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There are lots of re-lacquered vintage horns available to buy, such as Selmer Mark VIs, SBAs, and BAs, and they're all a fair bit less expensive than their original lacquered counterparts, even the horns where the original lacquer isn't in great shape.

What're people's experiences with playing re-lacquered horns? On average, do they not sound as good as horns with the original lacquer, or is it just the "all original" factor with original lacquer vintage horns.
 

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It only matters to the collectors. I have two re-lacquered Selmers that play great.
What seems more important is if they’re put back together correctly. The esthetics of the engraving being buffed down bothers me but doesn’t affect the way they play.
 

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The only thing to watch out for as I see it is that it wasn't buffed by an inexperienced technician rounding the ends of hinge tubes, and removing material from the tops of toneholes. It is part of "saxophone mythology" that re-lacquered saxophones are not as good acoustically or as valuable as those with original lacquer no matter how poor the condition is. In fact a saxophone that has been given both a mechanical and "cosmetic" overhaul by a skilled technician can be much better than one that is all original. It is to the buyer's advantage knowing this if "resale value" is not an important as getting a good playing saxophone at a good price. There are many techs who add the cost of "re-engraving" to the price of an overhaul, not to deceive the customer, but to help preserve the beautiful artwork of the original.
 

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The only thing to watch out for as I see it is that it wasn't buffed by an inexperienced technician rounding the ends of hinge tubes, and removing material from the tops of toneholes.
A friend of mine was trying to assist somebody in selling a relacquered Mark 6 a couple years ago. Some of the palm key tone holes were visibly dished because of overly aggressive buffing.
 

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Older horns were routinely relacqured as part of a standard factory overhaul and many working bands of the era required players to have shiny looking horns. These relacqs can be done extremely well and if so, can save a discerning buyer some serious money. I just bought a 43K sba relacq. It’s a monster and I got a sweet deal because of it is a relacq. Bottom line it plays great. No regrets here.
 

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It depends on who does it and how careful they are. Selmer in Elkhart used to do wonderful overhauls on Selmers without harming them. On the other hand I have seen dished tone holes*, over-buffing with very thin brass remaining, over-buffing with holes in the brass and washed-out engraving by many shops. In addition, all springs have to be removed so you lose what remains of the original set-up which is very hard to replicate. The 'balanced action' of a Selmer is dependent on spring tensions to have the right feel. Setting one up with new springs or even replacing the old springs is an art that few have. There are many more reasons for the de-valuing but you could say the biggest one is simply the risk of buying a botched-up mess that doesn't play worth crap. However, if you find one that looks good, showing good detail and engraving, no dished tone holes and the action feels good, it should be worth trying out. Personally, unless it was as good as a factory job and the horn played/sounded great, I would much rather find a used recent sax in excellent condition like a Series III or any of the other great horns available today.

* why is this important? A 'dished' tone hole has to be leveled, which means filing down the high areas to the lowest common denominator to make for a better pad seal. The tone 'chimney' has a certain height established over a hundred years of saxophone making, so you don't want them to be lower. Plus, some of the smaller/shorter holes really don't have any leeway to start with. One thing that can be done is to pull the low areas of the tone hole up by distorting the body around the tone hole with a 'puller', like hammering inside the bore. Here you're making changes to the bore in the affected areas but at least you're saving the 'chimneys', which still have to be filed at least some to flatten them after the work. But the fact is, when the tone holes are toast, the sax is done-for. This was actually one of the more important benefits to a sax with soldered-in tone holes, like a Martin. First, they were made of much thicker brass/bronze than the sax body, so they could take a lot more abuse from the buffing wheel without dishing. Second, at least when they were being made, the tone holes could be replaced!
 

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It depends on who does it and how careful they are. Selmer in Elkhart used to do wonderful overhauls on Selmers without harming them. On the other hand I have seen dished tone holes*, over-buffing with very thin brass remaining, over-buffing with holes in the brass and washed-out engraving by many shops. In addition, all springs have to be removed so you lose what remains of the original set-up which is very hard to replicate. The 'balanced action' of a Selmer is dependent on spring tensions to have the right feel. Setting one up with new springs or even replacing the old springs is an art that few have. There are many more reasons for the de-valuing but you could say the biggest one is simply the risk of buying a botched-up mess that doesn't play worth crap. However, if you find one that looks good, showing good detail and engraving, no dished tone holes and the action feels good, it should be worth trying out. Personally, unless it was as good as a factory job and the horn played/sounded great, I would much rather find a used recent sax in excellent condition like a Series III or any of the other great horns available today.

* why is this important? A 'dished' tone hole has to be leveled, which means filing down the high areas to the lowest common denominator to make for a better pad seal. The tone 'chimney' has a certain height established over a hundred years of saxophone making, so you don't want them to be lower. Plus, some of the smaller/shorter holes really don't have any leeway to start with. One thing that can be done is to pull the low areas of the tone hole up by distorting the body around the tone hole with a 'puller', like hammering inside the bore. Here you're making changes to the bore in the affected areas but at least you're saving the 'chimneys', which still have to be filed at least some to flatten them after the work. But the fact is, when the tone holes are toast, the sax is done-for. This was actually one of the more important benefits to a sax with soldered-in tone holes, like a Martin. First, they were made of much thicker brass/bronze than the sax body, so they could take a lot more abuse from the buffing wheel without dishing. Second, at least when they were being made, the tone holes could be replaced!
Well said. There is a way to salvage those ruined toneholes by filing what is left flat, and then soft soldering a brass ring the same diameter and thickness onto the "stub". It takes a lot of work and is certainly not as strong as an original, but in some cases it is preferable to scrapping an otherwise restorable vintage sax that only has 3 or 4 damaged toneholes.
 

