Superb Support from Ian Amiel at John Packer Ltd

Jack E

Well-Known Member
I bought a used John Packer 172.S tenor horn (private sale, not from Packer's!), which looked in very good shape - until I took the valves out to clean and oil them, and was horrified! They appeared to be so badly worn and corroded, it looked as though whoever had played it never bothered to clean or oil the valves at all - and I had serious doubts as to whether or not they could be salvaged, or would have to be replaced (cringe at the thought of how much that might cost!).

I left a message for the seller, and while I was waiting to hear back from him, I phoned Packer's, and spoke to their brass repair techie, Ian Amiel. As I live a long way from Wellington, he suggested a couple of quick checks I could do to establish how bad the valves were, and asked if I could send him pictures. A little while later, he phoned me back and spent quite a time talking me through what to do next. He said that valves could be very deceptive in appearance, and he'd seen some which looked totally dire, but which had come up fine after careful and thorough polishing.

So I followed his advice, stripping the valves down to their component parts, polish, polish, polish . . . (like being back at recruit training camp in the RAF . . . ), and to my astonishment, the valves came up almost entirely bright and shiny, with just a few tiny spots of brown discolouration. Honestly? I could hardly believe my eyes!

So here's a shout out for Ian and John Packer's! 👏👏👏

Re. taking up tenor horn (after years happily playing baritone). Lung damage which was triggered by poisoning with phosgene gas (when I ran a plastic moulding shop in 1966) has been getting slowly worse over the years. You may remember I had to switch to tenor for five months, a few years back, when my breathing got bad enough that I could only play a baritone for about 5 - 10 minutes. So I made the switch while the docs were sorting out an inhaler which kept a lid on the symptoms - and then reverted to baritone :). Well, last winter, the problems flared up again during a very cold spell, and I ran out of puff to play baritone. An old friend who plays brass reminded me about what happened before, so I borrowed an old tenor horn from a friend to try. A Besson, very old and very, very worn (from the serial number, I make it about 120 years old!) - but it proved the point; that even though a tenor takes more pressure to play, it doesn't need anywhere as much air, so I can keep going for a few more years yet :cool:.

Whether or not the docs will be able to do anything so I can play baritone again, I've no idea - but from my background reading, it looks like the damage phosgene does could only be fixed by a lung transplant, and I'm damn sure there are plenty of people whose need is far greater than mine. So far, I've had a battery of blood tests, and a chest X-ray - which eliminated some possibilities (such as TB - a frequent aftermath of phosgene) - and I've been referred by my GP for a CAT scan. I first contacted the docs in mid-February, and I may not even know if her referral has been approved until early June. Even if it is, all that means is that my name is added to the waiting list, and Heaven only knows how long that is by now. If I do get the scan, I'd be surprised if it happens this side of Christmas, and it still may not suggest any means of improving my condition enough to play baritone again.

So, much as I prefer the gutsier sound of a baritone, given the current choice of switching to tenor or stop playing in the band altogether, I'll make the switch, and see how things pan out in the long term.

I must say, though; even though the mouthpiece is a very small one for my embouchure, that Packer 172.S has got a very nice sound!

With best regards,
Jack

PS - I've just heard back from the seller, and we've arrived at a very amicable arrangement, so it's all turned out well (and I've learnt a lot about valves from Ian Amiel, too :))
 

Stevieb

New Member
I bought a used John Packer 172.S tenor horn (private sale, not from Packer's!), which looked in very good shape - until I took the valves out to clean and oil them, and was horrified! They appeared to be so badly worn and corroded, it looked as though whoever had played it never bothered to clean or oil the valves at all - and I had serious doubts as to whether or not they could be salvaged, or would have to be replaced (cringe at the thought of how much that might cost!).

I left a message for the seller, and while I was waiting to hear back from him, I phoned Packer's, and spoke to their brass repair techie, Ian Amiel. As I live a long way from Wellington, he suggested a couple of quick checks I could do to establish how bad the valves were, and asked if I could send him pictures. A little while later, he phoned me back and spent quite a time talking me through what to do next. He said that valves could be very deceptive in appearance, and he'd seen some which looked totally dire, but which had come up fine after careful and thorough polishing.

So I followed his advice, stripping the valves down to their component parts, polish, polish, polish . . . (like being back at recruit training camp in the RAF . . . ), and to my astonishment, the valves came up almost entirely bright and shiny, with just a few tiny spots of brown discolouration. Honestly? I could hardly believe my eyes!

So here's a shout out for Ian and John Packer's! 👏👏👏

Re. taking up tenor horn (after years happily playing baritone). Lung damage which was triggered by poisoning with phosgene gas (when I ran a plastic moulding shop in 1966) has been getting slowly worse over the years. You may remember I had to switch to tenor for five months, a few years back, when my breathing got bad enough that I could only play a baritone for about 5 - 10 minutes. So I made the switch while the docs were sorting out an inhaler which kept a lid on the symptoms - and then reverted to baritone :). Well, last winter, the problems flared up again during a very cold spell, and I ran out of puff to play baritone. An old friend who plays brass reminded me about what happened before, so I borrowed an old tenor horn from a friend to try. A Besson, very old and very, very worn (from the serial number, I make it about 120 years old!) - but it proved the point; that even though a tenor takes more pressure to play, it doesn't need anywhere as much air, so I can keep going for a few more years yet :cool:.

Whether or not the docs will be able to do anything so I can play baritone again, I've no idea - but from my background reading, it looks like the damage phosgene does could only be fixed by a lung transplant, and I'm damn sure there are plenty of people whose need is far greater than mine. So far, I've had a battery of blood tests, and a chest X-ray - which eliminated some possibilities (such as TB - a frequent aftermath of phosgene) - and I've been referred by my GP for a CAT scan. I first contacted the docs in mid-February, and I may not even know if her referral has been approved until early June. Even if it is, all that means is that my name is added to the waiting list, and Heaven only knows how long that is by now. If I do get the scan, I'd be surprised if it happens this side of Christmas, and it still may not suggest any means of improving my condition enough to play baritone again.

So, much as I prefer the gutsier sound of a baritone, given the current choice of switching to tenor or stop playing in the band altogether, I'll make the switch, and see how things pan out in the long term.

I must say, though; even though the mouthpiece is a very small one for my embouchure, that Packer 172.S has got a very nice sound!

With best regards,
Jack

PS - I've just heard back from the seller, and we've arrived at a very amicable arrangement, so it's all turned out well (and I've learnt a lot about valves from Ian Amiel, too :))
Good story that, thanks Jack. (from a fellow Tenor Horn player!)
 

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