On the surface, Evanston Band and Orchestra is mainly a resource for brass and woodwind musicians in the Chicagoland area. Located on 4125 Main Street, Skokie, Il, Evanston Band and Orchestra rents out and repairs all types of instruments, from saxophones to trumpets to clarinets.
However, for more daring musicians, those who want to give their instruments new kinds of valves, mouthpieces, or connections, Evanston Band and Orchestra's local machinist, Ted McDowell, is on call.
With an arsenal of raw metal stock, lathes, presses, and other tools literally invented for the occasion, Ted has constructed many things over the years for clientele in the Chicago music industry. He described the various jobs he's done over the years while lounging in his basement workshop, a place filled with bookshelves of project binders, stocked with just as many machining tools and supplies as his main workspace at the Evanston Band and Orchestra.
He's built custom stands for large instruments like the bass saxophone, and created new attachments that creative musicians can hook up to their horns for new musical effects. In the process of making these parts, he's built new kinds of tools that can fabricate new custom parts. He's even replicated pieces of a vintage Saxophone made by Adolph Sax himself, an ongoing project he describes as his magnum opus.
Outside of instrument work, he's kept his hand in other activities. He plays saxophone with a quartet, writes science articles on instruments and manufacturing techniques, and has made custom parts for the projects of fellow engineers, such as Alex Mindich and his innovative 'Python' Industrial Conveyer.
His true skill, according to him, is bridging the gap between an idea and it's execution in reality. “Somebody comes to me with something they need made, but they don't know how to do it.” He explained, sitting and opening a binder filled with schematics of his past projects.
“There are a whole lot of vacant steps between the concept and the delivered product, and that's where my fun begins: trying to figure out how to bridge that gap, by applying tools that don't exist until that need arises.”
Ted McDowell, who accomplishes the kind of quality of rapid prototyping that 3D Printing experts and 'DIY' enthusiasts seek to equal, is a person that bridges the gap between the past, present and future of manufacturing.