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solder bleed - stripping the lacquer from a vintage saxophone

peterpick

Member
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388
i have acquired a sax with nasty solder bleed under the lacquer. i don't mind much, but i do think it would be more attractive if i could get rid of it. as a first step i was thinking of stripping the lacquer so that i could get at the affected parts. the only time i was involved in such an operation before the technician used nitromors, or some similar evil. can anyone recommend me a good product or method? and what should i be careful of apart from not dripping it into my eyeballs?
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,327
First off can you post a photo or two of what you are confronting here ?

By 'solder bleed' do you mean that there is staining at some soldered joints where things like posts, etc. meet the body, and the staining is beneath the lacquer so the only way to get at it is to remove the lacquer ?

Or do you mean the solder job was just messy and it is beneath the lacquer ?
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
hello jaye, i don't think i can post a picture, but i do mean that there is staining beneath the lacquer, there is no visible soldering. it's mostly around where the 'ribs' are fixed to the body. i'm sure you must have come across a few like this in your time. does removing the lacquer sound like a good start (just using brass cleaner on the lacquer is only minimally effective) or am i barking up the wrong dog?
 

jbtsax

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It would be helpful to know what make and model of saxophone you have. Older instruments often have nitrocellulose lacquer that can be removed using hot water. Newer "epoxy" lacquers require a strong paint remover chemical. Removing lacquer down to the bare brass is a big job either way. Then you need to decide what you want to do with the finish which can involve another big job.
 
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peterpick

peterpick

Member
Messages
388
well, it's a selmer from 1957. i shouldn't think it was ever relacquered, everything is legible on it. some of the lacquer is flaking, it's a rather odd pale, lemony colour. most of my saxes are silvered, which i have come to prefer, somehow. if i did strip the lacquer and clean it i wouldn't do anything else, except polish it up, and then it would have to be bare brass. i think any attempt to relacquer a vintage saxophone would be misguided.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,327
hello jaye, i don't think i can post a picture, but i do mean that there is staining beneath the lacquer, there is no visible soldering. it's mostly around where the 'ribs' are fixed to the body. i'm sure you must have come across a few like this in your time. does removing the lacquer sound like a good start (just using brass cleaner on the lacquer is only minimally effective) or am i barking up the wrong dog?
Hi Peter. If you can snap a pic and download it to your internet device, be it a smartphone or laptop/desktop, you can then post it on a thread simply by hitting the image icon in the menu bar above the reply window where you type your reply. It's between the smiley face and the chain link icon.

I understand what you mean, yes so this is sometimes referred to as 'acid bleed', I think. Fairly common really.

Are you certain the staining is beneath the lacquer, first of all ? Sometimes spotting can be so pronounced and 'imbedded' it is a realy bear to get it off just a little, but repeated applications of a paste polish will eventually start lightening it up.

If it is beneath, then yes, only way to get at that is to remove the lacq at the area and then clean it off with either a paste polish or chem or sonic bath. Personally, in these situations I don't use any sort of chemical stripper remover, although a lacquer/varnish remover would work on the 'old-school' lacquer recipe JBT noted above. I just literally take a small tool, wrap it in emory paper, and abrade the lacq off. When I get to the rot, I then use a polish or...if I am cleaning the whole body anyway, the chem bath followed by a topical brass cleaner such as Wrights Cream or Barkeeper's Friend.

Thing is, afterward, if there are abrasion marks on the surrounding lacq (I try to be careful but sometimes there are), I have the benefit of a bench motor and buffing wheel to at least make those less apparent. Not sure a hom DIY'er would wanna invest in that sorta rig, however (although I suppose you could then take the body to a tech).

Yes you can do a complete strip then just do a nice job on finishing the bare brass (@jbtsax has done some cool stuff in that dept).....but keep in mind as it is an old French Selmer...it will take a 'hit' in market value (odd as it seems a spotty original lacquer one even with very worn lacq, being quite ugly overall...is considered more 'valuable' than an attractive one which has been nicely and correctly stripped and polished, etc). This is just FYI , you probably know this already. Personally, I am not adverse to doing this to old horns if the horn is really just gonna be butt-ugly even with the remaining original lacq left on and the horn completely bathed and polished. But I do not think I would do it to a 'grail' model if there were any chance I might ever sell it....


IF the horn has not been professionally cleaned in a while, personally I'd suggest finding a tech who has either a chem tank or a sonic tank, and paying them to bathe the body. Start there, see if that has any effect at all....if it does, great...if not, well...you now have a nicely cleaned body as your starting point...
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
hi jaye, thanks for your advice. i think i'm inclined to wash the lacquer off somehow rather than scrape it, i'm frightened of leaving marks, as you say. i think if i'm going to get the body buffed up after by a tech i might as well get him to strip it too.... so i'm still thinking. the marks are not just spotting, and they are all round soldered points - yes 'acid bleed' as you say, i think it's something to do with flux... what the flux, eh?
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,327
OK, Peter - if you go the full lacq removal route, then as JBT noted, I have actually had luck with just hot water lacq removal, sometimes followed by brushing on some generic hardware-store bought remover stuff (Klean-Strip brand KwikStrip is what I currently have in the cabinet - it has the same, um 'warming effect' o_O as Stephen described above) ...when it comes to completely removing lacq on older horns (the old nitrocellulose sort). I am assuming a '57 Selmer would have that kind of lacquer (?)

Again just be aware that from a market-value standpoint, this is a very 'personal' sort of refinish decision. Not dissuading you, just saying (counter argument of course being - Before, I had a crappy looking sax. After - I have an attractive-looking, brass which will over time move to antique-patina'd sax...which is certainly valid).


i think if i'm going to get the body buffed up after by a tech i might as well get him to strip it too....
OK just keep in mind if you would have the tech do the stripping then bathing then buffing...THAT is not an inexpensive job, necessarily.

