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Hi folks! I'm about to visit a VI tenor that has been locked in a case for forty years and I received the following picture yesterday.

Is this something that should worry me? Is this the infamous "red rot" that is going to cost me more than a headache?

Cheers and Gruß aus Deutschland,
Rick Detroit

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Hi Rick,

That is a few specks of red-colored corrosion which is completely typical of a lacquered brass object that's over 40 years old.

Please,please, disregard that silly name "red rot" which gets people all upset over nothing. There is a phenomenon called "red rot" which typically affects the leadpipes of small brass instruments (trumpets); where the leadpipe is small diameter and remains wet all the time, it is possible for corrosion to attack the metal from the inside and cause pinholes which usually end up requiring replacement of the leadpipe.

There is no comparable condition on a saxophone.

The large bore of the saxophone and all the tone holes, mean the bore is well ventilated so corrosion pinholes from the inside are extremely rare on a saxophone.

Yes, one of the three corrosion processes of brass yields a reddish color (the other two are brown and green). But NO, reddish corrosion on the outside (or even the inside) of a saxophone is NOT some kind of "rot" that will cause you problems. It is purely an appearance matter. If you were to leave those little specks alone, it is remotely possible that sometime in the next ten thousand years the corrosion would proceed far enough to go through the metal. But it won't happen within your lifetime.
 

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indeed this was probably caused by some flux trapped under the lacquer causing an "acid bleed” (although this is more frequent on joined parts it does occur also in parts where minute amount is trapped under the lacquer revealing itself only much later) and really is only cosmetic (it will certainly affect the value in a positive way for you).

Even proper and extensive “ red rot” ( I don’t believe you example qualifies), which is a superficial loss of zinc with consequent exposure of the copper content of brass, in saxophones is nothing more than aesthetic and if you really want, removable, since it is really thin.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank for the responses. Milandro, are you saying this negatively affects the horns value?

Cheers,
Rick
 

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Am I buying or selling? :)


Everything that is out of the “ norm” in a negative way would have a bearing on the price and not because it means anything but simply because, given the chance, anyone would buy something unblemished or is prepared to pay more for something unblemished.
 

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Am I buying or selling? :)


Everything that is out of the “ norm” in a negative way would have a bearing on the price and not because it means anything but simply because, given the chance, anyone would buy something unblemished or is prepared to pay more for something unblemished.
Exactly! It's a cosmetic blemish. Not an unusual or severe one, but it is an imperfection. Most 40+ year old saxophones have some cosmetic blemishes. Fair market value for this instrument will depend on the total condition, plus the location, plus its inherent desirability (5-digit serial number Mark VI Selmers are considered inherently more desirable than the last ones in the run - whether that is justified or not is another question entirely), and that's extremely difficult or impossible to assess remotely.
 

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It is simply 'tarnish' and is instantly cleared up with household 'calcium, lime, rust' removers, revealing raw brass and not harming lacquer. You will likely find more places like that but from what I can see, it is otherwise like new it would be a very interesting horn to check out!

Anywhere you see the dark lacquer, the lacquer is 'burned' by acidic corrosion and we call it 'acid bleed' from soldering. But, there was no soldering in that pattern on the bell. That was probably caused by leaving the horn in the case with that part in contact with the case lining and organic compounds from the player being present - in other words, 'put up wet and closed up tight'. The burnt lacquer is easily removable. You can polish it off by hand with a fine metal polish; you can use a pencil eraser; you could use a solvent like MEK, but that would be too risky as it would also dissolve the good lacquer. The process of rubbing off the dead lacquer also will remove the red tarnish at the same time so you solve both problems at once.
Either way, just leave the brass raw and it will take on a light golden tan patina that to me looks great along with the remaining lacquer. Here's a Martin that was 'dipped' in tarnish remover during an overhaul. I love how the raw engraving stands out on the background of original lacquer.

 

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Ya'll are great. Thanks for the responses! I'll make the day journey to check it out. It's a five-digit and the price I think is worth KM.
 

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This is indeed red rot, in that the zinc in the brass has been attacked and removed from the surface, leaving a surface of copper, which can more easily, on account of the surface being more microscopically porous than it was, harbour corrosive agents in the future, deepening the rot.

However being on the outside of the instrument it is very likely to be quite superficial. (Inside a trumpet that is not regularly cleaned, it can be regularly subject to fresh carbonic acid in the form of carbon dioxide dissolved in moisture, and eventually make a hole right through the rather thinner body of a trumpet, or other brass.)

Just because rot is superficial does not stop it being trot. It just stops one having to be quite as concerned.. Just remove it or be careful that the surface is not repeatedly exposed to more corrosive material.

It is also "acid bleed" in that it is likely caused by a corrosive material beneath the lacquering. That material is now likely to be exhausted.

All IMO of course.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hi Gordon,

In your opinion, would this condition scare you off an otherwise solid horn? Cheers.
 

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No. The damage is not significant other than cosmetic, but IMO it should reflect quite a lot in the price. (To deal with it properly would require a re-lacquer and repad/recork - the whole works - very expensive)
But some players are obsessed with appearance; either shiny new, or looking b**** old.
Personally I have newer horns and I like that they look nice. One of them has acid bleed somewhere. A shame. If I was more obsessed I might attempt to deal with it, but I am not good at feathering touch-up lacquer!
 

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Hi folks! I'm about to visit a VI tenor that has been locked in a case for forty years and I received the following picture yesterday.

Is this something that should worry me? Is this the infamous "red rot" that is going to cost me more than a headache?

Cheers and Gruß aus Deutschland,
Rick Detroit

View attachment 234658
I am pretty picky about the appearance of my horns, and - if that is the extent of corrosion on the horn - that would not bother me. It is likely either from the case, or from a stand.
 

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What I am curious about is the cause., I don't think it is from impacts. Yet it looks like a form of acid bleed but that only occurs where acid has been trapped under the lacquer, which really only happens adjacent to soldering. So how did a corrosive agent get under the lacquer in those spots? Did a worker sneeze acid over that area at the factory!
Or perhaps there are minute holes in the lacquer and also some corrosive agent in the case lining, in contact with those holes.
 

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I have seen this form of “ acid bleed" before at least twice on Two more modern Selmer’s for sale.

The entire saxophone body and also keys had developed, here and there this kind of thing ( It looked like it was a human affected by some skin disease) and looked like minute droplets of something had been trapped under the lacquer and reacted with the metal after time.

My idea was that that had happened right before or during the lacquer process. This could be due to impurities of the lacquer or some aerosol present in the air in the spray area.

When I saw those two SA 80 sopranos , I left them there because it was an extensive damage. If it would have been this limited I would have bought them (and would have got a better price than a sax without that defect)

Anything detracts from the price but I personally wouldn’t bother too much if this is all there is.

As a person whom has sold a several horns I know that there are some buyers whom would only consider something pristine as if it one has a time machine and cold go back in time when this came out from the factory.

This horn wouldn’t be for one them. For all the others whom accept that , in the real world, things are as they are this would be a perfect buy. One can remove the lacquer only in this spots, and touch the thing up. It won’t be absolutely invisible though..Or you can just let it be (or let it bleed?).
 
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