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Discussion Starter #1
Read an article about how guitar lacquer has changed since the days of the first Stratocaster. Fender was using nitrocellulose which I believe they stopped doing in the late eighties because of health concerns. Now they use a polyeurothane. The nitrocellulose is raved about as aging much nicer and fading wherein the new lacquer chips and is much harder and more brittle, so much to the extent that Fender has brought the lacquer back on some models.

I have noticed in modern Selmers more finish discoloration and chipping anomalies in pictures I’ve seen when they begin to age. Now I know that guitar lacquer is very different, but it seems just from the pictures, that VI’s and VII’s tend to fade to bear brass rather than patch up and the lacquer seems thinner and easier to wear down. Can anyone offer an explanation as to whether or not Selmer has changed their lacquer and whether there is any validity to assuming that lacquer back in the day just ages nicer than the stuff of the nineties to today? Or is it just because they’re older?
 

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I'm sure there are experts here who know a lot more than I do about it but I do know you can't compare nitrocellulose lacquer on a guitar or a vintage roadster to the clear lacquer used on saxophones. They are two different animals, so to speak.
 

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Very possible. The primary driver for their lacquer process is quick, flaw-free application, and then durability, colorfast, etc. You'd think once someone like Dupont develop a formula, they'd just stabilize it. But, it actually changes, even for the same part number, just like auto paint or anything else. Sometimes its about availability of constituents, sometimes economy of constituents, EPA, etc.

Different makers' apply it differently too, which adds another variable. One of the darkest aging lacquers you will see, are the Conn 50Ms, which were altos made in Nogales in the 60's. Mine is nearly brown, with some blue and green iridescence. I've seen others and they look the same. Some old Bueschers have that great golden brown, maybe my favorite patina. And then there's that bright gold that Conn favored in the later decades like the 60's, that seems to wear like iron, and doesn't darken. Selmers seem to darken handsomely.
 

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Very possible. The primary driver for their lacquer process is quick, flaw-free application, and then durability, colorfast, etc. You'd think once someone like Dupont develop a formula, they'd just stabilize it. But, it actually changes, even for the same part number, just like auto paint or anything else. Sometimes its about availability of constituents, sometimes economy of constituents, EPA, etc.

Different makers' apply it differently too, which adds another variable. One of the darkest aging lacquers you will see, are the Conn 50Ms, which were altos made in Nogales in the 60's. Mine is nearly brown, with some blue and green iridescence. I've seen others and they look the same. Some old Bueschers have that great golden brown, maybe my favorite patina. And then there's that bright gold that Conn favored in the later decades like the 60's, that seems to wear like iron, and doesn't darken. Selmers seem to darken handsomely.
I remember a Conn ad from the 70s showing acetone being poured over the "lacquer" without damage. That finish was basically indestructible.

I expect that most manufacturers are now using something similar, with various tints as per the individual manufacturer's choice. I think that the aging pattern seems more to be that little spots fail causing a speckled or "measles" appearance whereas the older less durable finishes tended, as noted, to wear thin in areas of constant contact.

Silver plating is still, I believe, the most durable, if you get a good thick plating, as you don't get the measles phenomenon.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm sure there are experts here who know a lot more than I do about it but I do know you can't compare nitrocellulose lacquer on a guitar or a vintage roadster to the clear lacquer used on saxophones. They are two different animals, so to speak.
Not comparing so to speak, I was just offering an anecdote to add color to the discussion. I’d like to know if others agree with my hypothesis that current lacquer on horns is thicker and more protective at the cost of prettier aging so to speak, and maybe even get some science about the reasons why.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Very possible. The primary driver for their lacquer process is quick, flaw-free application, and then durability, colorfast, etc. You'd think once someone like Dupont develop a formula, they'd just stabilize it. But, it actually changes, even for the same part number, just like auto paint or anything else. Sometimes its about availability of constituents, sometimes economy of constituents, EPA, etc.

