Here are some real questions that seem to come up a lot....
Q: How accurate is making mouthpieces from impressions?
A: It all depends on how careful the craftsman is. It’s pretty easy to see gaps where the impression does not touch the mouthpiece. If it’s a thousandth off, you can see it. If it’s touching the metal all the way from the bottom of the cup to the outer rim, it’s a good copy, to within a thousandth. If you make impressions of your rims you can see right away where they are different.
Q: How do you cut an impression in half?
A: I use a tiny little abrasive cut-off saw, or tubing saw. It take a 2 inch thin abrasive wheel circular blade. It cuts right through and leaves a nice smooth surface. You need to be careful though because you have to take the guard off.
Q: Who would spend that much money getting a mouthpiece from you when they can get one cheaper?
A: That would be someone who knows exactly what they want, and no other maker makes it, or wants to mess with it. Usually it’s someone who wants to get a familiar mouthpiece with a different rim contour, or just a bit bigger or smaller. Trumpet players get all kinds of ideas regarding mouthpieces.
Q: Can you make one piece mouthpieces?
A: Yes, but for me it’s almost more work. It’s for sure more wasted brass. I charge more for a one piece mouthpiece. It takes as long to shave the material off as it does to thread the two parts. The brass stock is quite a bit more expensive of course too.
Q: Can you make your mouthpiece look like a “normal” mouthpiece?
A: For me the easiest way to do that is to start with an existing “normal looking” mouthpiece and alter it to be what you want.
The best candidate for that I think is the Yamaha Shew “Lead”. It makes a great “Blank” because it’s shallow, and the backbore is small, and they are made perfectly straight and concentric. They also machine really nice and are easy to get perfect in the chuck. The only problem is that the outer diameter is only 1.063, so it only works for mouthpieces that are kind of small. A Yamaha 14a4a also makes a great blank and the outer diameter of 1.075 is big enough get a bach 1-1/2C rim size. Not a 1C though. Many “cushion rims” are as big as 1.090 or even bigger. So the short answer is “maybe” if your rim isn’t too wide on the outer diameter. The Yamaha letters are shallow and easy to shave off and re-stamp with your name etc. Buying one for 2 is cheaper than me making a “normal looking” blank for sure!
Q: Can you plate mouthpieces at your shop?
A: My homebrew plating tank works for when you just want to try a mouthpiece for a while to see if it’s going to work. The plating is thin and lasts a few months. After someone decides that the mouthpiece does not need any more alterations, I like to send it to a real plating company (Anderson) and get it done right.
Q: Can you make the throats bigger than the Warburton standard #27?
A: Yes they can be any size, as long as the backbores you are using with it are all the same as the top. They kind of need to be made that throat size from scratch because it’s gets weird changing the throat size after the fact.
Q: Do you have trouble getting the threads to make a perfect match?
A: Not usually. When you thread the parts the same time you are making the part everything is completely concentric. Cutting off a top and threading it you have to indicate to the original throat to get straight i the chuck. Sometimes you might see a tiny miss-alignment but not hear it. Some players sound is more demanding regarding the perfect match. Some makers make the throat in the backbore a tiny bit bigger than the throat in the top to minimize problems of a slightly less than perfect match. I generally don’t do that. If there is a problem, it could be either the top or the backbore. I have done it a couple times, and it does work. It is a problem that is pretty rare.
Q: How long does it take to make a mouthpiece?
A: The time it takes to make a mouthpiece has a wide range. Rims that I make a lot I can do quicker than rims that are totally new to me. Some cup shapes are hard to cut like if they have sharp angles etc. There is the time to make the blank, and the time to cut the rim and cup. You can get pretty good at being efficient with those things. The things that never go faster are Buffing, Cleaning, wrapping in paper, and SHIPPING. Actually right now it almost (exaggeration) takes longer to Buff, clean, wrap and ship than it does to make it.