After 38 years building the finest brass instruments, the Kanstul factory has closed. The Kanstul family and team want to express their deep appreciation to our customers, business partners and friends for the business and incredible support they’ve received over the 38 years since Zig Kanstul founded the company.
Total production of the screw bell models was two. The other is with a WIlliams collector in Hawaii. These were made on my askance for a Kanstul dealer event, to be shown alongside the Kanstul contrabass trombone with screw bell. We thought travelers from Japan and NYC might appreciate the diminutive sized Bonna case.
The screw ring adds about 2 oz to the weight of the bell, which is half the difference between the standard .020" bell and the heavy .025" bell. The weight is in front of the player, unlike a balance weight, but it is not overly bell-heavy. The tuning slide braces are solid for improved balance. This is a nice playing horn with more projection and stability than the standard fixed-bell 1606.
The last few photos above show some historical Kanstul models: the 1606 with fixed bell, the 1606ST with tuning in the hand slide like a 1930's Williams, and a 1607 with F-attachment and distinctive Williams F-loop. That was an incredible era at Kanstul, where they seemed to have a new project each week.
______This review concerns the 1606 trombone made by Kanstul in California. This model is designed and built in the style of the classic Earl Williams trombones.
Some mention of Earl Williams and his history is certainly in order. He began building custom trombones in the Los Angeles area in the late 1930's, in partnership with Spike Wallace, a trombonist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Early models had a distinctive arrowhead counterweight, and the tuning mechanism was in the hand slide. After a break for World War II, Williams continued to build trombones for several decades. His was a small shop, and Earl himself did most of the work. He specialized in small tenor trombones, but also built a few bass trombones. Several renown features included the curved hand grip, distinctive bracing, and a fluted hand slide brace. Williams' model 6 is the most famous of his designs, and was built to play and sound like the popular King 3B trombone, but with a more efficient blow. The model 6 had a large throat 8" bell like the King, but the slightly smaller slide bore (.500" versus .508") combined with a long tuning bow gave the Williams a quick response but a wide warm sound that was distinctive, pleasing, and versatile. This was the horn used by many studio players in Los Angeles for a generation.
Sadly, after Earl's passing in 1976, several different owners tried to continue Earl's work, but the Williams company is no more. The vintage Williams horns are still in high demand, and Zig Kanstul had received several requests to build an instrument in this style. Now Kanstul has delivered.
The Kanstul model 1606 has that distinctive Williams sound and a few new twists. He's accurately reproduced the vintage bell shape and the look and sound of the classic horns. But the Kanstul horn is a bit lighter as well. Many Williams models tended to feel heavy, and some players had their bells buffed down a bit to increase the liveliness. In addition, the Kanstul bell is a one-piece design, a style that he feels is superior in resonance to the more common two-piece bells on horns like Williams, Conn and King, even though a one-piece bell is more difficult to make. The Kanstul includes three removable mouthpipes: One is a replica of the original Williams design (W6), another is a replica of a Burt Herrick model that was designed as an improved pipe (H6), and the third is Kanstul's standard design derived from his work with Donald Benge (S).
We're happy to report that numerous commercial players in Los Angeles and elsewhere have adopted this as their instrument of choice. Many are former Williams players who wanted something a bit livelier, or at least lighter.
We think this is Kanstul's most versatile premier trombone. Many players are drawn to its light weight, clear response at low volumes, and malleable tone. It's a piece of acoustic history redesigned for today's player, and it's still hand made the old way.
Included: 3 mouthpipes, Bonna case