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Vintage Wood/Odd Brand Reviews

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Clarinets made in the 20th century are not like violins, where a vintage instrument may be worth millions. Fourteen keyed Albert system and antique clarinets with fewer keys are significantly harder to play, and the volume of tone is not what modern players want. Unless you live in Switzerland or Germany, you want a modern Boehm system clarinet. And if you want a professional level instrument, you want one of the newer poly-bore instruments that date from the late 1960s to the present. That being said, many of the vintage instruments on these pages are very nice intermediate-level instruments.  Some readers may want to skip to What's my French stencil clarinet worth? While this page is mainly about French vintage instruments, if your instrument is from another country, look for it under the sub-pages of this page. (displayed below)
  • Some of the French stencil clarinets would have no problem fitting into college concert bands, being played by fairly advanced musicians.
  • Wide bore models work well for jazz or for polka or dixieland bands.

  • Many vintage clarinets would work well for beginners, as long as they are careful of the key work, which is likely to be more delicate than the better beginning plastic instruments.
  • The narrow bore instruments often have a delightfully sweet tone and play large intervals with great smoothness. They are great for chamber music.
  • A few French stencil clarinets are junk, worthy only of being made into lamps. But even those are better than many Chinese clarinets for sale new for around $120.
Vintage instruments are more often medium and older ones are narrow bore. Some were made with a large bore in the jazz era. (14.5mm = narrow, 14.75 = medium, 15mm = wide)

Corrected list of French “stencil” clarinet brands:

Stencil clarinets are mainly those made from around 1920 and at least until the late 1960s in France by makers such as Malerne, Thibouville/Masson, and Couesnon. These makers would stamp their instruments with names such as listed below. Clarinets stamped with the real name of the maker may not be considered as a stencil clarinet, but they would be physically just like the stencil clarinets that they made for others in the same period.

I (Phil) am on a quest to see which of these clarinets should be saved and played, and which should be made into table lamps.

Makers:
  • Malerne
      • Seems to have been the maker who made the most different names, even making instruments for major clarinet brands. When people don't know the maker, Malerne is the first one people propose as the maker. SML bought the Malerne factory in 1975. See Malerne Company History.
      • Two clarinets that I think were made by Malerne are the two Brittany models I have reviewed. There is a list of Malerne characteristics listed below the review of the older one, Brittany serial 2212.
    • SML (Strasser, Marigaux & Lemaire) made some models of clarinets as well as oboes and probably other instruments. Some of their clarinets were sold under different names as “stencils.” (“Le Maire,” with a space, may be a separate stencil brand. Anyone out there know?) SML clarinets start somewhere in the mid-1900s (maybe 1940-1960???), and I assume they made clarinets before SML acquired the Malerne factory in 1975. Their stencils include:
  • Thibouville Frères bought out the famous historical maker, Martin Frères. I am guessing this may have happened in the late 1800s. Thibouville made same clarinets that bore the Martin Frères name, the Thibouville name, and many other stencil names. Then the factory was purchased by Masson in 1957. My question now is whether La Monte bought out Masson and then made the more modern Martin Frères clarinets. I have reviewed a clear example of a Thibouville clarinet from approximately 1945 period, the Concert model. A list of Thibouville characteristics is found on that page. Based on the key work, and especially the wide rings, I think that these below are made by Thibouville, and they are probably from 1946-1960.
    • La Monte//Martin Frères followed after Thibouville.
    • A Fontaine had something to do with Couesnon. One woodwind.org post quoted on the Fontaine page says that he was an importer, not a maker.
    • Buffet
            • made some clarinets for Linton, as did Malerne. 
            • The circa 1905 model reviewed was stamped G. Fischer, New York, but that was below Buffet's own logo.
            • Henry Gunckel
    • Selmer
            • Sterling, Paris
              • Information from Chris P at woodwind.org: There are some Selmer Paris clarinets going under the name Sterling Paris. They're not the same as the intermediate level Selmer Sterling clarinets made for Selmer London (which were Malernes), nor Chinese ones from recent times, but actual pro level Selmer Paris clarinets made in the '30s or thereabouts with a diamond logo instead of the laurel wreath logo and no  mention of the name Selmer on them.
                I've seen a high pitch silver plated metal semi-Improved Albert system one which has all the classic Selmer traits and more recently, a wooden one with similar keywork.

    How can you tell if you have a good French stencil clarinet?
    See answers on the page entitled What's my French Stencil clarinet worth?
    Broadly speaking, I like the Couesnon and SML instruments I have seen.

