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Keilwerth, H-Couf and Amati History

66831 Views 67 Replies 37 Participants Last post by  JayeLID
This is a bit of the Keilwerth history that I've found scattered across a couple of websites. It's incomplete. I'll be publishing the full version on my website in a bit. Please add to it or dispute it if you have further information.


By 1920, Johann Keilwerth, Julius' father, was active already in the building of woodwind instruments in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia.

Johann had three sons Max, Richard and Julius (1894 - 1962).

After his apprenticeship, Julius Keilwerth first worked for the Kohlert company in Graslitz.

Julius and Max established their own workshop -- in their home -- around 1925. They primarily manufactured saxophones for the Adler company.

After end of World War II in 1945, the Keilwerth company was "expropriated" (or "nationalized") and the workshops in Graslitz were taken over by the Czech collective combine, Amati. After this "expropriation", Julius Keilwerth fled to Nauheim, Germany and dared a new start with a large facility in 1947. This company was handed over in 1962 to Julius' son, Josef Keilwerth, and was then sold in 1989 to the French company Buffet (from the group of firms owned by Boosey & Hawkes).

From approximately 1970 on, Keilwerth concentrated exclusively on the building of saxophones.

Before the Second World War drove Julius out of Grasliz, Keilwerth produced saxophones under the four model designations Toneking Special, Toneking, The New King and King. After the move to Nauheim the models produced were the Toneking Special, Student [The New King], and Toneking Exclusive.

The New King, already well-known from Graslitz, was built until 1970.

In 1987, the Peter Ponzol model was introduced. The Toneking gave way to the SX90 and the New King gave way to the EX90 (and at the beginning of the 1990's, the ST90).

Around 1992, the ST90 Series II appeared (the ST90 III and IV are now offered) and the high-quality Peter Ponzol model gave way to the SX90R.

The brother of Julius Keilwerth, Richard Keilwerth, worked from 1945 to 1951 with Amati to integrate the Grasliz-based portion of his father's company.. He has since moved to Germany and manufactures flutes and clarinets in addition to saxophones. The saxophones are offered under the designation 102 to 105.

Max Keilwerth (1898 - 1968) likewise began his career in Graslitz, where he manufactured saxophones in his home for the Adler company, in Markneukirchen, Germany.

Starting in 1923, Max Keilwerth developed the saxophone department for the Graslitz-based company F.X. Hueller. In 1925, this company became independent, but Max still supplied saxophones to his former employers, Adler and Hueller, from 1925 until the early 1930's.

After the Amati expropriation of Keilwerth in 1945, Max Keilwerth worked for Amati for a short time, but left for Trossingen, Germany in 1949 and began building saxophones for the Hohner company.

These horns were manufactured until about 1967 under the model designation "Hohner President".

(From Translated by Transliterated by saxpics.)
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Amati History

The Czech firm collective combine Amati was created in 1946 after the "expropriation" of Keilwerth's workshops in to Graslitz (or, in Czech, Kraslice).

Amati's workers were recruited predominantly from former resident instrument farmer companies, such as F.X. Hueller, Kohlert and Keilwerth.

Amati saxophones built after the war and into the 50's retained the name Toneking, which by Julius Keilwerth had originally used. After the 1950's, the model names became Classic and Classic Super.

Since the beginning of the 90's, Amati used model names like "23" and "62", similar to those used by Yamaha.

(From Translated by Transliterated by saxpics)
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H-Couf History

Herbert Couf was the vice-president of the W. T. Armstrong company for many years. From approximately 1965 to beginning of the 80's, Mr. Couf stencilled three models from Keilwerth under the model name "H-Couf": the "Superba I", "Superba II" and "Royalist". These instruments were built in Germany and corresponded (to a large extent) to the Toneking Special (Superba I) and Toneking (Superba II) -- both were pro models and featured a high F# key. The Royalist was the intermediate model, without high F# key, and roughly corresponded to the Keilwerth New King model. Besides these horns, there were other saxophones produced under the label name "Armstrong", for which Keilwerth supplied the body. Later "Armstrong" saxophones were then built by the Armstrong company alone (these were student-model instruments).

