Yuen Li's Handcrafted Trombones Page

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Handcrafted Trombone Models

This is a list containing the specifications of standard trombone models (where available) from manufacturers of handcrafted (custom) instruments. The word "handcrafted" is a bit misleading because the production of most trombones cheap or expensive from manufacturers large or small involve at least some handcrafting (as opposed to wholly automated production). However, I have chosen to use the word "handcrafted" rather than "custom" because I suspect that the majority of readers will be looking to purchase "standard" (as opposed to customised or personalised) models from these "custom" manufacturers. I hope to add to and continually update this list - please do let me know if you spot any errors or omissions.

Please take a few moments to read my copyright notice and disclaimer if you haven't done so already.


Handcrafted Trombone Model Specifications

Manufacturer (Parent Company) Model Bore (in.) Bell (in.) Valve(s) Other information
Edwards Edward Getzen established The Edwards Instrument Company in 1989 as the custom instruments arm of the Getzen Company. Initially, Edwards made only trombones, but in 1994 added trumpets to its portfolio.

In the USA, Edwards trombones can only be purchased direct from Edwards. Customers can make an appointment (3-4 weeks in advance) to visit the Edwards factory in Elkhorn, Wisconsin (well, Edwards instruments are actually built in the same premises as other Getzen instruments) to try the various bell, slide and other options in order to put together a customised instrument which can be purchased on the spot (a two week trial of the purchased instrument is allowed). Alternatively, for those who can't visit the factory, Edwards will send out instruments on an approval basis. A third alternative is to purchase online from the Edwards website. Customers from abroad can purchase standard models from authorised dealers in some countries (eg The Valve in the UK).

Bells can often be doubled buffed to thickness in-between the gauges cited below. Bells can be ordered with Conn- or Bach-style slide receivers, where the customer intends to use a Conn or Bach slide with an Edwards bell. Tuning slides are available in yellow or rose brass, and as single (continuous bend; freeblowing and open) or dual radius (squarish, easier response in upper register but more compact sound). A range of leadpipes are available.

I read somewhere that Gary Greenhoe was responsible for the early design and development of Edwards trombones, but can't seem to locate where I saw this, so don't quote me on that.

  A265 .500 7.75   Alto, modular. Bell choices include two gauges - the heavier 22 or lighter 23 gauge, two materials - yellow or red brass, soldered or unsoldered rim, tempering (hardening to add brilliance) or CF/heat-treating (to improve responsiveness). Choice of two outer slides: standard (yellow brass) or heavy-weight (nickel-silver with yellow brass end crook).
  T302   7.75   Jazz, modular. Choice of two outer slides - standard (yellow brass) or heavy-weight (nickel-silver with yellow brass end crook) - in three bore sizes: .500, .508. or dual bore .500/.508, supplied with three interchangeable leadpipes. Nickel or brass neckpipe. Bell choices include two gauges - the heavier 22 or lighter 23 gauge, three materials - yellow, rose or red brass, soldered or unsoldered rim, tempering (hardening to add brilliance) or CF/heat-treating (to improve responsiveness).
  T327       Modular straight trombone, convertible into T350 by addition of Thayer section. Choice of two outer slides - standard or heavy-weight (nickel-silver) - in four bore sizes: .525, .547, .525/.547 or .547/.562, supplied with three interchangeable brass leadpipes. Conn-like or Bach-like ("bass") end crook available for .547 slide. Bell choices include two diameters - 8 or 8.5 inches, three gauges - 21 (heaviest), 22 or 23 (lightest) gauge, three materials - yellow, rose or red brass, soldered or unsoldered rim, tempering (hardening to add brilliance) or CF/heat-treating (to improve responsiveness).
  T350 .547   F Modular trombone with F attachment convertible into T327 by replacement of Thayer valve with straight neckpipe. Valve is nickel-plated. Choice of two outer slides - standard or heavy-weight (nickel-silver) - in four bore sizes: .525, .547, .525/.547 or .547/.562, supplied with three interchangeable brass leadpipes. Conn-like or Bach-like ("bass") end crook available for .547 slide. Bell choices include two diameters - 8 or 8.5 inches, three gauges - 21 (heaviest), 22 or 23 (lightest) gauge, three materials - yellow, rose or red brass, soldered or unsoldered rim, tempering (hardening to add brilliance) or CF/heat-treating (to improve responsiveness).
  B454     F/Gb Bass, modular, independent (B454) or dependent Thayer valves (B454-D; B454-D-E has proprietary Edge Bracing). Valves are nickel-plated. Choice of two outer slides - standard or heavy-weight (nickel-silver) - in two bore sizes: .562 or .562/.578, supplied with three interchangeable brass leadpipes. Bell choices include three diameters - 9.5, 10 or 10.5 inches, four gauges - 20 (heaviest), 21, 22 or 23 (lightest) gauge, three materials - yellow, rose or red brass, soldered or unsoldered rim, tempering (hardening to add brilliance) or CF/heat-treating (to improve responsiveness).
Rath A British company established in 1992 by Michael Rath and Andy Hutchinson, Michael Rath Brass Instruments originally specialised in repair, restoration and customisation of brass instruments. The first Rath trombone debuted in 1996; Rath now produces a range of widely-acclaimed and much sought-after instruments easily identified by a distinctive metal "R" logo sported on their tuning slides.

