Tag: glock

Pixiphone Restoration (job#1416)

First thing every morning I do my administration whilst drinking tea; it is my gentle introduction to the day before I take Archie out for his walk. Most days I have too much too much paperwork to do, so I have to curtail the process and go down into the workshop where I am always busy and actually earn my living. It has been like this for months and months, but all of a sudden the sun starts shining and no one gives a damn about the restoration and repair of percussion instruments, so my email inbox is under control, accounts up to date and tax return done, and I have even cleared the pile of papers.  I still want my cups of tea however, so I have been catching up on video editing (always the slow part of the process – as well as writing this text of course) when I cam across this old and complete video. So I uploaded it and here we are…


Before I started it looked like this:

There was a lot to do repairing the box and giving it every chance of surviving for another three generations.

During one of my many London visits I hopped along on my crutches to several art and model making shops looking for the correct colours to keep this little pixiphone looking authentic. I love these sort of pastel shades that were common in the early 20th century.

In the end I did a little bit of tinkering adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I even mixed the ivory for the box myself.

And here is the finished article. An expensive and time consuming repair that cost me more to do than I charged, but the decision to take on the job was for reasons of my sanity; I was beginning to be lethargic due to inaction and that was making me feel apathetic and in that direction lies depression and other mental health issues; so I took action and created something of which I am proud and I sincerely hope that it continues to give joy to future generations of little percussionists.

Replacement Note Bar for a Premier Glockenspiel (Job No: 1352)

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I have to make a replacement glockenspiel note bar to fill the gap in an instrument where a note has been lost. What happens is that the pin that holds the note in place and on the instrument has pulled out and the note bar has disappeared into the ether.


Almost uniquely, Premier Percussion spent a tiny percentage of the potential profit margin on the glockenspiels that they produced on nails with a twisted shank that hold the note bars in place. This incredible phenomenon meant that the nails were less likely to pull out. It is a shame that they used the cheapest wood available for the frame, otherwise their idea would probably have worked.

Maybe it is extravagant, but personally I just use screws, but then the frames that I make are made of hardwood, typically oak now for aesthetics, but I used to also use hornbeam and ash. Because the oak is a lot harder than the softwoods that are almost universally used in the frames produced by the big manufacturers, even if the holes were pre-drilled using nails would probably split the narrow note rails. If the holes were slightly bigger to prevent splitting, the smooth shank on the nail would be able to go in easier, but it would also pull out easier. Screws on the other hand have the fluting that cuts into the wood, the pilot hole is the size of the shank to prevent splitting and it is strong in the direction it is loaded. Finally I can adjust the height of the screw incredibly accurately on a note by note basis, where as a nail would have to be pressed in to achieve uniform height. All in all, I think it is worth spending the extra 20 pence on screws!

Deagan case Glockenspiel (job no 1334)

So many times I get glockenspiels with a note bar missing and enquiries about the cost of replacement. So many times people are shocked at how expensive glock notes are to be replaced.

My Dad used to drive my Mum up the wall when, for instance, he moaned about the price of restaurants when visiting me in London. My Mum’s philosophy is, that if you want to go to London you will have to eat, so it will cost what it costs. This is the same philosophy that is needed for the missing note bar on that beautiful old case glock. Furthermore Murphy’s Law dictates that the missing note will invariably be the one that is needed.

My blog posts continually demonstrate that jobs are not straight forward when done properly. If you want to replace your glockenspiel note with a shiny bit of metal with a hole drilled in it, I am not your man, there are plenty of pretenders who can do that. But if you want to fill the space in your glockenspiel with a note, then you need an instrument maker to make one and making things takes time.


So what is the difference between “the shiny bit of metal with a hole in it” and a glockenspiel note? Well first of all there is material selection – that bit of steel I used is very good quality high tensile steel which is over 70 years old. You just can’t buy this steel anymore, and this is what gives the note bar sustain. It was then cut to size and a hole drilled into it which is the easy bit. After pre-finishing the bar, I tuned it paying special attention to matching the timbre so that it blended with the adjacent notes. With the note acoustically close to where I want it, the metal is polished and plated. In this case I Nickel plated it so it will age to look like the rest of the instrument, then it got its final tune and was put on the instrument.

