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Saxophones Cons of unlacquered sax

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Are there any disadvantages to an unlacquered sax? I'm not concerned about whether lacquered or unlacquered sounds better. I think that can be argued till the cows come home. I'm just concerned about upkeep and maintenance type things. I kind of like the look of an unlacquered sax but don't know if it has any disadvantages. For example, I would not buy a silver sax (even if I could afford one) due to having to deal with tarnishing.

Since I'm here. Got any opinions on bronze saxes? Thank you.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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I have an unlaquered saxophone. When I got it, I didn't like the brass smell on my hands when I played it so I gave it a coat of car wax. The car wax stops it smelling, but it doesn't stop it getting stained.

If. like me, you are a wet player, then your saxophone will get messy. And in any case you cannot really control how it ages - mine looks well-used, which suits me fine. So if you like to keep your saxophone clean, then don't get an unlaquered one.

I'm not aware of any maintenance issues.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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I am currently working at unlacquering an alto Sax as it was in a condition that lead me to consider it. What really triggered my move to doing it was also a post by @DavidUK but I am not sure how to get this horn to have a similar finish... Tea leaves and other herbs is not enough to go for... Now that I have build a rather large composter in the garden, l'm tempted to put it in there and see if it does. :w00t:

But I first need to finish cleaning the inside of the tube that's is still showing too many signs of unhealthy copper oxydation.

If I manage to get it somewhat closer to a cool look, I'd be tempted to apply some lacquer to freeze the look as it appears wax doesn't protect against ageing.

I have a few silver plated horns and they require attention to keep their good looks. Or you need to keep them hidden way from oxygen and light.

Lacquer is definitely easier to keep clean and shinny.
 

Wade Cornell

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Times are different yet attitudes about some things may still linger. When you had touring big bands the leader wanted his front line of saxes to look good, which meant that if someone had a rough looking sax they would get "the word". This resulted in lots of re-lacquers. As many of the "vintage saxes" have aged it's now seen as a badge of pride to have a naturally (or unnaturally) de-lacquered vintage horn. Many manufacturers are catering to this by providing un-lacquered and artificially "aged looking" horns. But there's still plenty of shiny/fancy looking horns both expensive and cheap that are sold. It's a matter of image and fashion. I frankly don't care since I seldom play in public anymore and didn't much care even then. It's about the ease of playing and tone. I can't say for sure whether the bronze and silver R&C tenor I mostly play would sound much different if it was lacquered, but can say with certainly that I love the sound and don't do a lot to try and keep it shiny. Maintenance (for me) is just the usual of swabbing and maintaining the pads.
 
OP
C
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87
Ok, here’s a look I really like - the Eastman 52nd Street. I don’t know if I like the horn but the look is really attractive to me. I would think since it’s supposed to look that way, that it should be stable?

 

jbtsax

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I can give you an example of how "raw" brushed brass ages over time. The first photo shows a Mark VI bari sax that I removed the lacquer and gave it a brushed finish as part of an overhaul for a local music store. It sold right away to a student who took good care of it and traded it in for a new Cannonball about 8 years later. A friend of mine who works in the store and knows the horn's history sent me the other photo to show me how the finish is holding up.

Mark VI Bari 005.JPG


selmer bari brushed finish 2.jpg
 

jbtsax

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As a follow up, these "before" photos show why the bari was given a new finish as part of the overhaul.

Misc 130.JPG
Misc 133.JPG
 
Last edited:
OP
C
Messages
87
I can give you an example of how "raw" brushed brass ages over time. The first photo shows a Mark VI bari sax that I removed the lacquer and gave it a brushed finish as part of an overhaul for a local music store. It sold right away to a student who took good care of it and traded it in for a new Cannonball about 8 years later. A friend of mine who works in the store and knows the horn's history sent me the other photo to show me how the finish is holding up.

View attachment 14653

View attachment 14654
Looks to me to be still very nice. I like that look.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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I would think since it’s supposed to look that way, that it should be stable?
I doubt it. An unlaquered sax will change appearance over time, for better or worse.
Some unlaquered saxes are simply raw brass. These will definitely change (i.e. tarnish) over time.
Others have received some sort of treatment, so they may or may not change..
 

thomsax

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3,672
Back in the 20's "Bare Brass" was a finish that you paid less money for. The did'nt say unlacquered. I have some "unlacquered". Bare brass (sold as bare brass according to the pricelist from the 20's). My best tenor is also without proctection (laquer, plating). It was gold laquered as new back in the late 30's. I often get some nice comments about the "vintage" look on my "vintage" Martin HC (Comm). The keys are were also silverplated but it's not much left of plating. Less than 10% of laquer remains on the sax and keys. Time is the best "delaquer" on the market.
hcklaffskydd.jpg
 

Colin the Bear

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Let me get this straight. You dont want silver because of the tarnishing but like the idea of bare brass?

I can think of nothing more unattractive or impractical than bare brass. Yuk! ;)

Ps. Bronze saxes aren't made of bronze. Bronze is good for casting statues etc.
 
OP
C
Messages
87
Let me get this straight. You dont want silver because of the tarnishing but like the idea of bare brass?

I can think of nothing more unattractive or impractical than bare brass. Yuk! ;)

Ps. Bronze saxes aren't made of bronze. Bronze is good for casting statues etc.
I figured that a NEW “aged brass” sax like the Eastman 52nd Street, some P Mauriats, Canonballs, and Custom Signatures will not degrade/get verdigris because they’ve received some kind of a treatment to prevent it. I can’t imagine a new sax that was purposely made to look like that wouldn’t get some kind of stabilizing treatment. It just doesn’t make sense to me but I could be wrong.

Apparently, the look is very popular. The look of a vintage horn, but not. :cool:

 

Stephen Howard

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1,854
The (almost) only way to stabilize brass is to lacquer/plate it. Heat treating can form a very durable layer of oxide - but if an acid can get to the oxide layer, it can eat through it eventually.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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The (almost) only way to stabilize brass is to lacquer/plate it. Heat treating can form a very durable layer of oxide - but if an acid can get to the oxide layer, it can eat through it eventually.
What's being used inside the tube then? Anything special? Because that's the most exposed area.

It's also the most difficult to reach when verdigris appears.
 

jbtsax

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I figured that a NEW “aged brass” sax like the Eastman 52nd Street, some P Mauriats, Canonballs, and Custom Signatures will not degrade/get verdigris because they’ve received some kind of a treatment to prevent it. I can’t imagine a new sax that was purposely made to look like that wouldn’t get some kind of stabilizing treatment. It just doesn’t make sense to me but I could be wrong.
The brand I am most familiar with is Cannonball, and I don't believe their raw brass saxophones are given any kind of treatment besides adding a "patina". @RyanCannonball who is a member here can provide the most accurate information. My old joke about buying a saxophone with the "Brute" finish is that it will never look worse than the day you bought it. :) (just kidding Ryan, I have grown to actually like that look)

1590761851495.png
 

Stephen Howard

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1,854
What's being used inside the tube then? Anything special? Because that's the most exposed area.

It's also the most difficult to reach when verdigris appears.
Nothing at all. The bore is usually quite well oxidised from the annealing process - plus it also gets drenched in condensation each time you play, which tends to maintain a reasonably neutral pH.
However, it's not immune to corrosion - and I've seen some spectacularly manky bores.
It's also why you should think twice before having a bore polished.
 
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