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Good afternoon everyone. This is my second post on the forum ~ joined yesterday. My son is beginning band this fall and he has fallen in love with the sax. After lots of research we decided to purchase a vintage model instead of renting or buying a used newer model.

Today my husband purchased a CONN USA from a woman who got the sax in 1959. She is/was the original owner. The pads are all good, the leather is supple, and there are 0 dents on this instrument. We were planning on purchasing a new mouthpiece anyway, so even though there is one in the case, we will not be using it.

It does have a few minor issues I'm hoping you all can help me with. {Please note that I have already spent over 2 hours searching the net and this forum but I can't find anything straight forward - lots of lingo I'm not familiar with, etc}.

Here are the issues:
* it is dusty {have been cleaning/polishing with a cloth diaper}
* when polishing one of the orange pads (which are very large and fuzzy still) fell off, like the glue just gave out
* there is some green/white {oxidation?} around some of the nooks and crannies
* the cork on the neck is coming loose
* a few rusty spots

Now my husband says that none of these things matter, but as this is my son's first musical instrument, i would love for it to get as clean and shiny as I can get it. As far as the cork on the neck, I don't have a problem taking it to a professional but any tips on getting me a bit farther with it would be great.

Just looking for some basic help on how to clean and take care of these issues. My son is super excited to start playing!
 

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Many repair-techs will do what some call a tune-up or regulation on the horn for not-too-much money. They'll go through it, check for leaks and properly working mechanisms (critical, and the source of some leaks), and replace the neck cork. Best to have a mouthpiece picked out for the neck-cork process because some mouthpieces have a larger internal diameter in that area.

The grunge around the little nooks can be easily cleaned with a q-tip or polishing cloth or moistened cloth. If you want to avoid lint, you may want to use micro-fiber cloth. Lint can creat leaks by sticking to tone-hole edges.

You didn't say what the finish was . . . if it is lacquer, be careful about polishing cloths as they may take off some lacquer, although others like that look (I don't). If it is silver-plate, then you can get treated cloths at stores that sell silverware and silver accessories. This is not a major issue. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! We will look for someone to fix the cork and tune up (anyone has a recommendation for Northern Virginia I'd love it!)

I am so ignorant about the finish -- it's gold! {major blush here}

I tried q-tips, etc, but not going to go nuts. It's for a 9 year old who is a complete klutz {sweet but clumsy} so although we are going to stress proper care, etc, I'm sure this sax is in for more abuse. That's sort of why we went this route anyway!

Also in polishing it with a cloth I discovered 3 little red felt pads on the floor.
No biggie I was thinking just unscrew the key guards {hope that's right} and glue them back in. Only problem is that there are two short ones and 1 longer one. I have no idea which goes where! MAJOR HELP NEEDED NOW!!
Do the two little ones go under the 'double key guard' and the longer one on the other key (other side of the instrument).

Again, please excuse my ignorance - i know zilch about the sax!!
 

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Since you are going to a tech, just place them in a bag and bring them with you. They are used to adjust (in this case the larger or bow and bell) key height away from the tone holes and to keep those keys from making really annoying sounds as they open (as in clank!). The adjustment is called "regulation". More than likely, the tech will just use new felts when setting things up, but having the old ones may help them a little. When you pack the horn in its case to go to the tech, you may want to place a small piece of cloth where the missing felts were so there isn't as much clanging, it really won't hurt things much, but it could help save some of the lacquer where the banging would occur.
 

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Considering your lack of experience with saxophones, and with pads and felts already dropping off (not unusual for a horn of that age), I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it would probably be worth letting a technician take the horn apart entirely, properly clean it for you, and then address whatever pads/felts/corks/leaks/lubrication/etc...as they put it back together. Regardless of how good the pads may look, there are definitely going to be some leaks on this horn. There's no way that you would be able to spot them or fix them yourself, and without a good tight horn to begin with, a lot of the bad sounds coming from it may be contributed to the beginning player rather than the instrument. The entire horn needs to be checked out by a technician, and to completely disassemble the horn for cleaning in the process isn't as big a deal for a technician as it may sound.

Some of those felts that fell off for example, may actually effect the way the horn plays if you put them back in the wrong place...and gluing a pad back in yourself will almost guarantee it to leak. Any leaks on this horn are going to make for an extremely frustrated beginner because he won't know whether it's a problem with the horn or just something he may doing wrong.
 

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The finish is a clear or tinted lacquer over brass.

The felt bumpers that fell out of the keyguards, that is another thing that would take a repairman a couple of minutes to do, and since you are going to one for a tuneup and checkup anyways I might just leave it for them.

