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Date: Sat, 25 Dec 1999 21:13:33 -0500
From: jim and joyce <>
Subject: other woods

-Mike Barrister would like a cherry or oak bassoon.

Cherry is beautiful, but doesn't tool as well as some woods.  If your
tools are not very sharp, the wood checks.  Otherwise, I don't know how
suitable it would be.  Oak would be a disaster (if you used it).   Of
expands and contracts a lot.  I suspect it would crack to pieces.
White oak resists rot fairly well but red oak does not.

My question for the list is what about bamboo?  No, I don't mean those
peiced together bamboo saxiphones.  China exports steamed, laminated
bamboo for flooring and other purposes.  The stuff ain't cheap, but 1)
super straight grained, 2) much less expansion/contraction than most
hardwoods 3) relatively rot resistant.  4)  somewhat attractive.   I
know that other types of laminates have been used (the Conn experiment
from the late 40s/early 50s.)  Any thoughts?  PS,  one of the following
sites will send you some small samples, free.

jim &


Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 03:11:32 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Bamboo Instruments
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Well, it seems there was some bamboo in on of the gardens of an old house o=
f mine. The previous owners had grown it, for God knows what reason. It did=
 not look like the common variety; it was thin and porous, and was green an=
d eventually dried to a hard brown which could be cracked open revealing a =
strange tissue inside which seemed as a type of paper. I don't understand h=
ow bamboo could be used to make an instrument with a bore as wide as that o=
f the bassoon. The wood would have to be warped and wrapped, which is not a=
n ideal way to make an instrument like that. I've seen boxwood bassoons bef=
ore, and boxwood worked fine a long time ago but can't hold a candle to map=
le. I've seen plywood basses before; Kay used to make one. I heard the Smit=
hsonian has a wooden saxophone, a B-Flat sax I think. I think metal would b=
e the most sensible material for bassoons. I'd like to order a black lacque=
r bassoon with gold-plated keys, or a deep-red maple bassoon with gold-plat=
ed keys. I heard Hugo fox used to play a plastic bassoon which you could se=
e right through. saw a picture; I thought it was ugly. Would it be possible=
 to buy four (4) bassoons of differend brands and colours, and put their pa=
rts together in different ways so you had a plastic boot joint, a black-map=
le wing, red maple bell, and grenadilla bass. How interesting.

Michael Barrister=20

"That's a part of a staircase, isn't it?"
 Make your email jingle all the way - only from


From: "Chip Owen" <>
Subject: Re: [Contra digest]
Date: Sat, 25 Dec 1999 23:12:22 -0500
Hello Mike,

Most of your interests just require money, patience and luck.  There have
been a lot of instrument makers that enjoy these fantasy's as much as you.
The difference is that they often went ahead and created them.

I've always felt that grenadilla was a poor choice of wood for low pitched
instruments.  Rosewood would be better but maple would be my first choice.
Take a look at a pre-war Heckel catalog and you'll see that one of the truly
great instrument makers worked that way.  Heckel made just about everything
out of maple which is a better choice.  I've always wanted to see and hear a
Heckel maple bass clarinet, which were often made with straight bells
instead of curved.  I have seen a Heckel alto clarinet in maple.

Fox made a bassoon in walnut a number of years back that worked okay but not
as good as maple.  I would expect cherry to work well enough to be worth
trying.  I wouldn't waste my time on an oak bassoon--too grainy.  Several
makers did make brass bassoons, mostly in French systems.  There are
pictures of the Heckel shop showing a Heckel system metal bassoon.  Metal
bassoons are always thin walled in the sense that the tone holes stand out
from the bore tube in the same manner as flutes, saxophones and metal
clarinets.  The wall would need to be heavier than most brass instruments in
order to handle the mechanics but if it gets too thick you wouldn't want to
pick up the resulting weight.  Your "brand new, shiny, gold-lacquer brass
bassoon, thin walled, with custom engraving, a Low A bell, and I'd never
have to take it apart, because ideally it'd be one piece or two piece" would
only be good for hanging on a wall.  An A bell really ruins the way a
bassoon plays.  The appearance would be a problem because the average
tone-challenged conductor would take one look and "know" that it couldn't
possibly sound right, whether it does or not.  If anyone's looking for
custom engraving I can direct you to someone in Elkhart who does this.

I would certainly agree with the appearance of a lion headed bass--they do
look mighty fine.  As for the black-lacquer BBb bass, well, if your
instrument repairer won't do it for you, take to the local auto body shop.

