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Discussion Starter #1
I was wondering what techniques are good for burnishing the body and bell of a sax. I'm rehabilitating one now for a relacquer and have found that the bell is a bit "wavy," I assume from repeated dents before, and there's a spot on the body where the metal bulges up a tad. I figure a mandrel and burnisher would be the way to deal with this, but I'm curious if it's really necessary to take the sax apart and use that method to correct a bad dent job (I swear on the Bible on toast, that it is not my bad dent job :bluewink:).

Also, the instrument has a fair bit of minor pitting from corrosion and the typical myriad of minor scratches. I've seen some impressive before and after pics of sax relacquers before. What can be done to make it look closer to new? I know there is some debate as to buffing the metal down too much.

Just generally looking for some advice that I might be missing here. It's a little bit unfamiliar territory. I've done plenty of overhauls on saxes, but this will be my first relacquer.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Indeed. Here are a couple of the corrosion I was talking about and one of the bulged metal (right next to my finger, as it were). I've already removed the lacquer and done some buffing.



 

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Luke,
I will address the dent issue then the finishing issue seperately. The dents in the body can be burnished out. My preference since I have one is to setup my dent machine with the largest ball that will fit inside the horn and burnish with a radiused roller that is as close to the diameter of the tube as you have available. The "old timer" that worked in our overhaul shop in Elkhart had a series of mandrels that were shaped like sax body parts and he was able to burnish the parts on to these and do a flawless job of taking dents out. He worked on the Conn assembly line for years and I suspect his tooling may well have come from there. If all you have is dent balls and a few rods and burnishers it is difficult to apply enough pressure in the right places to remove previously done poor dent work. It will take a lot of time and effort.

OK, so now for the finish. If you are one of those "don't buff, polish, file, or sand" my horn people, please plug your ears and stop reading. Brass instruments in factories have been polished, sanded, filed, and buffed to make them look good for years...centuries. The only way to get a factory new finish that I know of is to remove metal by one of these processes. It will be up to you and the customer to decide how good you want it to be and how it looks. It will also be a judgement call about how much to take off YES you can go too far! If you want a mirror finish on this horn I would start by removing posts and braces in the highly pitted areas. If you don't do this the horn will have wavy spots where the buffing wheel buffed around the post or brace. For highly pitted areas, use 320-400 grit emery cloth to remove the pitting. This can be done by hand, but We had what we called a "strapping" machine in the overhaul shop for this, which is essentially a large belt sander. Obviously this can be a dangerous tool in the hands of a novice. After this, any highly pitted areas that cannot be reached with the belt sander can be polished out with emory compound on a buffing wheel. The next step we used was to buff individual parts with tripoli compound. Solder posts, braces...back on. Buff with tripoli again."rag" the horn which is essentially using buffing compound on strips of cloth to hand polish around places that are inaccessable with a buffing wheel. Buff and rag with red rouge. Thoroughly clean and then lacquer or silver plate. This sounds simple, but is a great deal of work. If done poorly the instrument will at least look like crap and at worst be unplayable. If done well it will look spectacular and you won't be able to tell that the instrument had ever been repaired. Spectacular takes time, skill and patience.

If you are interested in doing some dent machine work on that horn you are more than welcome to bring that baby up to Auburn. My schedule is full for July, but if it can wait until August we can remove some dents. Sorry, I don't have the patience or inclination to do refinishing any more. I hate buffing... did too much in Elkhart.

Matt
 

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The difference between good dent work and great dent work is time. Anyone can knock most dents out in minutes, however the end result is average, to take the average to better simply requires more attention to those areas and instead of concentrating on the whole dent you now concentrate on the edges of the dent, this gives a good job not a great job, to get better from here, you now must concentrate not o the edge of the dent but the postion of the dent in its surrounding surface.

For the finish youve got to buff it to get rid of it, otherwise you could use the pitting as a finish, that is blast the whole instrument with some form of media and then lacquer it
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks Matt, I appreciate that. I'll see what I can do, but I'll keep that in mind if I need it.

I'm not by any means of the school of never buff, etc... I know, of course, not to try to buff out a deep scratch or gouge, but beyond that, I'm just trying to get some idea of just when to stop. Does it seem (if it can be told from my pictures--if not, I understand) that this sort of pitting is reasonably safe to buff out, for example? I feel like I understand all this, but I do lack the years of experience. I just get a little nervous when I faintly see the motion of a dent ball through the sax when I rake a dent smooth, and the psychological idea of thinning the metal :doubt:

At this point, I do just have a basic set of dent balls, rods and burnishers. I'm not opposed to buying a roller, but yeah, I'm still not quite ready with a large metal lathe so I can make any mandrel I want with a telescoping gauge and caliper.... But I just wanted to make sure there wasn't something big I was missing.

Oh, and if it helps anyone else who stumbles across this thread, I too chagrin the tediousness of buffing every little area, and especially removing posts. I've removed a few just the same to fix dents under them. But to the point, for buffing in those little areas that the wheel can't get to (far too many for my tastes), I've been using a Dremel tool, and an idea I just saw Googling once... A wood screw with a similar diameter to a Dremel mandrel, use said Dremel to cut the head of the screw off, then the threads at the end can go into the center of a mini buff. I wrap electric tape around the threads that I don't use, both to keep a brush from scratching the instrument, and to form a "stop" to the buff on top.

