Monday, 13 September 2010

Chapter 6. Stripping the butt

Over last few days I have been successively removing parts from the butt.

First of all I wanted to know exactly the condition of the both ends so I took off the metal rims. The top one looked all right but after cleansing two cracks became apparent. They both go vertically from the top down but do not extend beyond the joint and the rim. On the picture one is quite obvious as you can see the light getting through. The other one is on the other side and first runs along the visible vertical furrow and then diverts left (top on the picture) as a really thin scratch. Few drops of a glue will take care of that.

The bottom end I was more worried about. On the first day I took the bottom plate off and it didn't look particularly good. The feel wasn't good either. I didn't feel any tension on either screw, it felt damp and there was some grey mold on the cork seal. Under the rim it looked even worse. I was really nicely surprised to see  it look like that after I get rid of the dirt.

But that was outside and I was yet to take the cork out to see the inside. To do so I used a long stick to push it out from the outside. I don't know why but somehow I was expecting the seal to be a kind of a flat pad just laying on the bottom of the bore. What has popped out was far more complex. It was tall like a bottle cork and had multiple concavities and convexities. And, if that wasn't hard enough to reproduce, at the top it had a cap sewn of a very fine leather. Somehow I will have to replicate it.

The good news was that the wood was all healthy, dry and solid. In fact it was in much better condition that the rusty screws on which I will blame the lack of resistance but there are also two small cracks, one by each screw hole which doesn't help but it shouldn't be a big problem either.

Next step was to take all the external metal bits off the wood so that it can all be cleaned accordingly. To make sure I will be able to put it back together I drew a map and with my wife's help labelled them all. I also took all the pads out as they will need to be replaced.

It was very interesting to notice all small irregularities. When you look at a modern instrument it is all perfectly done with machines. Here you can see that it must have been manually carved with a knife. And here it looks like the axle pipe is just a degree or two from the perfect right angle but it is not bent. I guess it was soldered manually too. Although it is not perfect it must have required great craftsmanship to get it that right.

The last thing I noticed was a lettered capital I under the F# key (top of the picture).  I hope that I will be able to find its meaning in the Horniman museum.

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