The following is a transcript of correspondence originally sent to the Conch-L list and has been reprinted with the authorís permission.†
Pictures (1, 2, & 3) and sound files have also been added by Winston Barney to accompany his letter.
Dear any and all trumpeters,
anyone know how to make a conch trumpet? Which genera make the
Many thanks in advance,
I have made conch trumpets from Strombus gigas, and S. pugilis. I read somewhere that S pugilis was used by fishermen to signal each other. It takes a little more effort to blow them, but they are really loud and shrill. I hate to use the word "unbelievable", but I was really amazed the first time I sounded it. I also have several Cassis cornuta horns, and I made a nice conch horn from Pleuroploca gigantea for the COA convention last year.
It is advised that you learn how to get a sound on the trumpet so that you can experiment with the sound of the conch as you go. I just apply the apex of the shell to a coarse grit grinding stone. At first, it seems that you will never reach the opening, but just keep going; it's there somewhere, itís got to be. After you have reached the cavity under the apex, go slower until you have made a flat spot on the spire about 3/4 inch across. Now you can start testing for sound. Don't be alarmed that the opening doesn't look like a trumpet mouthpiece. Itís a shell, and the opening spirals away from you. Never the less, it will make a rich sound as soon as you make enough room in the "cup" for your lips to buzz. The shell does the rest. You may want to move to a flat belt sander to take less shell away, constantly testing. Warning! The shell gets hot from sanding. Keep a cup of water close to cool it before testing, or you will really have a case of "hot lips".
I live across the street from an elementary school. I get a real kick out of testing my conch horns. The kids all run to the fence and I, of course, give then a show. Incidentally, like any wind instrument, you may produce more than one tone from the conch horn by varying the tension of your lips and the strength with which you blow. I am firmly convinced that you can hear a S. pugilis horn for at least a mile (over the water), perhaps farther.
Fort Worth, Texas