• The Buffet-Powell Saxophones

    by  • February 21, 2012 • Buffet

    This is a re-write with the standard “50% more”!

    Actually, Helen at the Bassic Sax Blog asked me to write a bit of an update for the page I wrote for saxpics.com several years ago, as the current page is missing some of the information and links that I had.  Also, Powell is coming out with a new saxophone, the Silver Eagle, so it’s a timely suggestion.

    Buffet-Powell Saxophones
    Production Information
    appx. 1930 – 1939;
    s/n 30xxx to 35xxx
    Keyed Range
    Low Bb to Altissimo F
    Available Pitches
    Eb Alto and Bb Tenor
     Available Finish
    Lacquer body and keywork.
    Silver plated touchpieces.

    One thing that always struck me as odd was that the Buffet-Powell saxophone was designed and patented by Edward V. Powell, the son of Verne Q. Powell of Verne Q. Powell Flutes.  Hey, the approximate date that the Buffet-Powell sax was introduced is 1930.  Powell Flutes was founded in 1927.  Makes you wonder why father & son didn’t decide to produce both saxophones and flutes together.

    In my original article, I quoted a letter sent to Paul Cohen that said that the patent was summarily sold to Conn around when WWII started.  Interestingly, between 1935 and 1943, Conn had two “super pro” horns available, the Connqueror 26M alto and 30M tenor.  They also had silvered keytouches, just like the Buffet-Powell.

    One of the ideas in the patents is to have all keywork on one rod, to cut down on the mechanics: hey, less stuff that could break.  This design also found its way onto the “VKS Model” Kohlert baritones (and ONLY on the baritone), which were made at approximately the same time as the Buffet-Powell, and the idea was revisited and updated by EO Sylvester many years later.  However, a little later into the Buffet-Powell run, this design was abandoned (around s/n 327xx; about 1931).

    One of the other ideas was to use a different venting system for the octave key mechanism, resulting in an odd-looking neck with two keys on it, one on the left and one on the right — and two more on the body of the horn.  This appears to be the spiritual, if not actual, predecessor to designs like the Selmer “Harmonic” mechanism, which was available on the Mark VI and later instruments.


    I definitely recommend browsing some of this horn’s patents.  They’re very detailed and have great diagrams:


    I found, in my research for re-writing this page, that EV Powell did have some more involvement with woodwinds after playing with saxophone designs. Behold, the ORKON and CHROMETTE. These instruments are essentially the same — “simple” keyed recorder-like flutes — but are constructed a little differently.  Hey, Mr. Powell got a couple more patents out of it:


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