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Thread: Early Conn E-Flat Tuba Circa 1879-1888

  1. #1

    Early Conn E-Flat Tuba Circa 1879-1888

    Long story short. I've been sitting on one of these for 40 years keeping it out of trouble thinking it was a cheap economy model Stotzel valve Tuba, was misled years ago by Wolkwein's who just simply were innocent and clueless as to what it was, etc. I was quickly disabused about what I thought it was and I'm still getting over the initial shock when I explored getting it back into shape and playing condition with a great place, a dream I've had since I was a kid.

    I'm looking for some thoughts, insight, and knowledge.

    I know of three others extant from looking around on the net, are there more? A lot more? Are these "fairly common", scarce as hen's teeth, etc.? Dr. Earll's abstract on the subject of Early Conn Tubas has been enlightening as well as Robb Stewart's discussion on his example on his website.

    I'm deeply appreciative of any more knowledge that can be added on this instrument- I'm delving into a lot more than I'd bargained for when I was a 14 year old kid and Mom brought this back from a rural auction thinking it was a Baritone because of it's small size for a Tuba.

    Thank you so kindly in advance!

  2. #2
    These are rare, but mainly because they are very old. If it is small for a tuba, it maybe a student horn. That is pure speculation. The most important question is what shape is it in. Is it a high or low pitch? If it has missing or broken parts, you will have a hard time finding replacements. Best to become friends with a good tech who is willing to make parts for you. It is likely 3 valves so it isn't worth a lot in todays market. Everyone wants at least 4 or 5 valves. So, to restore it, you have a labor of love on your hands. You likely will not have a horn that its worth the money you put in it. (I know, I have 3 old Eb horns now that I have restored.) So, knowing that, if you really do not love the horn, try selling it now and move on. Don't expect a lot of buyers. Old horns have intonation and range problems that new horns do not. Like old cars and tractors, you do it for the fun of the restoration and the chance to display your work (think Tuba Christmas). Try posting this on the tubenet. There are people there who do this type of restoration or take these horns and remake them into something more modern, like the hot rod car builders.
    Last edited by opus37; 09-07-2017 at 07:19 AM.
    Wessex BR140
    Bunch of Eb tubas

  3. #3
    Thanks! From what little is known about the instrument- it's decidedly not a student model. It's Conn's first attempt to build a Tuba, and it's radically different from everything they designed afterwards. There are no mentions of it in any extant period Conn literature except for a mention of the patented "Equa-Tone valve"/ "Conic Clear Bore Valve". They were evidently all built to order. Luckily, it's in rather good shape all said and told. Everything is there, even down to the anchors for a strap. Pulling the third valve was revealing, even the nickel on the valve was bright (no discernible wear patches though there's some play inside the casing that i was told was to be expected but not bad) as well as the clear serial number on the internal part of the stem. It's definitely a 3-valve horn. The Tech is excited about the project.

    You're spot on about the "Labor of Love" issue. I know it isn't about trying to fatten the wad of cash in the wallet, rather the opposite. This hasn't been about "how much it's worth" monetarily to me, so I'm going in eyes wide open on that issue, thankfully.

    I had a good guess about range and intonation issues going in. I come from the end of the Piston-rotor/beginning of the two valve G Bugle era in Drum and Bugle Corps and know what it's like to play a God-awful instrument where every pitch is off and you have to adjust in every direction. That being said, I just had my Olds Piston-rotor Ultratone model Baritone gone over and as they go it plays really well as those things play, which means it's just a lot less hideous than 98 percent of the ones that are left.

    You read my mind about playing /displaying it. The tentative goal is to have it ready for Tubachristmas 2018 or 19 and to play it alongside my friend's c.1915 York E Flat that he's also having worked on as we speak at some gigs or for the Church his Brother's the minister of Music at- The York needs very little work, it was his grandfather's, and we're excited to get it back soon and polish it up. Underneath, our tech showed me it's still gorgeous.

    I find it interesting that there are some people who would do the equivalent of resto-modding the horn. I see your point. If this one was largely incomplete or at the level of "been hit by a truck and wrecked" to start with, I could see that as a goal, but it's in too good a shape for that. We're envisioning seeing this back to looking like it was when new and for good and bad... sounding as it does and should. I hope to share it with my Tuba friends (one of them's a pro in NYC and is eager already to try it!) and have it speak again and be enjoyed by everyone. I want to share it. It's not something I planned on making money from, ever.

    My biggest concern is not the instrument itself, it's the guy behind it. I'm a Euphonium wonk. Saying that I love to play is a serious understatement. It's the one thing I still do that always brings me deep joy and satisfaction, I'm frankly scared with me playing this, people will run for the exits once it's done. 8)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Hidden Valley, AZ
    Posts
    634
    Who is working the restoration?

    If it is that rare, it ought to go to Oberloh. He is not only the best in the USA, but a fine tubist as well...

    DG
    3 notes and the truth.

    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard, Wick 4AL
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1917 Conn C/D/Eb mellophone original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original, Bach 5GS

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,984
    Have you determined what it's pitched at? Given the age, it's very unlikely to be pitched at 440. It may be either "high pitch" ( A > 440) or "low pitch". But "low pitch" may be A < 440. If you can't tune it to A=440 then (depending how far out it is), it may not be useful for playing in contemporary ensembles.

    I discovered that the easiest/most accurate way for me to determine the pitch on my 1926 Buescher Eb (the one I'm holding in my avatar) was to set the tuner to a particular pitch, and then to attempt to play a scale (or several scales) without "lipping" the notes. See how close the notes come to the center of the pitch for that note. If you can't pretty easily play a good scale, the change the pitch (setting of the tuner), and try again. When I got to A=435, my 1926 horn produced an accurate scale. The horn then met Mr. Hacksaw. That horn is labeled "LP" (Low Pitch) on the 2nd piston. I was hoping for A=440, but ... .

    If what you really want is to restore a rare and interesting old instrument, then probably interaction with Mr. Hacksaw is not the direction you want to go (besides -- that won't work for a high pitch instrument). But you should discover what pitch the horn is built to, and then let that guide you in trying to use it in various circumstances.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  6. #6
    if it's 19th century, it's almost certainly high pitch. Not old enough to be interesting to the reenactor crowd, not new enough to use in modern ensembles -- that limits its value, even if the valve system is somewhat unique. There are probably Conn collectors who would be interested, but you'll want to make sure any restoration is done in such a way as to preserve the collectible value. It's worth a lot more if it is silver plated and has lots of fancy engraving. I'd guess it probably tops out at around $1000 or so.
    --
    Barry

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bbocaner View Post
    if it's 19th century, it's almost certainly high pitch. Not old enough to be interesting to the reenactor crowd, not new enough to use in modern ensembles -- that limits its value, even if the valve system is somewhat unique. There are probably Conn collectors who would be interested, but you'll want to make sure any restoration is done in such a way as to preserve the collectible value. It's worth a lot more if it is silver plated and has lots of fancy engraving. I'd guess it probably tops out at around $1000 or so.
    If it is in perfect shape and you can find a collector, you might get $1000. This isn't about value, it's about restoring history. I think the owner is going into this with his eyes wide open. Comments about determining pitch first is right on. If it is high pitch, new slides may be needed to make it play is modern pitch. That greatly increases the restoration cost. If he retains the original slides then it still has collector value. Without modification to achieve 440 through out the range, it will have very limited playing use. (Basically, a really nice wall hanger). It sounds like he has a good and willing tech to help. Hopefully he will keep us informed on his project.
    Wessex BR140
    Bunch of Eb tubas

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