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Discussion Starter #1
I got some interesting Buescher mouthpieces the other day. I've never seen any quite like this, and wondering if anyone else has. I have seen white Buescher pieces, but they were later ones than this...post WWII era. These resemble the 1920's era "The Buescher" pieces that came with True Tones though. They also appear to be a different material than the later plastic pieces (maybe bakelite?). The bari piece is marked with the Buescher oval logo, but the other pieces are unmarked. Ideas anyone?

View attachment 226604 View attachment 226612 View attachment 226614
 

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I haven't seen these before, but it is possible to make "white" ebonite. It is considered somewhat "exotic" in the world of pen fabrication (the other place where ebonite is still used a lot). And white ebonite is still used today for specialty items. I think that it was also used on the tooth guard on some of the early metal mouthpieces. Since there is no evidence that Buescher ever took the step of fabricating their own mouthpieces in house, my guess would be that this was from a regular mouthpiece fabricator like JJ Babbitt. I'm assuming that these were molded and vulcanized (instead of the later injection molded white plastic) as they look identical to the vintage black ebonite Bueschers.

It would only require that white ebonite (maybe using gypsum instead of carbon black) be pressed into the mold. It could also be that the colorant is something more expensive than carbon black and that's why white mouthpieces of this style didn't seem to catch on. Or it could be that the percentage of colorant required to make it white compromised the strength of the vulcanized rubber. It looks like there might be a stress fracture on one of the tables.

I've seen advertisements where Buescher later sold their mouthpieces as stand alone accessories, but in the early days (like this style of mouthpiece), they seemed to only come with the saxophone. If that was the case, then having to charge an additional 50 cents to make it white probably didn't make business sense.

Mark
 

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Back in the day, manufacturers referred to ivory mouthpieces, but they were talking about the color. Here is a Selmer advertisement from the 1940's that talks about their new ivory Goldentone (which actually sold for a few pennies more than standard black plastic). View attachment 226686
Other companies also picked up on the idea of calling white plastic "ivory" for mouthpieces (1958 Revere ivory mouthpiece).

Of course it is possible to make a mouthpiece out of ivory, but by as early a the 1880's, some piano companies had switched to synthetic white keys because of the cost of ivory. By the 1950's, all piano makers had abandoned ivory. By that time, fabricators had perfected the look and durability of ivory with plastics. Cost would also be a big factor in fabricating a solid ivory mouthpiece (at a cost 100 times that of plastic). I've never looked into it, but it could be that ivory keys stayed around so long because piano players have a similar "material matters myth" as sax players have about mouthpieces. Maybe a piano with keys made from ivory just sounds better to some.

If you believe your mp to be ivory, there are simple tests. The first is to polish it hard with a cloth. As it heats up a little, you may get a rubber smell from white ebony. If not, there is the "hot needle" test in an inconspicuous place (like inside on the roof of the chamber). My guess is that you will find that it is just another one of those fantastic white plastic mouthpieces.

Maybe not. Does it have the tone that you would predict from a dead elephant's tooth?

Mark
 

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The one I posted a picture of is genuine ivory. Appears to be from the 20's or 30's. I've never seen or heard of another.


On second thought, maybe it is 1800's?
 

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The last ivory piano keys were made in the early 70s for Grotrian Steinweg.

They were extra thick and one piece rather than heads and tails.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I am pretty certain that the pieces that I have aren't ivory, but I suspect they may be white ebonite. They have a somewhat more muted appearance. Less of that plastic 'sheen'. Also, a little bit of yellow or cream color tint, not just bright white. Here's a pic of one of them next to a clarinet mouthpiece that is definitely plastic. View attachment 226728
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If you believe your mp to be ivory, there are simple tests. The first is to polish it hard with a cloth. As it heats up a little, you may get a rubber smell from white ebony. If not, there is the "hot needle" test in an inconspicuous place (like inside on the roof of the chamber). My guess is that you will find that it is just another one of those fantastic white plastic mouthpieces.

Mark
Your tests are only to determine if it is ivory or not, right? I'm sure mine aren't. Any test to determine plastic from ebonite? I took a sandpaper sample and it looks pretty much the same as a white plastic piece does...in other words, white.
 

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I will guess that the pics in post #1 are of mouthpieces made of Lucite. Same stuff as Tonalins are made of. Note the split on the shank.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I will guess that the pics in post #1 are of mouthpieces made of Lucite. Same stuff as Tonalins are made of. Note the split on the shank.
I don't think it is actually. I've had tons of Brilharts, and it seems to be a different material. I think Mark might be correct about it being white ebonite. Or maybe bakelite. The 'crack' is superficial, and doesn't go all the way to the shank, nor is it a a straight line like most Brilharts tend to crack. These also seem heavier than Brilharts, although it is hard to tell bc of different sizes. They just seem heavy though!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
While we are on the subject of identifying mpcs, anyone know this one? Red marbled soprano piece. It came from the same source as the white Buescher pieces. I've seen these identified as Brilharts by some well known sellers, but I don't think that is true. I think it stems from a mistake on part of Theo's site which is no longer viewable anyway. Sorry, I'm hijacking my own thread here... View attachment 226772 View attachment 226774
 

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I agree that the ivory piece looks like ivory. If it is, that would be very rare and maybe even valuable to a collector. The swirled red/black sop piece is likely ebonite. As with the original white pieces, the simplest test is the smell test. Rub it with a cloth and see if it releases a rubber smell. And the hot needle test could be done to the ivory looking piece without damage if it is ivory and leaving an undetectable mark if it isn't.

