used my finger to clear some dust out of the chamber and get this picture of the tip rail.  Nothing has been done inside yet other than cleaning up the big scratches.  I'm putting on a curve from a Meyer 6.


Now that I am closer to getting the curve that I want, I can go back and do a preliminary finish on the baffle and tip rail.  Here, I'm keeping the baffle high.


Still working on the lay, I usually have to go back and forth a few times between getting the right lay and reworking the tip rail and baffle.  Here, the tip rail is thin, but I know that I'm still a little bit shy of putting on the final curvature and tip opening.


A little more finish work on the lay and the tip rail ends up a little wider again and needs some touch up.  But I now have the lay that I want.


Finally, things line up and everything gets polished.  There are still a few residual gouges from whatever was done to the inside of the piece (a white line on the right hand side), but I'm not going to worry about internal cosmetics too much.  A $25 mouthpiece, two hours of labor, and NOW it's worth $325.  Unfortunately, even cleaned up and playing wonderfully, it's probably only worth $60 on the open market.  

If you want to try playing something like a vintage Selmer or Rico Gregory, here is your chance at 1/10th the cost.  This Riffault now actually has more baffle than most vintage pieces but, if I reduced it, there is no going back (other than sticking goop on the inside to create a baffle).  I hate sticking epoxy and stuff inside to make a baffle.  All you are doing is putting a baffle in a piece that has a lay that you like.  Buy a piece with a baffle and put the same lay on it!  There is never a reason to have a baffle booger stuck inside of your mouthpiece!!

I have some other blogs on facing junker mouthpieces.  It is surprising how often I find that they are junkers only because of bad facings.  Even a plastic Selmer Goldentone can make an interesting piece when it has a new facing



Sunday, January 7, 2018

Making Your Own Otto Link Slant Signature Mouthpiece - Part 3

I am assuming that you have already found your official Otto Link Slant Signature blank, as discussed in Part 1.  And you have already made your official Otto Link Slant Signature ligature, as discussed in Part 2.  You probably now have $40-50 invested, so you have already saved at least $800.  You will also need the materials used in the blog about refacing a mouthpiece (mechanic's ruler, feeler gauge set, sandpaper).

First, we start with a butt cut to both open the tip (without yet removing tip material), reduce the table thickness, and make sure that the table is flat.  Take a look at this picture and notice that one of the butt cuts on these No Name Early Babbitt (NNEB) blanks lowered the rear of the table such that there is a nick on the shank bulb.  It's only cosmetic, but it doesn't look right and I try to avoid this.  A really real Link Tone Edge has a shank shape that helps avoid this issue.


The butt cut on the center mouthpiece was deep enough that the area just prior to the bulb was nicked.  It isn't generally necessary to go this deep.  The shank shape of a "real" Otto Link Slant Signature makes this issue easier to avoid.  Maybe that's why it costs $800 more than our home made Slant Signature.

After modifying the beak thickness (see Part 1) and the butt cut, we are ready for our facing curve.  To make an official Link Slant Signature, we will need official numbers.  This is the most difficult part.  In fact, it might be impossible.  Not because it is difficult to copy the facing numbers on to our blank, but it is difficult because, unfortunately, the facing numbers do not exist.  If you go to various websites and look at Otto Link tip openings, you might find some approximate agreement, but that is just tip openings and not curvature numbers.  Unfortunately, there isn't any agreement on exact Link curvatures.  

We could assume that the oldest facing numbers that we can find are the most likely to be the "correct" vintage numbers.  Many Slant Signatures have been modified or touched up so, if we use newer numbers, how can we be sure that we are using "real" Slant Signature numbers to make our "real" Slant Signature?  Here are the oldest numbers that I could find.  These are from a 1938 publication written by Eric Brand where he gave these numbers for a Link #5 (at the time, the largest Link tip opening was the #6 Hawkin's Special at .090", but that was a huge tip and beyond what most players could handle.*  


Facing numbers for Link hard rubber.  You don't have to use Link numbers, as the facing numbers for a Rico (M.C. Gregory brand) mouthpiece and others will work.  Be careful using these numbers.  Mr. Brand did not use the feeler gauge thicknesses that are now considered "standard."

What the heck do those numbers mean?  It is all explained in the publication.  The bottom number is the tip opening in millimeters.  Right away, there is something odd.  At the top of the page are the numbers for the Otto Link metal tenor (Tone Master).  At the bottom of the page are the numbers for the Otto Link rubber tenor (Tone Edge).  The tip openings are the bottom number in the columns.  A Tone Master #5 has a 198 mm (.080 inch) and a Tone Edge #5 is 170 mm (.067 inch).  Nowhere can I find an Otto Link table that shows a difference in tip openings between a metal #5 and a rubber #5 mouthpiece except in pre-1940's schedules.

