Zorba, Male Belly Dancer


Henna Design 1911 Conn Mellophone #118341 Henna Design


"Centuries" before I was known as "Zorba", I played French Horn for about 25 years. I first learned how to play Mellophone starting in 5th grade, then after about a year or so with that, then I graduated to the French Horn. For some unexplainable reason, I recently got a hankering to pick up a Mellophone again. I actually contacted my old school district to see if they perchance still had the Mellophone I played ca 1971 and if they did, were they still using it? And if they weren't, would they sell it to me? I had always remembered it being an Olds instrument, #196767 - a number that is pretty easy to remember. I never remembered the serial numbers of any of the French Horns I played and owned, but never forgot that Mellophone! Unfortunately, despite an extensive search, the current band leader couldn't locate that instrument, or indeed any Mellophones at all. So that was out...

So when I saw this one on eBay for a good price, I bought it. The seller was semi-local to me, so we were able to arrange to meet in person so that this caseless instrument wouldn't be exposed to the hazards of shipping via "Fed-Up", "Universal Package Smashers", or "United States Package Smashers"! Being as the instrument didn't have a case, that was a good thing!

I've always been an Olds or a Holton man, I never warmed as much to the Conn French Horn I played for a bit in High School before getting my own horn - so it was a mental adjustment to acquire a Conn instrument! According to online serial number lists, it was made sometime in 1909, 1910, or 1911. The list that has its serial number, #118341 listed as 1910 claims multiple corrections were made to their list. However, the Conn factory burned down in mid 1910, and was rebuilt and restarted production late that year. Several new models of their various instruments were introduced in 1911, including the 6E and 7E mellophones, of which I *THINK* this is a 6E. Thus my current thinking is that it had to have been made in 1911; 1910 or 1909 were pre-fire and thus would have been impossible for 6E/7E mellophones. Research is ongoing...

Olds Mellophone
Zorba, next to his late mother, first day with Olds Mellophone
#196767. I didn't even know how to hold the thing yet!

Olds Mellophone
It was very similar to this one, albeit with lacquered brass.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic: The instrument I acquired, Conn #118341

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic, showing the "F" leadpipe installed.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic, top to bottom: C,D, and Eb leadpipes. See text.

Conn Mellophone
eBay pic.

Conn Mellophone
Messing around with it when I got it home. Seller threw in a Cornet mouthpiece.

Conn Mellophone
As I recall, French Horns won't stand on their bells like this.

Conn Mellophone
Key of C leadpipe installed, see text.

Conn Mellophone
Key of D leadpipe installed.

Conn Mellophone
Key of Eb leadpipe installed.

Conn Mellophone
Key of F leadpipe installed.

Conn Mellophone
Entire instrument is heavily tarnished. It may stay that way...

Conn Mellophone
It even has the lyre screw, which usually disappears on old horns. No lyre though.

Conn Mellophone
Bach 7C Cornet mouthpiece. Well regarded for Cornets, not so hot for this instrument.

Conn Mellophone
"F" leadpipe is bent. Possibly on purpose. See text.

Conn Mellophone
Inspecting a valve.

Conn Mellophone
Possibly original cork bumper pad?

Conn Mellophone
Where it came from.

Conn Mellophone
And the other end.

Conn Mellophone
Mouthpiece won't fit without one of the leadpipes installed. Goddess knows what
the key might be, perhaps a flat F#?

Conn Mellophone
Eb leadpipe has been repaired, rather poorly.

Conn Mellophone
"The bigger the glob, the better the job!"

Conn Mellophone
The F leadpipe showing the bend...

Conn Mellophone
The bell has seen damage over the years, but someone repaired it quite well.

Conn Mellophone
Time to clean the thing!

Conn Mellophone
Soaked in dish detergent and baking soda mix before starting to clean...

Conn Mellophone
Corks and felts from the valves.

Conn Mellophone
Brushing out a leadpipe.

Conn Mellophone
All done.

Conn Mellophone
Drying out before re-assembly.

Conn Mellophone
Tuning lines on the valve slides. All the way in for F, first line for Eb, next
for D and furthest out line for C? Maybe/probably, but I really don't know!

