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High-end UK custom engravers?

tooter222

New Member
Messages
9
Hi everyone, I'm trying to get my old King Zephyr Special Tenor restored.

I bought it a few years ago sight-unseen as a bit of a punt. I was assured that it was in good condition etc. It really isn't! It has been heavily buffed to remove the original lacquer, has made a mess of the whole surface finish. It has also been butchered - superglued posts and new (wrong size) rods etc, total nightmare. It plays, sort-of, but not well. I've finally decided to do something about it.

If the horn hadn't been messed with, I'd look to just do a minimal technical overhaul and play it as is. However, as it is, I think I might as well go for a full restoration and try to make it better than new.

I am thinking of having it completely stripped, then re-engraving the original finish (partially lost by the previous buffing) and adding some new custom engraving. Then silver and gold plating before a top-end re-build.

I've spoken to Ben Dearnley in Bristol about the technical overhaul side of things. He's happy to do it, but doesn't know anyone in this country who could do the engraving.

Do you know anyone who does this knd of top-end engraving work? As you can probably tell, I know this project isn't going to be cheap, so I don't mind paying for quality work.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Thanks, ken.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
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I did a lot of research into good UK engravers a while back and drew a blank. The closest was a lady I discovered who does great work on guns, but has never done anything as large as a saxophone so she was a bit nervous as an engraver ideally needs the correct type of vice to hold the object very firmly.

This is her site:

http://homepage.mac.com/michaton/gunengraving/PhotoAlbum28.html (worth looking at)

She asked on an engraving forum, and couldn't find anyone.

You might have better luck if you try this:

http://www.engravingforum.com/
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,399
Location
Sweden
The King Zephyr Special and King Super 20 is practically the same sax! Double socket neck and hardsoldered tonholes (joint between the tube and "chimney")? Great saxes. We have some company/persons here , I live in Sweden, that are doing that kind of engraving works. As you already assume, this cost a lot.

I have some information about King Zephyr Special that I can share. Send a PM.

Thomas
 

neil

Member
Messages
74
Location
Hull
hi
If you have a local Gun/Field sports shop, ask them if they know of anyone who engraves guns. My father was a `wildfolwer` (a posh word for someone who blasts innocent birds into oblivion) and he once had a shot gun refurbished and the metal work engraved.

Neil
 
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tooter222

New Member
Messages
9
Thanks for all the help and advice.
I spoke to a friend this morning who is a fantastic brass repairer here in Kent see http://www.roycoxbrassrepairs.com. He worked for many years hand-building french horns for Paxmans in London. Have a look at the before and after pics of the Schilke trumpet on his site. Most people don't believe its the same instrument - it really looks brand new but I assure you it is the old one restored.

Roy put me in touch with a local engraver and I've just been to see him with the sax. He said he could do it, but he wasn't too happy with that kind of work. He does however know an engraver down in Herefordshire who does a lot of heavy, intricate and expensive engraving. Apparently this guy does a lot of solid silver trophy work, church chalices and his main speciality is coat of arms seals. With these, he takes a huge, complex family coat of arms and engraves it backwards on to a gold signet ring worn on the finger, to be used as a seal stamp, so it is very intricate and difficult work. My local contact is putting me in touch with him next week, so I'll have a chat and discuss designs and prices then.

So, I'm off to Bristol tomorrow and I'll take the horn with me and see Ben on Monday. He's hopefully going to strip it and prep for plating and engraving and then do the re-build afterwards.

I'll take lots of before and after pics and I'll post them here somewhere for all to see. I'll post details of all the trades people involved in the restoration here for anyone who may be interested. Also if the engraving works out I'll post his details here (with his permission of course) if anyone else is interested.

Stand by for more news soon.
Thanks, Ken.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,619
Location
Betelgeuse
Like the other's who've replied I've only experienced this sort of work from gun engravers, which is a very different art. I am fascinated by your project, though, so please keep us posted. Before and after pics will be great. Good luck with it all. If it goes well you should end up with a fantastic, unique and very personal sax.

Jon
 
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tooter222

New Member
Messages
9
I meant to add earlier that I just noticed something today when I took the sax to the engravers. I had always assumed that the horn was a Zephyr Special, because it has the extra pearls on the right side-keys and the octave key and the silver-plated neck (with matching serial number).

As mentioned previously, most of the engraving is very faint and when I was looking closely today, it was apparent tha it's not a 'Special' at all. According to saxpics this isn't unknown, for a Zephyr to have all the features of a Special but not the fancy engraving. On the plus side, the serial no. (281xxx), puts it bang in the middle of the most desirable Zephyrs (again, according to the usually excellent saxpics.com)

So, this leads me now to thinking about what engraving/finishing to have done.
Should I 1. have it restored with the original fairly minimal and plain engraving, keep it lacquered brass or

2. have the little remaining engraving removed before re-plating and have it engraved like an original Special, or

3. have the little remaining engraving removed and go for a completely unique custom design?