Working up the column from the tip opening are the "Brand" numbers.  These indicate how far in a particular feeler gauge (in thousandths of an inch) would slide, as in this blog.  We are going to run into more problems here.  Mr. Brand says that you won't need a gauge larger than .050" because you won't have a tip opening much larger.  Even on the vintage baritone Link mouthpiece (bottom right hand corner), the Brand number for the .050 feeler gauge is the last measurement provided.  Times have changed.  These old numbers are like having 15" tires on your pickup truck.  Nowadays, we need at least 22" wheels.  


Remember, bigger is better and nothing is too stupid.

We have other problems working with the old Brand numbers.  Look at the Otto Link "Rubber Tenor" numbers for the 4 and 5 tip.  A number 4 tip opening is 1.67 mm.  A number 5 is 1.70 mm.  But the lay numbers given for 4 and 5 are identical.  That would mean that the only difference is that the Link #5 takes an odd bend in the last couple of millimeters.  The same oddity occurs in the metal tenor lay numbers, where a 3 tip (.058 inch) and a 4* tip (.066 inch) have the same Brand number for the final (.050 inch) feeler gauge.  If you plot these numbers out on a graph, you will see that it is unlikely that they would produce a workable facing curve.

I think that we are going to have to resort to another source of Brand numbers for our official Otto Link Slant Signature Tone Edge.  But first, look at the numbers provided above for the Rico tenor.  At the time, these were the "M.C. Gregory" brand of mouthpieces.  Some of the Brand numbers are given as + or -.  I would guess that these mean the same as a carpenter calling out "Eighteen feet four and a three eighths inches, strong."  Or "A skootch over eighteen feet four and three eighths inches."  For all of the other Brand numbers, "whole numbers" (which are actually .5 millimeters) were sufficient. The + and - designation was just to give a little bit more accuracy.

We have to admit that we don't know what official Link Slant Signature numbers are.  Brand supplies some up to a #5 tip opening with an accuracy of only .5 mm increments.  For larger tip openings, we don't really know.  I've measured some pieces and they don't agree sufficiently to say exactly what are and are not official "Slant Signature" numbers.  And then there are Slant Signatures that have been refaced over the years, many of which are claimed by their owners to have been improved over the original Link facing.  

And that is possible.  If you enter the old Brand numbers into a spread sheet and produce a graph, you will see that the facing curves are not perfectly smooth.  In fact, some are a little lumpy, which doesn't mean that vintage Link's were lumpy.  It is possible, of course, that a particular "lumpiness" is the trait that distinguishes a Link tenor from say a Rico M.C. Gregory tenor.  There are different types of curves, most of them defined by algebraic formulas, but I have not found where "lumpiness" is a trait used by present day mouthpiece facers in describing their goal.

If you are reading this blog, you probably have access to a computer and, therefore, the ability to generate your own "Link Slant Signature" numbers.  With that in mind, here are some different numbers from the excellent website "Mouthpiece Works" provided by master mouthpiece facer Keith Bradbury.  These numbers comprise a "computer aided" curvature and are given to the nearest 1/10th "Brand number," which would be 1/20th of a millimeter.  As we have seen, Mr. Brand did not attempt this accuracy in his 1938 facing numbers.  The exception might be the Rico line of mouthpieces for which Mr. Brand had numbers like 34+ and 10-, which would mean a "smidge more" than 34 and a "touch less" than 10.  Brand was a well known and respected mouthpiece facer, so maybe that gives us a clue as to just how accurate the facing needs to be.  Or, maybe, he was holding back on the super-secret numbers.  Whatever.  The Mouthpiece Works site gives us computer aided measurements in 1/20th of a millimeter instead of a skooch or a smidge.

Here are the numbers from Mouthpiece Works (more facings available to those who join the website).  These are for a #6 Slant Signature "Hawkin's Special," which at the time of the early Slant Signature, was the largest Link tip opening at .090.  As it turns out, these are basically identical to the measurements that I get from measuring my own Hawkin's Special.  And since our goal is to make a real vintage Otto Link Slant Signature Tone Edge, #6 is as big as we can go.  If anybody tries to sell you a Slant Signature with a tip opening larger than .090 inch, you now know that it has been ruined (according to Otto).


45.0
39.6
34.6
30.1
25.3
19.8
13.6
9.0
4.2

Instead of the 5 numbers given by Mr. Brand, Mr. Bradbury gives us 9 numbers and a computer graph for interpolation.  Those are the numbers that I will use on my vintage NNEB.  Starting at the top, after making sure that the table is flat, I create a lay so that the .0015" feeler gauge slides in 22.5 millimeters or a Brand number of 45.  That is sometimes called the length of the facing.  The next gauge thickness is .005" inserted to a Brand number of 39.6.  A .010" gauge to 34.6.  .016" gauge to 30.1.  .024" gauge to 25.3.

