CIOMIT owner and instructor Dan Parker
Daniel “Dr. Dan” Parker is a master craftsman with 42 years experience in the musical instrument repair trade. His clients include top professional musicians from around the world, and eight years ago he founded and continues to run CIOMIT, the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology. It’s a professional trade school which offers classes online and in-person in Colorado. Dan’s students leave with a highly sought-after skill that can serve them for a lifetime.
Dan said that CIOMIT focuses on training for repair of brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion. This includes oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, flute, guitar, violin, and more. He’s noted that technology is causing huge changes: “In the past few years, with CNC becoming a commonly used method in instrument making, I’ve seen some tremendous opportunities to make use of the technology in repair and in production,” said Dan.
Dan explained, “To become a master craftsman in repairs, part of your training is to be able to build an instrument from scratch. With CNC being commonly used to make guitars, clarinets and other woodwinds, as well as brass instruments, I felt it was important to add CNC training into my coursework.”
Students learning to repair a trumpet
Making Mutes with the ShopBot: A Turning Point
The other opportunity afforded to Dan by growing adoption of CNC was in making and selling instrument accessories. In early 2014, Dan purchased a company called Facet Mutes, Inc., which designs and manufactures high quality mutes from fine woods, for trumpet, trombone and French horns. Some of the woods that are used are walnut, black limba (also known as corina), African rosewood, Spanish cedar, Sitka spruce, maple, wenge and lacewood. In order to produce these mutes more efficiently and in preparation for selling them internationally, last November Dan made a purchase of a used ShopBot 5-axis CNC router.
To give you a sense of how these mutes look, and affect sound, here’s some video made by Facet Mutes artist Chad McCullough playing trumpet with various Facet Mutes. (If you don’t see the video below, you may need to click the link and watch it on Facebook).
Dan explained there were several reasons for integrating 5-axis CNC, and choosing ShopBot’s tool. “From the standpoint of production efficiency, I knew that using a 5-Axis tool was going to allow us to fully carve the inside and outside of a block of wood material all in one pass, rather than a more cumbersome process of the CNC lathe, where you have to flip the part as part of the process. The 5-axis tool has allowed us to triple the speed of producing the parts.”
Here’s video that Dan took of the ShopBot 5-Axis at work on a trumpet mute:
Along with efficiency comes greater safety for the tool operator. “In the past we’d have to hold pieces, some of them quite small, just inches from the blade of a table saw. Even though these are held in place by jigs, you want to minimize exposure to accidents as much as you can. The 5-axis CNC approach is a lot safer for the operator.”
So why did Dan choose ShopBot? “Well, from a bottom-line standpoint, there really was no choice. With some research, I learned that a pure 5-Axis CNC solution was going to be in the range of $250,000. This did not make sense for my business. I started learning about ShopBot’s 5-axis which offers what I needed for quite a bit less of an investment — a new tool costs about $40,000; as I was researching it I came across a post on their forum of a ShopBot 5-axis owner who was looking to sell theirs, and that’s the tool I purchased.”
And how has he liked working with the tool? “I’ve found that it performs well, and I’m seeing a lot of potential with it. One new item that I am introducing to my students is designing and making wooden bells for trumpets, using a solid block of cherry wood.”
Here are some close-ups of Facet Mutes:
“Bubinga” Trumpet Straight Mute. Great bright tone for the play it louder, higher faster type of trumpet players. Also known as an African Rosewood.
“Limba” Trumpet Straight Mute. Good all-around tome made of Black Limba, also known as Corina wood. Same wood used in the Gibson Flying V Guitar
“CJP” This is the Orbert Davis Signature, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Trumpet Cup Mute. Walnut and Padauk wood combination. Tonal qualities are warm and full bodied with a nice staccato on the higher notes.
Facet Mutes being demonstrated at a recent music industry trade show: