On Monday, September 23, 2019 I was fortunate to visit the Conn-Selmer plant in Elkhart, IN. The point of this visit was to tour the facility, and to personally select professional instruments for the inventory at Paige’s Music. With the help of K. Blake Schlabach, we picked out a collection of Bach Stradivarius 42BOs as well as a King 3B and Bach Stradivarius 12. Through Conn-Selmer’s “Artist Select” program we are able to hand pick each instrument after play testing and inspection to ensure that only the very finest instruments are available to our customers.
In a world with more and more automation it is easy to forget that many of our goods rely on highly skilled craftsmen to complete very precise tasks. Touring the facility and meeting the craftsmen gave real insight into what it takes to make a professional level instrument. Below you will see pictures of some of the steps it takes to create a bell for a brass instrument.
Picture 1: A freshly brazed bell waiting for annealing before being hand hammered. The annealing process softens metal so it can be more easily shaped. As the metal is worked it becomes harder, but it also becomes more brittle. The crucial process of annealing keeps the metal at its optimal rigidity.
Picture 2: Joining a bell seam prior to brazing. Prior to brazing the seam, the once flat sheet brass is brought together into the rough shape of a bell. Small tabs are cut into the brass, so it can be joined.
Picture 3: Brazing the bell seam. The brazing process connects the edges of the bell. Take a look on your trombone bell, and you will be able to see at least one seam.
Picture 4: Hand hammering a bell. Before the bell is spun and given its final shape it must be hammered. This process both shapes and works the metal.