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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am hoping to tap into the extensive collective knowledge base of everyone here to help with my first complete restoration. I have a King Zephyr bari ('54-'55 vintage) that was found in a dumpster and I want to restore it. I am planning to replace all the pads, cork, springs, felt, etc. In addition I will have to find a couple replacement rods, posts, and keys. I know a little, I did a complete repad on my alto, and would like to learn more. I would like to repair and restore instruments when I retire (just turn 32 next week so I have time to learn!) so this is a great first project for me.

Here are the first of what I'm sure will be many questions. The body, especially the upper end, has quite a few dents. I built a magnetic dent puller and it has worked great but can't get some of the dents in the smaller tube and the more dramatic ones. Is it worth trying to un-solder the main body joints so that I can remove the dents, or is this more of a dangerous proposition than I want to get into?

Because the horn is older the laquer is in fairly poor condition in many places and when I work on removing the dents it will often crack or leave tracks from the magnet/balls. I am assuming that there is not a way to fix the cracked laquer, besides stripping and re-laquering, is this correct? Is it worth re-laquering and is this something that can be done in a home shop?

I realize this is a HUGE project that most would say take to a professional, and I'm sure they would be right. However, I really want to learn this art, have lots of patience, am a tinkerer by nature, and am in no hurry to get this done.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Ethan
 

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Is it worth trying to un-solder the main body joints so that I can remove the dents,
Yes
is this more of a dangerous proposition than I want to get into?
Don't know you.
I am assuming that there is not a way to fix the cracked laquer, besides stripping and re-laquering, is this correct?
Yes.
Is it worth re-laquering
Yes.
is this something that can be done in a home shop?
Yes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Great! Thanks for the help. This forum has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me... let the fun begin!!! :thumbrig:
 

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Mmmmmm....I applaud your enthusiasm and best of luck with the project.

But if I may say so....not to be a wet blanket....I have been doing work for about 3 years now on saxes...lotsa work; over 200 or so on the table in that time. There are some things I am pretty good at...and others which I seriously wouldn't touch with a 10 ft. pole.

I understand you say you are in no hurry and are patient and are even good with these sorta mechanical type things. But, even with all of those positive attributes (and they are a MUST, for sure)...what one cannot compensate for... is experience.

Paul is right...the only way to get all of the dents out of a BigHorn is to unsolder either the upper or lower bows and work with rods, mandrels, balls. But holy cr#p.....how is your soldering skill ? Because you have to get everything back on, perfectly aligning the posts and such (some of which may well pop off when you apply enough heat to the joints in order to unsolder) and making sure that the seams are perfectly level with where they used to be.

This is a scope of work which is a real specialty...seems like no big deal, just resoldering everything back where it was before....but if you end up off by just a fraction, keys misalign.... and you may even perhaps alter the length of the entire path of air itself.

Also...as if I haven't said enuff already...when you ask "is it worth relacquering ?"....what do you mean ? Because if you paid someone for a pro lacquer job (this would include all of the requisite prep work on the body prior)...that's hella expensive and will exceed the value of the horn twofold, at least.

If...you plan on doing it yourself....once again I go back to a). It sounds and seems like it might be straightforward as a home job...but, oomph...there's really nothing worse than an amateur spray-lacquer refinish. Even getting just the horn prepped correctly to take lacquer...is a true art.
In the end it may look good for the first few months (if you are extremely talented or extremely lucky) but it isn't gonna age gracefully, for sure.

I guess it depends on what you are expecting in the end. If you don't mind the result being.....eh.......and the resale value being pretty low, and are just doing it for the experience, then go for it. But if what you want is something which really looks darn respectable when it's all through, and functions as well as it did once upon a time....it's a hella lot to bite off.

I am not dissuading you, necessarily. I am always one for urging folks to learn about sax construction and even do their own repair...but this job as you have described it is nothing less than a BEAR.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
JayeSF, thank you for the honest appraisal of the project. I have no delusions that this is going to be easy, and I think calling it a BEAR is probably an understatement! I know that it will never be back to perfect condition, because as you said the cost would far exceed the value of the horn. My goal is to get it back to a respectable playing instrument and something that I can be proud to have brought from the dumpster to the stage. I am not willing, or able, to put huge sums of $$ into the project and therefore can't pay a professional.

My soldering skill thus far are limited to electrical circuit boards and wiring (work on lab monitors and rc helicopters) so as far as saxophones go I have never soldered a thing... but I am going to learn!

I am undecided on the lacquering. I know it is a big project with the potential to ruin an instrument. This will be assessed once I get all the dents out and do a lot more research. You said it would not age gracefully, is this a function of re-lacquering in general or of amateur re-lacquering?

Thanks again.

