Paul Laubin, a revered oboe maker who was one of the few remaining woodwind artisans to build their instruments by hand — he made so few a year that customers might have had to wait a decade to play one — died on March 1 at his workshop in Peekskill, N.Y. He was 88.
His wife, Meredith Laubin, said that Mr. Laubin collapsed at his workshop during the day and that the police found his body that night. He lived in Mahopac, N.Y.
In the world of oboes, his partisans believe, there are Mr. Laubin’s oboes and then there is everything else.
He was in his early 20s when he began making oboes with his father, Alfred, who founded A. Laubin Inc. and built his first oboe in 1931. Paul took over the business when his father died in 1976. His son, Alex, began working alongside him in 2003.
Sherry Sylar, the associate principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic. “It’s a resonance that doesn’t happen with any other oboe. It rings inside your body. You get addicted to making that kind of a sound and nothing else will do.”
In a dusty workshop near the Hudson River, lined with machines built as long ago as 1881, Mr. Laubin crafted his oboes and English horns with almost religious precision. He wore an apron and puffed a cob pipe as he drilled and lathed the grenadilla and rosewood used to make his instruments. (The pipe doubled as a testing device: Mr. Laubin would blow smoke through the instrument’s joints to detect air leaks.)
His father taught him techniques that date back centuries. As the decades passed and instrument makers embraced computerized design and factory automation, Paul Laubin resisted change. As far as he was concerned, if it took 10 years to build a good oboe, so be it.
“What’s the rush?” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1991. “I don’t want anything going out of here with my name that I haven’t made and checked and played myself.”
told News 12 Westchester in 2012.
When a Laubin oboe was finally completed, its unveiling was cause for celebration. One customer arrived at the Peekskill workshop with a bottle of champagne, and as he played his first few notes, Mr. Laubin raised a toast.