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I jumped in the fire

Yet another restoration thread.

Picked up a Vito contrabass for a -ridiculously- low price and it turned out to be in excellent condition for it's price, pads are beautiful, springs all good, one little crack in the upper body and a broken tenon in the middle, but it's nothing to scrap. One bent key, a few missing screws, time to head to the parts drawer.

I'll probably be posting follow ups on the progress of getting this beauty in to playing condition. I've never ever ever worked on a plastic instrument of this size before, but it's going to be worth it!

Stay tuned for pictures within the next few weeks, too. Been a hectic year so far and haven't had any internet time, but I'm glad I got a chance to get online and meet my new friend Contrabass.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
A good question is, "Is it easier or harder to work on a large instrument?" Hey, when I partially disassembled a bass sax to clean it, I found it a bit easier to work on.
It would make sense. Less microscopic parts to lose, less tiny nooks and crannies, etc. The hard part is when your work area is less than 6'x6' and the instrument itself is around that length, and even when disassembled it barely fits anywhere. I've been procrastinating building a large work area in the garage (no basement at the moment) for the soon-to-be-growing wave of monstrous instruments coming in.

I've already "lost" quite a few objects inside the bells of my larger instruments (hence my goofy signature) and have had to battle them out, I believe this is partially the fault of my not-always-nimble fingers, and poor choice of bell placement. Note to self - never work on a bass instrument with the bell attached. I usually don't. There's no reason to.

I'm just waiting to hear my oboe squeal for help one night.

Technically the bigger ones may be easier to work on/around, but what bothers me is how easy the keys are to bend way out of whack... and how much of a chore it is to have to always watch over it and occasionally un-bend the keys, I'd say that there is the only other problem. Especially on vintage instruments when the metal gets soft.

This poor thing has three horribly bent keys that I'm going to work on next, re-assembling it won't be an issue, there's a missing pad but according to my observations there are no leaks or other issues with the existing leather pads (they're wonderful pads).

Upon closer examination I've found nothing else wrong with it, how it cracked so bad I do not know, this instrument is built like a tank. Either dropped, hit by a car, used as a battering ram, I don't know, but it's kinda sad that someone out there would let this beautiful instrument through such trauma. :cry:


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I agree with the "tank" part, to an extent, if my experience with Vito bass clarinets is anything to go by. However, a complaint that I've had with virtually all Leblanc products I've played is that some of their mechanisms are overly complicated.

Speaking of a cat being eaten by a horn, I think Gandalfe has some pics of his cat being eaten by a bass sax. That's a good pic. (Shoulda been in the calendar, Jim: cats + sax = profit!)

Anyhow, the reason I liked working on the bass sax wasn't because there weren't microscopic parts -- there always are -- but that I didn't kill myself with the needle springs because I had much more room to maneuver.

I take it that this is the same horn you mention in http://www.woodwindforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3906, right? You're missing a bell?
Yep, missing the bell. Lucky siamese Lynessa. Last one I worked on was a vito Bb bass (not the contra).

I've come to terms that regardless, it's common logic that one who works on a woodwind will eventually draw blood, pin springs or not... that's why it's not a wussy hobby (that, or I am extremely clumsy), I've never actually worked on a saxophone, being a member of the wooden instrument mafia, but it is a similar concept from what I understand. I'll have to go hunt down that picture you mentioned, poor cat.

I've decided that I'm going to wait to finish working on the instrument until I get to Florida where my larger, nicer work station is. I'll have to get a lot of bubble wrap to get it there safely, no case came with it. I have a case in FL though that should work just fine.

Still fine tuning my tárogató between my daily activities (feeding the cats, grooming them, laundry, keeping the cats out of the dryer, etc), I've been juggling more than I can handle woodwind-wise right now.

I can now confirm my GAS, given the fact that there are more woodwinds I have to feed and take care of than pets. The vintage horns become very prissy pets, especially my new contra.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I've not had a needle spring go all the way through a finger. Yet. I did get a tetanus shot recently, just in case.

As far as the bell is concerned, I really do think a call to Leblanc might be the best bet, as it's probable that a bell that almost fits will mean that it's really out of tune. You've got to worry about fitting, length and the actual volume of the thing. Too bad you missed out on the auction for ONLY a Vito bell -- ended in August for $55.00. 'Course, it could have been for a contralto.

A quick check on eBay shows no Vito contras. However, our buddy Quinn's got at least three. He gets way too many toys. The straight metal contra (low Eb) intrigues me. I could go for that one. If I had, like, money 'n' stuff ....
I should consider a like shot. I'm at risk.

That was my concern, too, I guess it's a lot harder to find an old contrabass bell than I would have thought (I perhaps overstimated the common-ness of the vitos), maybe after my next paycheck...

Anyhow I'm going to call Leblanc soon here to see what they have. This could get interesting (frustrating, etc).
If only I actually had a repair tech (or at least one that's less than 2 hours away)... I could always find one and bribe him/her with coffee and donuts though, good idea Gandalfe. I may just give that a go...
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