If you are using a standard mechanic's set, you may not have the next thickness of .035.  Simple enough.  That measurement requires the use of two side-by-side blades, the .017 and the .018.  Next we need .050, so we add .015 to .017 and .018.  Then we need .063, which is again three blades stacked, the .020, .021, and .022.  Next we need .078, so we stack four blades, .018, .019, .020, and .021.  This is what would be done to come up with larger measurements if you were to go beyond a vintage Slant Signature (which seems to be the thing to do recently).

Keeping stacked blades as accurate as possible requires cleanliness and careful alignment (some of which is covered in this blog).  You can achieve the accuracy of Mr. Brand and the vintage mouthpiece facings shown above, but you won't be able to assert that your facing accuracy is to the billionth of a millimeter, as some will claim.  I'm going to write a blog on how to increase the accuracy of your feeler gauges and (when this shows up as a blue hyperlink) will link to it in the future.

Depending on the tip opening that we were starting with, our tip rail might become quite thick when putting on the new Link curvature (one reason to start with a butt cut when flattening the table).  Below is a narrow tip opening changed to a new curve.  I don't worry too much about what the actual tip opening is, in fact, it tends to not matter, the accuracy of the curvature being way more important.  Any tenor piece that has a nice facing curve and a tip opening between .070 and .120 seems to play okay for me.  

Reed choice makes a difference, but if the curvature is proper for the tip opening, the only obvious difference that I find between small and large tip openings is that the smaller tip openings can choke closed when I play at volume and the larger tip openings tend to "blat" when played at volume.  Some players use harder reeds on small tips to get more "wood" sound and some players play softer reeds on large tip openings to get more "blat."  It's the player's choice.  



¡Aye, caramba!  Look at that tip rail.  This is not one of my DIY Slant Signature projects using a NNEB.  I was just messing around taking a vintage .060 tip opening to a .125 tip opening.  As you can see, it's not just the tip rail that gets wider, the side rails gain width and are further apart.  There is a huge amount of chamber work and even exterior shaping required to get this thing back into shape.  Yet another reason to not go crazy with your new tip opening.  Most vintage NNEB pieces are in the .070 range and going to .090 (Link 6) is generally all you need.

Now, what to do with the tip rail.  It really shouldn't look anything like the one shown above.  Maybe something with about half that width.  Even still, you may have reduced the thickness of the tip and created a sharp edge like this.



Христос на велосипеде! That's a sharp tip! Keep in mind that this is still my gigantic tip opening change as shown above.  Often times, a NNEB has enough material on the tip so that it isn't necessary to reshape the area.  It will be thinner, but not necessarily as sharp as this one.  This one has to be rounded off.


Here it is rounded off.  I've read a few places that this will affect the tuning of the piece because it is now shorter.  Ignore those claims.  I have actually shortened the piece by 1.5 mm and I will soon increase the chamber by a tiny amount when I rework the baffle.  So it might tune .035 MHz sharper (or flatter).  The mouthpiece might have to be placed differently on the cork .4 mm further (or .4 mm less) in order to tune.  If you are still worried, you should not be reading this blog.

Keep an old reed handy so that you get the shape to fit your choice of reed (although your choice of reed might change after some play testing of your new old real genuine fake vintage Slant Signature).

With this huge of a tip rail, I started with a riffler file to create a baffle while reducing the width of the rail.  

I have shown my favorite method for finishing the tip rail in other blogs.  I use a razor knife like this.


Reducing the tip rail width and forming the baffle.

The Slant Signature has a little roll over baffle.  It actually doesn't look like a baffle at all compared with most modern pieces.  But they do tend to be more prominent that you will likely find on your stock NNEB.  That little extra baffle and the little bit larger tip opening is the secret, assuming that you know how to eburnate your NNEB blank.

You will have a little choice in choosing a baffle style after opening the tip. Smoothing out the one I've started above is about all that is required if I am making an official vintage Slant Signature.  If you make the tip opening larger, as in a later Link Tone Edge, then you can make a larger baffle, as was done in the Vibrator piece in Part 1.  Of course, you could just buy a later Tone Edge.

In addition to the blanks noted above as starting points for making a Slant Signature, the first Acousticut shown in this blog also works great.  Also this model of Bundy, made by Babbitt using the alleged "Dukoff/Zimberhoff" blank (which might also have the identical "Link" chamber).  Because of the Bundy name, these sell for hundreds less than the same chamber on a Dukoff or Link.  




