trumpet-build-art - 5/4/98
"Building a (fake but serviceable) Baroque Trumpet" by Dwight Hall.
NOTE: See also the files: trumpets-msg. instruments-msg, recorders-msg, harps-msg, flutes-msg, guitar-art, p-songs-msg, music-bib, music-msg.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Building a (fake but serviceable) Baroque Trumpet
by Dwight Hall Revised and corrected 3/25/98
Objective: a natural trumpet that superficially resembles those of
Renaissance manuscripts and that can be played with a standard modern
trumpet mouthpiece by someone of modest trumpet skill. This trumpet (if
built in the key of C - more on keys later) has about 8 feet of total
tubing, and is about 3 feet long overall.
Disclaimer: No claim is made that this is the best or only way to
accomplish this project. Indeed, qualified repair technicians will
probably be shocked. But is was fun, cheap, looks great, and went over
well at my first SCA event.
Information on some more sophisticated methods can be found at:
Materials: One modern trumpet to be cannibalized. (With luck and
patience, you may find one for less than $50 at a garage sale. A bad
finish is fine, but watch out for major dents. You might have to pay a
repairman another $50 to remove dents if they're too bad.) About ten
12-inch lengths of brass hobby tubing, diameters to be determined after
modern trumpet is disassembled. This tubing is manufactured by K&S
Engineering and available for about $2 per foot in hobby and model train
stores. Decorative cords in colors of your choice to decorate trumpet
and hold it together. Fast (super) glue.
Tools: propane torch, fine-cut flat file, tubing cutter (about $10 in
the plumbing section of your local hardware store - looks sort of like a
C-clamp), pliers, hard metal tube or round (Phillips) screwdriver shank
a bit smaller than the hobby tubing used, small pocket knife.
1) Disassemble modern trumpet using propane torch to loosen solder
joints. Only three pieces are used: the bell section, the lead-pipe with
mouthpiece receiver, and the tuning slide crook. Remember that solder
fumes may be toxic: work outdoors or in a well ventilated shop. Two
pairs of pliers and a thin wooden wedge may help in loosening some
From the lead-pipe section be sure to remove the finger hook. I also
removed the tuning slide receiver from the lead-pipe proper, but this
may not be necessary on all trumpet designs, particularly those with a
reversed lead-pipe. From the tuning slide crook I removed everything:
the entire water key assembly and the ferrules that connect the crook to
the slides themselves. This last might not be necessary on all trumpet
designs, but they were silver-colored on mine (nickel-silver) and I
wanted everything brass colored, although the mouthpiece receiver
retains the lighter color. Removing the water key promotes historical
accuracy, but it's a real pain to dump the condensation in cold weather.
It's your choice.
Note that some pipe workers use the word "joint" to mean a straight
length of pipe. I'm using it to mean a junction between two pieces of
Remove lacquer from the three pieces using two applications of
commercial lacquer remover (remember ventilation), followed by Brasso
and fine steel wool for stubborn remnants. Remaining solder can be
removed with careful use of the fine cut flat file.
If you have never used a tubing cutter, you might want to practice on
some scrap tubing, perhaps some of the left over tuning slides, before
the next step. Work slowly, with only a slight advance of the cutting
wheel with each turn.
Now comes the only cut on the original trumpet: cutting the straight
bell section from the crook part known as the back bow. Leave about one
inch of straight tubing on the back bow section. If you cut too close to
the curve, it will be hard to fit the hobby tubing that extends the bell
length. This created, from my trumpet (they vary), a straight bell
section measuring 16 inches, and a J-shaped back bow with straight legs
of 1-inch and 3 1/2-inches. Because the widening of a trumpet bore
begins in this bow, the short side (where we just cut) will have a
slightly larger diameter than the long side, which was attached to the
first valve casing.
2) We can now decide what diameters of hobby tubing to use. They come in
increments of 1/32 inch. Each size telescopes over the next smaller
size, with quite a bit of play.
Here comes the really cool trick: Each size fits on the next smaller one
much too loosely to stay together. But when a length is cut with the
tubing cutter, it is also compressed in diameter at the cut so that it's
now just a bit too small to fit on the smaller tube. Careful reaming
with a pocket knife blade, perhaps combined with a bit of flaring with
the round screwdriver shaft or tapered punch, will open it to a good
tight friction fit.