Recent instruments, since Armstrong belongs to the UMI company, are built in Nogales, Arizona and are identical to the equivalent Conn models.
(From Translated by Transliterated by saxpics.)


In the years 1965 - 1986 Julius Keilwerth delivered The New King, Toneking and Toneking Special saxophones with the engraving H. Couf to the USA. Initially they were sent to Herb Couf, later to the company W.T. Armstrong.

The models compare as follows: The New King (student model) = H. Couf Royalist (only alto and tenor), Toneking (professional model) = H. Couf Superba II (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass) and Toneking Special (professional, top model) H. Couf Superba I (only alto and tenor). The Superba I was the top model with rolled toneholes and sophisticated keywork.

All H. Couf saxophones had the additional engraving "Made by Julius Keilwerth in West Germany." All Couf saxophones were identical with the original Julius Keilwerth saxophones. We made about 10,000 saxophones with the H. Couf engraving.

(From the Boosey & Hawkes Keilwerth Discussion Board)

PLEASE NOTE: this information is definitely incomplete. For instance, there are obviously Superba I baris. They were special order.
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Hi saxpics,

I see you found the few German bits on the Keilwerth history on the web. There's a book on the beginnings of musical instrument building in Graslitz (by G. Dullat), copies of which regularly pop up on German Ebay. I always wanted to check whether one of the libraries here in Hamburg has a copy and see whether it's worth the expense.

From a mail sent to my by Gaby Kerrmann of the Boosey customer service (translated by me):

"... the model "Solist" was the best Keilwerth at the time, hence the pearls. The New King was the standard model, the Toneking was the pro model. Later (1956) there was the Toneking Special also, which was even more luxurious"

I got this in reply to an enquiry about a Toneking (engraving on bell) with the model designation "Solist" (stamped below the old JKG trade mark). Serial No. is 8008. Unfortunately, the horn is in an unspeakable state, looks as if it had been literally fished from the sewer. Rods corroded in place, bent, posts knocked off and partly but back on with plumber's lead etc... If it wasn't a Keilwerth, I would have turned it into a lampshade without regret. It's partly disassembled now, but once I get 'round to at least clean off the dirt it's covered in, I'll send you some pics.

What's special about that model is that it has split bell keys and pearls on all keys. Rolled tone holes and microtuner (missing the barrel) as well, of course. Wire keyguards, LH pinky cluster very Conn-like, including a cross-hatched pearl inlay on the G-sharp key.

The models called "King" must have been the very earliest Keilwerths, I guess. There was one on German Ebay lately, split bell keys and wire keyguards, if I remember correctly.

The daugther of a colleague of mine recently bought a Toneking in the 10k serial range, designated "Modell 2" below the trade mark. Right-hand bell keys with ordinary sheet metal guards. I got a bit of a bad conscience when I saw the horn, because she asked me whether she should go for it. The seller had told her it was about 30 years old, and she could only remember it had sheet metal key guards, not the wing, so I was really surprised when I saw the serial number. Needless to say, she didn't really get a bargain because the horn needs a complete adjustment...

Btw.: anyone have an idea what will happen to the Keilwerth forum? As it seems, Boosey have taken all pages of their former instruments division off the net.
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Thanks for the info! I think I'll have the best researched Keilwerth 'site on the web! Wish I could speak German, though.

Boosey and Hawkes recently had a reorg (within the past month or so). Their musical instrument division is now called "The Music Group" and have relocated to

The Keilwerth Forum is still accessible through this website at
My conclusion:
KW - The New King = Student horns
KW - Toneking (special) = Pro horns

Is this (allways) true :?: (also for the pre war horns)
Definitely not!