~ Ethan
 

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If your going to relaquer it yourself, then go for it, but dont set a high expectation, re laquering a horn is actually quite difficult to get to look right. Simply strip the old lacquer of, run over it with some fine steel wool, then go and get an off the shelf brass clear coat spray can and spray it, leave it at that, to go from this point to a really decent job, will cost you easily a thousand just in equipment, and then you will still gt probably the same result as out of the spray can for the first 20or so saxes

I say the steel wool and not buffing, becuase buffing is whole new wolrd again where you can spend a fortune, how ever using steel wool will give you the brushed effect, plus it will given an even finish and it will provide a good surface keyed for the lacquer to hold onto, good option for first time
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Simso! I'll see how daring I am feeling when it comes time to relacquer. My father-in-law and brother-in-law refinish cars and have a good spray system that may work. I will probably get some scrap that I can practice on. I will definitely try the brass spray can, thanks!
 

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Simply strip the old lacquer off, run over it with some fine steel wool, then go and get an off the shelf brass clear coat spray can and spray it, leave it at that
I say the steel wool and not buffing, becuase buffing is whole new wolrd again where you can spend a fortune, how ever using steel wool will give you the brushed effect, plus it will given an even finish and it will provide a good surface keyed for the lacquer to hold onto, good option for first time
Hmmmm...OK, I can see I might start lookin' like the naysayer of this thread...but ...steel wool ?

Wow. I have seen enough of these sorta home jobs come thru here...you don't wanna do that. People intend on getting the "brushed effect" but honestly....again, unless one has done it several times, it isn't gonna end up looking good at all.

I would actually suggest just leaving it bare brass and going at it with a few hand-polishes.

1) Strip it with the lacquer remover....then

2) Chem bathe it in a homemade solution of warm water, white vinegar, and dissolved Barkeeper's Friend or Wright's Copper Cream, in a bathtub, then

3) Rinse well in the shower and wash with a soft sponge and some dish soap; rinse again and dry. Then

3) Hand polish (2 rounds): go at it with Wenol, then finish it up with Hagerty 100 (for a bright, mirror-like brass finish)

OR... go at it with Brasso, and finish it with Wenol (for a more matte, subtle-shine finish).

Quite honestly, a bare brass, polished horn will look 10 times better than a home-job steel wool-brushed and can-sprayed lacquer job.
The former will actually look quite impressive and with some luck will age and patina quite nicely.
 

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Delacquered, hand-polished and left to age
 

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Is it worth re-laquering and is this something that can be done in a home shop?
Besides the pros and cons mentioned and the cost to do a good relacquer, there is another consideration. Just for example, if you take the three looks of completely shiny lacquer finish, (even very) worn lacquer and bare brass with lacquer completey removed, only prefer one of those looks more than the others if there's a choise to buy it, relqauering never seems worth it to me (i.e. I don't think changing a sax from one of those looks to another is worth it). If you do care about one of those looks more than the others then you can see how important it is to you compared with effort and/or cost to do it. Relqauering, using steel wool, doing nothing, etc. etc. are all things you just have to consider, no one can say one option is better than another option.
 

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Well....I can say one option is better than the other in THIS instance; an instance where we have someone who has never ever done this sorta thing before.

Here's the gist of it:

Simso readily admits that it's not gonna look all that good right from the get-go. And the sort of finish he proposes is only going to look worse as the years (um, months) progress.... because a spray lacquer job is really not a very stable coating to begin with.

On the other hand, a stripping and hand-polishing to bare brass will look fantastic from the get-go, be less labor intensive (a huge plus for a newbie), has the likelihood of aging very handsomely...can be kept looking good simply with an occasional hand-polish using a bare-brass polishing cloth....and, even in the worst-case scenario of it NOT developing the kind of patina hoped for....it only needs a once-a year dis-assembly and re-polish to look great again.

Although the likelihood is fair to better that it will develop that nice sorta patina which contemporary makers try to emulate with their 'antique' and 'vintage' finishes.

Below are some images of the FIRST delacquer I ever did...having zero experience, on an old Buescher stencil.
First image is 'before', second is after the lacquer strip, third is after chem bath + Brasso + Hagerty, last is reassembled about 1 month later (keys were left lacquered, even though they only retained about 50%).

So, you can make things hard and complicated on yourself and achieve mediocre-at-best results....

.... or make things more manageable on yourself and achieve a pretty darn impressive looking finish in the end....
 

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The only reason I delacquered the Super 20 above is that the lacquer was about 75% gone, and the horn looked like it had been afflicted with measles in it's youth. The simplest way to get it looking 'decent' was strip and hand polish.
 

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Hi Ethan

I think all of us repairmen started by cliff diving.... so to speak, and there is NO substitute for hands on trouble :) Get dirty.... make mistakes and learn and get smart. I am sure you will learn a lot from your project. Maybe it won't end up as well as you hope, but the next project will be even better.

You will need a LOT of tools and money, but if you are determined to get it done your self - DO IT!

Don't be afraid to do it all. Dent removal using every tool out there. Solder skills you WILL need, so work on that. And when you are done take it to a pro shop and have a skilled professional do the fine-tuneing. He will also give you very important feedback as to how well you managed the task.

have fun and go for it.
 
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