Replica Eb Keyed Bugles in Sterling Silver
Back in the early 1990s, I had two requests for solid Sterling silver keyed bugles. That was long before I bought my first digital camera and learned to take a good photograph. The first of these was for Dick George, who already had mastered the ophicleide and was working on playing the keyed bugle. This is very similar to my standard Eb keyed bugle with 9 keys and a copy of those made by E.G. Wright and Graves and Co.
All the known American made Sterling keyed bugles have keys mounted on posts on flanges as in the second bugle shown here. This was ordered by Mark Elrod and he was very adamant about his being more original and willing to pay the extra cost. This is the only bugle that I've made with this style of key mounts. The only parts of these two keyed bugles that are not Sterling silver are the key screws, springs and the threaded rod of the tuning mechanism. These parts are German silver, which is both harder and easier to machine. Obviously, there were no parts that I could have had made by other makers for use in these instruments.
Even the mouthpieces are made of Sterling. Sterling silver has different working properties than brass, copper and German (nickel) silver. It is less forgiving to form than brass or copper, almost as hard as German silver, and the most difficult task is bending the bell. This must be done with great caution since it is much more liable to tear than brass. The beauty of Sterling is that it is extremely easy to get a beautiful highly polished surface.
Both of these guys wanted engraving similar to original presentation bugles. The bell garlands and shields were engraved before mounting them and I was lucky to have a local engraver, Sherry Nelson, who could do high quality work in the style that was popular 150 years ago. I've used several engravers since, that do less quality work and charged much more. These days, I send parts for engraving back east, where several friends had discovered another engraver with this kind of talent and ability. Additionally, Dick wanted his bugle to have gold plated trim. I had the garland and shield gold plated before mounting them as well.
The last photo is of the engraving of a presentation bugle by E.G. Wright. While I am very proud of these bugles as some of my best work, I have no illusion that they compare to the fabulous Sterling silver and gold bugles by E.G. Wright and Graves. I have worked on several of these and I know what I'm talking about.