Relacquering reconsidered

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  1. #1
    turnerjazz's Avatar
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    Default Relacquering reconsidered

    So I haven't really paid much attention to the saxophone world in years since I really let go of the idea that I would play for a living and got busy with the rest of life. But lately I've gotten back into playing (as a hobby) and started paying attention to the sax world again. And I noticed that, in addition to the absurd increase in the cost of Selmers, the other thing that has changed significantly is the attitude towards relaquering.

    Relacquering was once considered anathema not only because it ruins the value of a vintage sax but also, allegedly, because it can ruin the sound. Now, however, it seems that the second part of this view is in serious question. Relacquering still hurts the value of a sax, but a contingent seems to argue that it has no effect on the sound of a saxophone, even if there is buffing involved.

    I ask because I have a 59 King Super 20 that plays amazingly, but looks very used (and it is) and, more importantly, has some spots of red-rot which concern me and make me think new lacquer might be worth considering to prevent spreading. However, I'd never even consider it if it will impact how it plays. So what's the deal? In your opinion, does relacquer affect the sound of a vintage sax?

    TLDR: does relacquering really negatively affect the sound of a vintage sax?

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    Distinguished SOTW Technician BOPITY FUNK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Effect on sound ? the jury will forever be out on that ! Effect on value ? yes-major !

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    I had my VI alto relaquered years ago...I couldn't tell any difference in the sound....is it worth less now? Probably...do I care? No, would never sell it....
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Funny how many will swear up and down that the material of which a horn is made doesn't matter a whit, yet the amount of material that remains after a good buffing still affects the horn's value. It's downright confusing is what.
    A little bit louder and a little bit worse.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    How much does a relacquer cost? I'd assume it'd be pretty expensive since they need to take the sax apart before and put it together again after.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member 1saxman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Its not so much the re-lacquering as it is the buffing that goes before it. This polishing can be very damaging to the tone holes by 'dishing' them and usually will take varying amount of brass off in different places depending on how bad the pitting/scratches were on the horn. Needless to say the engraving will be affected. Re-lacquering got a bad rep (deserved) because so many jobs were done by hacks. Tone holes would be dished, engraving buffed off, etc. The Selmer USA factory in Elkhart used to do fantastic overhauls. The saxes always simply looked new and one could be done there several times before you would begin to see loss of detail. However, no such place now exists, so the best thing to do is to learn how to take your sax apart and put it back together. Once you can do that, you can wash it, hand polish and/or acid-treat to remove any corrosion/tarnish. An excellent product for the tarnish is 'CLR', available in grocery stores/hardware stores. Or, you can find a tech to do it - they usually clean a sax before doing a pad job anyway.
    There are not many reasons I would buy a sax if I knew it was a re-lacquer unless the job was so good I almost couldn't tell. The difference in a horn may not be obvious to the listener - the main consideration is how it responds to the player, and machine buffing definitely affects this. One consideration that is commonly overlooked in this discussion is the effect of the buffing on the neck. You probably can see that the closer to the mouthpiece that you change things, the more pronounced the effect will be. The neck seems to take a beating in re-lacquers and perhaps for that reason the sax you get back is not the sax you sent in. If I love a sax, having it machine-buffed is absolutely the last thing on earth I would think of to do to it. I can't think of any reason I would do it. I've done it in the past but never again.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member 1saxman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by Christian1 View Post
    How much does a relacquer cost? I'd assume it'd be pretty expensive since they need to take the sax apart before and put it together again after.
    If you can find somebody to do it, expect to add $500 to the overhaul price. The sax has to have a complete overhaul because they remove everything including the springs. Once you remove the factory springs, its not likely you will ever again have the exact same feel in the action. They have to replace all corks, felts and pads.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Re-lacquering affects value. I don't believe it ruins the horn unless the tone holes are buffed, causing the need for excessive leveling. The idea that the buffing removes metal on the open spaces that don't have the sharp edges of engraving or tone holes seems false to me. If you look at a horn that has had a lot of buffing on the engraving you can understand why it wears out the definition. However these engravings aren't very deep. That buffing on the round end of the bow is not wearing away metal. Nor do I believe its wearing away metal on a neck. I do however agree with 1saxman on learning to take it apart and clean and hand polish.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    If it is done well (no machine buffing) I am OK with it. Yes, the horn will be worth less IF you sell it but if you want it to look nice and have it done correctly, go for it. I would figure $1,000-1,500 complete with the repad. Another option is to have it silver or gold plated which IMO is the best route as a relacquer, no matter how well done will still look ......relacquered. Plating looks great assuming it is chemical stripped and hand polished first.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    As always, it depends on whether the job is done properly. Rather than a relac, silver plating would be the way I'd go. Silver plate way outlasts lacquer and looks fantastic.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Theoretically a relacquer should only affect the value of a collectable, however the stigma is now out there and people often think any relaquer has destroyed the value. If it's a YAS23, the a relaquer may actaully enhance the value, not that it's worth doing unless you happen to really need a shiny horn.

    The thing about buffing is that it has to be done when there are scratches, and this applies to plating as well as lacquer. New lcaquer and new plating on scratched brass looks worse than leaving it alone. But I would agree heavy buffing round toneholes should not be done, as that area is not likely to be scratched anyway.

