Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hot Rodding the Cheapo Piece (part 2)

When we last left our Selmer Goldentone tenor mouthpiece, it had been changed from the standard number 3 facing to something much different.  But it still had the Goldentone name engraved on it, which would make some people never consider playing such a piece.  Here is the final product.  I continued to open the piece to .111 inches (2.82 mm), a gigantic opening for a "student" piece.  It's no longer a student piece, I guess, but it plays very easy for a large tip opening, in part because the lay is quite long at .965 inches (Brand number of 49 or 24.5 mm). 

I have to admit that I went with a larger tip opening because I took one too many swipes on the 320 grit paper and opened up the tip further than I intended to go.  In the prior blog, I showed the original Goldentone left and right rail lay compared to a generic Link 7* (the smooth brown curve) and that picture showed that I had overshot the tip opening a tiny little bit.  I now had to go to a Link 8.  Here's a graph with a new line showing a Link 8 curve (in yellow) and a red line that is the final lay of the Goldentone.  I even managed to over shoot the 8.

I know that the lay is not perfect, but come on, it's a Goldentone that I got for nothing.  It now plays great.  Opening the tip provided plenty of material for a baffle, although I didn't leave big baffle, as you can see in the picture below (where the start of the baffle is finished to a finer surface than the rest of the baffle going into the chamber).  I didn't want a bright piece.  Bright mouthpieces are easy to find and I admit that I don't care for them.  I think that roughing up the insides reduces the brightness a little bit (a stock Goldentone is super smooth and shiny.  See here at picture 1 and 2), but the larger change comes from changing the baffle shape a little. 


 

Here's another picture with the light reflecting on the baffle behind the tip roll over.  A very long roll over baffle was produced by a quick shot of an aggressive abrasive though from the shank end of the piece (not shown), followed by milder abrasives to smooth the "dimple" that was created. 
  You may have noticed that the band on the shank also looks different than the original Goldentone (Shown here at picture 9).  That's because when I was using various abrasive medias to form and polish the baffle I also used it to change the exterior look of the piece.


Finally, it's no longer a Goldentone student piece (because the name is gone, it has a better facing, and a larger tip opening).  Hotrodding a generic or student piece is a time-honored tradition and gave us some well known pieces like some of the vintage Dukoffs, Brilharts, Penzel-Mueller, etc.  This piece only has to wait another 60 years.  

The matte finish (produced by using finely crushed walnut shells) quickly eliminated it's largest "flaw," the gold stamped Goldentone name.  It can play considerably louder and quieter than the original Goldentone.  Low Bb is possible with just a puff of air.  You can't do that with a crooked facing like this one had to begin with.  It still has good intonation (the selling point for the Selmer Goldentone).  But it now has character, overtones, multiphonics, you know, fun.

I think that this refacing points out what makes the biggest difference in mouthpieces.  It isn't the color, or material, or vintage, or casting technique, or the name.  It's the quality of the finishing.  Goldentones are cheap because the can be pooped out using injection molding with very little finish work.  But a Goldentone with even rails plays better than one with uneven rails.  A Goldentone with a smooth lay plays better than one with a lumpy lay.  A Goldentone with an efficient curve plays better than one with an inefficient curve. 

 I have purchased some new $160-$350 pieces that have very iffy lays on them.  If you think that the original lay on the Goldentone was disappointing, wait to you find a similar lay on a new expensive piece. 

After "X" amount of time and labor is invested, a cheapo mouthpiece can play as nice as more expensive pieces (on which "X" amount of time and labor was also spent).  The improved production quality is what you are paying for (and hopefully getting) when you spend $200 for a mouthpiece.  But the purpose of this blog was to show that it isn't impossible to produce a similar end result from an eBay beater, if you're willing to invest the time and labor. 

I'd guess that there will be plenty who just can't imagine playing a gig on a Goldentone no matter how it plays.  Maybe this piece needs a new name.

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