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Thread: Besson Frankenhorn

  1. Besson Frankenhorn

    I am in the process of making 2 Besson euphoniums out of 3.

    The background:
    A friend of mine, Todd Clontz owns Rosso music. Todd is an excellent instrument repair man and many interesting instruments come into his shop.
    A few years ago, he talked me into 2 Besson euphoniums. One is a fixed upright bell 3 valve compensating and the other is a removable bell-front 3+1, 4 valve compensating. The only problem was that there were missing parts: three valve buttons and 2 top valve caps were missing. So, there were only enough parts to have 1 in playing condition at any time. Todd had suggested we remove the fixed upright bell from the 3 valve and put it on the 4 valve. I played both horns and really wanted to have both playable. I would just switch the parts to the horn I wanted to play. However, the removable front bell was never really to my liking. It seems it was probably a concession to the American market to compete with the American style "euphonium".

    Also interesting to note is that the front facing bell is larger in diameter that the upright bell (12" vs. 11"). However, according to the 1958 catalog, this was the same situation regardless of 3 valve or 4 valve. The ferrule where the bell joins the horn is the same diameter and the taper is the same up to the joint on the removable bell.

    The donor:
    Recently, I found and purchased off ebay another 3 valve compensating Besson. It had all of its parts plus plenty of dents. However, the bell, while wrinkled, appeared to be restorable. The bell came off easily and the major wrinkles were removed. Next step is to give it a really good rolling out on a dent machine.

    The valve parts proved to be more problematic:
    After sending them on a trip through the ultrasonic bath, I started to test fit the donor valve parts from the 3 valve onto the 4 valve. The finger buttons appeared to be the same as those on my other Bessons. However one had a different thread from the other 2 and would not thread into any other of the valve stems besides the one it came out of. The standard Besson buttons of that era are threaded 6-40. The oddball was metric! (M4-0.7) Even stranger was that the valve stem appeared to be original and not re-threaded or replaced. You may ask, why not just swap the valve stem? It is not that easy, Besson valve stems are soldered in to the valve top, not threaded.
    So, we re-tapped the 4th valve stem to the metric thread and solved that problem.
    The top valve caps were even stranger. 2 of the three were of slightly different inside diameter to match the slightly different valve bodies they came off of. The third was so large that it would not fully tighten on any of the 3 top valves on the 4 valve horn. Luckily, I only needed 2.

    Below are pictures of the 2 horns before surgery plus a shot of the donor bell just after removal.
    I will post more when the bell is smooth, polished and on the 4 valve.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 20191008_113627.jpg   20191008_114746.jpg   20191008_121640.jpg  
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,156
    Interesting project Will. Nice pics. Good luck and hope it works out.

    Why would Besson solder a valve stem to the valve?!
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
    Cell phone video of : El Cumbanchero:

  3. Thank you.
    I have no idea about the valve stem. Each manufacturer seems to have had their various ways of doing things. It is possible it was done post factory. However, I just looked at my other 3 valve and it looks the same. There is a small ring of a different color at the base of the stem. If the stems are actually threaded in, they are in very tight indeed. One of them was all chewed up by someone trying in the past to loosen it with pliers. If I had to venture a guess as to why solder versus threads is so that the stem never loosens when removing the finger button to then remove the valve cap. This would prevent having to hold the stem to remove a stuck button as well. Although it would make it quite difficult to fix a bent stem. However, in my experience, when they bend, they often break off at the threads.
    I suspect it is theaded AND soldered.
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

  4. I have some updates on the FrankenBesson project. The bell had been a hot mess as purchased. Initial rolling had gotten it to a semblance of the correct shape. After a trip through the dent machine and polisher in the expert hands of Craig Fager, it looks like a new bell again.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 592517638.jpg  
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

  5. With the bell restoration finished, assembly could begin. The remainder of the horn is nearly dent free. The lacquer finish is freckled; but, time and finances do not support a complete strip and refinish at this time. Plus, I want to play the horn for a while to make sure any adjustments to assembly can be made before any refinishing is done. However, all parts made a trip through the ultrasonic cleaning bath which made it all look considerably better.