Also, since buffs of that size don't last long, they'd get expensive, but I bought a yard of white cotton from the fabric shop, just cut a few rectangles to such a size that they make the size of your buff when folded in half twice (so you get 4 layers when you cut a circle out of that). 2 or 3 of those, then sew a few circles (preferably with a sewing machine, but hand sewing will work if done carefully), then just "turn" it onto the end of the screw. Makes for a lot of mini buffs that can be made just the size you need to get in crevices, as well as cheap so you don't feel 5 bucks fall out of your pocket when it wears out.
 

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That's a newer Buescher (I'd bet my white....)

The bell is going to be a little tough to improve if it's stretched because it's thin gaged.

re the scratches, it doesn't makes sense at first when somebody tells you, but if you wet sand the thing and then buff it's going to look nicer and you'll end up removing less material.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, I'll be pleased to give that a try. It's actually a Martin Imperial, but I'll allow you to keep your white... :p Serial is 3056xx..something or other--right around the switch. I do think it seems a bit thin-gaged though. Since the bell would not have hardware falling off it everywhere, I could even anneal it some if it seemed worth it...but I rather think not hehe.
 

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I have found a rod of Teflon or UHMWPE quite good for burnishing out raised areas that don't[ have sharp creases. Size say 15 - 20 mm square and 200 long, shaped little on a side (or sides) to fit different curves.

It is more than likely that a raised area has been work hardened by the process of raising it. Therefore it will resist being pushed back where it came from. The surrounding metal may still be softer, and move instead.

This can be overcome by heating the hardened area to red hot to anneal it. However that will wreck lacquer and some other finishes.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hmm, interesting. I've thought of annealing and always liked the idea for over-worked areas...but I've never dared try it on an instrument yet. The reason being...red hot indeed... How in the world would I not have half the posts and such fall off? There's no lacquer on this since I'm relacquering...and indeed, I imagine it would be a blackened mess in that case...but even if I wired down all the posts and things carefully, how could I trust the solder joints after such an assault?
 

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if you're refinishing then this is the perfect moment to realize why we annealers swear by this practice. If you do it anywhere near "not-so-wrong-that-you-melt-a-hole-in-the-sheet-metal" ( hehehe :tsk: :bluewink:) it will render the best results in poorly rolled out dent areas.
 

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??? Is there a connection between the photos and annealing that I missed?
 

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Hmm, interesting. I've thought of annealing and always liked the idea for over-worked areas...but I've never dared try it on an instrument yet. The reason being...red hot indeed... How in the world would I not have half the posts and such fall off? There's no lacquer on this since I'm relacquering...and indeed, I imagine it would be a blackened mess in that case...but even if I wired down all the posts and things carefully, how could I trust the solder joints after such an assault?
Yes, indeed.

This can help. http://www.grobetusa.com/soldering_tools/vigor_heat_shield_protective_paste.html
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Sorry if I seem a little ignorant on this subject, but I still have reservations on this idea, if psychological ones... Basically, is this sort of paste really that good? By that I mean...solder joints fall apart well before the metal is red hot. Even if this paste could defer that much heat, I'd imagine the heat conducted through the metal from underneath the joint would be more than enough to flummox the joints on its own...or does the paste somehow inhibit the very conductivity of the metal...or act as an insanely fast heatsink? Or perhaps solder joints can be trusted that have heated and re-solidified if they're held in place sufficiently?

Other than that, my one remaining curiosity...if anyone has an opinion on it... Does the sort of corrosion evident in the pictures seem like it's on the level that would typically be safe to sand/buff out?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Annealing, trumpet slides yes, saxes I dont know.

Blasted / Buffed / Lacquered

Cool. I can't quite tell for sure in that picture, but did you take that metal down to mirror finish, or leave some of the "relief" nature in tact?
 

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Hmm, interesting. I've thought of annealing and always liked the idea for over-worked areas...but I've never dared try it on an instrument yet. The reason being...red hot indeed... How in the world would I not have half the posts and such fall off? There's no lacquer on this since I'm relacquering...and indeed, I imagine it would be a blackened mess in that case...but even if I wired down all the posts and things carefully, how could I trust the solder joints after such an assault?
Annealing can be an excellent technique for areas of an instrument that are work hardened and severely damaged. I would not anneal the sax you are speaking of in this post. There are precautions to use when annealing. 1 remove any soft soldered parts around where you will be annealing as well as the soft solder film left on the parts after removal. 2 be carfull around any bell rims as some of them are solder filled. Be aware that it will ruin the finish where ever you use this technique.

It would be rare for me to use this technique on saxophones. I am more apt to use it on large instruments where dents are inflicted on the instrument and the brass is folded over on to itself. I will commonly use annealing to repair badly damaged leadpipes on baritone horns and tubas.
Matt
 

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The keys have been left blasted, the body was buffed to a mirror finish and lacquered the photo is deceptive because of the light source, also there may be a smidgen of what we call orange peel effect in the lacquer as I use automotive 2 pack clear
 
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