Posted by Joe S. on May 30, 1999 at 01:49:19:
In Reply to: Tuba Factory Tours posted by JRTapes on May 29, 1999 at 22:58:20:
Well, they don't make a very "sexy" tuba, but the Blessing Company in Elkhart, Indiana makes a nice little King 1140 knockoff. They are extremely nice people, and not far from Chicago, etc. The president/owner(s) are Randy and Merle Johnson. The valves on these might come from a European source, but you could look at their bell, branch, mouthpipe, and slide manufacturing processes, which are interesting, regardless of the model. They DO make their own TRUMPET valves, so you could witness piston/casing manufacturing, even though it wouldn't be "tuba" valves.
Other AMERICAN-made tubas are, of course, the Getzen and the Holton (both north of Chicago in Wisconsin) and the King 1140 and 2341(?)"Symphony" bass in Eastlake, a suburb of Cleveland, OH, plus their new rarely-seen CC.
All of these places are "nice folks", but probably don't make tubas 12 months out of the year. You would have to catch them when they are doing some tuba stuff.
I remember watching Selmer (U.S.A.) use a huge chain-driven gadget to pull lead "donut"s through roughly-formed alto saxophone bells inside a steel mold to force them "out" to their perfect unusual curved shape. This process had always been a mystery to me prior to this, and inspite of the fact that I am not much of a sax player, I found that terribly fascinating. (When they were done, they tossed each donut in a 55 gallon drum. When the drum was full, they would haul it off, melt the lead back down, and make new donuts!)
Another interesting process in the factories is filling tubing with frozen liquid soap to bend it without creasing it (tubing under approx 1 inch). In old days, they would fill tubing with tar ("pitch") instead of the "modern" frozen soap. To get every last bit of pitch out of the tubing, they would have to heat it red hot. Maybe that explains one of the subtile differences in the sound of instruments of old and instruments of today.
I know that YOU were specifically asking about tubas, but I thought that the others that had never toured a factory at all might be interested in some "teasers" as to what they would see.