Services  |  Customizations

2015-07-04 12.09

A wide range of customizations are available, “from the ground up.” Really, just about anything one could possibly want t have done can be done, and the only questions are of cost vs. gain.

My own tenors, for example, are a rescued-from-the-dead SBA tenor with fully replaced keywork (keywork taken from the JS Custom tenor) and a Conn Chu Berry on which I’ve switched out the original, more difficult upper and lower stacks, and left hand table, for much faster & more comfortable modern keywork (a combination of vintage German and modern keywork).  For me, these kinds of massive undertakings — rebuilding the horn completely from the stripped body to finished horn — are worth it. To do it for hire, though, is very expensive, and for some it would be worth it and for some it would not.  Those who have pursued this for hire with me have not been disappointed, but the cost of the labor is not to be understated.  It involved every aspect of custom and repair work from fabricating keys to, on occasion, changing the body and toneholes, to minor custom adjustments to the keywork with risers, extensions, etc., and designing new mechanisms to make modern keywork fit and flourish on tonehole layouts not designed for it.


Similarly, I have recently converted a Buescher True-Tone soprano in a nice vintage range to modern keywork (including Yanagisawa/B&S styled left hand pinky table), because for me this brings together the best of two worlds — the best vintage soprano, with the best modern keywork layout. A few pictures of this completely refigured horn follow below. On a custom job of this size and time requirement, there are a number of choices to be made, particularly in terms of time; the soldering work, for example, is not as neat on the True-Tone tone conversion as it would be if I had done this work for hire. On the one hand, I originally intended to have the body goldplated, which would hide soldering shadows, and on the other hand to do more extensive clean-up work would involve many more hours of labor. The final product is a compromise between the obligation to make the work very durable (so that the mounting hardware is as dependable, and long lasting and problem free as original keywork) without spending a lifetime on the prep and clean-up work, and also has a small amount to do with the solder used (non-lead solder, which is a little more durable but also less willing to spread agreeably than lead solders). Also, I was just plain anxious to get the horn playing, out of nothing but the urge to play it. There are a few last touches yet to be completed: redo palm F and side Bb keys; and goldplate chromatic F# key, Eb fork, and neck octave key.

I believe in the case of the True-Tone, this is the first time this type of conversion has ever been done.

Buescher True-Tone soprano with modern keywork:

Examples of simpler custom work:

F-F# support linkage (solidifies G#-F#-F linkage, and makes adjustments to it easy):

 King Zephyr Alto, modernized LH spatula, RH thumbrest change:
Rebuilt (fabricate, install) Buescher Snap-In Mounting:
In short, there is really nothing that can’t be done, and custom work is charged at the normal hourly rate ($65/hr), but on jobs the size of full keywork replacement a flat rate normally applies (for full keywork fabrication — not including parts cost, not including pad installation and set-up — labor is in the neighborhood of $3600, which works out to a rate a a bit less than half the normal hourly rate).


The more labor a job requires, the lower the hourly cost (the hourly labor rate lowers as hourly total increases).
Other general pricing reference points:
– Epoxy risers or extensions (painted, gloss finish): $45/ea
– Replace thumbrest (labor only, not including clean-up): $90
– Change vintage keyguard  to modern (e.g. low C or Eb, including parts but not clean-up):  $75
– Make metal thumbhook adjustable 360 degrees (alter hook only):  $60
– Custom metal thumbhook (including thumbhook itself):  $85
– Change archaic octave mechanism to modern (including modern LH thumbrest):  $750 (rough estimate, depends on parts backlog at time of request)
– Repair/remake Buescher snap-in mounting:  $120
– F# linkage assisting arm (from F, Yanagisawa style, mounted to keytube (not keycup):  $16
– Replace strap ring (including parts and clean-up):  $115

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