Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Simple Method for Distilling Homemade Hooch

I thought about writing this blog during the "Holiday Season" (in the U.S.) last fall.  The reason being that butter, sugar, pumpkin spices, etc., go on sale for the holidays.  I'm only going to use one of the ingredients for making hooch, and it's not the pumpkin spices and butter. 

First, a quick word about hooch or moonshine and the saxophone.  I told you in the overall introduction that this blog may contain some non-saxophone articles.  This is one of them.  For those of you who are disappointed, I can include some saxophone related content by a link to a group called, coincidentally, Moon Hooch.  That fits nicely in a blog about moonshine/hooch.  And the group sometimes features a contrabass clarinet, which you will notice from my other blogs is another interest of mine.  You can open this tune in another window as a backing track for this short blog.  If you want to hear what a contrabass clarinet sounds like over its full range, try this link.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.  I buy brown sugar on sale during the holidays for making homemade rum.  It is usually featured in a big display at the grocery store for about $1 a pound.  Be sure that it's brown cane sugar, and organic turbinado is probably the best.  Regular brown sugar is sometimes just white sugar that has been coated with molasses.  Turbinado, a less refined cane sugar, tends to have more molasses in it even though it doesn't look as brown.  Anyway, I buy about 12 pounds, which allows me to buy the cheaper two or five pound packages.

You put that in a 5 gallon glass carboy with your yeast, both of which can be purchased at a brew supply house.  You can go cheaper by using a food grade plastic bucket (and bread yeast), but you aren't likely to get high grade rum in the end.  Best to use champagne yeast, as the alcohol content in our brew is going to be fairly high.  Also, champagne yeast can work at lower temperatures so that you can put the carboy out of the way somewhere for a couple of months if you want to.  

You put on an air lock to keep wild yeast from entering your fermenting container and making your brew smell like sauerkraut.

The air lock also keeps these guys out if you ferment in the garage. 
I have a mother-in-law apartment above my garage (with no mother-in-law in residence), so I can ferment for months on the countertop, on the stove, in the sink, in the shower, etc.

Here's what it looks like when there is plenty of yeast sitting in the bottom (I'm not going to use any brewing terms here.  You can learn those on other websites).  
So, that's the easy part.  The difficult part is how to build and operate a still.  Unless, of course, you cheat like I do.  I bought my still at Sears and Roebuck years ago.  

It's actually a water distiller for people who live in places where the water is bad.  They are available on Ebay for between $50 and $100.  And you can, of course, use them for distilling water if you have the need.  

It has a stainless steel interior that heats up like a slow cooker.

It has a fan that sits on top and blows cool air through a heat exchanger made of stainless steel with aluminum fins.

The condensate then exits the side though a little filter pocket that can be filled with activated charcoal (a la Jack Daniels) if you wish.

You can only do less than a gallon at a time, so you will need to fill it more than five times from your fermentation carboy.  Throw out the first few drops of condensate to lessen the hangover potential of your hooch (read about it on brew sites).  You will get just under a quart of hooch per fill.  I estimate the alcohol percentage by periodically dipping a strip of paper towel into the condensate and lighting it.  

Keep in mind that this is my super-simple proofing method.  Here's how it works.  The first part of the condensate will be over 150 proof, the last will be simply distilled water.  If it lights, then it's over 80 proof.  If it doesn't, then it's under 80 proof.  When the condensate dripping out of the still stops being flammable, I note the amount in the collection container and continue to distill until I have doubled that volume.  That generally gets me at right around 80 proof for the condensate from that still fill.  

Also keep in mind that super-high alcohol liquor is a gimmick for kids.  Like adding cinnamon candy to liquor.  We are looking to produce a nice sipping hooch.  If you are looking for something to mix with KoolAid, or for a drinking "game" involving ping pong balls, just go buy some rum made in Hood River, Oregon.

Another thing to note is that the first few drips out of the still will have all of the volatile organic compounds other than methyl alcohol.  Distilling apple or grape juice is famous for this.  The skins of the fruit contain stuff other than sugars.  And by "stuff," I mean headache and hangover stuff.  That stuff generally "flashes off" at lower temperatures, so that the first few drops of distillate will contain the nasties (including trace amounts of acetone, etc.).  DUMP THE FIRST QUARTER JIGGER.

