Is aged wood better than newer plastic or rubber?

Dear Sir,
I am a dad with two girls teenage, both play and the younger 15 yo is keen to move up from a rental YCL 20, but still thinks Yamaha is the best. I have looked on eBay and lots of old wooden clarinets come up for auction and I’d spend less for an ebony 1950’s job, by miles, than the cost of a recent wooden Yamaha. Is there anything good about a new one or an old one that says its better? The trees were bigger back in time and the woods were better, so as the delicate horn is likely to break on a new horn easier than an old one, it mitigates toward preferring old horns; just from the timber used but is the mechanism better on a newer one? Also is there a site which has all these old makers listed with serial no.s and describes if they are wooden or not? The has a list but with no details. One advert, for instance for an Artley18s on eBay says it is wooden, the next ad for an 18s says it is bakelite. (The Artley site says its only selling 17’s). So sellers often have no idea themselves if it is wooden or not due to the laquer perhaps.
One other thing, I see the silver throat is meant to be louder, so can one get any clarinet silver lined in the same fashion, is it a feasible modification for a qualified repairer to carry out? Can one improve it in other ways, what is jewelled trills? Can clarinets be hotted-up with better springs or custom adjustments? Guitars can, you can lower the action and so forth. Thanks again.
Thanks for your interest in my question and your many answers on the web. ——————————————————–

Hi and thank you for writing:
Basically your problem and anyone who buys a vintage clarinet is that of condition, true condition, not stated, and the costs to repair and/or prepare the instrument for your children. This can be and frequently is prohibitive to a large extent, and you do not know how the tuning will be, a crucial issue. That leaves you blind with a cheap purchase that may be worth nothing, truthfully is likely worth nothing.
Clarinets do not appreciate with age and only experts know what to look for and how much to spend, excluding repair costs, which are always more than one bargains for and never ever done right.
Wood is not better than ABS or hard rubber, it is only traditional.
But frankly,I have never played on an instrument made of anything save wood that played like a fine clarinet, never. If perhaps an instrument of an aritifial material were made with the same care and cutting of the tone holes as is with a fine wooden instrument , then that would be the only test. Artifically made instruments are not made well, period. Back to wood,there is just more of it lying around and it dries out distorting terribly with age. Most serial numbers are a jumble of useless facts, along with the silver throat which will cost more than the horn itself, and sellers do indeed know what they are selling. Clerks frequently do not.
My opinion is that your two children are correct: Yamaha is the best deal, and you can deal with them depending upon the stock and the season, and they are guaranteed, are more correctly built from the standpoint of acoustics and mechanical vulnerability. I just had a student purchase a new 450 Yamaha, and yes, it cracked, but they are replacing the piece, not the best idea, but at least it shows the integrity of the company.
good luck.


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