    Couesnon and SML clarinets are not not for making into table lamps: Other personal favorites so far are
    Jean Barre
    René
    Dumont
    The two above appear very like the Thibouville I reviewed, but they could be by Malerne as well. Both makers use similar batch numbers underneath the keys, and both probably used the same key work manufacturers.



    These subpages include Vintage clarinets from other countries:
     Czechoslovakia Germany Italy
     See this page for Czechoslovakian stencil clarinets. La Chapelle
    Georges Duval
    Holton Collegiate
    Uebel
     Star Deluxe
    Rampone

    Other Subpage Categories:
    19th Century Clarinets
     Albert System
      

    The list below is for clarinets from 1900-1980.

    An alphabetical list of  (mostly) French stencil clarinets is on the right next to the subpage listing:

    Red marks French made stencils, but marketed with American names.

    Subpage Listing

    • Air Flow
    • Alexandre Made both wooden and plastic models. The one I had was plastic and was excellent. I am NOT impressed by the wooden model I just restored.
    • Ambassador FRANCE — UNITED STATES
    • Amelotte
    • Andre Bardot Artiste, Paris
    • Artcraft, Paris
    • Leon Aubert (plastic)
    • Ault Supreme, Paris
    • Bay States (also stamped Laubé)
    • F. Barbier (Couesnon SML/Selmer)
    • Jean Barde
    • Jean Barre 
    • E. Bercioux, Paris/ brevete/ s.g.d.g.  Eugene Bercioux
    • Henry Bouche, Paris (from eBay ad, looks like Malerne product from 1950s)
    • Bourdain, Paris
    • Jerome La Bourge, Paris
    • Brittany (probably made by Malerne)
    • Martin Busine
    • F. Buisson (Dallas, London)
    • Jean Cartier “Artiste” The one I have is made of hard rubber.
    • Andre Chabot (Malerne)
    • Champlaine, Paris (USA government import)
    • Charlain Deluxe  //  Vernand Charlain
    • Conn ?But which models? [Now I think that Conn's came from Czechoslovakia instead.]
    • Coudet, Paris
    • Couesnon
    • Louis Delmat, Paris
    • Marcel Deleau (C clarinet, probably 50's Baxter Nortrup import)
    • Marque Deposee
    • Dixie
    • Doré LP B (reported by Alan B, UK)
    • Henri Dubois, Paris
    • Pierre Dumont, Paris (logo in oval)
    • René Dumont (straight sans serif caps)
    • M. Dupont Sears Roebuck & Co. (French imports) post 1918
    • Georges Duval (Germany)
    • Henri Farni Model Superieur, Paris
    • Filmore, Cincinnati
    • A. Fontaine (1963-69, by Couesnon)
    • Freeman Concert, Paris / H. Freeman NY / Freeman M-100
    • Henri Frenier (USA Government import)
    • Getzen Deluxe Elkhorn Wis." on the bell piece but is marked "Getzen Made in France
    • Godfroy
    • Grenadier
    • Greville, Paris  (USA Government import) 
    • Henry Gunkel, Buffet stencil.
    • Holton Collegiate (looks like Couesnon)
    • Guy Humphrey Le Superieur, Paris (with high-quality QS Chedeville mouthpieces (stamped otherwise, of course))
    • P. Gutowski, Elizabeth NJ (Looks from eBay ad to be Couesnon)
    • Emil Jardin both wooden and hard rubber appear to be made by Couesnon.
    • Jeffrey, Paris, all wood, looks from the eBay pictures like a Malerne product.
    • G. Jeuffroy, Paris (hard rubber, left pinkie keys on single post)
    • Labori, Paris (USA government import)
    • La Chapelle (Germany)
    • La Couture *** Paris (may be Malerne product, or perhaps Thibouville?)
    • Lacroix, M., Paris (USA government import)
    • La Fayett, Paris (seen on eBay. Looks like plastic. Name might be a misspelling.)
    • M. Lemaire, Paris (seen on eBay)
    • Lamott, Paris  (This is NOT Lamonte.)
    • Laube and P. X. Laube
    • Ledoux
    • A. Lefevres, Paris
    • R. Lefebre
    • Jules Legris, Paris
    • Leonardais, Paris
    • E. Lerue   (possible French Stencil name, sent in by Silverio in Patagonia, Argentina!)
    • Lewis Artist, Paris
    • Linton with high-quality QS Chedeville mouthpieces (stamped otherwise, of course))
    • Rene Lorain (Recent eBay ad says this was made in Italy, but it sure looks like a Malerne from the late 1940s. In a question to the lister he says it is stamped Made in Italy. Is it possible that he looked at the mouthpiece?)
    • Emil Lyon, Paris
    • Lyons Monarch, Chicago
    • Le Maire Recent information leads us to think that this name is not to be confused with Lemaire of SML (above).
    • La Mer
    • Paul Magniere    **PHIL'S FAVORITE**
    • Maitre, Paris (shows signs of being made by SML)
    • Jean Marbeau, Paris
    • Pierre Marceau, Paris (Seems to have a good reputation. Some concern expressed about key quality. Recent one on eBay may be hard rubber.)
    • Jean Martin
    • Martin Freres wood (The Martin Freres Lamonte Grenatex is made of hard rubber with the upper joint lined with metal.) There is evidence that this was made by Malerne.
    • Marineaux
    • Pierre Mauré
    • Henry Mekel, Paris (USA government import)
    • Meliphone, Paris, made for the Woodwind Co. New York
    • Monopole **PHIL'S FAVORITE**
    • L. Montaine, Paris
    • No Name (probably by Malerne)
    • Olds See Olds Studio and Olds Ambassador
    • Henri Parny H.P. Paris
    • Peate's Utica N.Y.
    • Harry Pedler My theory is that the wooden Pedlers were made by Couesnon.
    • Penzel-Mueller
    • L. Pertin
    • Andre Piccard, Paris
    • C. Ponte, Paris — New York
    • Pruefer RI, wood and HR   USA made.
    • A RAMPONE Quarna Novara.  (near Orta Lake, district Verbania, Italy)
    • Raymond, Paris Sponsored by Selmer
    • Guy Renne, Paris (USA government import)
    • Paul Renné, Paris 
    • A Roberts, Paris
    • Silvertone, sold by Sears around 1964, and made in both metal and wood. The wood one had the brand name only as a sticker on the bell, so when that comes off, it becomes a no-name clarinet.
    • Star Deluxe, Italy, sold by Star Band Instruments Company, USA. (But which location?)
    • Thibouville-Lamy (from the stencil maker named Thibouville)
    • Triebert, Brevexxt Paris ?
    • Triomphe, hard rubber.
    • Leon Trotts / Leon Trotte?, Paris
    • G Valette (Hard Rubber, looks in the eBay ad to be just like the Emil Jardin.)
    • Marcel Violette, Paris
    • Woodwind Co. NY
    • E.U. Wurlitzer, Boston (wooden, looks like a Malerne 1940-1950's product)
    • Zenith Whittle, Dallas (Evidently there were both wooden and hard rubber instruments stamped for this company.)

