casimer’s machine

1 10 2007

While still in high school, I realized that store-bought gouged oboe cane was not compatible with my unique style of reed making. The gouge used by my mentor, Engelbert Brenner was significantly thicker than anything commercially available. Brenner suggested I get my own gouging machine.

Hans Moennig & Casimer Luczycki60 miles away from my childhood home, Hans Moennig sat in his woodwind repair shop for decades. His craft was so highly in demand, one had to “know someone” to have an instrument worked on by Herr Moennig. Brenner was that “somebody” for me, and I was allowed to be a customer. Moennig overhauled and repaired my instruments for several years while still in high school, and later at the New England Conservatory.

Moennig had an assistant named Casimir Luczycki. Casimer learned his craft from Moenning, and his work was first-rate as a result. Brenner made a call to Herr Moennig on my behalf, and requested a gouging machine for me. Moennig assigned Casimer to the project, and I was informed that there would be a waiting period of several months while the machine is ‘made’.

Later that year, I received a call from Casimer – the gouger would be ready for pick-up at the end of the week. We set that Friday as the day I would come to Philadelphia to get my new gouger. Mr. Brenner’s oboe was in need of a tweak from Moennig’s magic hands, so we both Casimer-Graf Oboe Gouging Machinedrove together to Moennig’s shop. Mr. Brenner was treated like royalty in the old, rickety downtown Philly shop. Orchestral “War Stories” were exchanged. Stevens Hewitt was there that day, and had never met Brenner before, but told him that he traveled weekly from Philadelphia to New York to hear him play principal oboe in the Stadium Concerts over the summer months. 2 Curtis students were there that day as well – in awe watching the two symphony oboists share stories (me too!).

The strange thing about this trip for me is that it was to be an empty-handed trip back to New Jersey; Casimer had not finished my gouger in time, and it simply wasn’t ready for delivery! He showed it to me – it was in pieces in a cardboard box. He told me he would call me as soon as the machine was finished.

About 2 weeks later, Casimir Luczycki called me to tell me that the machine is complete, and that he needed directions to my house so he could hand-deliver it to me. It was a classy thing to do in light of the situation. He brought me my machine and told me a bit more about it. It is a stock Graf gouger that he disassembled completely, replaced the Graf blade with an experimental blade (different metal composition) of his own design, and used an invention of his to ensure the bed & guide are machined perfectly straight & true to one another.

I used this gouger successfully for 10 years, until Mr. Brenner passed away and left me his own gougers in his will. The ‘Casimer Gouger’ needs a good cleaning – sitting in a drawer unused for 20 years hasn’t done much for it cosmetically, but I’ll clean her & bring her back to life. I’ll bet it works as it did 30 years ago.

I suspect I may have the only machine of this lineage. Anyone know of another?




6 responses

7 10 2007
Jeannette Lamy Clemons

This is a great story David! I wish that I knew of another Machine… My connection to Gougers was Jim Butterfield in SJ CA; he was a marvelous Bassoonist who worked in a machine shop for his Day Gig (His wife Joan, a student of Moyse was my flute teacher in HS)….He passed away early this year…


6 03 2011
Jamie Gardner

I’m looking for any more information on the late James Butterfield. He was my bassoon teacher in the mid-70s when I was in high school. I lived in Santa Cruz and drove every week to his house in Los Gatos/San Jose. I also took lessons from one of his teachers, Fred Moritz in Los Angeles. They helped me design and order my bassoon from Wiesbaden, Germany, and Mr. Moritz went with me to the factory there to make some adjustments on the instrument before it was shipped to the US. I have very fond memories of taking lessons, making reeds, and playing duets with JIm, and his wife Joan also joined in at times on flute. She was an unbelievable musician, as well. Jim Butterfield had the most beautiful sound I have ever heard, before or since, except for maybe Charles Fenandez in LA. I would love to own one of Jim’s profilers, but its too late to have him make me one. He sent me about ten profiled reeds about thirty years ago, and I still have five I’ve never made or taken out of the plastic wrap he sent them in. I knew his two kids as well. If you know of a link to his obituary, or any info surviving family members, please let me know.

18 05 2012
roger tropman

Probably a little late…but I have a Butterfield profiler with both a Moritz and a VanHoesen pattern cams.
R Tropman 5/18/2012

22 10 2007

I’m tone deaf and I loved this reed, uh, read.
I think you are a secret engineer/musician. You amaze me.

23 09 2012
Michael Scott

I was also a Butterfield student. Jim’s cousin Tom Geran, was my middle school music teacher at Elvira Castro Jr. High in San Jose. He played Bassoon, and introduced me to it in 1959. After a few years, Tom suggedted Jim for me to work with. What an eye-opener for me! Jim was a fabulas musician and teacher. He took one look at my profiler and said it wouldn’t do.
The nexr week, he returned it to me repaired by him. He gave me a letter to take to Herr Gebhardt at Heckel in Wiesbaden. When I arrived, Gebhardt was expecting me! What an honer for a 22 year old! I can’t say enough good things about Jim Butterfield. I’m so sorry he has passed………..

12 10 2012
Mida Skalamera

Casimier was married to my mother years ago. It was such a joy to read your story, I wish I could have met him. My mom talks about him often. Thank you so much fir remembering him. Please email me if you have the time.

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