Conn Mellophone
The valve pistons are actually serialized to the instrument, kind of like gun parts from the same
period. Each also bears its valve number, although its normally hidden under the cork bumpers.

So I cleaned it up and its in pretty darn good shape overall. No broken solder joints, bell dents have been ironed out, the valves are in decent shape - albeit with their plating worn away, etc. The Eb leadpipe was poorly repaired at some point, and there's that dent/crease/bend in the F leadpipe which I had fixed (see below). However, its possible that the F leadpipe got that way on purpose. Some owners of marching mellophones will bend their leadpipe for a better/more comfortable embrochure while keeping the instrument in a visually pleasing upright position. As this is not a marching instrument (lyre attachment notwithstanding), doing this wouldn't make much sense, but who knows what people were thinking over the last 111 years?

These horns were reportedly originally supplied with 2 mouthpieces, one for F/Eb, the other for D and C. As the only mouthpiece I have for the horn as I write this (another is on the way!) is a Cornet mouthpiece, the results are sub-optimal. With this mouthpiece and the F leadpipe, notes start to deteriorate below treble clef first line "E" (written), and pretty much drop off entirely below middle C - that isn't right. So I'll see what the Hell after I get a (hopefully) better matched mouthpiece.

As for the silver tarnish, I'm leaving it be for now, and possibly permanently. There is no lacquer on the instrument, and if I polish the silver plating, it will just tarnish again, plus if I use silver polish on it, it will remove actual silver. A chemical dip supposedly can reconstitute the tarnish back into silver, but doing an object this large is problematic and I had less than steller results on a silver plated spoon I tried it with. We'll see, it actually looks kind of cool the way it is!

Conn Mellophone
Very pretty, but very wrong mouthpiece (L) purchased on Amazon...

Conn Mellophone
The Cornet mouthpiece (R) actually fits inside the shank of this thing - so back it goes!

Conn Mellophone
Try #2 to buy a real Mellophone mouthpiece. Slightly smaller shank won't allow the Cornet
mouthpiece (R) to go inside like the above, but otherwise very similar! Back to eBay it goes!

Conn Mellophone
A quick visit to the local brass shop got the F leadpipe ironed out.

Conn Mellophone
The tech also added the green felt washers to correct valve placement.

Conn Mellophone
Try #3 to buy a real Mellophone mouthpiece. Third time's the charm! Same size overall
as well as shank as the Cornet mouthpiece (R). Vincent Bach #6 Mellophone mouthpiece.

Conn Mellophone
Larger diameter and much deeper cup than the Cornet version. Somewhat better low
range, FAR better intonation, and perhaps not quite as good a high range. See text.

Conn Mellophone
Installed in the "C" leadpipe.

I played pretty much nothing but Vincent Bach mouthpieces in my French Horn days, so it was only natural that I'd turn to them for a Mellophone mouthpiece as well. I chose a #6, which is described as being the same as their well regarded #5, but slightly smaller. Intonation in the Mellophone's normal range is far better than with the Cornet mouthpiece, which only makes sense. It should be as the mouthpiece cost literally 50% of what I paid for the horn! Low range now starts at A below the staff (written) and extends to top line F easily enough, with above staff G doable, and even A above the staff with some effort. This model Mellophone reportedly was shipped with two mouthpieces from the factory, presumably one for F/Eb, the other for D/C. If I can locate the French Horn mouthpieces I think I still have, I'll get an adaptor and see if this horn can climb into the higher register a bit more - but A below the staff to A above is about the most I can get out of it at this time with my 25 year rusty chops, with the F leadpipe at least. Besides, its a Mellophone, not a French Horn; it isn't going to have the range of the latter.

Conn Mellophone
Found online: A slightly newer example ca 1912/13 or so, showing the two
mouthpieces these horns came with, as well as the case. This one has
been polished, and the Eb leadpipe is in much better condition.

Conn Mellophone
A ding discovered in the bell...

Conn Mellophone
Nasty looking, but...

Conn Mellophone
...easy to deal with with these repurposed tools!

Conn Mellophone
Fixed. The metal looks different as it was somewhat polished in the
process of the repair, but you can't even feel where the ding used to be!


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