Site: Jessica Rance Woodwind Instrument Repairs
Location: Thornmoor Cross, Devon
Date: 21 February 2012
SiB team: CD and SB
A ring of rare black wood, harvested from the African Grenadilla tree. A bit of old wine bottle cork. A cutting from a sheet of industrial nickel-silver. An eyeless needle. An ivory billiard ball, and the green baize cloth from the table it may have once travelled.
In Jessica Rance’s workshop these things are reborn. Tenons for a broken clarinet. Trill key bumpers. New keys, and the springs to hold their tension. Ivory mounts for a bassoon or an oboe. Felt pads to protect the wood from the pressure of the keys. The transformations are accomplished with the help of an extended family of tools and machines—Leonard the lathe, Mildred the milling machine, Einstein the jig tool, the screwdriver with the blackwood handle that Jess made (forging the steel herself) in college, a battered and beloved mallet. Repair is collaborative, a joint project of matter and machine, musician and mender.
The instruments have names as well. Basil the bassoon, Clarence the clarinet, Arthur the upright piano. They share the workshop with Leonard and Mildred, and also share some their functional identity. ‘At the end of the day these beautiful things are machines, and if they are well-made machines they will last’.