Many thanks to Richard Howard for giving me the opportunity to review this clarinet.
Richard, I hope you will allow me to share your story!
In 1964, my sophomore year of high school, my music teacher told me to get rid of my crummy plastic clarinet and buy a wood one. I think he thought I might have some talent. So I took the money I was saving up for a Honda from my paper route and rototilling jobs and purchased an A. Fontaine wooden clarinet from Montgomery Wards Catalog. I felt confident in this because I had purchased a bicycle from them in fifth grade using money I made from selling Wallace Brown Christmas cards.
The A Fontaine was much harder to play because it never was adjusted from the time I got it. I thought it was me. My teacher convinced me to take private lessons from a professional who tried my instrument and couldn't believe how badly it leaked. I could have spent the money then and had it adjusted but I was saving for my Honda again, plus, my music teacher was helping me hate playing even though I had moved up to the first clarinet section in the Symphonic Band.
The summer before my senior year, I bought my Honda. My friends and I had planned a ride and camp out the week before school started. My music teacher had other plans and said if I missed any of the practice days before school started I'd be out of the band. Making first chair in the band suddenly seemed unimportant. Getting away from a music teacher that yelled and threatened us all of the time seemed very important.
Serial #7686 with the 8 not certain on both keyed joints
Barrel: 63.6mm and 60.2mm This came with two logo-stamped barrels!
Bore LH joint top: 14.6mm
Bore LH joint at bottom: 14.75mm This variation probably causes the poor intonation.
Intonation results taken when playing loud and not lipping. See how to interpret these results on the Model Comparison Page.
For this test, I pulled 2.0 mm at the barrel and 1.3 mm at the center tenon.
Intonation summary: This is OK for a beginning player. No amount of center tenon pulling will solve the Chalumeau problem! It could be played in tune as long as one stayed away from the Chalumeau. (But, alas, that is where biginners start.)
Key work quality: Good and sturdy. Good solid student quality in the 60s.
This clarinet is most appropriate for: a beginning student.
Condition issues noted: none.
[12Aug2014 Older posted information:]
"A. Fontaine ... mainly sold "stencil" instruments, that is, made by others
but with the Fontaine name on them."
A. Fontaine bought the Couesnon factory, and on the vintage page I posit that he continued making instruments, some marked as Couesnon, though around 1960.
The following 1964 ad lists the maker as Couesnon.
More on what a "stencil" instrument is in this message.
"A. Fontaine was an importer, not a manufacturer. Clarinets labelled 'A.
Fontaine' and "made in France" may have been made by Thibouville Freres or
Couesnon ... Most of the clarinets labelled 'A. Fontaine' that I've seen
were from the WWII to 1950's time period, as best I could tell."
Here, we find out about the "1638" marking. Clarinets were not invented until
1690, it can't be the year it was made, but rather it's a serial number.
"A. Fontaine was a trademark for U.S. imported woodwind instruments. It was
made in one of the many factories in France and stamped with that name."
"On the brass instruments by Couesenon (Couesenon is very famous in the brass
wind trade) the last 2 digits of the serial number indicate the year of
manufacture; no mention is made of how they marked woodwinds."
If the serial number of your clarinet follows this pattern, it might have been
made in 1938.
Your clarinet, highly depending on condition and the actual maker, might be
worth up to $350 or more. From the Marsh Woodwinds web site.
"A. Fontaine Clarinet #2xxx - Wood - in original tweed case - Price: $350.00"
The above is dated to the 1950s. If you click on the link marked "View more
pictures of this item" on the above page, they have an image of the logo.
It might also be worth $150 or less. From the Vintage Instruments web site.
"Clarinet in B-flat, A. FONTAINE BY COUESNON, Paris ... in very good condition,
requires standard overhaul ... $150"