Trombone and custom brass instrument manufacturer, SE Shires, uses Haas machine tools, including a VM-2 moldmaker machine, an SL-30 lathe with barfeeder and a TL-1 lathe, to precision engineer key components for its instruments, including valves and slides.
Traditional methods such as hand-spinning and hand-hammering are used when producing the brass 'bells' that create the sound, as a change in thickness even by 2000th of an inch can make an audible difference.
The Haas VM-2 CNC milling machine is used to manufacture the slides, pistons for the company's new range of trumpets, and TrueBore, Rotary and Axial Flow valves.
All these elements have to be machined to an incredibly precise finish as any variation can distort the finished instrument's sound - for example, the pistons need to fit a casing with a 5/10,000th clearance and must be within a 1/10,000th straight up and down.
The parts are honed after turning to get the required finish and accuracy.
The pistons are manufactured using the hard nickel alloy, Monel; a corrosion-resistant material that is also used in aerospace applications and which can be difficult to machine.
The Haas VM-2's rotary table set up allows parts to be machined whilst the jig is being rotated; SE Shires claims a 5-axis VMC completing the process would be a far more expensive option.
Customers certainly seem to appreciate the effort that goes into making a Shires instrument, as Jazz trumpeter Marvin Stamms testifies: "What I look for in an instrument is one that allows me a complete range of musical expression. My Shires trumpet does just that, whether I am performing with our classical/jazz inventions trio, my jazz quartet, or soloing in front of larger ensembles. Over my long career, I have played many instruments, including several that I designed. Without a doubt, this is the best instrument I have ever played."
SE Shires hopes to switch to a more just-in-time production approach in the future, with founder Steve Shires hoping to expand his Haas equipment to include a lathe with a sub-spindle, some smaller lathes and a mill.
Video: SE Shires' Steve Shires turning a trumpet bell. Source: WBJounral.com on YouTube