Because money is always an issue, I do try very hard to keep costs down. In fact I invest all the time in tools and jigs if they will both increase efficiency and elevate standards. However sometimes I just have to draw the line. My milling machine needs replacing, so thicknessing the metal had to be done by hand. I took about 1mm off, but the finished bar was still higher than the others, but it would have taken ages to get it exact.

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Compromises aside, there is an argument for keeping repairs and replacements visible. I never worry too much about getting things absolutely identical. For instance, the pitch marking is different, but who cares? For me the main thing is the musicality, making it sound like the original.

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-1. Rock, roll and twist again?

This post is part of My top ten bad designs series of posts.

Percussion instruments are three dimensional objects, so in order to effectively describe what I am looking at when I see design problems, below is a diagram of the three axis on which measurements are made.

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The X direction of movement is forwards and backwards.  The Y direction is left and right.  The Z direction is up and down.

However musical instruments don’t just exist on paper, they are used in the real world, and thus are subjected to forces that are also three dimensional.

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These forces are called Roll, Pitch and Yaw.  They are measured in degrees around their respective axis, and I have colour coded them for clarity.  For example, Roll (in green) occurs when an instrument wobbles front to back, it is measured in around the Z axis.  Pitch is one that wobbles side to side.  Yaw is an instrument that has a note bed that rotates when viewed from directly above.  In this post I am looking at roll.

Paul the Porter, and Preschool Paul are going down to the park.  As they approach the see saw, they notice that it is balanced horizontally on its base.

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Preschool Paul loves the see saw, he knows all about how, when on side goes up, the other side goes down because it is only fixed in the middle.  Now imagine that the see saw is the low end of an instrument; as the naturals go down, the accidentals go up.  This is roll. 

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Oops!  And here it is, our first example of bad design – a Bergerault Pedal Glock with a central leg at either end.  Just like the see saw above!  Now glockenspiels may not be very wide at the low end, but they are wide enough, and certainly heavy enough for this central leg to be a weak link in the design.  Consider also that it is a “pedal” glock, so there is the additional problem of moving parts within the damping mechanism that need to operate efficiently.  In my professional opinion I give this instrument no chance of surviving for the long term.

Even Preschool Paul knows that standing on one leg is a recipe for disaster.  Instead he stands with his legs spread wide whilst holding his heavy school bag above his head.

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Now this as we all know is solid and stable, and on paper looks like the perfect solution to roll.  However, if Preschool Paul removes his shoes and stands on a polished floor…

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With socks sliding along a polished floor, his feet slide apart.  Substitute the feet for wheels, and make the centre of the X the weakest part…

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Oh look, we have an Adams marimba using a design that is featured on just about every one of their instruments.  A design that is fundamentally floored in concept and the end result is hundreds of instruments all over the place that suffer from dreadful roll issues.  What is more, because the same components are used on all of their instruments, the bigger the instrument, the bigger the problem.

Bergerault use a capital I as the basis of their design – I for inadequate.  Adams use an X for exceptionally bad.  Any instrument design that transfers the weight of an instrument directly through its centre line is always going to be exceptionally bad and the resultant instrument is going to be inadequate to withstand the forces applied.

So what is the solution to preventing roll?  For me, simple is best, and the simplest solution is a square.  The only decision is either solid or hollow.

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The problem with a solid end, like the Deagan Arora (above) is weight, so I mainly go with a hollow square, ie, two legs, the bottom transom with the casters attached, and the top defined by the note bed.  In order to maximise stability, I make the legs as wide as possible, even splaying the legs out at the narrow end to make a trapezium.

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In the next part of this series I will look at pitch, which is when the instrument rocks from side to side.