Those nasty things are why I don't recommend freezing anything to increase the alcohol content.  I see this being advocated on YouTube videos and I get a headache just watching.  The reason Apple Jack is famous for nausea while drinking followed by headaches and hangover is because the VOCs have been concentrated by the freezing process.  The same is true with freezing red wine.  If drinking a bottle of red wine gives you a hangover, just wait until you concentrate those VOCs and sulfur dioxide into a single shot of "freezer brandy."  Spend the time to do it right.  Distill.

Don't worry if you get busy on another project during the distillation process and forget to catch the little still when you are at the 50/50 point (half flammable and half not flammable) and your container is now full of low proof hooch.  All you have to do is pour it back into the still, with or without additional liquid from the carboy, and start over.  The 50/50 test still works even though you are now starting with liquid that may be 25% alcohol.  The final test is your choice.  Taste, bubbles, or flammability.  The bubble test will be explained on home brewing/distilling web sites.  Flammability is basically that 80 proof (40% alcohol) is flammable (although somewhat dependent on the temperature of your product).  As for taste, you are on your own, but again, 151 proof isn't a taste, it's a gimmick.

The first thing that you will notice about the taste is the deep dark secret of the hard liquor industry.  Distilled alcohol and distilled water tastes like pure alcohol and pure water.  Distilled hooch made from Irish barley and water from a mountain stream tastes like pure alcohol and pure water.  Distilled hooch made from turnips and water from your toilet tastes like pure alcohol and pure water.  The distillation process removes impurities (i.e., "character") from the distilled liquid (as well as kills the germs in the toilet water).  That's generally the purposes of distillation and the primary purpose of my Sears still.  It's actually what the distiller does after distillation that gives a particular hard liquor it's distinctive character.

How do we get our flavor back?  In this case, we are making rum.  We distill out about 25% by volume of our fermented sugar water so that we have our alcohol and water at 80 proof.  Then, for our first distillation run, we put a new container under the spout to catch the remaining 3 quarts (approximately).
We go ahead and let the little distiller continue on its merry way, churning out pure water (as the alcohol is all gone).  The unit has a thermal switch in it so that when the water is all gone, it shuts itself off.  But in our case, our "water" was "contaminated" by the brown sugar that had fermented into alcohol.  That "contamination" is removed by staying behind in the pot as a residue, again, the original purpose of my Sears still.

Sorry that I don't have a shot of this, but what remains in the stainless pot when it finally turns itself off looks sort of like caramel syrup (or slightly darker if you were able to find a really good dark brown cane sugar).  It is a weird substance.  It looks and smells like it would be sweet, but we have fermented all of the sugar out of it, leaving a brown sugar "flavor" without the sugar "sweet."  It is sort of a zero calorie "essence of brown sugar" syrup.  

That's what we put back into our hooch to make it rum.  It only takes a couple of tablespoons or less to flavor the gallon of rum that we will end up with.  That's about the amount that will be left in the still pot after completely fermenting a one gallon batch of liquid from the carboy.  Be sure to taste it first.  If you had any wild yeast get into your carboy, the flavor may be off.  In that case, you might be better off adding a couple tablespoons of molasses (per gallon) to flavor and color your rum.  It will have a sweeter flavor, but that's better than a tennis shoe flavor.  I haven't had this problem (yet) with rum.  You can, of course, add both the residue and molasses for a nice dark rum that isn't as cloyingly sweet as some of the commercial dark rums.  

It is best to add tiny amounts of your proposed flavor to tiny test batches of distillate to make sure that you'll like the flavor.  Straight pot residue may seem like a strange flavor at first because it is so concentrated.  When the concentrated flavor is added to the distilled alcohol/water, it suddenly becomes rum.  And by testing tiny amounts, I mean tiny amounts.  If you start testing using a shot glass, you'll quickly find that your ability to discern good liquor flavor from bad liquor flavor will be diminished.

Other types of hooch are possible, though slightly more complex to make.  You can make various types of whisky or scotch by using barley malt, also available at a brew shop.  You can find barley malt at the grocery store, but it's way cheaper at a brew store.  12 pounds is going to cost you about twice as much as making rum, but still under $40 a gallon for your 80 proof end product.
You can go a little cheaper by adding corn sugar for American style whiskey.
And you can actually add ground corn to the carboy.  Since I got this corn flour on sale, a batch of straight corn liquor was about $15 for a gallon.  That's as cheap as my "holiday" rum.
Adding corn meal or flour complicates things in a couple of ways, but it gives a nicer flavor to the "syrup" left in the bottom of the distiller.  Here, I'm adding barley malt, corn sugar, and corn meal to my carboy for a small batch of bourbon whiskey in a 2.5 gallon carboy.
The corn meal has to be mixed into a "pancake batter" slurry to get it into the carboy.  Kind of a pain.
I then fill the carboy with water.  I'm still using a little more than 2 pounds of sugar/malt per gallon in the carboy.  That produces an alcohol content higher than most beer yeast can tolerate, so I'm using champagne yeast.  There are yeasts at the brew shops that are super fast and can ferment into the 20% alcohol range, but I've never tried them.