If you cannot find a recommendation for a repairman here, I suggest calling your local college saxophone professors and ask where they go.

If you are in Northern Virginia as in close to DC, I believe you have several options, though as far as I know they tend to be on the Maryland side of things.
 

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Matt: Your call on the finish seems accurate. Gold as in a color is one thing; gold as in real-gold plating is quite another. Gold-plated horns are much more rare than lacquered brass or silver-plate. This is a common mistake, though and no big issue, but accuracy is best. That's why in police work we always describe property as being "yellow metal" rather than "gold" . . . much more accurate (unless of course the item is really gold and even then, yellow metal is safer).

Jacksmom: He may be sweet and all of that, but once given a saxophone, he should learn to respect it and carelessness with it should not be tolerated. No excuses! (with a smile . . .). Good luck and please let us know the progress you made. DAVE
 

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Matt: Your call on the finish seems accurate. Gold as in a color is one thing; gold as in real-gold plating is quite another. Gold-plated horns are much more rare than lacquered brass or silver-plate. This is a common mistake, though and no big issue, but accuracy is best. That's why in police work we always describe property as being "yellow metal" rather than "gold" . . . much more accurate (unless of course the item is really gold and even then, yellow metal is safer).

Jacksmom: He may be sweet and all of that, but once given a saxophone, he should learn to respect it and carelessness with it should not be tolerated. No excuses! (with a smile . . .). Good luck and please let us know the progress you made. DAVE
To all who have responded {you all share the same sentiments here} I will skip meddling with it any further and leave it up to a pro. I always cringe when people try to DIY and use cheap materials in my line of work so this should be no different! Shame on me for not even thinking to go straight to a pro. My only concern now is finding the right one. Like a car mechanic!

To Dave: ABSOLUTELY! We stress respect and care for all of his belongings but seeing as how I know he will be bringing this to/from school and while in school to/from the classroom to the band room, with about 40 other kids at a time, I'm more of a realist in the sense that some more dings and scratches are bound to be happening. But seeing as how the instrument he has is over 50 years old, it should be a good starting lesson that if you take care of things they LAST.

Will let you know how I fare.
 

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Jacksmom: Good. Just tell him that one guy with whom you communicated plays saxophones from the 1920's and they are gorgeous. I'm glad the previous owners were careful with them. Take care of them and they will take care of you. DAVE
 

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...but accuracy is best. That's why in police work we always describe property as being "yellow metal" rather than "gold" . . . much more accurate (unless of course the item is really gold and even then, yellow metal is safer...
Gold means any of the following to many novices: Gold plated, raw brass, brass lacquered, or possibly tarnished silver. As far as I know (for accuracy)there is no such thing as "yellow metal" Maybe there is metal that has a yellow color. It was fairly common for CG Conn to gold plate portions or all of a sax in that vintage horn. Matt is probably correct that the horn is lacquered brass which was/is one of the most common finishes.
 

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I think SOTW members Grumps and Lamplight might be able to steer you to a tech in your area. A PM might get a response.
 

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Today my husband purchased a CONN USA from a woman who got the sax in 1959. She is/was the original owner.
If that is a Conn from 1959 then its lacquer or I'll eat my shirt.

But Dave's comment about "yellow metal" is pretty interesting given his line of work. Last thing you want is to return some belongings and be responsible for an upgrade because you wrote down that someone's brass ring was a gold one.
 

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slausonm: So, just how many police reports (crimes, arrests, evidence, investigative follow-ups, investigative summaries, personnel complaint investigations, etc.) have you written? DAVE
 

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Best of luck with this. Old saxes can sometimes need a huge amount of work before they are good enough and reliable enough not to incredibly frustrate a beginner player to the point of becoming despondent and giving up.

RE looking after it... Tell him to treat it as if it were made of glass.
 

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Now my husband says that none of these things matter, but as this is my son's first musical instrument, i would love for it to get as clean and shiny as I can get it.
I'm sorry to say this, but I'm not sure your husband is an expert on saxophones and saxophone playing.

If pads fall off and the cork on the neck is disintegrating, then these are sure signs the horn could be ready for at best a service and (hopefully not) at worst a complete overhaul.

As others have said, unless it's in good playable condition (nothing to do with being clean) then this is not a good horn to learn on, especially for a child who may quickly become frustrated and give up. I noticed this with my own son learning guitar, he was not really into it, then I discovered the old guitar I'd given him was quite difficult to play. I let him use my nice one and immediately his interest perked up and he started practising without being asked to.

