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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I picked up this tenor. The previous owner could tell me nothing about the horn. It looks very old to me based on the key work, double octave mechanism , single bar guards and horizontal neck ring. It is in bad need of a repad. It has a couple of repairs. There is a repair to one of the right hand palm keys and broken repair of a key guard on the bow of the horn. There is dent in the bow as well.

Without the neck it is 28.25 inches tall. The pads and cork are bad, but I put a mouthpiece on it anyway, and was able to play a c# and the left hand palm keys The pitch tracks my tenor. It looks to me like a slightly smaller tenor that goes to a low B.

There is absolutely no writing, engraving, or serial number on the horn at all. I wish there was. I took a look at sax pics and can’t really match it to earlier horns. It looks similar to an Adolph Sax era horns but I can’t find a good match.

The horn may offer a few clues to those experienced with early saxes. There is a distinctive bell brace and a heart shaped neck screw(if its original) double octave key, and horizontal neck ring.

I am likely going to have this repadded but I would like to find out more about it before I do so. I loaded up 37 pictures here.


This is kind of a fun one to figure out. I appreciate the time of those can help me solve this mystery horn!!

Thanks,
Peter
 

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Is there anything at all engraved on the horn? I would put it at late 19th century and most likely European. I had a Buffet that was similar but sold it in 1969 so my memories of the details is a bit, you know....
 

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it is certainly a very old horn (1860-80 ?) and I would, based on the key cages and other elements like the keys themselves, say that it is a French or Belgian horn but , as far as Ik know, all Adolphe Sax horns are identified as such.
 

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I am afraid that saxpics doesn't have too many of these.......
 

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Yes I looked at Saxpics and can’t find a match there. It is not an Adolphe Sax based on the ones I looked at. There are no markings on this horn at all and many details are just too different. I will have do some research on other europoean manufactures in the 19th century. …and I thought my 1929 Martin handcraft was old!
 

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Yeah, it's an old girl for sure. The keyguard attachment points are pretty classic Adolph, but the second double octave key is wrong.
 

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I have a book called 100+1 SAXEN by Leo Van Oostrom that I bought in Belgium. There's a section on some old French, Belgian and Dutch horns dating from the late 1800s. There is one that looks somewhat similar to yours called "C. Mahillon" from 1878 but there's only one photo of it in the book and I can't say if it's a match or not. I think it's Belgian.

Would love to hear some sound samples of it once you have it playing.
 

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Mention my name three times and I appear. Or because the OP e-mailed me. One of the two :).

I've mentioned a couple places that "looks old" doesn't = old. The main example I use, because the dating is rock solid, is generally Bo Meyer's Keilwerth Modell V. It's from
1939. Or, if you prefer, the low B Selmer Serie 22 from 1922. And they have double octave keys. Now, I'm not yet saying anything about the age of Peter's horn. I just wanted to point out that horns that look more-or-less like an A. Sax instrument were produced late into the 1930s. My theory is that some manufacturers said, "Hey, we can sell these as a 'starter' horn. We don't have to license a design!"

Let me talk about a couple other things:

I have seen a few Mahillon horns (there's a soprano for sale on eBay). Their saxophones aren't terribly common; they're known for brasswinds. I write about one of the saxes here (linky to some Mahillon history, too). The resemblance to A. Sax instruments is also commented upon, as is the book by Leo Van Oostrom.

I'm fairly happy that Peter took a lot of pics, especially of that bow-to-body brace. It's fairly unique. Mahillon had a similar one, as did GH Huller. However, I'm not sure either made the horn.

I think there's a good possibility that the horn is of pre-1900 manufacture, for one reason alone: y'all might have noticed that Peter's horn is keyed to altissimo F, but there's no vent key on the right-hand side. The Modell V, Series 1922 and even Pierret low B horns have a vent key. I think that's about the only way to separate low B horns older than approximately 1914 and those later. However ....

First of all, while I'd like the idea of this horn being a Mahillon, there's no engraving or stamp and Mahillon was obviously capable of that, if you saw the linky I posted. Second, making the horn pre-1900 shoots down the GH Huller idea: that's a date before the first German saxophones. Also, I'm not sure if the screws (all kinds) are original, so that could just be a red herring. Hey, does it have any flat springs or are they all needle springs? Flat springs could = very, very old.

Another thing that'd be interesting is if the horn plays in concert A=440hz ("low pitch"). That'd guarantee a post-1914 manufacture date. If it plays in tune at A=435hz, you're talking a French Standard Pitch horn that's between 1867 and 1896. If it's A=457hz, it's most likely between 1896 and 1939ish. 'Course, Peter's horn isn't in playing condition and A=435hz is reachable on a modern instrument ....

The serial number or pitch indication could be scratched inside the neck or underneath a key. On a couple of instances, I've heard of serial numbers UNDER a pad (i.e. in the key cup).

Opinion: unless there are flat springs or someone can conclusively identify the horn -- i.e. has an identical one that has a manufacturer name stamped/engraved on it -- you're not going to find out anything definite without playing it. Getting the horn into decent playing condition to just find out the pitch might be more trouble than it's worth. It'd be very, very bad if you sink a lot of $ in it and find out your horn's an Indian knockoff (see this. It's toward the lower 3/4ths of the page). It's probably not ....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank you everyone for commenting on my mystery tenor. I have a lot more research to do to figure it out.

Here is a follow up to the post from Pete about his question regarding flat springs ( if I understand correctly what a flat spring is on a very old horn.) There are not flat springs on the horn other than the typical flat springs under the palm keys. The other keys that have springs are the round type. However, I did notice a detail on the springs. A few of the springs have been replaced with your typical needle spring that comes to a point. The majority of the springs are not pointed. It is as if they were cut to fit from some long piece of spring rod. If anyone knows when pointed needle springs came into wide spread use that might be a clue to date the horn.

I don’t see any serial number in the neck. I think I will have the horn repadded. I will have it cleaned and I will take more pictures before it is repadded. We will look in any key cup for clues. After repadding I will play it and post a video. I will also measure pitches. My sax tech is backed up anyway so I have more time to do other research before I sink any money into it.

I have a couple of big band gigs coming up, including a battle of the big bands, so I will bring it with me and see what the other sax players think. I will keep this thread posted.

Thanks again,

Peter
 
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