The New King was a pro model, just lacking an altissimo F# key. The New King became "intermediate" or "student" in the early 60's.
I've had a couple dozen mid to late 60's new kings here, some mine some customers... I don't know how anyone could call them intermediate or student. they are identicle to the tonekings, except they lack the high F# key. I have measured them for bore, compared metal quality and workmanship... i find they are pro quality all the way. and sound, they are just as powerful as expected.
It looks like the name will continue to follow the brand.

I bought a the New King off German ebay, and the information that I got with it and which I think backs up what is said here is that the 'level' of the different models altered, due to movng tha factory/different sons etc.
The one I have is serial no. 26000 or so, with rolled tone holes and the metal guard. Quality and mechanism seems very solid, distinctive strong sound, but whether it is the 'Pro'/'intermediate'/student model or not I couldn't tell without playing the other models.
Artmstrong Soprano Model 3091 Serial 80591

I picked up this little horn for cheap real good condition put a Ponzol M1-65
mouthpiece and a Bari Soft Plastic Reed on it and well its okay "Being A Poorboy WannaBe" and all, I was wondering if anyone had some info on it I'm almost certain it's just a student model horn but is it an american made horn ? What year of manufacture ? I saw a little piece on the Kielworth site that said if you input an Armstrong serial into there database and it returns a valid date of manufacture which mine did "1979" it was made by Kielworth, is this true ? Any help appreciated.
I have heard conflicting stories on that, but mostly opinions seem to be that they are not made at the keilwerth factory. More than that I can't say, as even keilwerth replys with conflicting answers. they do always agree on one thing, if it has the jk logo with something like best in the world / made in germany, it is a keilwerth.
Thanks Sarge

Thanks for the input, Well at least its better than the last $400 horn I had its was a King "HN White" nice horn played great but it was so old it kept breakin all the time, guys here in town wanted like $600 bucks to overhaul it. So i bought this payed to much probly $800 but its like in mint condition. When I run the scales on the tuner its real good in middle register but man on the bottom end it goes flatter than a fritter good thing God gave me a good ear cant read music "much just a little" got kicked out of band for improvin in school ;). Got my Ponz mouthpiece jammed all the way in, top register I tend to really bear down but Ive been fightin that habit for like well 25yrs or so....
How do the king tempos relate into the history of keilwerth?

My Armstrong

Well heck with it I dont care were it came from ;) This litlle sucka WaLeS... Only bummer is my expensive Ponzol m1-65 sounds terrible on it but I put an ole selmer on it with a bari plastic reed and a rovner it sounds like a freakin trumpet.... I like it. and didnt have to trade a testicle to get it..
In case anyone hasn't found them yet, the Keilwerth ( and all other B&H forums ), are all at -

Regards, Alan.

( have a 90K JK Toneking Exclusiv tenor - I always thought that my 'The Martin' tenor was solidly built, but this JK..........! )
russps said:
How do the king tempos relate into the history of keilwerth?

I am just echoing this question because I am curious (and I have a bari that I am slowly realizing how fabulous mit is)
King Tempo=Armstrong Heritage=Bundy=H-Couf Royalist=Keilwerth New King "IV"

I've mentioned (and maintain) that these "intermediate/student" Keilwerths may have been made with lower quality materials and/or quality controls. Indeed, one starts to wonder why the New King model changed from being advertised as a pro model to an intermediate one.

Take a peek at
In reference to the H Couf history - they also made Superba I sopranos - I've got one! They don't have rolled tone holes, like the tenor and altos, and I don't have a clue how they differ from the Superba II's
keilwerth, H-couf, Amati history

Can anyone tell me how the Dorfler Jorka (sp?) horns fits into this picture. I purchased a "The National" alto saxophone that some folks have said is a DJ horn much like the Voss. It apparently has a JK body with different keywork. Has rolled tone holes but says made in Western Germany, not JK best in the world. I understand that the DJ company was bought out by JK at some point later. When was the buyout? What is the quality of this horn? Anyone know if this is the same body as the New King/Toneking horn?
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