Bergerault Pedal Glock (part 2) (Job No: 1239)

All the metal work needed to stop this Bergerault pedal glock collapsing at every inopportune moment was made in 1239 Bergerault pedal glock (pt 1).

I have a few golden rules when it comes to making and repairing percussion instruments, for instance it has to sound good, work, last, etc. In application I also have considerations to make and using experience I identify and remove potential problems before they happen.

This glockenspiel has two examples, first on the list are rattles.  Has it not dawned on the manufacturers that percussion instruments are played by hitting them, and that due to their very nature of being musical instruments they vibrate.  So anything that can work loose and vibrate will do.  Why on earth then would you choose to use a buckle on a percussion instrument?

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Needless to say, they go in the bin!

The next problem is the damper pedal which just hangs off the end of the connecting rod.  Of course this is fine if the instrument never moves and of course the world has a perfectly flat uniform surface.  The damper bar is sprung, so any movement on the instrument will cause movement in the springs – they bounce.  Low and behold the pedal becomes detached, bits snap off, get bent….

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It is only because I am also a quantum physicist as well as an instrument maker, who does a bit of neuro surgery on the side, that I am capable of coming up with solutions to these problems.  Webbing loops instead of buckles, and I remake the pedal connector with bigger sides so the pull rod cannot come off (which is fine if the instrument always stays set up). 

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With those bits of idiocy resolved, the instrument can be assembled and finished.

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Bergerault Pedal Glock (part 1) (Job No: 1239)

There is a big problem with the Bergerault pedal glock; it falls apart if you move it. Besides from being highly irritating, this self destructive characteristic also causes things to break, fall off and get lost. This is a shame, because the instrument sounds nice.  So what happens is that they get sent to me to be sorted out!

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In explanation of what the problem is I’ll use an analogy with our old friend Paul the Porter:

Paul the Porter is playing on the see saw, in the park with Preschool Paul.  When the two Paul’s are sat at either end, Preschool Paul gets flung high into the air which he loves.

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After a little while Paul the Porter’s nerves have been sufficiently jangled so he moves towards the centre.  Preschool Paul is amazed that they now balance and he begins to understand the mechanical principles of leverage.

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So returning to our glockenspiel and looking at the base of the instrument, it is immediately apparent (to me) that there are serious design flaws which mean that there will always be problems with this instrument falling over.  Thus the Bergerault Pedal Glockenspiel appears in my top ten bad designs, which includes a detailed explanation of what is happening.

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In brief, the picture above shows the main offender – the bottom bar has an adjustment on it to alter its length.  This facilitates removing it from the glockenspiel when it is being folded down, but also now means that the legs are not fixed at the bottom.  So when the glock is being wheeled along, this bottom bar offers no structural support.  Returning to our analogy of the see saw,  looking from directly above, the two wheels move about this point like a see saw, compressing the adjustment shorter so it actually falls off immediately prior to the instrument collapsing!

My solution, which applies to just about every instrument I look at, is to sort out the very bottom of the instrument.  It is only when the four wheels are fixed firmly in place that there is any hope for the rest of the instrument to be stable. 

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A large part of the job is getting the attachment of the new frame to the existing working well.  All of my designs keep the number of wing nuts for the player to remove to the absolute minimum; I spend time making it properly to save my customers time every time they set the instrument up.

In the first picture the screw is soldered in place so that it cannot rattle loose and fall off.  The second photo shows the screw and a bolt holding the metal in place.  In this instance I have used two points of contact (usually I have three) so that the see saw effect cannot occur.  The third picture shows the cutout around the peg onto which the pedal arm will rotate; the cut out enables the subframe to be lifted off the glockenspiel.

Once both ends are complete they can be joined together with a bar of fixed length.  The two legs cannot now move apart, but the entire strength is still reliant on the welded joint in the centre, and the screws holding the frame onto the glock.  One of the reasons why I extend the connection to the transom as wide as possible is so that I can triangulate between the two points, and therefore massively increase the strength of the frame.

