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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there,

I've been the proud owner of a number of horns for quite a while, but one of the gems in my collection is a 1971 Vito VSP (Yanagisawa) baritone - I absolutely adore this horn - paid $1800 (what a steal!) for it last year and the mechanics on it are flawless - absolutely beautiful sound and feel to it. Used it for both gigging and recording and it's been absolutely stellar. All in all, it's the perfect horn - except for the lacquering.

This horn has had two previous owners (to my knowledge) and the last owner had all the pads and springs completely overhauled in the mid-90s and then put the horn in storage for ages. However, the original lacquer has stayed with it, and I would estimate probably about only 20% of the original lacquer remains. The rest has obviously just been stripped away and the horn's been oxidizing - but the overall effect is that it makes it look really beat-up and not well maintained at all.

I've had comments from some profs and former teachers who said that the horn totally sounds and plays great, but that I would seriously want to consider a full relacquering, both to present a more professional look (as a young pro) and to increase the overall resale value of the horn, were I ever to give it up later on.

So I ask you - can anyone give me an estimate of what a full relacquering may cost? Or better yet, since I've heard that the relacquering of instruments can be a very touchy process indeed, would I be better off just having it stripped and left as bare brass?

Anyone's input would be greatly appreciated into this matter.

Thanks very much!

Nick Roy

PS. Avatar related - it's the horn in question. Unfortunately the B&W effect doesn't really give off the greatest impression of the lacquer.
 

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Welcome to the forum!

Honestly, it's next to impossible to give a re-lacquer quote because prices can vary quite a bit depending on who does it.

The thing about re-lacquering it (or stripping it) is that if you go that route, you will also need to have the sax completely overhauled. It's just impossible to salvage corks/felts/pads and strip/refinish a sax...at least if it's done well.

So really...you're looking at the cost of an overhaul + refinishing.

As far as looking more professional...I tend to scoff at that kind of statement, but unfortunately in some circles it rings true. While it should only matter how you sound, your profs/teachers might be right in that it would help project a more professional image.

And in terms of value, generally re-lacquering a sax actually lowers its value rather than increasing it. But that could be different where you're located.

In my opinion...if you really would like to have the lacquer stripped and get the horn re-lacquered I would wait until it needs an overhaul. Otherwise you'll have to have the sax unnecessarily overhauled just to make it shiny.
 

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...you can polish your horn...its actually easier with a bari IMHO because its easier to get around the rods Eddie Taylor is a class act here in Munich.. always dressed impeccably on a gig(really looks cool in his red jacket)...in his spare time he is always wiping his horn with a rag,and it looks GREAT!!! there is actually NO lacquer left on his horn
your horn being where it is will take a little effort to get presentable...but its only a few evenings work,and its better than the downsides of stripping and replating(the #1 downside being the buffing required)... I get a lot of mileage polishing my horn with a shoelace my repairman is always shocked at the beauty of horns ive bought on ebay for a steal...and then he finds out i spent the night before polishing it
if youve got green i use a Q-tip and caulk cleaner or lime-away then the rest is metal polish and elbow grease
sometimes relacquering doesnt stick either,and your back where you started anyways

my suggestion is your cheapest route too!!!!
 

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Both helpful answers, thanks to @VintageSaxGuy and @sirspinbad. I guess I've got a final question out of all this... how do you find different types of plating/lacquering affect overall sound of a horn? I've never been able to get a straight answer out of anybody (eg. with silver plated horns, for instance, I've heard that they can make a horn sound both brighter and darker), therefore I've never really known quite what to think about the whole deal. I suppose I'm just wondering - I like my sound and others like my sound right now, but would a stripping or relacquering change that dramatically?

I guess I'm just thinking - if my sound is diminished, obviously I won't have someone attempt this. But if it improves somehow, would leaving it stripped bare be better in the long run? As well, shoelaces are all well and good but are there any potentially faster ways to go about this? There's not really much green on the horn at all - it's brown where the lacquer has cracks running through it. I suppose I should post pictures and ask for advice.

Thanks again.

TL;DR will probably leave horn as is, but would stripping or relacquering change sound?
 

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Whether it's bare brass, lacquered, or plated...your bari will sound the same. The finish doesn't change the way a sax sounds.

I've changed the finish of a few saxes while I've owned them, with zero results.

Sometimes players will try horn A, perceive it to be brighter/darker/focused/spread than other saxes and then associate the qualities they hear to whatever random finish that sax has.

If you were to take 100 saxes of the same brand and model, split them up so that an equal percentage are lacquered, bare brass, silver, and gold plated...you would find that they all play differently. You would also find that a silver plated sax might sound similar to a gold plated sax...or a bare brass sax. The difference in sound many associate with the finish actually has to do with that exact sax, and not the finish covering it.

So while it won't make your sax sound worse, stripping also won't make it sound any better either.

Since your sax sounds like it's almost completely bare, you're probably used to it by now...and it doesn't seem like there's anything about it that really bothers you (some don't like the metallic smell, among other things)...so going the rest of the way (either intentionally, or letting it do its thing) is a potential way to go.