    Some of the above are from the HasAnyoneHeard page at woodwind.org.


    fragment from Don Berger at woodwind.org:
    ...Malerne, who made many of the "stencilled" cls of that time period 40-60's. If, perhaps, the wood bodies were machined in France, and the keywiork put on here in the US, the neighboring [to NYC]] makers were Penzel-Mueller on Long Island, Pruefer, Pedler, and Bettoney in New England.

    Insure2020 included this information in the same thread:
    Martin Denis’s other son, Eugène (b 1832; d Ivry-la-Bataille, 1891), established his own firm by 1855 in Paris; by 1862 it was located in Ivry-la-Bataille as ‘Noblet & Thibouville’. This was succeeded in 1886 or 1887 by ‘Eugène Thibouville et fils’, the two sons being Adrien (b Ivry-la-Bataille, 1855) and Camille (b Ivry-la-Bataille, 1864). By 1890 it was called ‘les fils d’Eugène Thibouville’ and in 1909 ‘Thibouville frères’, which continued, after 1910, under the management of Adrien’s younger son George (b Ivry-la-Bataille, 1886; d Ivry-la-Bataille, 1957), passing in 1957 to Maurice Masson. The woodwind instruments made by Thibouville frères could also be stamped on request with the mark of any of 18 different clients.


    From Jack Kissinger at woodwind.org:
    So do stencils start earlier than 1940?

    Indeed they do. Much earlier. I have a C-clarinet labeled Bay States. Removing the keys reveals, in very small but neat script, the name Laubé stamped in gold on each of the joints. According to Langwill's, Laubé ceased operations (if memory serves) in 1898. I expect stencils were probably around before that.

    There are stencils with apparently made-up names, usually French, like Buisson or Guy Humphrey; stencils with the name of a music store that carried them as its private line, like Bay States; and stencils made by one instrument manufacturer for another so that the second company could fill out its product line. For example, Linton is an Elkhart manufacturer that has been in business for many years and is still in business today. The company is known primarily for double reeds but it also made plastic student clarinets around the 60's and 70's (and an unusual plastic clarinet d'amore). The company wanted to include harmony clarinets and professional models in its line but didn't have the capacity to produce them so it imported wooden clarinets made by Malerne and Buffet between around 1960 and 1972. Malerne also made instruments for Conn, Olds, and others.

