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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
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I like watching the saxophones that go through eBay. Sometimes I'm looking for a bargain, something specific or I'm just looking and learning about different saxes from different time periods. And based solely from this sampling, I've noticed some interesting things about lacquer finishes.

First, Selmer Paris saxophones seem to have very poor lacquer. Even horns just a few years old will show flaking and corrosion at the sharper edges. And this kind of flaking and corrosion seems unique to the Selmer instruments. And even some older Mark VI saxes with the original lacquer in good shape show what appears to be fairly poor lacquer jobs.

True Buescher saxes from before the Selmer buyout seem to often have a crusty lacquer that has darkened with time. Usually there is corrosion where the engraving was cut through the lacquer and it then spreads, further deteriorating the crusty finish. However, the cheapened Bueschers after the buyout have a very good durable lacquer as do most Selmer USA saxes made in the 60's and 70's. And sadly, the Selmer USA lacquer seems to generally be the most durable of the American lacquer. Often beat-up Bundy school saxes will still be fairly shiny and that optional ugly metallic fleck gold finish seems to be super durable compared to the colored finished available today.

The lacquer on most Conn saxophones seems to hold up better than Bueschers over time as do the Kings. And some Martin lacquer seems to be scary good and causes the age of the saxes to sometime be estimated as much younger than is actually the case.

Early Yamaha saxes seem to have a relatively poor lacquer. But newer Yamahas seem to have a much better finish. I see just about the same thing on the Yanagisawas too. Most Taiwanese saxes seem to have good lacquer also with the newest ones having the best. And the Germans seem to do great silver plating but are usually just mediocre with their lacquer.

Again, these are just generalities I've picked up watching instruments on eBay. I would enjoy a better understanding of this from those that know more on the subject.
 

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A couple of the newer "Chinese" tenors in the $2k range that my students own play great and look great but their finishes are showing signs of wear very quickly.
 

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Forum Contributor 2017
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IMHO/Experience:
Maxtone (Taiwan): Lacquers and Gold Plate is extremely thin for daily use
T.K. Melody: Lacquer is top notch and after a year of repeated gigs and lots o' practices the gold lacquer on my soprano is still pristine.
Selmer Paris: Seem to start giving out around year 10 with acid bleed around the bell joint and low C.
Couf Superba I/II: Gold lacquer on nearly 30 year old horn still looked very good with very little lacquer loss

My personal preference amongst the new horns is bare brass.

B
 

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From my experiences with Yanagisawa saxophones (several sopranos and altos) I'd say the lacquer on their sopranos is among the worst I've ever seen. EVERY Yanagisawa soprano has shown almost immediate lacquer-wear on the palm keys, the left pinky table, the C/Eb spatulas, and the long rods. Further, the main body of my S992 has large areas where the lacquer has come off, leaving ugly tarnish spots where I'm constantly polishing away the discoloration. This means little though because they play SO well.

Not so on their altos. Why this is remains a mystery to me.

My Selmer Ref 54 alto has only one little spot where the lacquer has worn away . . . a small corner of the thumb-ocatve touch. Other modern lacquered horns in my collection have shown no lacquer wear. My vintage Buescher altos (two lacquered brass, Big B and a TH&C) have spotting throughout. An early 1960's MKVI alto has no lacquer problems. I'm guessing that over time, one should expect to see typical changes in the lacquer, but the Yanagisawa sopranos are especially weak in that regard. DAVE
 

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My Mark VI euro model looked good for about 35 years and then started to turn dark BUT I would take it apart twice a year and polish it good. I picked up a new Yana soprano around 1980 from a dealer I knew that was about a year old, never sold and had terrible bleed. I find care is the most important on most horns. Martins seem to be the worst for wearing thus I will buy a good relac if it comes up. I do have a Comm II alot with the original lacquer that is great and the darkest gold I have ever seen. After the RMC buyout around 1961, the lacquer seemed to get better. Some newer horns have an epoxy lacquer that can hold up ver well but is not really a lacquer as we know it. I only have about 8 lacquered horns and the other 35 or so are either silver or gold plated, my favorite.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian
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Buescher lacquer from the 1930s can actually be pretty durable. I own a whole quartet of series 1 Aristocrats and all but one appear to be in excellent original finish (the tenor may be a redo, but has zero buffing to the engraving).
 
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