The corm meal tends to settle at the bottom of the carboy.  I sometimes stir it with a sterilized wand, but I'm not sure that that does much, as it quickly settles again.  Here is a carboy with only corn sugar and corn meal for a batch of traditional corn liquor (moonshine).  As it ferments, tiny bubbles tend to keep the corn flour moving around.
It's okay that it settles because one of the complexities of using corn meal (or any meal/flour) is that, if a lot of it gets into my little distilling pot, it cooks into cornmeal mush (and then burns on the bottom if I don't catch it).  Hard to clean up.  So when adding this type of mixture to the still pot, try to leave all the meal in the carboy.  A little won't hurt because we are not distilling every batch down to flavor syrup.  

It is best to distill your first pour from the carboy down for your flavoring residue as it will have the least amount of meal/flour.  Set it aside because, in the end, especially if you are making straight corn liquor, you need this delicious yellow corn-flavored syrup that the corn meal creates.  The residue left from just pure corn sugar doesn't really have any flavor (as would be the case with just pure white sugar).  That syrup is the difference between a good sipping Corn liquor and a generic "white lightening" that is best used to clean out a carburetor.

You can get fancy and add additional flavors to your hooch.  You can buy oak chips at the brew store or make your own (if you have the right type of oak).  The chips can be charred to add additional flavor, or burnt when making scotch.  Purists will shudder, but then purists probably didn't get this far into the blog.

The only real problem that I've had is one batch that fermented out "funky."  It had an odd smell and flavor, but I know from experience that you can distill the funkiness out (as per above) and just not use any of the funky syrup for flavoring. The problem with that was the funkiness also seemed to make the fermented liquid foam up inside my Sears still.  It foamed up, got into the cooling coils, and then flavored the batch with the tennis shoe funkiness that I was trying to avoid.  $12 literally down the drain.

On the other hand, $12-15 for my next gallon of nice rum makes up for it.

My best hooch to date was straight rye whiskey.  I ground the rye berries myself (by hand, which was slow), but I'm thinking of trying rye flour next time.  It would be expensive at about $30 per gallon, but worth the extra trouble, in my experience.  
I guess this blog was not as short as I thought it would be.  And there's a lot that I did not cover, so you will have to use common sense (those of you who have it) and maybe look to some of the brew websites.  Now back to our regularly scheduled saxophone program.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fitting the Reed to the Mouthpiece - The "Pop" Test

Every once in a while, I find a reference to testing whether the reed and mouthpiece are compatible by using the "pop" test.  That is where the air is sucked out of the mouthpiece, forcing the reed to seal up, and then watching to see how long (or whether), the fit is good enough for the reed to "pop" loose after a period of time.

I'm not a big fan of the test, as I don't believe that it answers all of the issues of whether the reed is compatible with the mouthpiece (or mouthpiece compatible with the reed).  Sometimes an incompatibility can show up as "resistance," which some players prefer.  Sometimes incompatibility shows up as a combination that easily subtones.  Sometimes an incompatibility can manifest as an easier altissimo or effect the intonation of different registers.  

Clearly, "incompatibility" is too strong of an accusation.  How the flex of the reed agrees with the lay of the mouthpiece has both good and bad results, and a simple "pop" test doesn't address all of the variables.  For instance, I've found that when sucking the air out at just the tip, I can usually hear air already leaking in further up the lay towards the ligature.  That generally doesn't matter, as that's where my lips will be when actually playing and my embouchure will take care of any "incompatibility" there.  In fact, not having a perfect match right there probably gives the player more flexibility in using embouchure to control the reed, and thus the complexity of the sound.

The one instrument I have that seems to want a lot of compatibility is my contrabass clarinet.  It could well be that my lack of familiarity with the clarinet, and the difference between the contrabass clarinet and the saxophone embouchure, requires that I have a facing that is smooth and predictable.  For the contrabass, I like the reeds that pass the pop test.  What is a passing grade?  Here's one.  You might need to hit the "full screen" icon at the lower right before you start in order to see the tip clearly. 

