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1973 Olds F-15 Alto Trombone
Bore: .468" (11.9 mm)
Bell: 5" (146 mm)


Olds alto trombones have a long, if somewhat obscure, history. Olds is known to have made at least one Eb alto, but their "production" alto trombone was keyed in F. Although at least one pre-WWII specimen exists (in the hands of Doug Elliott as of this writing), the earliest catalog reference I've seen is from around 1950. It's not present in the late 1950's catalogs that are available on the web, nor in the circa 1961 catalog, but resurfaces, sans the "Ambassador" name, in about 1962. Although it's not in the catalogs, it's likely that Olds built some F altos on special request during the 1950's and early 1960's - in fact, it was probably that sort of interest that prompted its return to the catalog. Later Olds literature (price lists from 1973, 1974, and 1978, as well as a 1977 sales brochure) do not show the F alto, but the instrument in the photos below was built around April 1973, indicating that production continued for at least that long.
circa 1950; full catalog here
circa 1962; full catalog here
The F-15's price of $189.50 was the same as that for the L15 Special tenor trombone. For comparison, the A-15 Ambassador was $154.50 and the S-15 Super was $260 ($280 in the "deluxe oval gladstone case")
1966; full catalog here
circa 1967; full catalog here
1970; full catalog here

Priced at $129.50 (the same as the regular Ambassador tenor), the Ambassador alto was certainly affordable, and its shorter slide, coupled with its lighter weight, would have made it much easier to play for someone of smaller stature, but the idea of using an alto trombone as a beginner's horn didn't catch on. It's interesting to note that the concept resurfaced decades later with the introduction of the pBone Mini "plastic" (actually made of ABS and glass fibre) Eb alto trombone.


The F alto show below carries a serial number of 8361xx, dating it from around April of 1973. It's yellow brass, with conventional three-piece braces similar to those used on Olds "Custom" model trombones. I've shown it side-by-side with a P-15 Custom tenor trombone to give an idea of the alto's comparative size. The mouthpiece in some of the images is an original Olds F Alto mouthpiece.

Overall View
Front

Engraving

Side-by-Side
with P-15 Custom

Overall View
Back

End Crook
Detail

Case

This horn was sold to me with what was purported to be the original mouthpiece; an Olds No. 44. There's been some debate through the years as to what mouthpiece shipped with these horns; it's possible that some were furnished with Olds No. 44 (Bell Front Alto) or Olds No. 27 (Mellophone) mouthpieces, but the catalog excerpt below (taken from the 1967 Olds catalog here) lists a special Olds No. F for the F Alto Trombone. Fortunately, I was able to obtain an genuine Olds No. F from Dr. Steve Close, a fellow Olds fan.



Here are a couple images showing the Olds No. F alongside a No. 44 and a No. 3 tenor trombone mouthpiece, along with an image of the No. F alongside a replica made for me by Kanstul Music. These horns have a reputation for not working well with tenor trombone mouthpieces, even small ones with cut-down shanks. This has been a problem for people who (like myself) purchase an F-15 without the original mouthpiece, but now that Kanstul has a digital scan on file, they can produce replicas for anyone who needs one.


Left-to-Right
Olds 44 (alto horn)
Olds F (alto trombone)
Olds 3 (tenor trombone)

Left-to-Right
Olds 44 (alto horn)
Olds F (alto trombone)
Olds 3 (tenor trombone)

Left-to-Right
Olds F (alto trombone)
Kanstul Replica