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Anyone out there able to compare the features of the early Martin stencils to the real thing? Do those early stencils typically have a "reduced feature set" from the real thing?

My "Melody Master" alto stencils (both s/n 149xxx) differ from my son's 89xxx Martin Handcraft in the following ways:
  • No forked Eb
    No G# trill key
    Larger high F tone hole and pad (pad is 20mm vs. 16.5 on the Handcraft)
    No high C# "helper" mechanism
That high C# thing has always bothered me. On the Handcraft, there is a little lever that closes the Aux C# key when the octave key is pressed. The octave mechanism on the stencils is slightly different and there is no lever to close the Aux C# when high C# is played. High C# is about 15 cents sharp on both of the stencils but if I close the aux C# manually, the note is 25 cents flat. The sharp high C# is the only intonation problem that bothers me on these horns.

So, does anyone else have a Handcraft stencil without the above features? Any thoughts on the C# mechanism?

I'm guessing that my stencils were made somewhere from 1929 to 1930 since the keywork looks exactly like the Troubador's including the larger high F tonehole. My horns do not have the neck brace or extra low B guard brace that the Troubador and Master have.
 

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I had a Martin Stencil alto for a while (engraved "Horace"!!) that was pretty much a straight copy of the 1920's Handcraft, so far as I could tell. It had the E-flat & G# trill keys. If I remember correctly it had a lower serial number than your stencils.

I don't know if it had the C# helper mechanism or not -- in fact I didn't know my Handcraft alto had it either, until reading your post -- I looked, and sure enough, there it is!! Nor do I remember any details about the high F tone-hole.

My handcraft is the silver-plated split-bell model is in the same serial # range as your son's.

I've gotten the impression that Martin didn't go very far in "downgrading" the quality of its stenciled horns, at least later on. I used to have a mid-50's Indiana alto. It was a swell horn. I've seen Martin stencils from that era that basically were the Indiana, just with a different name engraved. No apparent decline in quality or features at all. Reputedly they played just as well as the Indiana (which was very well).

I suppose Martin may have removed simple keywork elements from their stencils, like your C# helper, but I don't think they used inferior or worn-out tooling and materials on their stencils, as other makers are reputed to have done. Every stencil I've ever seen in person has been tight & well made.

Once I compared the Indiana to my Handcraft and they appeared to share essentially the same body tube, the only difference being that the tone holes on the Indiana's bell were on the same side & the bell flaired out to a larger diameter than the Handcraft. Further, the Indiana had the "ogee" style beveled tone holes, rather than the angle bevels on the Handcraft.

However, the keywork on the Indiana was much more compact than on the Handcraft, and of course lacked the trill keys. I don't remember whether it had the C# helper or not.
 
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