    The previous bell on the 4 valve was a removable bell front. As such, the bracing was different in size and spacing from a fixed bell. Again, the donor 3 valve provided the necessary parts to fit the fixed upright bell to the 4 valve.

    Pictures of the test fitting are below.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 592518738.jpg   592518759.jpg   592518875.jpg   592518885.jpg  
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

  6. The bell installation is complete!

    The restored upright bell was soldered to the ferrule on the body and the braces were put in place. Interesting to note is that the Besson euphoniums of this era and design have, in addition to lead pipe and bell braces, the lead pipe directly soldered to the bell over a relatively large portion of its length.

    Next, those solder joints will be cleaned up a bit, the heat affected areas (reddish) polished out and the soldered areas and the rest of the bell spray lacquered and polished.

    I had originally considered replacing the existing "Euro" shank receiver with a large shank one. However, I watched a video (on this forum) of an interview with Brian Bowman regarding the Euro shank actually being a Besson creation specifically for the euphonium. So, the plan, at this time, is to leave the horn as is with the "Euro" aka Besson shank. I will play it first and decide if I want to swap out the receiver.

    The newly created FrankenBesson will fit neither the 3 nor 4 valve cases. So, I am looking at purchasing an SKB case for it.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 592519696.jpg   592519705.jpg   592522192.jpg   592522209(1).jpg  
    Last edited by Will; 10-11-2019 at 07:23 PM. Reason: typos
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Will View Post
    Interesting to note is that the Besson euphoniums of this era and design have, in addition to lead pipe and bell braces, the lead pipe directly soldered to the bell over a relatively large portion of its length.
    Yeah, I think the floating leadpipe was added in the 1990's or early 2000's. In the earliest examples I tried (I believe I borrowed Steven Mead's horn at an Army conference) seemed to have better response, although the slotting was almost too tight on that one - it was very tough to bend a pitch in tune. That got better at some point fairly soon.

    Horns are made both ways. My last two brands were Sterling and Adams (current). The Sterling had a floating leadpipe, which was kind of a trend. I was surprised that the Adams had a soldered leadpipe, but it works great that way. So apparently it is a design choice based on several factors.

    I wouldn't worry about the soldered leadpipe on yours - Besson had a good design.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    Yeah, I think the floating leadpipe was added in the 1990's or early 2000's.
    1993. I got the first one sold in the US as a high school graduation gift in 1994.
    --
    Barry

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Hidden Valley, AZ
    Posts
    654
    Hi Will,

    Good on you for going the extra mile with the good old Bessons. I'm a believer in them.

    You PM'ed me for info on the mods to my 181, I did reply via PM.

    Dennis
    3 notes and the truth.

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

  10. Another update on the FrankenBesson:

    I picked up the reassembled horn on Monday and was only able to play it a little that evening. The following evening I had a gig and had the dilemma of whether or not to perform using a mostly untried horn. I warmed up and played for a while and decided to go for it. The FrankenBesson plays very well. The next decision is whether to stick with the Euro/Besson shank or swap out to a large. I have some Doug Elliott mp parts in large shank so I may just buy a Euro shank for those for now.
    This turned out so well, I am going to take in my 3 valve Besson of the same era for some work to make it look better.
    Sorry that the pictures are not better, they were taken rather hurriedly before heading out to play.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 20191014_182618.jpg   20191014_182632.jpg  
    Weril H980 euph
    Besson 4v comp euph 314xxx
    Besson 3v comp euph 455xxx
    King 3v bari. 20xxx
    King 4v double-bell euph 50xxx
    Conn 5v double-bell euph 355xxx
    Buescher 3+1 double-bell euph 285xxx
    Olds bell-front 3v bari
    Holton alto horn
    Holton 3v tuba
    Belleville Helicon
    Some of the performances of the Mid-Shore Community Band:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...ty%20band&sm=3

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