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Bergerault have already got diagonals from the note bed to the legs, but because the instrument is height adjustable they come down from the top to ensure that the uprights (theoretically) remain parallel.  However they have built a castle on sand, like all the manufacturers (and me) instruments are designed from the top down, but I build instruments from the ground up making sure that the foundations are solid.  Therefore I make sure that the uprights are triangulated to the (now) solid base frame.

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With all the metal work complete, I can send the frame to the powder coaters and resolve the other problems which irritate the customer in 1239: Bergerault pedal glock (pt2)

Premier Glockenspiel (part 3) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues from 1226: Premier Glock (part 2) and started in 1226: Premier Glock (part 1)

The base board gets a fresh coat of black, whilst the frame has its third coat of varnish.
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The whole lot is then glued and screwed together.
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Now I cut the new felt, gather all the note pegs I will need and re-assemble the whole glockenspiel.
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Above is a picture of the instrument back in its case.  I am very pleased with the end result.  Notice the extra note on the accidentals – this is a high E flat I made in 1220: Glockenspiel Notes

Premier Glockenspiel (part 2) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues on from 1226 Premier Glock (part 1)

The first thing I do when building a glockenspiel frame is mark out where the notes will be.  From these marks, I know where the note pins will be going, so can position where I want to fix the note rails to the base board.

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Now I can drill clearance holes through the base board, and counter sink them on the underside.  I have only ever met a few people who use clearance and pilot holes; coincidentally I also have respect for their work.  Most people can’t be bothered (good reason!)

The clearance hole allows the screw to pass straight through the base board, so when it goes into the note rail, it will pull the two parts together.  If no clearance hole is used, the fixing will screw through the board and rail simultaneously and therefore not pull the two parts together.  This is really very basic knowledge, and should be a given, sadly it is not.  Next time you need a tradesman, see if they use them, if not, find a new tradesman (good luck!)
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The next step is to get the note rails on, and mark them out for the note pegs.

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I then remove them to drill the pilot holes for the note pegs.

Pilot holes are used to stop the wood splitting.  They are the same size as the core of the screw to be used, so that only the flutings cut into the wood.

After the holes are drilled I put in braces front to back to support the note rails and prevent them from falling over.  At this stage I put the notes on to have a look at everything.

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I like the combination of the oak on a black background, so I will varnish the frame.

This post continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 3)

Premier Glockenspiel (part 1) (Job No: 1226)

These Premier glockenspiels, like most percussion instruments, are let down by the frame they sit on.  The problem is money.  The manufacturers need to make a profit, because everyone wants a pay rise, whereas the musician wants the best deal possible.  So how do you make a glockenspiel cheap?  You screw your suppliers, and then throw it together as cheaply as possible using a minimum wage workforce.  Only then can the upper managers get new BMW’s.

So when Paul the Porter starts to move the glock around, everything starts to self destruct.

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As can be seen in the diagram above, the weight of the glockenspiel note bars, which are steel, tears the note rail off the base board.

So this is the first thing I look out for when overhauling a glock.

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There are also pins that are missing, but I will get rid of them anyway.

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In the photo above, daylight is visible under the note rail, so I need take it off and see if it can be repaired.  Although the holes for the note pegs had been filled with matchsticks, and there were a lot more holes than needed.  So the likelihood is that I will have to replace them with new note rails.

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As can be seen above, the note rails are beyond repair,  one split trying to remove it from the base.

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In the above picture, I have zoomed in to show the collection of ironmongery holding the note rails to the base.  A pathetic of upholstery and panel pins, with a few of those square twisted nails that were impossible to get out (the reason why I snapped a rail).  Regardless of the type of nail used, the note rail still lifted – this is because nails are exactly the wrong thing to resist a torsional force.  This really obvious; how does a claw hammer work, or pry bar, pincers, etc etc, in fact every tool for removing nails demonstrates where nails are least effective.

Furthermore, because the note rails were made of such low grade softwood, they split really easily, and because the wood is soft, any hole in them will just enlarge.  The replacements I made were out of Oak.

The project continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 2)