Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Headsticks and Levers

I've built a lot of headsticks in a lot of different ways. The stick itself has to be something cylindrical. Traditionally it is made from a hardwood 1.25" dowel. Sometimes I use 1.25" PVC pipe. Either one works well, but I prefer a wooden stick. It just has a good feel to it.

Levers are another thing. I've carved them from wood, made them from toothbrush handles, used clothespin halves, and cut them out of sheet brass stock.

Another choice is how the levers attach to the headstick. They can be connected to the outside of the stick or embedded in slots cut into the side of the headstick.

And then there are the control mechanisms. They can be implemented with strings or rods.

Figure makers take pride in their headsticks. The slicker and cleaner the design, the more attractive they are to buyers, or so it would seem from the promotional literature. "All brass mechanics. No strings to break."

Yet old fashioned string-and-lever controls hold up after years of use. The following pictures are of headsticks I made over the years, some with strings, some without. Uncle Sweeter has only one mechanism, a moving jaw, so his headstick will look much like those in the last two pictures shown here. Wooden stick, brass lever mounted on the front of the stick, nylon cord control. I expect it to outlive me.


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