Bb Keyed Bugle Replica with Nickel Trim
This was one of the last keyed bugles that I made and the only Bb in copper with nickel trim. The interesting story to be told here is producing a product for a demand that is almost non-existent. In 1985, when I set about tooling up for making these, the only other new keyed bugles available were being made in Pakistan and were so crudely made that they couldn't be made playable without heroic efforts (I tried).
The demand for keyed bugles is so very small, that in more than 25 years, I have made only 22, including both Bb and Eb instruments. Most of these have been Eb bugles, because of the very high prices of originals and the desire for some players to emulate the famous soloists in the US. Even though they are somewhat rare, Bb keyed bugles in restorable condition can be found at moderate prices. It has only been since 2003 that a German maker with much greater resources to invest, Jurgen Voigt, has also started making keyed bugles of high quality. He doesn't publish prices, but when they were first introduced, they were about 30% more expensive than my already expensive bugles. I have no way of knowing, but it seems unlikely that he has sold very many.
Making these instruments in such small numbers is very labor intensive; there are no mass produced parts that can be used, with the exception of the springs. I use spring steel saxophone springs which are far less expensive than if I made brass or nickel springs as used on the originals.
I made up the bell mandrel, copying my original Graves from the 1840s. I form the bell, mouthpipe branch and "pigtail" crook from copper sheet and bend to shape. The crooks are especially difficult to bend and I scrap at least half of those that I attempt. I made patterns for the keys, bit wings etc. from brass and had them cast in two different alloys to suit. I provide three tuning bits of different wall thickness to allow a range of tuning and an adaptor for using a modern flugelhorn mouthpiece. An original or replica keyed bugle mouthpiece could also be used. The resulting instrument plays very much like the originals.