I had to work on this reed quite a bit to get it to this point.  I then suck the air out of the mouthpiece (and the "barrel" in this case) and see how it holds.  When it holds the vacuum this long, I know that the low bottom notes can pop out with just a puff of air, changing registers will be more fluid, and the high notes will have more volume.  All of that only happens once the monster and the giant slab of cane is warmed up, of course.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Great Stencil Mouthpiece Hoax

What's a "stencil" mouthpiece?  As with saxophones, stencil is a term applied to designate a mouthpiece that was ordered by a woodwind manufacturer, an instrument wholesaler, or a music store to be used as a private label piece for their exclusive sales.  Most mouthpieces are stencils. There have always been far fewer saxophone mouthpiece manufacturers than saxophone manufacturers.  Saxophone manufacturers simply outsourced the mouthpiece (as they do with pads, cases, etc.).  It simply wasn't economically feasible for the sax company to make the mouthpiece. 

The word stencil doesn't exactly explain what went on (and is still going on) in the world of mouthpieces.  There are two different situations here.  First, a saxophone manufacturer generally needs a mouthpiece in the case when it sends the horn to the retailer.  It finds a mouthpiece manufacturer, has it's own name put on the mouthpiece, and sends it to the retailer along with the horn.  In this situation, the mouthpiece manufacturer (as a supplier) could be called a "jobber" because the horn manufacturer is purchasing a finished product, including it with its own finished product, and in turn selling it to the retailer.

The second situation is the "finishing house."  That's where a mouthpiece business purchases a blank from the mouthpiece manufacturermodifies it to its own specifications, and stamps its own trade name on the piece before selling it to the retailer.  I'm calling the business that molded the mouthpiece the "manufacturer", any manufacturing for a second party is "stencilling," and any subsequent reworking and renaming of the piece by a second party is "finishing."

Let's look at some mouthpieces made by JJ Babbitt, a mouthpiece manufacturer and supplier of both blanks, stencils, and finished mouthpieces.  Here is a fairly common stencil that JJ Babbitt provided (as a jobber) for Buescher.  They were stamped Buescher, probably by JJ Babbitt as there is no evidence that Buescher ever finished mouthpieces, and included with Buescher saxophones.   Click on the picture for more detail. 

Here is the same blank stenciled for Selmer (Selmer U.S.A., which at the time was a separate company from Selmer Paris), and included with Selmer U.S.A. horns of the era:

Here is the same blank branded by the manufacturer as an actual Babbitt mouthpiece:

What is interesting about these Babbitt pieces stenciled for Buescher, Selmer, and others, is that they are often advertised as "Dukoff- Zimberoff House of Note Supersonic" mouthpieces.  Why?  Because Mr. Dukoff, as a finishing house, also bought some of these blank mouthpieces from JJ Babbitt before he finished them to his specifications and sold them through a Los Angeles music store.  The Dukoff pieces gained a cult following, in part because they had a larger opening than the standard .065" tenor stencils.

Here is a Babbitt blank originally finished as a Dukoff.  Like the pictures above, they are both tenor pieces (the second picture was foreshortened by the copying process).  Neither has the two bands on the shank, although some of the Babbitt blanks purchased by Dukoff do have them.  The Dukoff pieces usually have serial numbers.

But it isn't the serial numbers or the bands on the shank that turns a Babbitt blank into a Dukoff-Zimberoff House of Note Supersonic.  It's the lay, the tip, the baffle, and the general finish work.  Let's look inside at a couple of real Dukoffs (keeping in mind that the Dukoff pieces, as with other refinishing houses, sometimes had different chambers, especially when they changed blank suppliers).  Click on these pictures for a good look.

Interesting baffle, yes?  Nice work.  So what did the original Babbitt blank look like?  Turns out that they are like this Selmer Elkhart (advertised on Ebay as a Dukoff-Zimberoff clone).

See the difference?  Here's another Dukoff-Zimberoff:

Here's another Selmer Elkhart that was also claimed to be a Dukoff blank:

And here's a Buescher claimed to be a Dukoff:

I hope that you can see that the baffle (or lack thereof) is completely different.  As is the lay.  As is the tip opening. As is the table (more on that later).  The windows on these pieces look longer or shorter based on the same foreshortening problem with the pictures as noted above, but they are basically the same except when effected by the table.  Again, more on that later.