Bells are constructed in two piece fashion. They are available in five different materials - yellow brass, gold brass, red brass, copper and nickel silver - and can be produced heavy- or light-weight as desired by the customer. Newer instruments (produced circa 2002 onwards) have convertible bells, allowing the player to change bells to better suit different requirements. A choice of three materials is available for the outer slide: yellow brass, gold brass and nickel silver. Hagmann valves are mounted on models with attachments. The Swiss-made valves are the only components not manufactured in the Rath workshop.

Potential customers can visit the Rath workshop to try the complete range of Rath trombones and the myriad options for themselves, and then have a customised trombone put together to desired specifications with expert input from staff members. Standard models are also available from authorised retailers (e.g. The Valve and John Packer in England, Dillon Music in the USA).

  R1 .500/.510 7.5   Jazz model designed with input from leading jazz trombonist Mark Nightingale, introduced 1996. Dual bore, nickel-silver outer slide.
  R2 .510 7.5   Jazz model, nickel-silver outer slide.
  R2 .510 7.5   Jazz model, nickel-silver outer slide.
  R3 .525 8   Yellow brass outer slide.
  R3F .525 8 F Yellow brass outer slide. Hagmann valve, open wrap.
  R4 .547 8.5   Yellow brass outer slide.
  R4F .547 8.5 F Yellow brass outer slide. Hagmann valve, open wrap.
  R8 .562 9 F Bass. Hagmann valve, open wrap, pullable to E. Yellow brass outer slide.
  R9 .562 9 F/Gb Bass. Two Hagmann valves, yellow brass outer slide.
  R10 .500 7.5   Designed for ensemble and jazz lead playing, nickel-silver outer slide.
Shires Steve Shires, a professional trombonist, experienced brass instrument technician and design consultant to several instrument manufacturers, founded the SE Shires Company in 1995 after leaving Edwards. As with Edwards and Rath, customers can visit the Shires factory (provided they call ahead) to try the various available options (ranging from detachable bells, interchangeable leadpipes, varied tuning slide tapers to special slide designs) and have an instrument tailored to their individual requirements and tastes. Popular models are kept in stock available for immediate purchase and shipment at the Shires factory. Alternatively, it is possible to purchase Shires trombones from authorised dealers (eg Phil Parker in the UK, Steve Ferguson, Brook Mays and Dillon in the USA).

Shires bells are two-piece constructs manufactured in-house from red brass, gold brass or yellow brass (designated R, G and Y, respectively). Tenor bells have a standard diameter of 8.5 inches (for symphonic bells) whereas the standard bass bell flare is 9.5 inches (but other tenor and bass flares are available on special order). There are two basic bell designs, available detachable or fixed: Models 1 and 2. Model 1 is Bach-like and has a soldered bead, producing a cleared, more centered sound. Model 2, with unsoldered rim, is more (old-style) Conn-like, producing a broader and fuller sound. Both models are available in standard, light, medium or heavy weights (light-weight bells have a quicker response and are more resonant and brilliant; medium bells are slightly lighter in weight than standard; heavy-weight bells hold up better at loud dynamics but require more effort). Bass trombone bells are available in two flare dimensions, BI (compact flare: strong "core", easy projection) and BII (wide flare: very broad sound). All bells can also be thinned in flare (designated T7) or work-hardened (T3) to provide a quicker response and more brilliance; alternatively they can be softed by heat-treating ("annealing" treatments designated A1 or A2) for a warmer sound. The 2RVE, 2RVET7 and 2RLWT7 models are based on or similar to classic Elkhart Conn bells ("VE", for "vintage Elkhart"), and so are particularly popular with Conn enthusiasts. In, contrast, enthusiasts of the Bach sound tend to favour 1Y or G models. As an interesting side note, it seems that some trombonists find the standard-weight Y bells to be easier to play than the RLW ones(!).

