F.E. Olds and sons, who produced good quality brass instruments, expanded their line of musical instruments in the 1950s to include a number of woodwinds. Five lines of soprano clarinets were offered, which were, from least expensive to most expensive, the Ambassador Ebonite clarinet, the Ambassador Wood clarinet, the Special Wood clarinet, the Studio clarinet and the Opera clarinet. Olds contracted out the manufacturing of their clarinets, most likely to a variety of clarinet makers in France.
The description of the Olds Studio clarinet from their 1957 catalogue reads: "The Studio Bb clarinet offers most of the features found only in the finest clarinets - forged nickel silver keys, faultless intonation, rich full tone quality, especially evident on the "bridge" notes, post-locking screws wherever necessary and specially selected Beechler mouthpiece. Attractive leather bound and vinyl covered case with velvet plush lining" (advertising never changes, does it?!).
Bore: LH top 14.4mm.
Bore: Middle 14.4mm (both very narrow!)
These photos are from an Olds Studio clarinet of that era. It has a warm rich tone. "Made in France" is stamped on the upper and lower joints.
Photo number 6 shows the Buffet-style pin-in-hole left pinkie keys that are found on many French stencil clarinets.
7. Olds Studio is stamped on the bell.
8. Both joints are marked like the SML. This Olds Studio is marked 10 F and M. The left hand joint says “Made in France” at the top. The RH joint also says that, and gives the serial number at the top, 2261.
9. Two reasons that people might think that the Olds Studio was made by Buffet is because of the pin in hole left pinkie keys and the blue steel and wickedly sharp spings.
The SML I have seen didn't have the blue steel springs.
10. SML clarinets seem to be unique in having a middle tenon that is only 9/16ths of an inch long. (About 14.4 mm.) The left is the Olds, middle is the SML, and a Buffet is on the right.
The SML has a wide bore, 15mm at the top, instead of 14.4.
I would bet the SML was made later than the Olds.
11. The key work is almost identical except that the SML (this time on the left) has a beefed up bridge key on the RH joint.
12. Here is the mark under the G# key on the SML.
My first intonation test, pushed in all the way was with a B45 mouthpiece and an older Legere 4 reed. Second test, Portnoy and newer Legere 4 reed.
I would have used barrel rings, but mine don't fit such a narrow bore. This is good intermediate-instrument intonation. And the tone and response are lovely.
The low throat tones are not a concern. I always play loud, so the throat tones go flat. But they will be sharp if I play softly. There is nothing one can do to help the sharp chalemeau register but to shade the notes with the fingers. Compare with Selmer Signet and many, many others. The upper register sharpness can be lipped down.
Who was the maker?
I talked to some one at the F.E. Olds and Son company today. He didn't have much to add to what we already know. Apparently when the Olds company was taken over (in the 1970s, I think) the records dealing with their clarinet manufacturers were lost. He told me that since my Studio has a four-digit serial number it would have been one of their earlier clarinets, but he didn't know what year that would be since they don't have any specific lists of serial numbers (I'm still guessing 1950s, from the style of case, if nothing else). Olds ranked their instruments by name - Ambassador models were always student models, the Studio line was a step-up instrument, and the Opera line was their top model. Some of their clarinets were made in Germany and some in France. He thought the ones made in France might have been made by Buffet. I'm wondering if he's heard some of the same discussion that Ken Shaw alluded to on our question at woodwind.org (which referred to the Opera clarinet being a Buffet stencil). I doubt if their lesser clarinets were Buffets - there would have been more talk about them. So, that's about it, and I think it is back to educated guesses (more yours then mine!). woodwind.org thread mentioned above