Below is a No Name Early Babbitt that does have a name embossed on it.  These came standard with the Martin Handcraft up until 1942-43, when Martin changed to a flat sidewall style of chamber for the new Martin Centennial.  The Handcrafts tend to be a little more expensive than the NNEB pieces that I showed above just because of the name stamped on them.  This one was $41 with shipping.  That is the most that I've ever paid for a vintage Link chamber.  But, it is very clean and I play a Martin Handcraft, so I had to have it for making a real fake official new vintage Otto Link Slant Signature Tone Edge disguised as a Martin Handcraft.  

The Martin shield.

Tiny baffle.

 Tiny #2 tip opening.

The super secret real vintage Otto Link Slant Signature tone chamber.
Or maybe this is my super secret Link Slant Signature tone chamber?  It is this one, but you have to flip it over and read the embossing to differentiate it from the Handcraft or the Bundy.

With a new facing, I'll have Martin Handcraft on the outside and vintage Otto Link Slant Signature on the inside.  The difference right now is that the Martin has a #2 facing.  That measures a .058 inch opening with a Brand number lay of 45.5.  That is an extremely long lay for such a tiny tip!!  For comparison, the smallest vintage Link Tone Edge opening (in the 1930's) shown above was a 3* at .061 inches (later changed to .070 on more recent Links) and a lay number of 43.  


Above is a graphic representation of the curve on this old Martin mouthpiece.  The yellow line is curve created by the Brand numbers given earlier for a Link #6.  The green and blue lines are the left and right rail of my Martin carcass.  The lay is too long and, even worse, the curve is too "flat" because too much material has been removed in the middle of the curve.  This is the type of curve that is easy to play at low volume and with no character.  Perfect for a beginner.  

Even with a #3 reed, the Martin closed right up as soon as I tried to get any volume.  I would need to find a #6.5 reed to actually play the old Martin #2.  Instead, I'll just turn it into a $41 genuine vintage Otto Link Slant Signature Hawkin's Special Tone Edge.  This Martin will require a butt cut that both shortens the lay and brings the middle of the curve (usually the .024" and .035" feeler gauges) down enough so that I can copy the facing from my Slant Signature.  Since one rail was consistently higher than the other, I also canted the table a little as I flattened and made the butt cut.

They will still look very different on the outside.

Here is the Martin Handcraft (late 1930's) compared to a Babbitt that does have a name.  The Babbitt Artist.  A similar, if not identical, large chamber piece from the mid-1960s.  The Martin has a shorter and therefore steeper beak.  The Babbitt Artist beak is longer, thinner, and appears to be identical to the vintage Slant Signature dimensions except for the shank.
Here they are opened up a little.  I gave the Martin (on the left) a shorter, but more pronounced baffle.  I might thin the tip rail a little more, but I like the way that it plays now.  It subtones super easy, in fact, that is sort of its default mode.

The goofy original lay on the Martin Handcraft was just a slight wrinkle in copying the facing from the Link on to the Martin.  But it is mainly the chamber shape that interests us.  Which makes me wonder.  How many different chamber plugs did Babbitt have during this time?  Would it make any economic sense for say, Otto Link, to fabricate its own proprietary chamber plug for Babbitt to use when Babbitt  already had on hand what appears to be the identical chamber plug?  

It is possible that the post-manufacture finish work is the only real difference between the NNEB and the Link.  If we can't detect any significant difference between a NNEB chamber and a vintage Link, was there really a unique "Link Tone Chamber?"  Or is that just another pile of eburnation?



P.S.   I realize that the vintage Link Slant Signature Tone Edge sell for crazy prices for tenor pieces.  For alto, not so much.  If you want to over-spend for a vintage alto mouthpiece, you need to look at old Meyer Brothers mouthpieces, either a 5M or 6M, usually in a medium chamber.  Probably somebody famous played a Meyer 5M or 6M.  That's all it takes to drive up prices.  The theory is that you will also sound like XXX (the famous player) if you only had a mouthpiece that you believe to be an original vintage Meyer 5M or 6M similar to the one allegedly played by XXX.  Truth is, if you want to play like XXX, you need to smoke the same cigarettes as XXX.

Other finishing businesses besides Meyers used the same alto blanks, but they are kind of rare compared to the NNEB blanks.  Like vintage Slant Signature blanks, vintage Meyer Brothers alto blanks are also under the radar and can be inexpensive ($25 to $50).  But that is another blog.

If you can't wait for the blog, you can go on Ebay and compete with the 53 bidders for this Meyer alto piece.

I think that the winning bidder spent $2,200 too much.  Hope she now plays like XXX.

Here is the last Meyer Bros. blank that I bought.  Check out the price.  I have to decide whether to put on a 6 or 7 facing.


*  It is common for a seller to stamp a vintage Link other than a #6 with "H.S." or "Hawkins Special," thereby increasing the value of a Link by hundreds of dollars.  This is even more lucrative than stamping an A or T on an old ligature to make it an official Link ligature.  But Otto only advertised the Hawkin's Special as a #6.