Antique Buffet B-flat
The bell is stamped with the Buffet logo plus G FISCHER, NEW YORK.
The dimensions of the parts are not those of modern clarinets. The left hand joint is much longer than normal, and the clarinet would have come with short barrel, perhaps even a bit shorter than the 62.7mm adjustable barrel with it now. The comparison is shown next to my Lyrique clarinet. The Buffet has the wrap-around register key. The register hole is higher up than a non-wrapping register key, and does not have the tube that protrudes into the bore. This makes the throat tone B-flat much clearer.
I feel like I know Fred, the Table Rock, Nebraska man who owned and performed with this clarinet. Judging by just what I can deduce from the instrument, Fred liked to play jazz, and he probably was first chair in the Table Rock community band, as long as it was in existence. Fred would have played Sousa marches while the March King was still living. He probably also played regularly in Lincoln, where the instrument was serviced and perhaps purchased from Dietz Music House. It is likely he doubled on saxophone in the dance bands he played in. For whatever reason, he probably stopped playing sometime before or during the 1960s. The instrument was made by or around the time of the first Model T Fords (1908). It probably came to the midwest on a steam engine train and was built by highly skilled craftsmen in France who used steam power for their lathes. Think of the changes between then and now!
Serial # 620R or 820R! Made in 1903. For serial numbers this early see UARK.
Barrel: non-original 62.7mm. Probably the original would have been around that length.
Bore LH joint top: 14.6mm
Bore LH joint at bottom: 14.6mm
Fred played enough to wear through the thin metal of the doughnut/pancake key. I have filled and covered the wear with finger nail polish. The rest of the keys are in great shape, for a horn that has been used quite a bit.
Complete pictures are here.
The extra LH ring finger ring allows the player to finger E-flat/B-flat with just fingers 1 and 3, the “forked” fingering.
Intonation results taken when playing loud and not lipping. See how to interpret these results on the Wooden Clarinets main page.
Intonation summary: These results were made with the vintage Brillhart mouthpiece that was last used with this horn and the variable length barrel. The middle register is too flat compared to the fiercely sharp upper register. Using the Brillhart mouthpiece gives better results than using my standard B45. It is VERY likely that this instrument would play nicely in tune with a historically appropriate mouthpiece and a better barrel. This clarinet really needs a hole in the bell. The middle B is too flat with the original bell. The results here are with a bell with a hole, which I will include when selling this. [Recent edit: I thought it might be possible that the right hand joint is from an A clarinet. I have tested it with a RH joint from an Emil Jardin and a vintage Noblet. The Noblet RH joint is 8mm shorter than the Buffet joint, but the intonation problem is incredibly still the same when using the Jardin or Noblet joints. The right hand clarion register is still flat. I admit that I am stumped by this.]
This clarinet is most appropriate for: An adult player returning to clarinet playing, or an almost-intermediate player. The Brillhart mouthpiece is most appropriate for someone who plays with a jazz tone and softer reed. With its current mouthpiece and barrel, the clarinet would live most happily in contexts where the intonation problems will not be noticed, such as in a large band or individual practice.
These results playing an F scale. Other notes are just blips.
Here I depressed the 2nd finger donut key on high C. The key was designed to be depressed without closing the hole. Fred must have used it a lot, because that is the edge where the metal has been slightly worn through.
This instrument shares several attributes I like in French Stencil clarinets:
I have not been able to adjust the donut key so that one can hold the first and third fingers of the left hand down and trill with the donut key all by itself. I think one should be able to do that, but even with replacing the spring and ensuring easy movement, I cannot get that key to trill freely. But one almost never would need to trill that combination. Other than that, this instrument plays nicely.