Shires tuning slides are of a continuous-taper double-radius design intended to combine the best characteristics of single- and double-radius tuning slides (the "B" model radius is standard but other tapers are available). They are available in yellow brass (clearer sound and articulation) or gold brass (warmer sound, more "covered" articulation). Shires claims that for many of his customers, gold brass tuning slides go well with yellow bells (adding warmth) whereas yellow tuning slides help to clarify articulation and focus the sound of red brass bells.

Slide tubing is drawn in-house, and slide assemblies are carefully put together and stress-relieved, resulting in slides that have been acclaimed by many players for their smoothness. Slides are specified by bore size and crook design (narrow Conn-like crook or Bach-like bass crook) and material (standard model slides are yellow brass with nickel sleeves and crook; options include gold brass or nickel tubes, and yellow crook), and are available in standard or lightweight (no sleeves) models. The single bore ones are claimed to be easier to articulate and clearer. In contrast, the dual bore slide models are described as being more open, and either producing a larger sound (but requiring more air) than a single bore slide the size of the dual bore upper tube or a more focused sound compared with a single bore slide with the diameter of the dual bore lower leg.

Slides come with three interchangeable yellow brass leadpipes (the standard ones are Models 1-3: Model 1 is clearer and more focused, 3 is broad and full, 2 is in-between), although the option of a single fixed leadpipe is also available. Other leadpipe options are also available, eg longer or shorter pipes than standard (more centred versus more open), different materials (gold brass, nickel silver, sterling silver - these are warmer & denser, more brilliant and more solid & dense, respectively) and Vintage Elkhart.

Attachments are available with the Shires Rotary Valve (an improved rotary design similar to the Greenhoe valve; Greenhoes are no longer offered as an option on Shires trombones) or Thayer-based valve (Steve Shire's axial flow valves incorporate his own improvements on the Thayer). Additionally, there are at least two new valve designs in the works. Unlike many other custom manufacturers, Shires produces all his valves in-house. The Shires philosophy is that airtightness of the valve is essential to the response and centered feel of an instrument, and it is a point of pride with Shires that all valve assemblies are tested for air-tightness and accurate tolerances (it seems that some other custom manufacturers do not conduct such testing).

Instruments are normally finished with a durable epoxy lacquer but raw brass, silver-plated, and gold-plated finishes are also available.

Schmelzer Manfred Schmelzer founded his company in the mid 1990s. Schmelzer trombones feature nickel-silver slides, Hagmann Valves (on instruments with valves) and 24-carat gold-plated finishes.
  Model 1 .500 7.8   Sterling silver or copper bell options.
  Model 2 .508 8   Sterling silver or gold brass bell options.
  Model 3 .525 8.5   Sterling silver bell option.
  Model 4 .547 8.5 F Hagmann valve, sterling silver bell only.
  Model 5 .562     Bass, special order, two Hagmann valves, gold-plated interchangeable leadpipes.
Thein The brothers Heinrich and Max Thein are descended from an old and large German family with strong musical traditions going back several centuries. The Thein family were previously renown mainly for keyboard instruments, until Max and Heinrich started producing brass instruments. Some instruments are available in Kruspe metal (very high copper content, usually used very thin).

It seems to me that a page called the "technical list" (or something to that effect), which I seem to recall being present on the old Thein site, must have been overlooked and hence left out in the design of the new site. As a result, certain specific tidbits of information cannot be found (eg bore sizes are denoted as size I or II or III, etc, and nowhere on the site can you find out exactly what a size I bore is). I have sent Thein an e-mail about this issue and will endeavour to fill in the gaps if and when I get a reply.