The red/black mouthpiece shows the centerline common to vulcanized mps that is usually invisible if the mp is a solid color. A slab of soft uncured rubber (already swirled red/black) is placed on each half of the mold. The mold halves are then smashed together using a hydraulic press. The result is a centerline where the two swirled pieces meet. There are also examples of swirled ebonite pieces that do not have this feature, meaning that the fabricator figured out a way to press the uncured swirled rubber in a way that eliminated the seam. It is also possible that those pieces are machined out of swirled rod rubber, just like it is possible that the ivory mouthpiece is machined out of a plastic faux ivory.

Fabricators also came up with ways to add "grain" to plastics to mimic the "Schreger lines" in ivory. This has been going on since the first celluloid faux ivory was made in the late 1800's. I was surprised to learn that the beautiful keys on my 1888 Estey organ were not ivory. It turned out that the black keys (real ebony) were worth more. Some ivory imitations are so sophisticated that there are quite a few tests before jewelers will agree that an item is genuine ivory (using a black light is another test). Looking exactly like ivory on a computer screen isn't one of the tests. If I were the owner of a suspected ivory mouthpiece, I'd want to know. Many jewelry stores offer testing and a certificate of appraisal for about $25. Probably best to ask about the testing they intend to use.

My wife went to a jeweler for an appraisal of a diamond ring that I gave her. Why would she be suspicious?

Mark
 

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While we are on the subject of identifying mpcs, anyone know this one? Red marbled soprano piece. It came from the same source as the white Buescher pieces. I've seen these identified as Brilharts by some well known sellers, but I don't think that is true. I think it stems from a mistake on part of Theo's site which is no longer viewable anyway. Sorry, I'm hijacking my own thread here... View attachment 226772 View attachment 226774
Highly dubious about them being Brillys. Brilhart didn't make a soprano piece until the 80s AFAIK.
 

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I am pretty certain that the pieces that I have aren't ivory, but I suspect they may be white ebonite. They have a somewhat more muted appearance. Less of that plastic 'sheen'. Also, a little bit of yellow or cream color tint, not just bright white. Here's a pic of one of them next to a clarinet mouthpiece that is definitely plastic. View attachment 226728
Look for the grain and ay end points crisss-cross pattern.
 

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Look for the grain and ay end points crisss-cross pattern.
+1

The only one that looks like it could be ivory is the baritone piece. It has that yellow veining but you should see some criss-cross looking grain if it is ivory (the my piece in the photos I posted). Otherwise I like Mojo's idea about lucite. I believe I've seen white lucite or bakelite that is kind of swirled like that.
 

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As far as mouthpieces being made of ivory, let's apply the sniff test. Not the smell test, but the "does this make any sense" test.

Mouthpieces supplied with the saxophone are generally either from the manufacturer if they make mouthpieces (Selmer) or an inexpensive yet functional piece sourced from a mouthpiece manufacturer and stenciled with sax manufacturer's name (Buescher, King, etc., etc., etc.)

Ivory as a possible material for the mouthpiece thrown into the Buescher case at the factory, dramatically fails the common sense test. Ivory has never been an inexpensive material unless you were an elephant hunter or a sailor with access to narwhal tusks. Why do you think piano keys used thin sheets of the stuff - in fact, most ivory piano key covers are two pieces one for the front of the key and one for the long "stem"? Because large pieces of ivory were expensive as all getout. Now imagine how much it would cost to find a single piece of solid ivory, in good condition throughout, big enough to make an entire sax mouthpiece from it. Compare that to the cost of white Bakelite or white ebonite. What sensible manufacturer would make their generic "occupy space in the sax case" out of one of the most expensive materials one could choose? Heck, grenadilla or ebony would be a lower cost choice, and more readily available in the needed size.

NOT IVORY. At most, it would be a white plastic material treated to look like ivory.
 

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I agree with everything you just said, but the one I have is most definitely ivory.
Then it wouldn't have been one of those "thrown in the case to sell the horn with" ones, it would have been specifically made to sell by itself as a high priced item.
 

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I see your point. I just wanted to clarify that at least one ivory mouthpiece exists. I would assume there are others out there, but I've never seen or heard anyone mention it on the web yet.
 
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