Different makers' apply it differently too, which adds another variable. One of the darkest aging lacquers you will see, are the Conn 50Ms, which were altos made in Nogales in the 60's. Mine is nearly brown, with some blue and green iridescence. I've seen others and they look the same. Some old Bueschers have that great golden brown, maybe my favorite patina. And then there's that bright gold that Conn favored in the later decades like the 60's, that seems to wear like iron, and doesn't darken. Selmers seem to darken handsomely.
In the case of your Conn do you think that lacquer was just en Vogue in the 60’s? A lot of companies seem to be doing a version of “vintage lacquer” which is just cognac color, but some early VI’s seem to carry nearly this exact color though appeared honey gold when new. Do you think Selmer has abandoned this lacquer in its newer horns, none of which seem to carry the cognac color with age? There’s also the topic of the way it wears... Does your Nogales-made 50m wear any different from your other horns?
 

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In the case of your Conn do you think that lacquer was just en Vogue in the 60’s? A lot of companies seem to be doing a version of “vintage lacquer” which is just cognac color, but some early VI’s seem to carry nearly this exact color though appeared honey gold when new. Do you think Selmer has abandoned this lacquer in its newer horns, none of which seem to carry the cognac color with age? There’s also the topic of the way it wears... Does your Nogales-made 50m wear any different from your other horns?
I think lighter brighter was a thing at one time, but now age and patina are a thing. I'd say some wanted a reddish gold, while others wanted a yellow gold.

View attachment 225614
View attachment 225616
 

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In the world of electric guitars, lacquer that is cracked, discolored, or patchy is highly prized; many new guitars are sold pre-relic'd with simulated wear & damage. I think this preference started as a quick & easy way for players to fake the street cred of years spent gigging in rowdy roadhouses. By now, the look has lost all semiotic meaning & is just a convention unto itself.

I'm old-school. Me & my horns have earned our scars, & every scar tells a story.
 

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Many horns are still finished in nitrocellulose lacquer. Yamaha has perfected a really long-lasting finish which mixes in a form of epoxy. I believe B&S may also have used this before they stopped making saxophones.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Here’s some images to help me explain a little bit more clearly. Older high end horns (we will use Selmer here) have a honey gold lacquer and as it ages it tends to go cognac and fall apart in nice weathered streaks especially around the engraving.

View attachment 225726 View attachment 225724

Comparatively, the Super 80’s from the 90’s tend to crack and show all kinds of copper splotching and the lacquer doesn’t appear to discolor in most cases.

View attachment 225730 View attachment 225732

Is this just a difference caused by more advanced aging or heavier plastics in the lacquer or perhaps climate/humidity? Anyone have any expertise in lacquering?

Here’s a comparative of the nitro vs. poly in guitars. The clear lacquer yields similar results as the aforementioned aging in the sax pictures.

View attachment 225734 View attachment 225736
 

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… Anyone have any expertise in lacquering?
Yes, i have lacquer finished guitars and ukuleles. Also, a vintage saxophone neck. That's why I answered you about Yamaha's long-lasting finishes. It seems you are asking about Selmers in particular. They may have changed their formulation or method of applying the lacquer over the years. You would have to ask them.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yes, i have lacquer finished guitars and ukuleles. Also, a vintage saxophone neck. That's why I answered you about Yamaha's long-lasting finishes. It seems you are asking about Selmers in particular. They may have changed their formulation or method of applying the lacquer over the years. You would have to ask them.
I’ve noticed Yamaha’s lacquer seems to keep a little better than other horns and stay very bright. Do they use this epoxy mixed lacquer on their whole line or just the pro models?
 

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Yamaha uses epoxy lacquer where Selmer, Yanagisawa, Keilwerth and I'm sure others as well, use traditional lacquer
 

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I’ve noticed Yamaha’s lacquer seems to keep a little better than other horns and stay very bright. Do they use this epoxy mixed lacquer on their whole line or just the pro models?
I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s their whole line.
 
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