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There are lots of re-lacquered vintage horns available to buy, such as Selmer Mark VIs, SBAs, and BAs, and they're all a fair bit less expensive than their original lacquered counterparts, even the horns where the original lacquer isn't in great shape.

What're people's experiences with playing re-lacquered horns? On average, do they not sound as good as horns with the original lacquer, or is it just the "all original" factor with original lacquer vintage horns.
Buffing a horn doesn't affect the way a sax plays at all unless they over buffed it and damaged the tone holes. Otherwise they play just like the ones that haven't been buffed. Saxophones simply don't vibrate enough to influence the sound. and by the way, Sonny Rollins played a relacquered 132XXX VI most of his career. Phil Barone
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Great explanation, thanks. Is it possible to tell if the tone holes have been dished from a photo? If so, what does that look like?
 

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It’s easy to tell from a photo but I doubt a seller would point it out.
I remember seeing a silver plated (I hate silver plate) Mark VI tenor for sale on eBay and the low EBlat had this issue . It looked like they try to compensate with a big flabby pad. You know that ain’t gonna work for long.
It wouldn't much “dishing” to create a troublesome leak.
There’s a repairman on here who explains his method of fixing tone hole problems by bringing them up from the inside which seems like the best way to go.
 

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As to the money thing, I wouldn't put 'serious' money into a relacquered sax unless it's your forever instrument.

I've rescued a few really great relacquered saxes. The last 2 were the Conn 10m that Leon got from me. It is a bauitiful pro shop or factory lac. There are some pics on my Facebook page. The other is this 1942 Martin Handcraft Standard Special.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/StuartSaxophone/photos/?tab=album&album_id=698761270221306

It is the perfect example of a truly great sax that can out price it's market value with even the most basic overhaul.
 

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As to the money thing, I wouldn't put 'serious' money into a relacquered sax unless it's your forever instrument.

I've rescued a few really great relacquered saxes. The last 2 were the Conn 10m that Leon got from me. It is a bauitiful pro shop or factory lac. There are some pics on my Facebook page. The other is this 1942 Martin Handcraft Standard Special.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/StuartSaxophone/photos/?tab=album&album_id=698761270221306

It is the perfect example of a truly great sax that can out price it's market value with even the most basic overhaul.
How would you define “serious money?” As thing are, you would already be getting relacquered horns for significantly less than comparable horns with the original lacquer.
 

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One of the best-playing horns I ever had a chance to try was a relacquered Mark VI that was then engraved by Don Menza (is there anything that man can't do?) The engraving was very ornate and beautiful, and included the key cups like on a super 20. It was relacquered in Los Angeles, I forget by whom, in the mid-70s. Around that time people stopped relacquering instruments so much, and it's very difficult now to get a relacquer done with that kind of attention to precision and detail.

I think that relacquer and engraving would have increased the value somewhat... the owner has since died, and I don't know what happened to the instrument.
 

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How would you define “serious money?” As thing are, you would already be getting relacquered horns for significantly less than comparable horns with the original lacquer.
I put the word serious in single quotes to emphasize that it is not a definite amount. It varies from person to person. But to illustrate, getasax has a nice relac 55 Mk6 for $7500. An original '62 can be had for that or less. If one wants to sell the 55 at some point, it may be more difficult an original.

Again, if it's your ideal instrument, price is not the issue.
 

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I put the word serious in single quotes to emphasize that it is not a definite amount. It varies from person to person. But to illustrate, getasax has a nice relac 55 Mk6 for $7500. An original '62 can be had for that or less. If one wants to sell the 55 at some point, it may be more difficult an original.

Again, if it's your ideal instrument, price is not the issue.
Got it. Personally, I would not spend (and have not spent) more than $5.5K on a horn, including any required repairs (I may consider stretching that threshold to $6K). I think in this current market, any price one pays beyond that range is just attributable to "collectors' premium" for certain attributes or dealer's profit margin, neither of which translates into any intrinsic incremental value. Of course it would be a different analysis if the buyer is in fact a collector.

Just wanted to note that any money paid for quality horns (even relacquered ones or ones with little to none of its original lacquer remaining) would qualify as "serious" money by most objective standards, since we're talking about a starting point of several thousand bucks.
 

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I just bought a re-relaquered 1938 Balance Action tenor for $3400. Original lacquer would be beyond what I could justify spending on another tenor. Worth every penny to me. It was done immaculately and the engraving was spared a hard buffing.
I’ve tried quite a few BA and SBAs over the years and never really cared for them. I’m a believer now.
 

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Got it....Just wanted to note that any money paid for quality horns (even relacquered ones or ones with little to none of its original lacquer remaining) would qualify as "serious" money by most objective standards, since we're talking about a starting point of several thousand bucks.
Actually, not that high. A relac'd Martin Handcraft with fresh pads might not fetch a grand. Straight tone hole Conns are another example. Even if done proactively with little buffing, it's still a relac. So, maybe serious money is $2000 and up :cool:

I had a BA tenor in the 70s and played an early one recently. Good find, whaler.
 
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