  Piccolo trombone       Yellow brass. Pitched in high Bb
  Soprano trombone       Available in yellow or gold brass. Pitched in Bb.
  Alto trombone       Available in yellow or gold brass. Pitched in Eb.
  Tenor trombone in Bb, "G" models       G-trombones are German-style tenor trombones with American-style slide dimensions but traditional German bore sizes, craftmanship and metals. Available in 3 different sizes (GI, GII and GIII), a choice of yellow or gold brass, single or dual bore slides, convertible bells, bells with Kranz (tone rings), with or without F attachment (choice of conventional rotor, Hagmann or Thayer valves).
  German-style trombones       Traditional German-style trombones in 5 different sizes (Sizes 1-5), with long dual-bore slide, traditional bore sizes, elaborately-decorated bells with Kranz (tone rings), and manufactured from special "Kruspe" metal. F attachments available.
  Bb-C tenor trombone     C Gold or yellow brass. Choice of three bore sizes: I, II, III. Ascending whole tone C valve.
  Jazz trombone       Yellow brass.
  Bass trombone       Ben van Dijk model. Choice of conventional, Thein "Star" or Hagmann valves.
  Bass trombone with "Bartok" Valve .547/.567     Designed especially for use in Bela Bartok's "Concert for Orchestra". 9.5-10.5 inche bells available. Choice of conventional rotary or Hagmann valves.
  Contrabass trombone in F       Ben van Dijk model, in gold brass. Two in-line valves (Eb or D and BBb), with choice of Thein "Star" or Hagmann valves.
  Contrabass trombone in BBb     FF Gold brass, double slide.
Voigt Helmut Voigt and sons Stephan and Markus manufacture custom-made trombones in a workshop in Markneukirchen, Germany. Helmut says his instruments are used by professionals in orchestras such as Semperoper Dresden, Staatskapelle Berlin, Komische Oper Berlin, the Australian Opera (Melbourne), the Bolschoi Theater (Moscow) and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Voigt trombones are manufactured from gold brass, brass, nickel silver or sterling silver. The bells are available in different diameters, with various rim styles as desired, e.g. Saxon rim, French rim. Valve options include a specially-developed short pressure action design as well as the usual Thayers and Hagmanns.

The website, at www.helmut-voigt.de, is only available in German.

Willson The Swiss family-owned Zurich-based company Willson, better reknown for their euphoniums, also produce trombones in bore sizes ranging from .525 to .562. Instruments with F attachments utilise "Rotax" full-flow valves (a proprietary valve technology belonging to Willson, which seems to me to consist essentially of conventional rotary valves with enlarged ports. That reminds me - those of you Bach 42B aficionados out there who feel your F valve to be a bit stuffy can get the ports enlarged by Osmun Brass), with wraps available both open and closed. Other distinctive options or features include inner slide tubes with a "Cera Titan" (titanium, rather than chrome) finish and an innovative press-and-release, press-and-lock slide lock. It seems that titanium mouthpieces, bells and finishes are also available on special order - I want to verify this but can't remember from who or where I heard this (please get in touch if you read this).

Customisation of instruments is possible. The availability of modular large bore and bass instruments allows customers to choose from the following bell options: material (gold brass, yellow brass or nickel-silver), hardness (hard or soft), weight (standard, light or heavy), diameter (8.5, 9.75 or 10.5 inches). Other options include leadpipes (choice of 3) and bore sizes(.525, .525/.547, .547, .547/.562, .562).

DEG distribute Willson instruments in the USA, and appear to have given the instruments their own (DEG) model numbers.

  Tenor Trombone (Model?) .525 8   If purchasing in the US, DEG designation is 2300L.
  Tenor Trombone (Model?) .525 8 F DEG designation is 2311. With Rotax valve.
  Tenor Trombone (Model?) .547 8.5   DEG designation is 2400L.
  Tenor Trombone (Model?) .547 8.5 F DEG designation is 2411. With Rotax valve.
  Bass Trombone (Model?) .562 9.75 F Bass, DEG designation is 2511. With Rotax valve.
  551TA .562 9.75 F/Gb Bass, DEG designation is 2551. Independent Rotax valves, optional G slide instead of Gb.
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