I'm obviously going to discuss it with Ben the sax tech and the engraver to see what is practical first, but at the moment I think I'm leaning towards option 3. As I am intending to keep this horn long term, there is no real need to worry about the 'authenticity' of the finish for re-sale purposes.

So, should I really go to town with super-heavy silver plating on the body, bell and bow, a gold wash inside the bell, gold plated keywork and maybe highlight some of the engraving with gold plate overlay on the silver bell (as on some of the Silver Sonics) and some fabulous and unique engraving?

I'd be interested in your thoughts. I know I'll have upset some people by going off-piste and suggesting restoring the sax to anything other than its original look. But I think that in its current condition, given the amount of work needing to be done and the fact that I'm going to keep it, it would be justified to do something a bit different from the norm.

I await your learned opinions.

Thanks, Ken.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,997
Location
Just north of Munich
This is a fascinating project. Although I'm a nut for originality, it only goes as far as rare items.

I'd be really tempted by the mix of silver and gold plate with unique engraving. Engrave the keys as well. Maybe recut the original Maker's name/model engraving, but do the rest as you want it. One concern I'd have is that to remove the remaining engraving is going to remove more metal, and this may affect strength/feel.

I find it quite strange that so many people prefer an old, unpolished finish. Looks terrible to me, especially when you're looking at a band/orchestra and most of the instruments are beautifully polished, and one or two aren't. If you look at the films of the old greats, almost all of them had very shiny, polished (and often ornate) instruments. But - each to his own.

On the sound, I was talking to an instrument maker in Munich recently about replating/refinishing my tenor. He didn't have a strong position either way, but said the brass players would often have their instruments stripped, polished and relacquered - but most sax players wouldn't, believing it affects the sound. Have no idea myself, done properly it's probably OK, but would buffing out ALL the original engraving, which would be quite deep, count as being done properly? Maybe so much has gone already it won't make much difference. Maybe a heavy silver plate would compensate.

There's quite a lot on plating/re-engraving/burnishing on cybersax.com, would be worth the effort of digging through their site. I think you need to get it nickel plated before the silver goes on, otherwise the copper in the brass will migrate hrough the silver and spoil it over time. Well worth reading up on this to make sure the guys do it properly.

And if you're going to go to all this effort, it isn't going to cost that much more to ship it across the pond for the engraving, but make sure you get proof that you sent it for engraving - otherwise those nice people in customs are going to ask you for a lot of money to get your sax back. Would be well worth checking with them beforehand what documentatoin they require...
 
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tooter222

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9
Hi Kev, was originally thinking of sending it to the US to have all the restoration work done. However, the costs of fully insured courier delivery are incredibly high (approx. £350 each way to east coast!!!), and imho it's just not worth sending it any less than fully insured with a top courier. So I thought that money could more reasonably be spent on the work itself.

I still haven't completely ruled out the option of just sending maybe bell, bow and bell-keys off to a specialist engraver over there once the horn is stripped etc. But I'll only do that as a last resort , if I can't find anyone in the Uk to do the type of work I want done.

To be honest though, I'm sure there are fantastic craftspeople out there in the UK who can do all this work. It's just a matter of finding them. That's where resources like this board and others like it come into their own. I'm sure that if this project works well for me, them many others in this country may decide to use the same individuals for similar work. I'm very happy for anyone else to benefit from my experience. I just hope it isn't too painful with too many expensive lessons to be learned on the way.


As to the remaining engraving, I think there is so little of it left (depth wise) that it would take very little effort to remove it and would be a very small further detraction for the overall state of the horn. When I showed it to a pro french horn player friend, he actually asked if it was definitely engraved rather than some kind of transfer - it is THAT shallow!


As mentioned previously, it all depends what Ben and the engraver think is possible too. I am certainly willing to bow to their technical knowledge with regards to what will give the best results. Obviously, we all have our own ideas about what looks best and I'm always interested to hear everyone else's opinions. If money was no object, what would you do to customize your horn? Pearl all the keys? Heavy gold plate? Heavy silver plate? Incredibly intricate engraving? All of the above and more?

If any one has any comments, I'd welcome any input.

Thanks, Ken.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,581
Location
Lundy Island
I'd be interested in your thoughts. I know I'll have upset some people by going off-piste and suggesting restoring the sax to anything other than its original look. But I think that in its current condition, given the amount of work needing to be done and the fact that I'm going to keep it, it would be justified to do something a bit different from the norm.
I would go with option 3. Unless you intend to open a museum. You'll have a great horn, that will still have a high value if the design, plating and engraving is as good as you hope!

This is a fascinating project. Although I'm a nut for originality, it only goes as far as rare items.

I'd be really tempted by the mix of silver and gold plate with unique engraving. Engrave the keys as well. Maybe recut the original Maker's name/model engraving, but do the rest as you want it. One concern I'd have is that to remove the remaining engraving is going to remove more metal, and this may affect strength/feel.