So why would somebody call a common Buescher #3 a Dukoff Zimberoff House of Note?  A couple hundred dollars.  That's right.  Some of these Babbitt blank student pieces sell for a couple hundred dollars because Bob Dukoff used the same blanks for some of his pieces.  Go figure.  Although Buescher and Selmer are the most common names that shared the blank with Dukoff, there are at least six branded stencils of this piece (and the actual Babbitt Artist).  They are not common as dirt, but Babbitt sold a lot of them as a generic student piece, often in a #3 lay.  In fact, some of these blanks are stamped Geo. M. Bundy and shipped with the Bundy horns.  I don't know if anybody is claiming that a Bundy is a Dukoff (or whether buyers are swallowing that one).

Keep in mind that the molding of blanks utilizes two mold shapes.  A "plug" controls the initial shape of the chamber.  It is placed inside of the exterior mold.  The exterior mold controls the external shape of the blank, although both the interior and the exterior can be modified after molding.  The exterior shape can be "updated" while using the same interior "plug" to form the chamber.  Some of the "older style" Babbitt Artists (shown below) actually have the same chamber as the later Dukoff-Zimberoff/Selmer/Buescher etc. blanks.  The mouthpieces aren't the same shape on the outside, but have identical insides.  Guess which characteristic effects how they sound?

The confusion also happens with other blanks.  Arnold Brilhart's first mouthpieces (prior to his plastic pieces) were custom made from hard rubber blanks that he had purchased from a blank manufacturer (the first from American Hard Rubber Co. in Butler, NJ).  The identical blanks were sold to other finishing houses, of course, but because they are sometimes claimed to be "the Brilhart blanks," they can also sell for 4 or 5 times the "normal" price of this fairly common vintage no name blank.

Here's a Brilhart refaced by Brian Powell and listed at $599:

  Here is the no name version that usually sells for $25-40 on Ebay (unless it is listed as an Arnold Brilhart vintage hard rubber piece).  

Here it is as a Bonacio Custombuilt, probably its most obscure iteration:

A "Brilhart blank" is often claimed to be a rare vintage piece made from special hard rubber when, in fact, there were even more stencils of this blank than of the Babbitt-made Selmer/Buescher/Dukoff etc., etc. blank shown above.

Turns out that variations of this theme, sometimes called "rebadging," have occurred in the auto industry.  Auto Carrier Ltd. in England produced an nice little sports car with an aluminum body and a 100 horsepower 4-banger, the AC Ace.
American auto designer Carrol Shelby imported the Ace chassis and put a Ford 427 V8 in it (sort of as a "finishing house") and created the Shelby Cobra, the fastest production car in the world at the time.  If I were selling an AC Ace, I could advertise the car as Shelby Cobra "blank."  Turns out that car enthusiasts are more discerning than mouthpiece enthusiasts and won't pay the extra money.  

I'm not saying that the vintage mouthpieces originally sold as Buescher, Selmer, Vibrator, Bonacil, Bundy, Penn, Coast, etc., etc., can't be turned into something similar to a Dukoff-Zimberoff or a Brilhart Hard Rubber.  It's just that it may take a lot more expertise than a superficial refacing.  

Back to a car analogy.  Say that I have a vintage Porche 356.

I find out that the cabriolet model (the convertible) is worth a lot, lot more, so I cut the top off of mine to make it into a cabriolet.  That way, I can sell my car for 7 times more.  

Again, it turns out that car enthusiasts are not as easily fooled by the superficial similarity as are mouthpiece enthusiasts.  You can imagine that starting with a coupe and actually changing it to a legitimate cabriolet is going to be very difficult (if not impossible).  Same is often true with a mouthpiece.

Which brings us back to the issue of the table on the blanks, the stencils, and "finishing house" pieces.  After comparing a lot of old mouthpieces, both collector pieces and their no names cousins, I saw that the tables were not always cut the same on what appeared to be identical blanks.  When the table is cut in such a way that it is closer to parallel with the neck opening, it creates more of a "streamlined" mouthpiece, i.e., something more like a Personaline style of mouthpiece.  It has the effect of increasing the tip opening without removing material from the tip.  It changes the angle of the baffle all the way through the piece.  It changes the way that it plays.

In some cases, it appeared that the finishing house altered the table on the generic blank with what is known as a "butt cut" (removing material at the back of the table).  In that case, simply opening the tip on a supposedly identical Babbitt-made "Dukoff" blank, as is commonly done, does not produce a piece identical to a Dukoff.  So a blank that started out similar to a famous vintage piece might not easily be refaced to produce the identical thing.  Just putting a Dukoff tip opening, lay, side rails, and baffle on a similar blank isn't likely to create a Dukoff (more on that in Hoax part 2).  Sort of like trying to change a coupe into a convertible.