You'll need four tubing sizes. Call them A, B, C and D from smallest to
A, the "main" diameter, which is the closest approximation of the
outside diameter of the cylindrical trumpet tubing. The end of the lead
pipe, the tuning slide crook, and the end of the bell section (now the
top of the "J" of the back bow) should all be this same diameter. Four
B, 1/32 inch larger than A, used to form the slide ferrule joints that
hold the various A parts together. Two or three 12-inch pieces.
C, the closest size to the diameter at the point where the bell was cut
from the back bow. One 12-inch piece.
D, 1/32 inch larger than C, used to form the slide ferrules that hold C
in place to lengthen the bell.
For my trumpet, the sizes were 1/2, 17/32, 9/16, and 19/32. If you have
a choice, smaller diameter promotes playing a higher register.
3) Baroque trumpets were most common in the keys of B-flat (about 9 feet
of tubing), C (8 ft) and D (7+ ft), although they could be as short as
F, (about 6 ft). Slight differences in your long tubes (A's and C) can
give you a trumpet in B-flat, C and D, all with the same crooks, bell
and lead-pipe. If you're going to play fanfares unaccompanied, key
doesn't matter much. I went for C. Use B-flat if you plan to blend in
with modern trumpets.
4) Here are all the pieces in my trumpet, starting at the bell:
A. the bell, 16 inches
B. first slide ferrule, size D, 6 inches long, must be flared out with
the hard tubing or round screwdriver shank to fit about one inch onto
the bell. This is just a force fit and is disassembled each time the
trumpet is put away.
C. the "bell extender", size C, 12 inches long.
D. second slide ferrule, size D, 6 inches. Glued to the short (fat) end
of the back bow.
E. the J-shaped back bow
F. 4-inch slide ferrule, size B, fit over skinny side of the back bow.
G. 12-inch long piece, size A.
H. 4-inch slide ferrule, size B.
I. 12-inch long piece, size A. This will probably be too long, but don't
cut until you've made a preliminary assembly and tuning. Mine ended up 9
J. The "far" crook. Consists of original tuning slide crook glued into
two 1-inch slide ferrules of size B. The hole where the water key was
removed may be covered with duct tape, since the whole crook will be
decoratively wrapped with colored cord.
K. 12-inch long piece, size A.
L. 4-inch slide ferrule, size B.
M. 6-inch long piece, size A. Start with a full-size piece. It will be
too long, probably, but maybe not for B-flat tuning. Length depends upon
how long your remaining lead-pipe assembly is. In some designs, sections
L and M may not be necessary.
N. 6-inch slide ferrule, size B. This is permanently glued to O.
O. The original lead-pipe and mouthpiece receiver. My glued N-O assembly
is 15 inches long.
Make sure the friction fits are good and tight. I use no lubricant that
would collect dirt.
5)Assemble into a giant, flat letter S.
Some illustrations actually show a trumpet of this shape, but we rotate
the lead-pipe section against the bell section for stability.
With all the joints fully compressed, insert mouthpiece, blow it and
find what key it's in - probably pretty close to C with the preliminary
lengths given. But the far crook may extend beyond the bell, so some
adjustments, and possible some cutting of the A tubes may be necessary.
Some early drawings show a lead-pipe and bell extending a good distance
beyond the ends of the crooks. I chose a more modern design, with only
an inch or two of projection. Experiment with all the slide joints to
get both the look and the key you want. Possibly, you'll be able to get
B-flat fully extended and C fully compressed. Cut as necessary, re-tune,
All the touch-points are wrapped with decorative cord to prevent metal
to metal contact. I also wrapped the back bow and the tuning slide
crook. Lash the lead-pipe and bell sections with matching cord in three
places to keep the instrument together.
6) My four semi-assembled pieces are:
Bell, BCDEFG (a big U), HIJKL (a big U), MNO (straight)
None of these is longer than 17 inches, fully compressed, so the whole
thing easily fits into the original trumpet case with the original
fittings replaced with "egg crate" foam rubber.
With experiments and blind alleys (as well as returning to the hobby
store 3 times for more tubing) the project took about 12 hours. I
believe I could do it in 4 now that I know the steps.
Please let me know if you try it, or if you know a better way.
Copyright 1997, 1998 by Dwight Hall, <dwihall at ix.netcom.com>.
Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications,
provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.