If you are lucky and all that is wrong with yours is cleaning and just those two mechanical things plus the odd felt falling off, then you may find the Haynes saxophone manual very useful, but if you do go the DIY route, you will need to make sure you learn how to check for leaks. The slightest leak, often not detectable by the human eye, is going to make it hard to play.
 

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Matt: That is exactly why officers/deputies/agents don't try to make some seized item GOLD when they really don't know what material is involved. That is why seized jewelry (e.g. a man's yellow-metal ring) is listed as YELLOW METAL and not gold . . . "gent's y/m ring with white stone" is MUCH better than "gent's gold ring with diamond." That was one of the first lessons we learned in a police academy. If some officer submitted a report to me for approval with GOLD used to describe some metal object, I'd kick it back unapproved in a heartbeat. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm sorry to say this, but I'm not sure your husband is an expert on saxophones and saxophone playing.

If pads fall off and the cork on the neck is disintegrating, then these are sure signs the horn could be ready for at best a service and (hopefully not) at worst a complete overhaul.

As others have said, unless it's in good playable condition (nothing to do with being clean) then this is not a good horn to learn on, especially for a child who may quickly become frustrated and give up. I noticed this with my own son learning guitar, he was not really into it, then I discovered the old guitar I'd given him was quite difficult to play. I let him use my nice one and immediately his interest perked up and he started practising without being asked to.

If you are lucky and all that is wrong with yours is cleaning and just those two mechanical things plus the odd felt falling off, then you may find the Haynes saxophone manual very useful, but if you do go the DIY route, you will need to make sure you learn how to check for leaks. The slightest leak, often not detectable by the human eye, is going to make it hard to play.
While not an 'expert' ~ he did play the saxophone himself {albeit long ago}. So I'm wondering what you would consider 'good playable condition'? One can't possibly expect the original glue {and the only visible signs of repair are those with glue} to last over 50 years? If the pads are great and the keys are all working {not sticky or broken}, and a decent sound came out, are we not safe in assuming that given the minor repairs and a tune-up that it would be a good instrument?

I guess it's like a used/vintage car. Isn't it possible that it will always require more maintenance than a brand new model? I do appreciate your insights, however stomach dropping they might be ;)
 

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jacksmom: Yes, you can expect (hope for?) a decent horn with minimum work.

Your question to Pete is understandable, from a layman's perspective. But to us saxophone-people, I'd say that "good playable condition" means just that, a tight, well-sealed instrument with responsive keywork and good intonation (meaning the horn is not only in tune with itself, but with international tuning standards [A=440]). And yes, we can expect 50-year old instruments to play. Much depends on the care that went into owning them.

Your trip to the repair-tech should be able to bring that horn into the desired condition. The grunge and mung on the horn is of lesser concern but it does mean something, especially to a new player and child who wants to look good in his peers' eyes. The total package is important to engender continuing interest.

This trip-to-repair shouldn't be a budget-buster, either. Assuming you've adequately described the instrument, it shouldn't take a lot to bring it up to snuff. Good luck with it (and my apologies about thread-drift, but some things must be addressed at the time they happen). DAVE
 

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While not an 'expert' ~ he did play the saxophone himself {albeit long ago}. So I'm wondering what you would consider 'good playable condition'? One can't possibly expect the original glue
No, that isn't what I meant. I would worry that he used to play the saxophone and still thinks a pad falling out doesn't matter. If one falls out, the rest might be just waiting for their turn.


If the pads are great and the keys are all working {not sticky or broken}, and a decent sound came out, are we not safe in assuming that given the minor repairs and a tune-up that it would be a good instrument?
If the decent sound includes the lowest note (Bb) played quietly, then I'd say you are in with a great chance of not having an expensive bill. I was put off by the broken neck cork and pad falling out, signs that it has not been kept in good playing condition.

Pads can look great, but the slightest distortion of either pads or keycups or body tube can mean leaks. Leaks can mean some/many of the notes play fine, but some either won't play, won't play quietly or need a lot of hand pressure to create a seal. All of those are things that will put a child off learning.

I guess it's like a used/vintage car. Isn't it possible that it will always require more maintenance than a brand new model?
That can be quite a good analogy, though if put in good order by a good tech it should last a long time. The problems arise when a tech does a budget job and gets it "working for now", but if some of the keywork is worn or sloppy it will play after a quick fix, but could well get worse very rapidly, whereas if a tech does a more thorough (and obviously more expensive) job of getting it back to tip top condition with all the rods nicely snug, it should last until the next service as long as a decent new instrument.

I also wonder about the mouthpiece that came with it, if you aren't going to use it, how did you determine it wasn't as good as one you might buy?
 
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