Of course if you are not mechanically inclined, obviously have a pro do it. But if you have disassembled and reassembled horns before, then one can do a decent strip and polish job at home and save a lot of $. On a hot-water-with maybe a bit of chem-stripper lacquer strip job, one would just need to use a wet-applied brass cleaner (I mentioned two above) to remove the rot, then follow up with a soap bath and rinse, then one or two in-a-tube polishes hand-applied and polished w/ a microfibre cloth. It'd come out looking quite good.

One question here: How are the pads ? Is the aesthetic appearance of the keys as bad as the body ?
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
thanks everyone for all this input. jaye, the pads are fine and the sax plays well, it's just a question of the look of the thing. i'm certainly aiming for a patina over time, if i do this. i'm not clear about what lacquer selmer used in 1957, but i'm assuming it's an old-style nitro-cellulose, and as i say it doesn't seem that the sax was ever relacquered, going by the usual signs. i have taken saxes apart before (and even put them back together). the keys are silver, and i shall not interfere with them.
as for the finish, i have noted that relacquered vintage saxes are generally disapproved of by vintage sax lovers, and that bare brass is generally considered preferable to that, at least.
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
The only paintstripper that works these days is a product called Powerstrip - which you can find on ebay. It's the 'old-fashioned' stuff - y'know, that used to burn the back of your hand when a drop of the stuff landed there.
thanks stephen. do you think this would be necessary for removing the original lacquer from a 57 selmer? or would hot water and determination prove sufficient?
 

Stephen Howard

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thanks stephen. do you think this would be necessary for removing the original lacquer from a 57 selmer? or would hot water and determination prove sufficient?
Well, the hot water and determination won't cost you anything but your time. If it works - sorted. If not, get some Powerstrip on it.
Me, I'd go straight in with the Powerstrip and have done with it.
 

Stephen Howard

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1,747
as for the finish, i have noted that relacquered vintage saxes are generally disapproved of by vintage sax lovers, and that bare brass is generally considered preferable to that, at least.
Which is why (assuming you're unscrupulous) you're sometimes better off stripping a relacquer job and selling the horn at a premium as 'unlacquered' (Must've all fallen off, Guv!).
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
well, i'm not so unscrupulous that i would not say it was 'delacquered', which covers all eventualities, i think. i'm living in france now, stephen, and i don't think i can get powerstrip through ebay sent here, so i shall have to think what i can do. perhaps for the moment hot water is what i shall get into.... as usual.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,327
I think it is really close to the same, market value wise....to offer a Selmer relacquered vs. offering one 'stripped' of original lacquer. The latter may be a tad preferable, from market standpoint because folks would assume there was no heavy mechanical buffing which took place (which is what they always assume when they see a relacq)..

Yeah if you have done that sort of thing before, then go for the hot water...why not ? Get a super soft bristle toothbrush as well. Usually what I do is, if you have a large enough pot, submerge the body at least partially in the boiling water. You can also use a large kitchen sink and keep pouring the hot water into the sink until the body is submerged.

Let is stay there a bit, pull out, then use a sponge to see if the lacq sloughs off. If not, put it back in. When it does, use the sponge or other soft material to 'help' the lacq off, then use a soapy toothbrush for the nooks around the posts and guardfeet etc. For stubborn areas, re-sumberge in the hot water and go at it again.

As Stephen intimates, it may well be there are too many stubborn areas and the whole thing begins to get too time-consuming, in which case go to a hardware-store bought chem stripper.

You successfully get off all the lacq, give the horn a soap-wash or two, then you can either take to a tech for a chem or sonic bath, or do a DIY in your sink with Barkeeper's Friend or Wrights Copper Cream. Soap rinse again, let dry.

Then you can go at it with the wet polishes, applied w/ microfibre cloth. Wenol or Maas are good ones for the first go-around. They have a medium 'tooth' to them, aggressive enough to get off any remaining red and staining,/patches/spotting... but not as aggressive as Brasso or Noxon ; they (W or M) both produce a nice, clean finish...sorta somewhere between shiny and matte.
Sometimes if I like what they do on first go I'll just stop there.
Other times, if I want a mirror-like shine, I will follow up one of those with Hagerty 100 polish, or Hagerty Silver Polish...both have a finer 'tooth' to them. This will really give it a lustre....when done with the 100 - it is often lustrous enough to convince some folks its newly lacquered, actually.

Then over time it will of course still patina down. I just have found that, generally, the patina which develops is nicer on a body which has been polished after cleaning (as opposed to a bare brass body which has just received a chem bath and soap wash). Maybe because the polishes leave a residue (?)

You can always polish up the silverplate keys with a silver polish if you like....or just leave in their current state.

Buena suerte !
 
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peterpick

peterpick

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388
thanks jaye, that's really full of interesting and valuable information. most of those products are not available in britain (or france where i now live,) but soft toothbrushes certainly are. i never in my life before contemplated boiling a saxophone. is this wise, i wonder.....
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,327
My understanding is Barkeeper's Friend is available in Europe (?) Wenol, as well I believe, as it was recommended to several years ago by a Dutch tech.....
 

jbtsax

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A picture is worth a thousand words. This is a "deep fat turkey fryer" I used to remove the lacquer from a Mark VI bari. The bottom photo is the lacquer just "peeling off".

Cooking Thanksgiving Bari.jpg


Bari Lacquer Peeling Off.jpg
 
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