DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMMA TENOR MOUTHPIECE

I developed the AMMA saxophone mouthpiece model concept by integrating the work and feedback I received over the years from top professional musicians when customizing vintage Otto Link mouthpieces, and in making my Custom Link mouthpieces. The Custom Links were made with many baffle heights ranging from no added baffle at all, to extremely high baffles. The majority were made with a medium height baffle though, that maintained the fundamental classic Otto Link sound, but added a decent amount of projection.

The predecessor to our current AMMA model was cast out of New Gold, a special bronze used to cast jewelry as it looks like real 18 Karat gold. Hence expensive jewelry is duplicated out of New Gold and placed in store display cases in place of the real gold jewelry. If any jewelry gets stolen from the case - no big deal. The first of these were made just after the turn of the century. I worked closely with a small shop in Philadelphia that investment casts the mouthpieces.

Amma Jan Using the removable/soluble core investment casting technique we were able to make a fairly consistent mouthpiece. Here is a picture of Jan Garbarek with one of these mouthpieces taken from the German Jazz magazine SONIC.

These mouthpieces required a lot of hand finish work though and the consistency was still not as good as I wanted them to be. Thus began my five year odyssey into new manufacturing techniques that took me all around the country.

Soon though I started to get quite ill, and much of my attention went to healing myself. Please see the article "The answer to - did Theo die?" I worked as much as I could during my illness; however, I had little energy. I continued to learn and work on the mouthpiece manufacturing, but my progress substantially slowed down.

2006 was the year of my slow recovery, and when solutions to the manufacturing complexities started to magically surface. I truly believe this new mouthpiece is blessed. The magic that has been surrounding it this year has been amazing to behold.

There are five new patents pending on the mouthpiece, ligature, and cap designs for the new CNC version of the mouthpiece. I now have fantastic support with my brother joining me from a successful career in finance. We like to joke that the 1950's was the era of the 'Meyer Bros.' and 2000 will be the era of the 'Wanne, Bros'. Dave Tondi has moved to the West Coast and is working with us as well. He is helping merge Saxophone Mouthpiece Heaven with Wanne, Inc. We are also working with one of the best machining teams anywhere and a truly remarkable marketing team.

This is not to say that pushing the limits of manufacturing technology is easy. But facing the technical challenges along the way with such wonderful people has taken our experience from frustrating, to exciting, and now groundbreaking! I will post more on the technological advancements in the future.

Ever wonder why there aren't more large-chamber mouthpieces in the market place? Mouthpieces are made primarily in three ways. 1) Investment casting 2) Injection molding 3) CNC milling machines and lathes. Here is a brief explanation of each procedure.

  • Investment (lost wax) casting: Lost Wax casting techniques have been used for all large chamber vintage mouthpieces from the 1930's to present. Most were made in two halves (side to side), and then soldered together. The problem with that, is the casting process is not accurate enough to get the two halves aligned the same on every mouthpiece. Hence every mouthpiece has a slightly different width and thickness to it, and plays differently.

Here is the technique I used to make the predecessor to our current AMMA model. It is a one-piece large chamber casting. 

  • Model - First you make your model or prototype - the mouthpiece you want to copy. This must be made approximately 6% to 10% larger than your finished model as there is shrinkage during two steps of the casting process.

  • Molding - The mold encapsulates the model, such that a negative cavity is made in the shape of the model. Molds are made of various types of rubbers, metals, plastics or plasters, though usually vulcanized rubber is used. The mold must be able to withstand a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit and be made larger than the finished mouthpiece due to shrinkage in the mold itself. The mold is split in two so the model can be removed from the mold. Removing the interior mold from a large chamber mouthpiece model is tricky as the interior is larger than the openings at each end of the model. Hence, we ended up using a combination of techniques including:

Removable core - A plug is put inside the interior mold core. Before removing the interior mold, the solid plug is pulled out creating a void
and allowing the core to collapse in on itself and be removed from the prototype. Once removed the mold springs back into shape and the
solid plug can be put back in.

Soluble core - The same general concept as a removable core, but the plug gets dissolved in a solution. This leaves a resultant void in the
center of the mold allowing the mold to collapse and be removed from the prototype.

Once the model is successfully removed from the mold, the mold is reassembled WITHOUT the prototype in it and clamped together.

  • Wax Pattern - Wax is poured inside the mold and allowed to cool, creating a wax pattern. The wax pattern is an exact replica of the initial model only made of wax.

  • Investment Mold - A ceramic (or similar) investment mold is made around the wax model. Once again a removable/soluble core is required part of the mold. The investment mold is placed in an oven until the wax pattern melts out.

  • Casting The brass (or bronze) is poured inside the new ceramic mold. When cool, the mouthpiece is removed from the ceramic mold and the removable/soluble core is removed from the mouthpiece. Viola! You have a mouthpiece.

There is material shrinkage in both the initial 'soft' mold and in the molten brass/bronze during cooling. So the initial model needs to be 6%-10%
larger depending on the specific materials used.

  • Finishing - Now the finishing work is done to create the facing curve, correct the baffle/rails/window and polish the mouthpiece.

  • Injection Molding: This is a MUCH simpler process as material is injected inside a mold - then simply removed. This is much cheaper to make, however, there are severe limitations as to material that can be used in injection molding which is why most injection molded mouthpieces are made from either plastic or from soft 'white-metal'. There are also severe limitations to the interior shape. It is almost impossible to make good large chamber mouthpiece with this method.

  • CNC Machining: Until the new Wanne mouthpiece line was introduced, CNC machining had only been used in the interior of small and medium chamber mouthpieces. A True Large Chamber like the vintage Otto Link mouthpieces had not been possible. The reason is simple: tooling cannot reach into the chamber or window of the mouthpiece to create complex shapes. Hence a True large chamber mouthpiece simply cannot be made. Also, nicely rounded inner side walls cannot be made even on the small and medium chamber mouthpieces.

The AMMA mouthpiece is made using CNC machining. Our solutions are innovative and patent pending. We are now working within the Aero- Space community in the Pacific Northwest, the home of Boeing Airlines, in order to maximize the use of current manufacturing technology.