Few people know what the German term "Börteln" means – fewer still have mastered it. Christoph Endres is one of the few. The brass instrument maker's master workshop "Blech in Nürnberg" is situated in the Nuremberg Südstadt. More precisely: in the Galgenhof district near the Old Town. Endres, who was born in Nuremberg, makes brass instruments by hand here, using traditional methods.
The art of "Börteln""Börteln (roughly translated as “flanging”) is a process in the manufacturing of trumpets", explains Endres. "In actual fact, we are the only place to still do it by hand. The process sees an iron ring be placed in the bell, which is then rotated so that the ring is kept in place. It provides stability." Traditional steps like this are largely done away with in the mechanical production of instruments. Endres uses a scribing iron to draw the shape on the sheet panel, cuts it out with a pair of metal shears, and then uses a wooden mallet to beat it into shape – and this is just a fraction of the many actions that are required to build a trumpet.
Endres needs 40 hours for one instrumentEndres invests 40 hours in one instrument; he only makes to order. But it is worth the wait. One of the greatest differences from mechanically produced instruments: "The responsiveness is far better", explains Endres. "Handcrafted instruments have a higher tension and, as a result, also have more overtones."
Stefan Schalander is also aware of this. He is the trumpet player with the Bamberg brass band Kellerkommando. Endres has built three of his five trumpets. He even designed one of his trumpets together with Endres. Schalander wanted to play a German rotary valve trumpet on stage. This trumpet is, however, too loud for use as an orchestra trumpet, and is too quiet for the wild shows that Kellerkommando put on.
Two years in developmentEndres tested different bell widths, tubes and mouthpieces for two years; letting Schalander try out the various versions. They succeeded at last: "We have turned the German trumpet into a modern instrument", says Schalander. It is as light as a perinett valve trumpet and is equally distinctive when played, but it has the characteristic tone colour of the German trumpet.
High-tech artisanry from BavariaEndres' developments would not be possible without the location of his workshop in Bavaria. "We have lots of very small high-tech works with a very high technical level. I need them for my prototypes", says Endres. And this harks back to old handicraft traditions, like Nuremberg's unique brass tradition: Until the 16th century, the Franconian metropolis was the only city in the world in which you could build brass instruments out of brass.
There are not many people like Endres left. "There is no-one building trumpets using traditional methods in Berlin any more", says Endres. The situation is, however, a lot better in Bavaria. There are still around 60 master craftsmen here and around six youngsters begin their apprenticeships in the field each year. And thanks to the brass trend, this number might increase. Endres has noticed the difference: "Even amateur musicians are now increasingly wanting a good, handcrafted instrument."