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Alto Sax Restoration

Danny135

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So I've been visiting my grandparents in British Columbia, and while exploring their basement I've happened upon a saxophone. My grandparents said it's mine if I want it, though its old so they'd be willing to put in a couple hundred bucks into restoration if I so wanted. Well after a little bit of research it turns out this saxophone is a CG Conn. More specifically, a 1928 New Wonder series II, or the "Chu Berry" model if you want to call it that. I played sax in high school, although it was baritone sax, and I'd love to get back into playing, especially something smaller than the bari. I'm really not sure if this is the right forum to post this in, so please let me know if it isn't and I'll find the right one. Really what I want to know is if it's worth the money to restore. It is silver plated, and the condition is not quite what you would call 'top quality'. some sources I've seen place the value at over 2 grand US, some at as little as 400. The repair shop back in my hometown says it should cost around 720 dollars CAD plus extra because of the silver plating, but that is a full overhaul; repair of the worn down plating, full pad replacement, ultrasound cleaning, etc. Is this a sound investment?

P.S. I really don't mind the ergonomics of the older vintage saxophones, and I don't mind the difficulty curve that comes along with playing them as they are less consistent, I basically want to know if i should repair this one or just buy a new one.

Thank you for all your answers, Danny135
 

Colin the Bear

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Like all antiques condition dictates price. Restoring a vintage instrument through a third party tech, rarely turns a profit. It's a heart thing, not a head and wallet thing. If you like or even love the instrument then spend what you can afford to spend and enjoy it. If you're after turning a quick buck, saxophones are like backing horses. A sure thing may come last.
 

Phil

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It would be cool to see some pics.

Is the plating totally worn or just tarnished.

Im not a collector but I think 750 in a horn like that is worth it. Folks like Jaye who does rebuilds and sales can chime in with a more informed opinion...but 750 for a Conn Chu is nice...especially 750 CAD, which is well under 600 USD.
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
Like all antiques condition dictates price. Restoring a vintage instrument through a third party tech, rarely turns a profit. It's a heart thing, not a head and wallet thing. If you like or even love the instrument then spend what you can afford to spend and enjoy it. If you're after turning a quick buck, saxophones are like backing horses. A sure thing may come last.
For me this isn't about resale, this is a personal saxophone to play. Thank you for your advice!

It would be cool to see some pics.

Is the plating totally worn or just tarnished.

Im not a collector but I think 750 in a horn like that is worth it. Folks like Jaye who does rebuilds and sales can chime in with a more informed opinion...but 750 for a Conn Chu is nice...especially 750 CAD, which is well under 600 USD.
I'm going to add some pictures here, so be warned; I took quite a few. The price of the repair isn't so much that worries me, it's the quality of the original instrument. If it was an expensive model then I'd for sure repair it, but if it was a normal model that any idiot could buy and the quality wasn't as good, I'd just invest that 700 ish on a down payment for a good sax.

View: http://imgur.com/gallery/gd5lN5h
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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New Mexico, US
For me this isn't about resale, this is a personal saxophone to play. Thank you for your advice!

I applaud you on your desire, because...YES...it is very special to keep the flame going within the family. Some day you may perhaps pass the horn on to your child or niece/nephew, etc....

Resale doesn't come into play in THIS instance, because it's a Chu Berry (NW II), and these are desirable models even today. So, in completely overhauled condition these can fetch $750-1000usd...so Phil was on the money there ....and $750-1000 should certainly get you an overhaul from a good tech.

You are correct, in its CURRENT shape, worth perhaps $300-400usd as a non-playing project horn.

Too bad you aren't in the US (actually...no, come to think of it....NOT too bad for YOU ) or I would gladly offer to do a refurb on her for around $500-ish. But I am guessing you can find a reputed repair tech within an hour of you who can probably do it for somewhere around $500-600usd if not a bit less (tech rates vary geographically). So the $720cad quote you got isn't absurdly unfair. IMHO do NOT bother with having the worn areas plated...the horn clearly has 80% + of its original plating and that is really GOOD.

I would try to find another shop which does band instrument repair, and get another quote or two...see where that puts you. If you know any other sax players in your area, always a good idea to ask if they have any suggestions on repairers.
 
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JayeNM

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BTW...the horn appears to be nickel plated and in quite nice shape to boot.

I am NOT a mouthpiece dude....BUT....that mouthpiece MAY be worth $omething as-is. What brand is it ?
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
BTW...the horn appears to be nickel plated and in quite nice shape to boot.

I am NOT a mouthpiece dude....BUT....that mouthpiece MAY be worth $omething as-is. What brand is it ?
If I can read cursive correctly, the mouthpiece appears to be berglarsen
 

jbtsax

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Looking at the pictures it appears that the pads are relatively new and don't need to be replaced. Add to that the sax is in good condition cosmetically for its age. Another option and one that I would recommend for now is to get a "play condition" at a reputable shop which can generally run from $75 to $150 in most instances. That would make the sax "airtight" and playable so you could take it for a "test drive" to see how much you like the feel and the sound. Then you could better decide if you want to pay for a "restoration". $700 is a good price if it is properly done, but afterwards you will still have a sax worth about $700.
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
Looking at the pictures it appears that the pads are relatively new and don't need to be replaced. Add to that the sax is in good condition cosmetically for its age. Another option and one that I would recommend for now is to get a "play condition" at a reputable shop which can generally run from $75 to $150 in most instances. That would make the sax "airtight" and playable so you could take it for a "test drive" to see how much you like the feel and the sound. Then you could better decide if you want to pay for a "restoration". $700 is a good price if it is properly done, but afterwards you will still have a sax worth about $700.
That's a great idea! Thanks
 

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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I am NOT a mouthpiece dude....BUT....that mouthpiece MAY be worth $omething as-is. What brand is it ?
If I can read cursive correctly, the mouthpiece appears to be berglarsen

It is a Berg Larsen 85 2 SMS. The "85" is the tip opening in thousandths of an inch; the "2" tells about the baffle, and thus how bright it is (0 is brightest, 3 is darkest); and "SMS" says that it has a short facing.