    I would only get a horn relacquered if it needed a complete overhaul, otherwise you are paying for the dismantling and remantling you wouldn't otherwise need.
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    I would only get a horn relacquered if it needed a complete overhaul, otherwise you are paying for the dismantling and remantling you wouldn't otherwise need.
    Yes, that's a very good point. Turnerjazz, you say your King "plays amazingly." That suggests it doesn't need an overhaul and yet you say it is very used, so you might take it in anyway and have it checked out. If it needs little or no work, then your best bet might be to clean it up as best you can and wait until it needs an overhaul. I believe there is a way to remove that 'red rot' or whatever it is.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by JL View Post
    Yes, that's a very good point. Turnerjazz, you say your King "plays amazingly." That suggests it doesn't need an overhaul and yet you say it is very used, so you might take it in anyway and have it checked out. If it needs little or no work, then your best bet might be to clean it up as best you can and wait until it needs an overhaul. I believe there is a way to remove that 'red rot' or whatever it is.
    Actually, it probably really does need an overhaul. It would be more accurate to say that it sounds amazing. The tone is still there 100%, which is what I was concerned about with relacquering. The pads are... another story. It's still functional but far from 100%. So I'm looking at getting it overhauled sometime in the next year anyway. On a side note, I've taken apart the other 4 saxes I own and cleaned them up, but the King is extra difficult to get apart and has tiny little nuts holding the rods in place that I'm hesitant to mess with...

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by 1saxman View Post
    Its not so much the re-lacquering as it is the buffing that goes before it. This polishing can be very damaging to the tone holes by 'dishing' them and usually will take varying amount of brass off in different places depending on how bad the pitting/scratches were on the horn.
    Thanks for that explanation. This is exactly the kind of thing I would be concerned about. Maybe I will try again to take it apart and clean it up myself until I'm able to get the overhaul it probably needs.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by 1saxman View Post
    If you can find somebody to do it, expect to add $500 to the overhaul price. The sax has to have a complete overhaul because they remove everything including the springs. Once you remove the factory springs, its not likely you will ever again have the exact same feel in the action. They have to replace all corks, felts and pads.
    And finally, two days ago I would have said $500 isn't too bad if I could find someone who can do a quality job. Then my son kicked his soccer ball through the front window of our house.... and there goes my saxophone overhaul budget...

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by turnerjazz View Post
    And finally, two days ago I would have said $500 isn't too bad if I could find someone who can do a quality job. Then my son kicked his soccer ball through the front window of our house.... and there goes my saxophone overhaul budget...
    Take it out of your son's Xmas gift budget.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by turnerjazz View Post
    Actually, it probably really does need an overhaul. It would be more accurate to say that it sounds amazing. The tone is still there 100%, which is what I was concerned about with relacquering. The pads are... another story. It's still functional but far from 100%. So I'm looking at getting it overhauled sometime in the next year anyway. On a side note, I've taken apart the other 4 saxes I own and cleaned them up, but the King is extra difficult to get apart and has tiny little nuts holding the rods in place that I'm hesitant to mess with...


    I don’t understand that a saxophone would play “ amazingly" and yet the pads would need changing in a short time. How can the pads which are not being at 100% equip a horn that sound amazingly if they are not not only look warn and only cosmetically?



    If the pads are shot and no longer sealing perfectly the horn won’t sound amazingly and the other way around, if it sounds amazing pads are not in the need to be changed at all.



    The nuts to hold the the rods can be taken apart without any more hesitation than any other part of a saxophone. If you have done it other times this will be no more difficult.

    There is nothing that makes this operation more complex on a King than on any other saxophone.

    Conns with tightening screws are way more difficult to take apart. By the way this construction was also used by other brands, for example Borgani.

    The red rod spots can be treated locally, red rot is generally only very superficial and once you remove the thin layer there there will be brass showing underneath. The zinc that it was lost is microns thick.

    I personally wouldn’t bother with re-lacquering the saxophone unless it would be really covered with crusty lacquer.

    I have a 1970 Eastlake Super 20 and one side has lost a bit of lacquer the other is still rather shiny, in fact people comment on how new my almost 45+ years sold sax looks.
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by turnerjazz View Post
    Actually, it probably really does need an overhaul.
    In that case, I'd prioritize the overhaul above all else! Especially if the horn still sounds amazing; it's all relative and once all the pads are sealing and keys adjusted it will sound even more amazing and feel/play much, much better. I definitely wouldn't worry about getting it relacquered because it will be cleaned up during the overhaul, but I might consider a silver plate job if I wanted it to look amazing too. But that's just a bonus; the key thing is having it playing well.

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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    silverplating a super 20 will not necessarily increase its value and will cost a pretty penny ...on top of an overhaul ( remember the soccer ball through the window?) , of corse OP might ask, would plating affect the sound?

    ...
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    Default Re: Relacquering reconsidered

    Quote Originally Posted by milandro View Post
    silverplating a super 20 will not necessarily increase its value and will cost a pretty penny ...on top of an overhaul...
    All true. The ONLY reason I'd get it silver plated is if I could afford it and wanted it to look great, and getting it overhauled requires breaking it down to the point it could be plated. Not to increase its value (as you say, it wouldn't) or because it might affect the sound (it wouldn't).

    Best bet if money is an issue is to just get the overhaul and a thorough cleaning. For me as a player, if the horn needs it, the overhaul is not optional; it's essential.

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