F. Besson / R. Stewart Pocket Conversion • no. 34492 • 1885 / 2006
This is an amazing project, recently completed. My involvement was limited to the conceptual level: could an ordinary 19th century Besson cornet be successfully converted into a pocket cornet replica, and how might one go about it?
Several long conversations were conducted with expert Robb Stewart, well-known for his museum quality restorations as well as exquisite vintage reproduction instruments. I explained what I had in mind and hashed out possible ways to achieve it. That was the easy part – as they say, “talk is cheap” – it takes true skill and talent as Robb possesses to actually execute such ideas into a work of art as you see here!
We agreed that it would be interesting to not copy one of the few known 19th century Besson pocket cornets, but rather use the 1930’s Besson “MEHA” pocket as the model, for two reasons: 1) Only 4 examples of the MEHA pocket are known, and we don’t think many more, if any, exist; and 2) no conversion could (or should) exactly duplicate a 19th century Besson pocket for several reasons, so we may as well create something unique.
I had the loan of an original MEHA Pocket so that I could photograph and measure it to serve as a guide for Robb.
Construction details, when fabricated, were made in accordance with 1880’s Besson parts. Among the tasks:
• Cut down bell diameter and fabricate new rim
• Re-bend bell crook, while straightening out a portion of the old crook
• Construct “fold-back” third slide
• Fabricate second stage of bell loop, leadpipe, and tuning slide
• Make two shanks – one each for cornet and trumpet mouthpieces
• And perhaps the most challenging aspect: remove valve casing balusters, and machine “extensions” to make the casings 1/2” taller than they would be otherwise, to duplicate the unique Besson pocket cornet valve cluster. This was a relatively minor detail I practically insisted on, knowing it would be a real challenge for Robb to pull off. But the results speak for themselves – the seam between the original casings and Robb’s parts are virtually impossible to spot in the photos!
The final steps were having the valves overhauled, and the entire horn 24 kt. gold plated at Anderson Plating. The cornet plays very well with excellent intonation.
I fabricated the carrying case, making an effort to have its design reflect the standard practices of case construction, circa 1880s. I wanted it to “look the part,” but be completely practical for bringing the cornet to gigs.
Other photos show the “donor horn” as well as in-progress shots. Needless to say, I am very proud of this wonderful and unique addition to my collection!
Length (shank removed): 9”
Bell Diameter: 2.9”