Ebony, Grenadilla, and Leblanc

Dear Mr. Friedland,
My father was a professional musician, leading the woodwind section at the Victoria Palace theatre, London. Later he devoted his time teaching/tutoring the saxophone and clarinet privately. My interest, however, was in photography, not music. Consequently I have inherited some of his instruments without the background knowledge to know what I really have.
So to the questions.
I have been trying to identify the model of the French Leblanc clarinet that was the one he mainly used.
The clarinet in question has no markings on it to indicate (to me anyway) which model it is. I do not know when this instrument was bought except that my father stopped playing, due to ill health, in about 1979 so it must be at least 27 years old.What I can tell you is:
The serial number stamped round the bottom of the �upper joint� and the bottom of the �lower joint� is 34525.
The top end of the �upper joint� is stamped �Made in France�I always thought a clarinet was made of ebony but the Leblanc French web site only refers to �Aged Grenadilla Wood�.
Were clarinets once made of ebony and, if so, when did grenadilla start to be used?I think this is a Bb instrument � but how can you tell?The Leblanc French web site lists 33 models of clarinet, 8 of them being Bb models � but what models did they make 30 years ago?
Now for the main question � based on its possible age and the markings on it, is it possible to identify the model?
Many thanks for any help you can give me,


Concerning your question, I can be of some assistance, though not for everything. While making a very fine instrument, Leblanc was less than transparent concerning their serial numbers, which cannot be matched with date. Now Leblanc is really non-existant but has been swallowed by Selmer-Conn, a part of the Steinway mega-company.
Your Bb clarinet was the very best Leblanc made, really the top of their line, made for many years, perhaps starting in the 60s. The double L logo stands for Leon Leblanc, who was spokesperson of the company for a while.
The botanical name itself tells much � Grenadilla, the wood from which your instrument is built, belongs to the Dalbergia family, together with other famous woods such as Palisander or Kingwood, and �Melanoxylon� simply indicates �blackwood�.
Under this name the Portuguese discoverers, constantly searching for new ebony-like woods, brought the wood to the Royal court. In doing so they imported this wood, which stands next to Ebony as the darkest of woods, if not completely black. French titles such as Ebene de Mozambique, which are also applied to Ebony itself, sometimes indicate the source. Grenadilla grows in the dry forests of southeast Africa; above all in the east African savanna grasslands, where the most important sources are found.
Grenadilla is especially treasured for the making of woodwind instruments due to its hard, smooth surface, and its strong resistance to the absorption of moisture. Portuguese musicians were themselves the first to employ it for the making of instruments.As ebony become less plentiful,dye was used, and some grenadilla wood is treated with dye, though the two are very similar, ebony being the deeper natural black
Rest assured, your father was very selective and played a wonderful instrument..
I hope that this helps.
very cordially,
sherman friedland


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