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Re-lacquer - yes or no?

ProfJames

Elementary member
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12,088
I now have three vintage martin saxophones and am considering should I re-lacquer or not. Are there ant benefits or are there any downfalls? Should we re-lacquer?
 

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
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7,347
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The '+' is a horn you might prefer the look of

The '-' is a potential hit on resale value and the cost of the work

I understand for instance that a Mark VI Selmer might be devalued by cosmetic changes but having said that Bryce the tech I go to has a Mark VI who's owner wants him to relacquer and damn the consequences
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,088
If re-lacquering is not the way forward are there other coatings/polish that may be used on a saxophone? Ensuring that the playing and value is not effected?
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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14,025
If re-lacquering is not the way forward are there other coatings/polish that may be used on a saxophone? Ensuring that the playing and value is not effected?
the main problem with relaquering is usually cosmetic. Although the horn will be shinier, if done badly can be over buffed and so result in worn engraving. In extreme cases the tone holes can be affected by buffing, which is going to affect the playability.

You could also get your saxophone silver or gold plated. If it is scratched up, then buffing is probably necessary and again you risk losing the sharpness of the engraving, which can always be recut but then you'd be into a lot more expense even if you can find somebody who is good at doing this kind o work.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,355
Martin lacquer was never the most durable and it does tend to wear off. Relacquering got a bad reputation in the past due to over enthusuastic buffing to remove all the scratches, which if they were deep, often removed too much metal - I read somewhere that the US sax factories had the apprentices do the buffing on big polishing wheels, so care and attention were sometimes lacking.
Not all vintage relacquers were bad, I've seen some fine examples where they'd been sensible enough to leave the deep scratches alone and lacquer over them.
These days, if you took your instrument to a good specialist sax repairer, it'd be unlikely that they'd mistreat your sax and instead use chemicals to strip off the remaining lacquer and hand polish it. Modern lacquers would probably be more durable.

There are many opinions on the effect of lacquer on the tone, but it's be almost impossible to quantify since there are many other factors and relacquering or delacquering is usually followed by a repad and full set up, which would have beneficial effects on the playability.
There seems to be a current fashion for unlaquered/delacquered saxes, but personally I like lacquer, it protects against corrosion and keeps things nice and shiny - and your hands don't smell of old brass after you've finished playing

Does relacquering affect the value? Yes if it's a valuable, collectible instrument, less so if it's one of the cheaper student horns like a Martin Indiana, Medallist etc or if it's so corroded that restoration could only improve things

Alternatively you could use Renaissance Wax, which is used by the National Trust to prevent corrosion on antiques etc - http://www.picreator.co.uk/articles/3_renaissance_wax.htm

I've never tried it, so not sure how well it'd stand up to constant handling, but it'd certainly be cheaper than a relacquer...
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,088
Thanks Altissimo for your advice. I have my Martin Imperial back after re-padding and it plays great. No need for re-lacquer but I have also just acquired a 1928 Handcraft. Would like to get it fully restored so any advice is much appreciated.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,025
Thanks Altissimo for your advice. I have my Martin Imperial back after re-padding and it plays great. No need for re-lacquer but I have also just acquired a 1928 Handcraft. Would like to get it fully restored so any advice is much appreciated.
Fully restored in this case may mean delacquering. Hopefully somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but it's very possible the original horn may have been bare brass, lacquering horns was only just beginning to be done around this time.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,088
Hi Pete, haven't got the Handcraft yet but it looks like original lacquer from the photo.
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
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2,149
As other have said the issues are practicality, your desires, and how important value is (are you concerned with re-selling?). The closer a horn is to being an antique it gains value from being in original condition. If that condition is dented and in need of major repairs then it doesn't matter. If un-dented but has chipping lacquer (typical for Martins) then a re-lacquer or strip without re-lacquer could de-value or eliminate the horn for a number of potential buyers. If you are not concerned about re-selling (which you have never made clear) then do whatever suits your wants/needs...it's your horn. If re-lacquering, unless someone does something stupid like lacquering moving parts or pads it's not likely that it will make any noticeable difference to the performance/tone.

Recently a very early Martin soprano was for sale that was heavily gold plated and in mint condition. This was a horn that would NOT have been lacquered originally. The owner had a tech put on new pads (no problem) and lacquered the horn (big problem). They took a horn probably worth at least $4000 and devalued it selling for only $1500 by “restoring it”.
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,874
I now have three vintage martin saxophones and am considering should I re-lacquer or not. Are there ant benefits or are there any downfalls? Should we re-lacquer?

Are you thinking of a complete rebuild and lacquer ? which is the way to go to get a great looking/playing Vintage instrument for your personal use, but you will not get your investment back, if you want to sell.
PS . I see from eBay prices that, prices vary a lot and some Vintage Conns don't sell for as little as £500 and described as completely overhauled. To relacquer a Martin or not will not change the resale value. I think it only affects some Selmers, mostly the MK6.
 
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ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,088
Good point Wade, I am interested in re-selling one original Martin Imperial which will be advertised accordingly. Will keep my Imperial and Handcraft as long as it sounds OK and helps me to sound better!
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,874
This Vintage 6m conn ( considered the best years) sold yesterday for £550 with one bid and with original lacquer.


