Civil War Era Replica Instruments
In the late 1970s when I got my first job repairing brass instruments, American Civil War era instruments were already becoming valuable. It was suggested to me that I could rearrange parts from junk instruments to make the bell point backwards just like the re-enactor bands wanted. I made my first replica brass instrument in March 1981 but it was important to me to use all new parts and make it look as close as possible to an original. After the Olds factory closed in 1979, the contents were sold off. It seemed that there were Olds parts everywhere so it isn't surprising that the first few instruments were mostly Olds parts, including single French horn rotary valve assemblies. The first was an Eb cornet with the bell over the shoulder, using an Olds Bb trumpet bell. For the first several Eb tubas, I utilized bass trombone valves, making for quite a small tuba, similar so some of the originals.
For many years, I've made a lot of the parts myself, although most of the rotary valves were made for me by Joe Marcinkiewicz. Some of the bells, slide crooks and tubing are made for me by Zig Kanstul. The bells that I made were the soprano Saxhorn (flugelhorn), Eb and Bb keyed bugles and some of the altos. In a few cases, I must make all of the parts in my shop. These include the keyed bugles and ophicleides and some other more obscure projects.
With the exception of the very first cornet and two times that I wanted a demonstration/sample instrument available, every replica is made to order for the customer, often incorporating unique design or specifications that are requested by the customer. An example would be a copper bell rather than the usual brass. Some models that I've made were never requested a second time, such as a four valve Civil War era Eb tuba with the bell upright, although I've made more than a dozen with the bell over the shoulder. Another very interesting and never repeated project was an orchestral F trumpet, replicating the famous model made by Courtois, with crooks for Eb and D. Surprisingly, other unusual instruments were repeated, such as the Eb contrabass ophicleide, of which I made two. In the last 35 years I've made over 300 instruments encompassing more than four dozen distinct models. The most commonly requested model is the Eb soprano with bell over the shoulder with 21 examples and total in all bell configurations being 38, including bell front, bell over the shoulder, circular and bell upright.
I no longer make any of the larger instruments, not being young anymore. I can't justify the more intense labor involved in making these, preferring a longer career.
The first photo is a singular example circular cornet (Saxhorn or flugelhorn) that I built for myself without any intention of selling it. This is a rare example where I made every part in my shop as a challenge to make an exact replica of an original made by Graves in the 1850s. It is made of German silver rather than brass.
I still make the Eb sopranos and Bb cornets with brass or copper bells but I no longer make the larger of these instruments.