I find it quite strange that so many people prefer an old, unpolished finish. Looks terrible to me, especially when you're looking at a band/orchestra and
maybe it's possible to fill the remains of the original engraving with silver solder. This would not work if it was being lacquered, but the plater willa dvise on how feasible it is under plating.

Hi Kev, was originally thinking of sending it to the US to have all the restoration work done. However, the costs of fully insured courier delivery are incredibly high (approx. £350 each way to east coast!!!),
It shouldn't be that much (try an Interparcel online quote). There are of course people such as jason Dumars and Doc Frazer over there, however I agree if you can find the UK crafsmen/artists, then I would keep it all here.

One thing I learnt when I was talking to Jason Du Mars is that certain designs need some very tricky techniques. Most standard floral type engraving is done with a hand held machine that makes zigzags. It is easy to follow curves with such a tool.

But some designs, e.g. a naked lady, will look awful done in zig zags, they require straight lines that curve (if you follow me). This is very difficult technique as one slip could ruin it. Claudio from Rampone & Cazzani was also telling me about this problem. Many engravers cannot or won't attempt this technique.
 
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tooter222

New Member
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9
Thanks for the input Pete. However, the project is hereby abandoned.

I've just returned from Bristol where I sought the advice of Ben Dearnley. In his opinion, the horn really wasn't suitable for the type of restoration that I wanted to undertake on it. He reckoned it would make an excellent player with some work, but that it could never look as good as I wanted it to.

Basically, it has had a lot of dent removal on parts of the bell and bow sections in the past. Coupled with the heavy buffing that had been employed on part of the bell, Ben thought this would mean that a really good cosmetic finish would be practically impossible to acheive after re-plating. Although the brass didn't look too bad to me, he assured me that the thickness and surface finish of it would never be that good. Although I never expected it to be absolutely immaculate, (it is 70-80 years old!) I did want to to look superb.

I'm glad I sought his opinion before I started work. As he said, I could end up spending a lot of cash on something that could never be what I wanted it to be.

I turned down Ben's offer to do the mechanical overhaul necessary to get the horn back into perfect playing condition. I am lucky enough to have a great Mark VI and a 10M as playing horns. I really wanted this one as a looker and if it can't be that then I think I'll have to sell it on.

I don't think there is any point in spending money to have it set up for someone else to play. Everyone has their own preferences for pads, reso's, springs, action etc. So I think I'll just sell it as it stands.

So if anyone wants to buy a King Zephyr Tenor that has seen better days, please let me know. On the plus side, it does have most of the Zephyr Special features and is from the most desirable era. Also, Ben did say he thought he could get it back to a great-sounding vintage horn, just not a great looker.

I'll look forward to a rush of PM's with huge offers of ready cash. LOL. If not, it'll be on ebay in a few days.

I'll still try to establish contact with the engraver for reference on any future projects.

Thanks, Ken.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
Messages
12,581
Location
Lundy Island
T

I'll look forward to a rush of PM's with huge offers of ready cash. LOL. If not, it'll be on ebay in a few days.
Sorry to hear it's not the project you hoped.

You really need to advertise it on the Yardsale section, we have a rule that sales on the site should pay a percentage to the charity fundraising, and you need to name a price and say what percentage goes to charity.

Thanks
 
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tooter222

New Member
Messages
9
Thanks for the input Pete. However, the project is hereby abandoned.

I've just returned from Bristol where I sought the advice of Ben Dearnley. In his opinion, the horn really wasn't suitable for the type of restoration that I wanted to undertake on it. He reckoned it would make an excellent player with some work, but that it could never look as good as I wanted it to.

Basically, it has had a lot of dent removal on parts of the bell and bow sections in the past. Coupled with the heavy buffing that had been employed on part of the bell, Ben thought this would mean that a really good cosmetic finish would be practically impossible to acheive after re-plating. Although the brass didn't look too bad to me, he assured me that the thickness and surface finish of it would never be that good. Although I never expected it to be absolutely immaculate, (it is 70-80 years old!) I did want to to look superb.

I'm glad I sought his opinion before I started work. As he said, I could end up spending a lot of cash on something that could never be what I wanted it to be.

I turned down Ben's offer to do the mechanical overhaul necessary to get the horn back into perfect playing condition. I am lucky enough to have a great Mark VI and a 10M as playing horns. I really wanted this one as a looker and if it can't be that then I think I'll have to sell it on.

I don't think there is any point in spending money to have it set up for someone else to play. Everyone has their own preferences for pads, reso's, springs, action etc. So I think I'll just sell it as it stands.

So if anyone wants to buy a King Zephyr Tenor that has seen better days, please let me know. On the plus side, it does have most of the Zephyr Special features and is from the most desirable era. Also, Ben did say he thought he could get it back to a great-sounding vintage horn, just not a great looker.

I'll look forward to a rush of PM's with huge offers of ready cash. LOL. If not, it'll be on ebay in a few days.

I'll still try to establish contact with the engraver for reference on any future projects.

Thanks, Ken.
 
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