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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi,

Sorry to pollute the forum with my rant, but I have to let this go.

I live in Toronto and I'm very interested in buying old saxophones and try to fix them (when possible, I mean regarding my personal skills). It's really an interesting sport and I'm enjoying it even more because soon I'll have to go back to my country (France) where we don't have such a big market with used/antique instruments (and where prices are awfully high).

Of course I'm not the only one who likes to do that.

Actually some people think they can buy a cheap horn in a garage sell, and think they can repair it and sell it for much more, and maybe they're thinking about making a living out of it. Here, I say STOP.

Here's my story: a week ago a guy posted an ad on craigslist. He's selling a Tenor Martin from 1930-ish for $380 (Canadian dollars). I thought "cool!" I love the Martin saxes (I have a wonderful Alto from 1926). I thought I'd be able to lower down the price a lot if it's not in very good shape.

Thus I answered the ad. The guy replied with a very long email, stating he is a piano technician, but repairs horns and sells them. He also mentioned he's the cheapest in Toronto. So I thought that $380 for a fully overhaul Tenor Martin is a damn good price.

Yesterday evening I jumped on my bicycle, rode for about 15km (sorry, don't know how much it is in miles), arrived sweating but happy at his place.

What a surprise when I saw the poor horn. OMG, I never saw an "overhauled" thing like that. So much play on the keys. The rod inside the side Bb was probably well bent because the key was really hard to open. About 5 dents on the body (that can be "easily" removed, actually). Positive thing, though: there seemed to be no leak from the pads, and the pads seemed brand new. Okay, bravely I started to put the sax on the neckstrap and started to push the mouthpiece on the neck. What a surprise, the neck-tenon wasn't holding anything (moving in every direction: left to right and up and down!!!). Holding firmly the neck I managed to put on the mouthpiece. Tried to play a little bit. I was actually surprised that it played not too bad (with respect to the bad shape it's in)... until I tried a side-C. What a surprised: a horrible noise instead of the side-C.

Oh, I didn't mention: This Tenor is with the funny mechanism for side-C and high E: There are only two side keys and the higher one is for both side-C and high E (really funny feature from Martin). But for it to work there's a little tricky piece of metal that holds the high E pad closed when LH1 is depressed. Logical. But on that poor horn, the tricky piece of metal was too bent to achieve its function. So no side-C. I started talking with the guy. I'm in no case a technician, not even close; I just love mechanics and woodwind mechanics in particular, so I know a few things about instrument repairs. I told the guy to bend that rod, to unbend the side-Bb one. He just wouldn't listen/understand. HE WOULDN'T BELIEVE ME WHEN I TOLD HIM THAT SOME METAL PARTS NEED TO BE BENT, and that's what repairmen do!!! I was really pissed-off.

At the end I asked him if his price was firm he said YES. What a stupid fool. His horn is worth $80, not $380.

My bottom line is: Please, you amateur, please, don't think you can buy a cheap horn, just change the pads (not matter how expensive your leak light is) and think you can sell it for a lot more and think you can make some money out of it. Because you're just wasting everybody's time, you're wasting some potentially good horn, you're just a useless little $#!%#@%. If you recognize yourself, please do something about your life.

I'm ranting because the exact same thing happened to me about a month ago.

I feel better now, thanks for reading!

Cheers,
-Qwerti.
 

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The other side of the coin, so to speak. I am an amateur repairman. I don't even play Sax, or Clarinet. Yes, I can make noise come out, but I am not a woodwind player. However, I've spent much of my life repairing complex things, and woodwinds aren't particularly difficult. There are a few places where multiple valves are managed by one key, and where key height is critical, but for the most part, repairing woodwinds has been realtively easy for me.

I've sold 9 horns that were refurbished by me for a bit more than I paid for them, including my materials cost. I am NOT in this to make money! I am in this to keep old Martin, King, LeBlanc, Yamaha, and Buscher horns playing. One of those has come back to me with a request for a repair to a cork that was installed wrong by my. Completely my fault, and redone with apologies.

Now, I've watched 'pro' repair shops that couldn't figure out the tension on a spring was causing the rod to stick, and they just kept fiddiling with the rod to the point where they stripped the pivot-screw! Argh! I've also seen solder jobs that looked like they were done with a 200amp Lincoln welder, argh!

this type of job takes lots of time, patience, and an understanding of mechanical efficiency. It does not take a lot of book-learning. So, I say any of you ametuer repairmen, buy a grungy old Martin or Buscher off ebay. Start with a C-mel, cause - let's face it, no one cares if you wreck a C-mel. Take it all apart, put it together a few times. Get some simple tools, and a very good set of jewelers screwdrivers and get started.

I will agree that it's not okay to try making a big profit on this. There are several jobs that I leave to the shop. One is removing dents from the body. I can take out medium dents and dings from the bow and bell, but the body is hard to work around, and you can bend other things easily.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hey docmirror,

Of course there are "good" amateurs (like me! lol).

At least you probably know what you're doing, you probably know what you know (very important), you probably know what you don't know (even more important), and probably don't sell a junk for $380.

My point is really the following:

DON'T THINK THAT YOU JUST NEED TO CHANGE PADS TO MAKE AN ANTIQUE JUNK BECOME A PRO HORN.

You probably know that, docmirror. I hope.

I agree woodwinds aren't difficult to repair compared to other things. But you need to have some basic knowledge, some common sense. And you need to keep my point in mind.