My guess is that it is not a valuable vintage mouthpiece, but still worth something, and may be a very good player.
However it is equivalent to an 8 tip opening, which is very wide to begin on. You might want to save it for later and get something a bit more controllable.
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
It is a Berg Larsen 85 2 SMS. The "85" is the tip opening in thousandths of an inch; the "2" tells about the baffle, and thus how bright it is (0 is brightest, 3 is darkest); and "SMS" says that it has a short facing.

My guess is that it is not a valuable vintage mouthpiece, but still worth something, and may be a very good player.
However it is equivalent to an 8 tip opening, which is very wide to begin on. You might want to save it for later and get something a bit more controllable.
I have played sax, so I'm not too worried about not being able to control the sound and my ombochure
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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Looking at the pictures it appears that the pads are relatively new and don't need to be replaced. Add to that the sax is in good condition cosmetically for its age. Another option and one that I would recommend for now is to get a "play condition" at a reputable shop which can generally run from $75 to $150 in most instances.
Always an option ...although I doubt that Grandpa's Chu, which has been in the attic for what I am assuming is more than 6 or 7 years (?) can get away with $100 of repair to get her playing solidly.

In the least, if it has been stored for a while you should spring for a body cleaning to start..,.,

With that said, however, about half the horns I get in here with older pads do NOT need a full repad at all, usually just a partial and new regulation, along with cleaning, swedging, etc.

So most definitely worth asking the next tech whether they feel you can get away with less than a full overhaul and end up with a horn which will play nicely with no issues.
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
Always an option ...although I doubt that Grandpa's Chu, which has been in the attic for what I am assuming is more than 6 or 7 years (?) can get away with $100 of repair to get her playing solidly.

In the least, if it has been stored for a while you should spring for a body cleaning to start..,.,

With that said, however, about half the horns I get in here with older pads do NOT need a full repad at all, usually just a partial and new regulation, along with cleaning, swedging, etc.

So most definitely worth asking the next tech whether they feel you can get away with less than a full overhaul and end up with a horn which will play nicely with no issues.
Like you said and most of you have said, I gotta take it to the tech to know for sure, but I do think Jaye here is right. If it was made in the late 20s and played for about 5 years in the 50s, I think it'll need a little more lovin than a quick tune up
 

Phil

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The mpc is a Berg. Defnintely worth something...not a vintage model. Probably 150 ish.
 

saxyjt

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Like you said and most of you have said, I gotta take it to the tech to know for sure, but I do think Jaye here is right. If it was made in the late 20s and played for about 5 years in the 50s, I think it'll need a little more lovin than a quick tune up

Did you try to play it at all?

Who was the last person to play it and when AFAYK?

It looks rather good on the pics. Of course, we can't hear if it smells... :headscratch:
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
Did you try to play it at all?

Who was the last person to play it and when AFAYK?

It looks rather good on the pics. Of course, we can't hear if it smells... :headscratch:
I don't currently have any reeds for it, so no it hasn't been played, I was going to buy one or two when I took it to the tech so they or I could test it before it might be repaired

Get the tech to check for low high pitch as well. If it's high pitch, don't spend.
Thanks for the advice, although I'm not quite to savvy on the language, what is high and low pitch and why should I look for either?

And a general update for everyone. I just got home from work, it's pissing cats and dogs outside but I should be able to make it and have it checked out tonight, will update later today.
 

jbtsax

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Thanks for the advice, although I'm not quite to savvy on the language, what is high and low pitch and why should I look for either?

This is a quote from the Conn section of Saxpics.com
WARNING! Note that that Conn produced HIGH PITCH horns until about 1940. Modern instruments, except for some instruments used in concert orchestras in Europe, are LOW PITCH, with A (the tuning note used in orchestras) =440 hz. Some high pitch horns from other manufacturers can be used, if you've got a good ear, because they're tuned to, say, A=442. Conns are pitched around A=457. In other words, you can't play a Conn high pitch horn with other instrumentalists because you'll be seriously out of tune with them! Luckily, Conn did include the stamp "HP" or "High Pitch" above the serial number for these horns that had the odd tuning.

The "low pitch" or A=440 saxophones made by Conn beginning in the 1930's typically have a letter "L" beneath the serial number.
 

Danny135

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Calgary Alberta Canada
This is a quote from the Conn section of Saxpics.com


The "low pitch" or A=440 saxophones made by Conn beginning in the 1930's typically have a letter "L" beneath the serial number.
Wow! I didn't know this. Luckily it was bought for my grandpa with orchestra in mind, and there is an L underneath the serial number. There also happens to be an M before the serial number, and an A the line above. Would those be of any significance?
 

Greg Strange

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Hamilton, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
Recently a person in New Zealand was selling a "rare 1920s Conn alto saxophone" for staggering NZD3,000.00 (approx. GBP1,600.00) and of course uploaded a photo of patent information, serial no. etc. This rare alto sax turned out to be high pitch C-Melody sax which of course is about as useful as a chocolate teapot unless you have a 2 metre long saxophone neck to play the thing in tune in a modern context. I posted a question on the web-site asking the seller if they realized they had a high pitched C Melody - the dozy schmuck still persisted in advertising it as an alto. The same individual (for want of a better word) was selling a 1970s Borgani alto for NZD3,000.00 as well...:w00t:

Greg S.
 

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