    For more examples of stencils (though be aware that there are some questionable items in the list), you might want to take a look here:

    http://www.woodwind.org/clarinet/Equipment/HasAnyoneHeard.html

    Of the manufacturers and models on your list, the following are not stencils (though some of them made stencils): Thibouville Frères, Malerne (sometimes I find it hard to believe that they had the capacity to make all the instruments that have been attributed to them), Couesnon (Monopole was a professional model they made, generally pretty highly regarded as far as I can tell).

    And to muddy the waters a little, also keep in mind that prior to WWII, there were numerous small manufacturers in the La Couture district. In fact, some of the so-called stencils may actually have been their clarinets. These makers often moonlighted at larger factories and probably purchased component parts from larger manufacturers (joints, keys, barrels, bells, etc.) which they then assembled in their shops or even homes. (I was told this by Jack Linton.) So, the fact that two instruments are similar in appearance or have similar keywork does not necessarily mean that they were made by the same manufacturer.

    Phil Pedler writing at the same thread:

    I have updated my list with some information I found at various eBay auctions, some conjecture, and from the HasAnyoneHeard page. More questions below.

    CORRECTED LIST IS AT TOP


    ...

    And, showing my ignorance of history: Why did the USA government feel the need to import French clarinets?

    Response from Jack Kissinger:
    I'm sorry. I was apparently unclear in what I said about Malerne. I never intended to imply that Malerne did not make stencils. They absolutely did. What I intended to convey was that clarinets (and oboes) labeled Malerne are not stencils. However Malerne did make stencils for Linton (Eb and bass clarinets), Conn and Olds (bass clarinets). Vytas Krass has also provided compelling evidence that Malerne was the manufacturer of any Buffet Evette & Schaeffer clarinet that doesn't have a K-prefix to its serial number. In a thread referenced below, Dave Spiegelthal lists some others. My comment about Malerne's capacity was actually in response to the fact that, recently, virtually every time someone has raised a question about a French-made clarinet that might have been a stencil, someone else has proposed that the maker was Malerne. I think I did some digging into the Malerne history a number of years ago and found some information. (My first wood clarinet was a Malerne.) At the time, I think I posted some of my findings on the Klarinet list. If you search for Malerne and my name on this Board and the Klarinet List Archives, you may find what I said. (Sorry, it's been so long ago, I don't remember everything I found.)

    Some further clarification. Bay States was a music store (I want to say somewhere in the northeast, maybe Boston). While the Bay States clarinet I have is marked Laubé, it's my understanding that they, like many other stores that carried store-name stencils, bought from many different suppliers over the years, sometimes changing from year-to-year.

    Le Maire is probably an error on the list. It probably should be Lemaire, in which case it is not a stencil but rather the intermediate model made by SML, a woodwind company founded in Paris in 1934 by three partners, Strasser, Marigaux and Lemaire. This company is best known, nowadays, for Marigaux oboes and english horns but, for many years they also made clarinets and saxophones. SML purchased the Malerne factory in 1975. The presence of "Le Maire" on the list suggests that not all of the instruments on the list are necessarily stencils, some were merely imports. (The presence of Noblet on this list further supports this argument.) Googling will lead you to more historical information (key words to include are marigaux sml malerne factory cicetti nora post in different combinations).

    One reason the U.S. government imported French clarinets is probably the same reason it still does -- military bands. Our government still provides Buffet and Selmer instruments (among others) for military bands. There may be other reasons as well.

    About a year ago we went through some discussion of stencils. You might want to take a look at:

    http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=248131&t=248050

    One of the comments in that list is that, at this point, in most cases we're likely never to know for sure who made what when. Too much of the history is lost.

    It seems to me that the next logical step in your research should be to do a search (on this Board, on the Klarinet List Archives and perhaps on the internet) for each of the specific names you have on your list. You will probably find sufficient evidence to convince you of the bloodlines of some of the models. Others will likely be inconclusive.

    From Modernicus at woodwind.org.
    I had the impression that Le Maire as two words was stencil brand with no
    relation to Lemaire of S.M.L. Many have appeared labeled as such (Le
    Maire) on ebay. From the list above, Alexandre ("Paris") was also a
    stencil brand, from what I have found on the web. I do not think it has
    any relation to Alexandre Selmer, as some occasionally suggest.



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