My Trip To The Wedge Mouthpiece Shop
I recently went on a trip up to Gabriola Island off the Vancouver, British Columbia coast to meet with my friend, Dave Harrison, the creator of the Wedge Mouthpiece and work on some new design ideas. It just made sense to come up here as opposed to doing it all remotely from Chicago.
I think it to speaks to the quality of people behind the Wedge Mouthpieces Company that I went up there on a two day business trip (excluding the two grueling travel days - I pulled some stunts to keep my expenses down) and come away feeling as though I had a two month refreshing vacation. If you're a Wedge Head and want to get some personal custom work done with Dave, you OWE IT TO YOURSELF to get up there. Just do it!
We used some of our United miles to set up flights to and from Vancouver, BC. I flew economy in a flying cattle car and my boarding group was 4! Yeah, I gate checked my duffle. The attendant reached for my horn and almost lost a limb!
Vancouver Airport is very nice. It is a mere shadow of the chaos that is Ohare, so it was pleasant to be there once I cleared customs.
There is a second leg to the trip. Gabriola Island is way off shore and there are no bridges. You need to take a ferry which can take many hours, depending on traffic and demand. However, it is the cheaper way to go.
The other way, and I highly recommend this, is to take a seaplane over to the island. I used Gulf Island Seaplanes, and they were just fantastic. They all knew Dave and were very laid back to work with.
There is a free shuttle service from the main airport to the smaller south airport. From there it is a short walk to the seaplane dock.
The flight to Gabriola is a pleasant and fascinating twenty minutes. The entire process simply reverses to get back home.
The Wedge Mouthpiece Family:
I want to talk about this before I get into the nitty gritty of the mouthpiece project.
From the moment I stepped off the seaplane, I felt totally welcomed into a beautiful Canadian quiet rural community.
Dave was there to meet me and proved to be an incredibly gracious host. I don't travel real well, and Dave totally put me at ease. I got settled into my accommodations and then we went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant and just talked and talked. Some of it was even about trumpet!
After dinner, we went back to his place and did chat a little bit about what I was looking for. However, the primary task at hand was to get me settled down after a 12 hour travel day.
The next morning, to be
our first full day of business, I got to meet the Wedge Family. I say family, because it feels that way. In addition to having three expert machinists and a very capable office/business manager, Dave has four great friends who love working for him and with each other. Look at the pics. The smiles are totally genuine and accurately show the nature of the homey atmosphere they have at Wedge.
During the warmer months the shop is an open air shop. Every morning the staff open up the front of the shop and the machine work is done "al fresco!" The work environment is just wonderful.
Because of this marvelous work environment and the smaller nature of the company, every (and I do mean EVERY) mouthpiece made there, from stocks to custom designs get the same hands on personalized attention. For all practical purposes, once the fundamental mouthpiece comes off the big computer driven CNC mill, all of the polishing and finish and prep and quality control is totally by hand. His three machinists really know what they are doing.
Dave is a simply wonderful employer. This fact is manifested with a joyful team and brilliant quality control. Everyone there takes great pride in what they do. While they have developed efficient procedures, every mouthpiece gets hands on personal attention.
Adding to the peaceful work environment are the three comfort team directors, Riley, Simon
and Bill! Riley and Simon are Dave's two adorable dogs and Bill belongs to Michaela, one of the shop machinists. They stay out of the way but the wagging tales and loving stares really serve to dial in the family vibe.
Getting Down To Business: The Mouthpiece Design Process
After meeting the team, Dave came over to me and said,"Let's go make a mouthpiece!" While he has a crack team working the machines, he is the designer/inventor of the Wedge Concept.
Dave works with a CAD program and has ALL of his primary designs as well as all of custom signature designs of his endorsing artists on his computer storage. I have a complete line he designed for me and we were using my lead model as the basic template. Over a year ago we refitted all of my series with his G2 rim.
After dinner the night before, I showed him some odd mouthpieces I brought with me that I thought might trigger some ideas. While sitting with Dave at his PC the next day we used that thinking as well as the templates to work up two prototypes. My lead model has a .66 ID, which is a bit wide as lead pieces go. The first prototype took it down to a .64 while the second took it down to a .65. We also made the cup a bit more V shaped and a somewhat shallower.
Once Dave finishes tweaking the design he renders the CAD file into a map the computer driven CNC mill reads. The shop team loads the file into the mill, chucks up a blank and after telling the mill where all of the reference points are in three dimensions ( a job that needs to be done by hand) they fire the mill up and it cuts the unusual shape that is the Wedge mouthpiece!
After it comes off the mill the teams goes about polishing it, making sure the throat is correct and engraving it.
Play Testing The Prototypes:
We had labeled the two prototypes, NDL2 (.64 ID) and NDL3 (.65 ID). Dave made the cup a bit shallower for the wider cup to make the volumes about the same.
Dave has a big room he calls "The Studio!" If is a big central hall of a very large work space and I would call it a trumpeters ego chamber. It has a great sound and a long reverb time. I was able to sit in there for hours and hours and just go crazy.
In our discussions Dave raised very interesting point. These new mouthpieces were very efficient and had what best could be described as a "fast response." As a result, I found myself feeling a little bit like my fingers and chops were a little of whack as I got used to the new piece.
Getting up there is quite a journey for me, so I had to make sure that I really gave these new mouthpieces a run for the money. So, I spent many hours working out on them. On day one, I deliberately went for chaos - just playing crazy stuff! On day two, I went for a very careful methodical practice day building as I normally do when I am in hard core practice mode. Once I got more used to them, I found that BOTH mouthpieces performed well, though differently. I'll be doing another blog on the specifics of this new mouthpiece(s) after I get more used to them, but here are a batch of play test videos.
After all of our work on the new lead type mouthpiece, I felt compelled to work with Dave on a new piccolo trumpet mouthpiece. I don't do a whole lot of picc playing anymore, but I still love it and wanted to work on getting a more controlled sweet sound rather than sounding like a led trumpeter who grabbed the nearest picc. As it happened, there WAS a picc sitting on the chair next to me in Dave's studio when I came in and the idea hit me right away.
Dave had the idea of having me go with a DEEPER cup but a NARROWER rim. The narrower rim would help keep the focus and the deeper cup would temper the sizzle. Here are two clips on a Wedge stock Gen2 mouthpiece that I ended up going with.
Finally, Dave turned up with some cornets so I warmed down playing some sweet sounding cornets. Here are those clips, just for fun.
After All The Hard Work:
I finished up the chops beating sessions early afternoon on Thursday. Then it was time for some R&R. Dave was every bit the gracious host on that front as well. He had me doing some archery (a sport I was good at in high school, but I had not touched a bow since I was 17!) and even took me on a tour of the waters around the island. Here are some videos from that part of the experience.
Ok, one last clip: Dave's sweet little living breathing plush toy, Simon, LOVE'S bubbles! Note Riley in the background stalking a chew toy.
This trip was simply a beautiful experience - not just a business trip. The Wedge Mouthpieces Company is not a huge assembly line operation. It is a small family like business that makes each and every mouthpiece essentially by hand. Dave will sit down with you and go over your personalized design at the computer completely including you in the design discussion. I am simply thrilled with the results I have gotten by working with Dave and the Wedge Team.
I want to personally thank all the individual members of the Wedge Mouthpieces Company team: Daniel Petersen, Michaela Kenny, Robyn Wuschke, Cherryl Wuschke and their fearless leader Dave Harrison. I also want to say 'woof' to Riley, Simon and Bill!! ;-)