The wood saxophone sounds interesting; I'd love to hear one.  A true wood
saxophone (not a tarogato) would be a technically challenging project.  The
wall thickness would have to be substantially thicker than brass, just the
reverse of the situation for the metal bassoon.  Cutting and facing the
large tone holes would present some interesting problems.

As a bassoon and contrabassoon maker, your comment that I found most
intriguing was your desire for a one or two piece bassoon.  My fantasy is
just the opposite:  I've always wanted to come up with some way to make a
contrabassoon that could be dissassembled into small enough units that its
case would be more like a suitcase than a coffin.  I think about this
periodically and don't anticipate it ever happening.  But it's an
interesting fantasy along with all the others.

Chip Owen
Columbia City, IN

> Date: Sat, 25 Dec 1999 03:19:47 +0000 (GMT)
> From:
> Subject: Metal Bassoons, odd bassoons
> Reply-To:
> I have always had a fantasy of ordering strange instruments. I would love,
for example, to have a maple bass clarinet, or a rosewood bass clarinet. A
grenadilla bassoon would be interesting. So would a cherry or oak bassoon.
I've always wanted to put a lion-head bass up in the corner of my study.I'd
love a wood saxophone, and I think a black-lacquer BBb Bass would be a fine
idea. But I've always wanted a metal bassoon. I'm thinking, a brand new,
shiny, gold-lacquer brass bassoon, thin walled, with custom engraving, a Low
A bell, and I'd never have to take it apart, because ideally it'd be one
piece or two piece. That'd be wonderful, wouldn't it? Did they ever make
one? In an old wind instrument manuscript i read that the bore is "wooden
and [rarley] metal." How interesting.
> Please tell me of the Wooden Bassoon.
> -Mike Barrister


Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 15:13:09 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Older-style clarinet basses
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If anybody on this list owns or has played a pre-Sax-style bass clarinet, l=
et me know. I've always wondered, how would you play this? Since it has a c=
larinet-style bell which does not curve out in front, it could not rest on =
the floor. All the designs I've seen were lacking an end pin or peg. Would =
you play it sax-style, over the right leg, or would you play it between the=
 legs Gamba style? I'd think the low notes would not be so good because of =
their inability to be projected out. I once saw a picture of a VERY interes=
ting looking contrabassoon (Chip, help me out here.) It looked quite like a=
 contrabassoon turned upside down, so its bell was facing forward but comin=
g from the bottommost tube, so it looked somewhat like an enormous, folded-=
over bass saxophone.In fact, forgetting all the key placement and such, its=
 shape was virtually the same as the modern-day instrument upside down. Is =
this the Wolf contrabassoon by chance? I hear Wolf makes fine bassoons. And=
 one more question for everybody. I've heard of a Semi-contrabassoon, which=
 was between the contrabassoon and the bassoon in pitch, and was folded lik=
e a contrabassoon although it was smaller, significantly. Tell me about thi=

-Mike Barrister

       Get an email address to party with this Christmas
               Only from


Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 00:17:46 -0500
Subject: ContraBass Balalaika
From: michael c grogg <>

Last week someone was looking for ideas on building a Bass Balalaika.

Yesterday I received two CD's of Christmas music by Greg Miner who
curates and presumably owns the Miner Museum.

In the Accompanying book, he talks about Balalaika & Bass Balalaika's
used in one of the tracks, and also makes brief mention of a Contrabass
Balalaika, but doesn't go into detail.

You might want to log on his website and see if he has any plans or
detail drawings available for the many restored instruments in the museum
collection.  I can also recommend the CD's as being top notch, and rather
out of the ordinary in the arrangements and instrumentation he has used.
(Little drummer boy done with Sitar's is an absolute gas!)

Find it all at:

Happy holidays to all, and I hope you all found the Contrabass instrument
of your dreams under your tree yesterday.

Michael Grogg

Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
Try it today - there's no risk!  For your FREE software, visit:

From: (lawrence johns)
Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 12:30:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: the pitch of the horn

OK you physics majors-please explain. I read where a 2 ft tube will
produce the note middle C,and so if the tube is doubled in length. it
will produce an octave lowered  C? So if this is the case, a Bb tenor
sax is twice as short in tube length as a Bb bass sax? So is there a
mathematical formula in determining the pitch of a horn? Boreing stuff
isnt it-bye
                Baritone sax,Bass sax
                      Bass clarinet

-Lawrence "Larry" E. Jodigest

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