About pro-repair shops... well, it's not hard to claim oneself to be a pro. I could open a shop tomorrow and say I'm a pro. We have a saying in France: "The clothes don't make the monk", meaning that somebody who wears monk's clothes ISN'T necessarily a monk. Oh, really? Do you have an equivalent in English?

Cheers,
-Qwerti.
 

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Qwerti, you're absolutely right on two points. Just changing the pads is NOT an overhaul, unless everything else on the horn is working perfectly. Also, to advertise a horn as "overhauled," when it clearly hasn't been is simply false advertising.

OTOH, regarding value or the price asked for a horn, that is somewhat subjective and subject to market value. $380 for a post-'20s top-name vintage tenor (such as a Martin) would be a very low price if the horn was in excellent playing condition. It may be a reasonable price for a horn in the condition you describe. Still, it doesn't excuse advertising the horn as "overhauled." He should have said "new pads, but in need of work." Then asking $380 might be reasonable. Which is not to say he'd get that price.
 

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" you probably know what you don't know (even more important), "

Yes, this is a very true statement. I do know when to get help. My son is useful with his tuner in the intonation issues. These take a while, and when I get it as good as I can, I always worry that the next player won't have the same chops as my son and will complain about the voice, or intonation.

so far, it hasn't happened but I wonder if the buyer of the horn had to take it to a shop for 'tuning' because of change in MPC, or embucher, or even sinus difference.

As for prices, I have one for sale now at over $600, and have had some modest interest. If it doesn't sell at that price, I'll drop it down later, and someone will buy it at a mutually agreed price. I bought the poor thing in a pawn shop because it was an unlacquered horn, and that's one of the areas that I don't want to get involved in, stripping and recoating the lacquer. I could do it, but it takes a lot of time, and rarely pays off with higher price. Most players consider a relacquer like a playing well-used condom......
 

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I'd have asked what their interpretation of the meaning of an "overhaul" was. This can vary widely in regards to terminology and work done from store to store and from tech to tech. Much of the answer is depending on their skills, tooling, and understanding/definition of an overhaul. I have heard experienced techs debate this issue also amongst themselves. :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi JL,

About the price... Well, I believe that $380 is way to high for that horn.

What I believe is that antique wind instruments are not worth a lot UNLESS they are in perfect playing shape (and that means much more that just new pads). Because you're very likely to spend over $400 for an overhaul. Then, being "vintage" or "antique" or whatever-you-call-it doesn't mean much for woodwinds; we're not in the guitar world where prices rise with time. Woodwinds prices tend to decrease with time, with notable exceptions of course.

Then, for this special case of a Martin Tenor, it depends where you classify Martin horns. I believe that Martin saxes are WAY underrated in general. I believe that $380 would be a very good price for a perfectly working and overhauled Martin Tenor. Would be a so-so price if minor adjustments were to be made. But is a rip-off for the state I found the horn in. Now that's my opinion and it is based on the "good deals" I come across regularly (not talking about ebay here). For example, I got my 1926 Martin Alto for $130 (Canadian dollars); it had a few bent keys and needed re-springing and changing all the pads :p but was really sound, over all. That was a "good deal".

Now as you said, all this is subjective...............................................

But that's not my main point anyways.

Cheers,
-Qwerti.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
These are all assumed risks when trolling for vintage horns. Bet ya most folks here would have still bought that horn at that price.
I can give the email of that guy to whoever wants it!!!

Cheers,
-Qwerti
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'd have asked what their interpretation of the meaning of an "overhaul" was. This can vary widely in regards to terminology and work done from store to store and from tech to tech. Much of the answer is depending on their skills, tooling, and understanding/definition of an overhaul. I have heard experienced techs debate this issue also amongst themselves.
I bet that they'll all agree that overhauled at least includes:

* Not bent Bb side-key;
* The funny side-C/High E in working condition;
* Neck tenon adjusted;
* Horn playable.

Otherwise you'd better change technician.

Cheers,
-Qwerti.
 

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Even one needing an overhaul, being a tenor, is going to bring in around $500 on Ebay. Anyone here interested though would have already been to Craig's List to look it up themselves. Welcome to the forum Qwerti.
 

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"Overhauled" means absolutely nothing, unless you know the reputaion/workmanship opf the person who did it.
 

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Qwerti said:
I bet that they'll all agree that overhauled at least includes:

* Not bent Bb side-key;
* The funny side-C/High E in working condition;
* Neck tenon adjusted;
* Horn playable.

Otherwise you'd better change technician.

Cheers,
-Qwerti.
For a small fee anything can be arranged, and I'll bet you those little expectations are gonna cost you a little extra. That aside, isn't the monetary exchange rate between US/Canada at, or very close to, even par lately? :D
 

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JerryJamz2 said:
techs debate this issue also amongst themselves. :cool:
I debate with myself all the time what an overhaul is.... :)

JerryJamz2 said:
isn't the monetary exchange rate between US/Canada at, or very close to, even par lately? :D
A few days ago I happened to check and the Canadian dollar was more than the US dollar.
 

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There are plenty of qualified repairers that have spent three years on courses who still do a slap-dash job, and it's a wonder how they qualified when they haven't even mastered the basic skills.

Then once qualified, they 'repair' instruments.
 

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Qwerti said:
"The clothes don't make the monk", meaning that somebody who wears monk's clothes ISN'T necessarily a monk. Oh, really? Do you have an equivalent in English?
"You can't tell a book by its cover."
"A wolf in sheep's clothing."
 
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