Item no. 130866812502
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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3,409
I personally can't understand this need by collectors for something to be in untouched condition because generally they just look beat up and crappy I would much rather have something of antique quality but that looked like it had just rolled off the production line and was in absolute pristine condition,I can see the point with furniture perhaps where a patiner has been built up but as for saxes untouched they just look tired and old...john
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,874
I personally can't understand this need by collectors for something to be in untouched condition because generally they just look beat up and crappy I would much rather have something of antique quality but that looked like it had just rolled off the production line and was in absolute pristine condition,I can see the point with furniture perhaps where a patiner has been built up but as for saxes untouched they just look tired and old...john

See #4 the re-lacquered horn may be over- buffed.
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
Subscriber
Messages
3,409
M
See #4 the re-lacquered horn may be over- buffed.
This isn't the point but in the case of over buffing it would be stupid to get an idiot to re-lacquer any sax,the other thing is most people are capable of polishing a piece of brass so why not do the polishing yourself then you have control of that aspect, then the only thing needing doing before lacquering would be degreasing,however I am sure there are some techs out there that could do this but wether they would want to is another story it's very time consuming.
My point was that it surprises me that people can think that an old grungy sax looks good,not me I'm afraid give me smart and pristine every time one instance is classic cars you don't see them left in worn out state and thought to be great,they are brought back to as near new condition to be thought of as great cars ,so what's this thing about saxes I don't get it, fair enough if some idiot polishes it to death before lacquering but that is damaging it and the repairer should be held responsible if they can't do it don't take on the work, but if someone rebuilds a sax to perfect new condition in my book it should fetch top dollar and not be worth less than a crappy original state sax, but that is only my opinion and everybody is entitled to that ......John
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,662
M

This isn't the point........ .............everybody is entitled to that ......John
Bloomin' 'eck John, did you get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning? It's just an opinion..... calm down dear ;} :))) :hug:

Just my view but I love a horn that looks old and grungy, it matches me and I like a bit of character to boot. Also, if you go to some pub, I'd rather stand an old and battered horn on a stand than a new and shinny one that might get damaged. (Not saying that I wouldn't be worried about an old grungy one getting damaged!)
 
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Messages
261
M

This isn't the point but in the case of over buffing it would be stupid to get an idiot to re-lacquer any sax,the other thing is most people are capable of polishing a piece of brass so why not do the polishing yourself then you have control of that aspect, then the only thing needing doing before lacquering would be degreasing,however I am sure there are some techs out there that could do this but wether they would want to is another story it's very time consuming.
My point was that it surprises me that people can think that an old grungy sax looks good,not me I'm afraid give me smart and pristine every time one instance is classic cars you don't see them left in worn out state and thought to be great,they are brought back to as near new condition to be thought of as great cars ,so what's this thing about saxes I don't get it, fair enough if some idiot polishes it to death before lacquering but that is damaging it and the repairer should be held responsible if they can't do it don't take on the work, but if someone rebuilds a sax to perfect new condition in my book it should fetch top dollar and not be worth less than a crappy original state sax, but that is only my opinion and everybody is entitled to that ......John
I agree with you John If the job is done properly polished rebuilt pads etc re-lacquered to me that would be of more interest if someone is prepared to spend time and money on their SAX. I know which one I'd buy not the crap one that's for sure. Are you buying for investment or enjoyment I'd have the one that's regulated and restored every time.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,355
Back in the old days it would've been unthinkable for a sax player to turn up for a gig with a grungey looking instrument. Musicians in big bands had to dress smart and look classy, so it wasn't uncommon for instruments to be relacquered when they were taken in for an overhaul, or sent back to the factory to be refurbished. Factory relacquers often involved getting all the scratches out first...
If it was just a matter of stripping the old lacquer and polishing it up 'til it's nice and shiny, relacqering wouldn't have gained such a bad reputation, but it's when people have tried to polish out deep scratches that the problems occur. The over enthusiastic use of buffing wheels and abrasive compounds will inevitably remove metal and this can cause problems.
Many years ago a friend of mine had an old Conn alto that had been relacquered and the bell had been heavily buffed on one side, enough to remove half the engraving. When you played it, low B and Bb had a strange warbling quality. His sax tech did his best, but came to the conclusion that the thinning of the metal on one side of the bell was the cause of the problem

here's a close up of a Martin tenor that's been nearly ruined by over use of abrasives - http://www.lynsgarden.co.uk/Rosecroft/Saxes/Martin/Buffing_Error.jpg - "Enormous groove buffed out of body metal just under top thumbrest. Metal left paper thin. Excessive buffing on parts of body and bell"

THese days I doubt any sax repairer would do this to a sax and would choose to leave the deeper scratches alone, or gently burnish them so they're less noticeable

I suspect a lot of the market for expensive vintage musical instruments lies with collectors rather than pro players - how many working sax players are rich enough to afford 5 grand for a Mk VI or 1000 dollars for a Florida Link, let alone the insurance risk of taking them on gigs...

but back to the original point of this thread, I think relacquering is largely a matter of economics - do you really want to spend a few hundred quid on getting a sax relacquered, or would you rather spend the money on something else?

I'd love to get my Martin Indiana restored to original condition, but I've just had the gas bill...
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,874
I personally can't understand this need by collectors for something to be in untouched condition because generally they just look beat up and crappy I would much rather have something of antique quality but that looked like it had just rolled off the production line and was in absolute pristine condition,I can see the point with furniture perhaps where a patiner has been built up but as for saxes untouched they just look tired and old...john

I referred you to Petes post because he explains why collectors prefer original lacquer, and the damage that can occur, with a relacquer. So obviously a collector won't take that chance.

Originally Posted by Jamesmac
See #4 the re-lacquered horn may be over- buffed.
Petes post
the main problem with relaquering is usually cosmetic. Although the horn will be shinier, if done badly can be over buffed and so result in worn engraving. In extreme cases the tone holes can be affected by buffing, which is going to affect the playability.

Gladsaxisme
This isn't the point but in the case of over buffing it would be stupid to get an idiot to re-lacquer any sax,the other thing is most people are capable of polishing a piece of brass so why not do the polishing yourself then you have control of that aspect,

jamesmac
I have hand polished a Vintage sax, and know what it involves.
Have you. ?
Ebay Item no 111034080606
 
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