Here's my two cents about bare brass saxes (for what it's worth, and I have a few myself). If you're OK with oxidation, you don't mind the smell, and you can handle wiping it down to keep it relatively clean...go for it. If you want a sax that's always shiny, go for a new coat of lacquer. The oxidation is a layer of protection for the brass, and every time you polish it to make it shiny...you remove that protective layer. And continually using something abrasive to clean the sax removes a tiny amount of material from the sax as well (very tiny, but it can add up if you are constantly polishing).
 

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I see those horns go for anywhere between $1,300-$1,600 on Ebay; which is probably in the ballpark for what someone is going to charge you for an overhaul with relacquering. If you want a shiny horn, I'd say buy a shiny horn and don't take a chance messing up or devaluing the one you have.
 

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r it, you will need to replace all of the pads, corks and springs so adding all this with the cost of dent work and the lacquering, I would guess in the $1,500-2,000 range for a good job. I would either leave it alone or strip off the body lacquer yourself (keys off but you could probably leave the springs if you have plenty of bandages) and polish it to bare brass. Leave the key lacquer alone.
Bottom line, leave it like it is.
 

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…do you find different types of plating/lacquering affect overall sound of a horn?… would stripping or relacquering change sound?
Welcome to SOTW. There is probably no topic that has been covered more than this one (except for the question: what sax should i buy/is best). Nine out of ten people will say plating and lacquer have zero effect on the sound. It is the inside of the sax which is creating most of the character.

On valuable vintage saxes it is not recommended to re-lacquer, because it devalues the sax. With horns like yours, re-lacquering would not lower the value. On the other hand, if you are really set on having a shiny bari, buying a second-hand Yanagisawa B900 or B901 might not cost much more than lacquering and rebuilding your horn. These are the more modern versions of your sax.
 

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Folks are missing another alternative, however: you can just have the body refinished, leave the keys and keycups as-is for now; to be individually lacquered as the horn gets worked on in the future....

This would do an end-around the issue of having to replace the pads and such.....

I do agree with everyone else that a relacquer of even just the body will cost more than the value of the horn.

IF the lacq is really down to around 20%..you could also consider having the horn PLATED as opposed to relacquered. Quite honestly, it'll cost about the same for a good plating job as a good lacquer job. But then again, the VSP had lacq keys, so maybe that's not such a good idea after all....since the keywork would be brass and the body, Silver. Never mind....

But again, if you just relacquered the body, you'd save a lot of $ and you would get the aesthetic result you desire: a good looking, shiny horn. It will still run you a good dollar. Do you have a tech near you who can give you an estimate ?

I would usually suggest asking Doc Frazier at J & J, since he is a finish-master and his prices are good, too....but you are in CA, and I dunno if shipping the BigHorn to Loo-weeziana & back would blow the budget out of the water right there....
 

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IF the lacq is really down to around 20%..you could also consider having the horn PLATED as opposed to relacquered. Quite honestly, it'll cost about the same for a good plating job as a good lacquer job. But then again, the VSP had lacq keys, so maybe that's not such a good idea after all....since the keywork would be brass and the body, Silver. Never mind....
Silver body with lacquer keys is actually a pretty sharp look. If I were to have a horn refinished, that's how I would have it done.

Completely agree that if one is to go the refinishing route, plating is the way to go. A plated horn at least has a fighting chance to retain its value and a large portion of the cost of either a good relacquer or a plating is in the prep work, so plating could well come out ahead as a cost/value proposition. I once had a relacquer done on the cheap by a local hack, and the result was severely disappointing.

Yet another alternative is to remove the keywork, strip and polish the body, leaving the springs in place, and have the felts/corks on the body replaced. Working around the springs might be a reasonably humane proposition on a bari. You could go a step further and buff (not strip) the remaining lacquer off the key cups and polish them with a polishing cloth. The polishing cloth is safer than a liquid or cream polish around pads. That would be the cheap way to go, and the polished bare brass would look at least as good as any relacquer with the right maintenance. Or you might opt for some degree of tarnish after your prof oohs and aahs at your shiny horn. Here's a link to some advice for maintaining bare brass.

http://www.cybersax.com/QA/Q&A_BareMetalSaxes.html
 

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Silver body with lacquer keys is actually a pretty sharp look. If I were to have a horn refinished, that's how I would have it done.

Completely agree that if one is to go the refinishing route, plating is the way to go. A plated horn at least has a fighting chance to retain its value and a large portion of the cost of either a good relacquer or a plating is in the prep work, so plating could well come out ahead as a cost/value proposition.
That combo isn't my cup of tea, but granted, it has some popularity these days...and it does look interesting.

I agree...now that I've gotten some quotes from folks like Doc Frazier (as opposed to Anderson, for example) as far as Sliverplating....I think it is a much better alternative than relacquering. Partly for aesthetics, partly for durability, and partly for resale. The market logic (arguable at best) that a relacquered horn is devalued still holds sway today.

That argument becomes LESS valid with a horn which has been post-factory plated (assuming the job is good). It's significantly harder to argue that a good silverplating job makes the horn less valuable than leaving it w/ 25% lacquer and looking like hell....

I am also a fan of delacquered, bare brass horns...although on something with as much surface area as a BigHorn...I wouldn't be inclined to go that route....
 
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