Maybe pictures will help.  Here are three  identical vintage mouthpieces.  A Penzel-Mueller Artist Model, a JJ Babbitt Artist, and a no name.  The P-M Artist Model has the good reputation, so lets say that we are looking for blanks to make a mouthpiece "just like a P-M Artist Model."

In case you haven't noticed, I lied.  One of these is not like the others.  Although very similar, the one on the right has a shorter beak in comparison with the other two, which means that there is no way that it came from the same molded blank (although it appears to be a Babbitt-made piece).  When you are purchasing a mouthpiece that's claimed to be "just like a Dukoff," or "just like a Brilhart," or  whatever, you have no way of knowing unless you have both the generic blank and an original in your hand.  And if you have a real Dukoff, Link, or Brilhart, why do you need a fake one?

The middle one is the P-M Artist Model and the one on the left is the Babbitt (which is called simply Artist although Babbitt used this name on many of it's pieces, including one of its white plastic models).  Guess where Penzel-Mueller bought the blanks that it used to make it's Artist Model?  Give up?  Here's a clue.  It is made with that super-special vintage Penzel-Mueller hard rubber.  Yeah, it was made by Babbitt using the same hard rubber Babbitt used on thousands of other vintage pieces.  So hundreds of other brand mouthpieces feature that super-special vintage Penzel-Mueller hard rubber.  Get the story here.

But wait, remember we were talking about the differences in the tables?  Here they are looking from the other side.

The middle one is the P-M Artist Model and the one on the bottom is the "identical" Babbitt.  But look at the difference in table width and how the shape of the table differs at the shank.  That is because the Artist Model has had a lot more material removed to form the table before the facing was put on.  This effects the width of the rails, the shape and length of the window, the angle of the baffle to the bore, the amount of material between the table and the chamber, the amount of material left with which to form the baffle, etc., etc, even if the same curvature lay is used.  

If we are attempting to make a brand X Babbitt into a Penzel-Mueller Artist Model clone, we can "kind of sort of make it look similar maybe."  The same is true with turning a Buescher Babbitt into a Dukoff-Zimberoff House of Note Babbitt.  I'm not saying that the no name student versions of the blank can't make really great mouthpieces, I'm just saying don't pay a $150 premium to get a chance at trying it.  First, you have paid too much.  Second, you can only make something similar.

Which brings me to my final point.  "Similar" isn't a bad thing.  I'm not convinced that attempting to claim that "it's reallyDukoff" or "it's just like an Artist Model" or "it's actually a Brilhart hard rubber piece" should be a goal.  Good quality vintage hard rubber student pieces from respected manufacturers are readily available and (should be) inexpensive as blanks.  As we have seen, the no-name pieces often started as the same blanks.  Once properly refinished, they are a fraction of the cost of an original Dukoff, Brilhart, etc.  And that "original" Dukoff or Brilhart may have already been refaced (like one of the examples above), so in a way, refacing a $15 blank can get you exactly the same thing, i.e., a vintage hard rubber mouthpiece "in the style of" a Dukoff (as was done here) or a Link Tone Edge  (as was done here).  

Just remember that when you hear a claim like "it's really a Dukoff-Zimberoff House of Note Supersonic," it isn't and it never will be.  Don't despair.  It's also possible that your refinished no-name piece will play better than an old Dukoff, Brilhart, Link, etc.  The only downside is that you don't get to drop the famous name.  If that's important to you, you'll be interested in buying my Porche cabriolet.

P.S.: That Brilhart hard rubber piece refinished by Brian Powell shown above . . . well, it isn't.  I mean that it isn't a Brilhart.  It was a Brilhart, but not now.  Why?  Well, what made it a Brilhart in the first place?  Bonacio and many others used the same blank, as shown above.  If Bonacio stamped their pieces "Brilhart" would it be a Brilhart?  No, it's not the name stamped on the outside.  It is the Brilhart finish work that turned a generic blank into a Brilhart.  That generic blank now has different non-Brilhart finish work.  It is now a Powell.  Not that that is bad, in fact it is likely better, but let's get real about what's going on here.

A friend's brother-in-law has a Model T pickup.  It has a Cummins diesel engine.  The running gear is mostly Dodge, although some of the tranny is Japanese (which was used by Dodge).  Gauges are all new, etc.  The only thing that is still remotely Model T is the body shape and a Ford V8 logo on the radiator.  People will believe that it's a Model T pickup, but lets get real here.