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I've got a saxophone that is from the 1940's, plays like an absolute champion. And it also has a very interesting honey like lacquer that is very dark and rich looking.

Is this something that happens with age or is it from the factory as an option?

Thanks! :)
 

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Nitrocellulose lacquer, which was the most common used on "vintage" horns I believe tends to be darker and more honey-like than the more common epoxy based lacquers used today.
 

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Ferrees sold (and may still sell) a dye for adding to lacquer. The colour was like that of tan shoe polish.
 

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Nitrocellulose lacquer, which was the most common used on "vintage" horns I believe tends to be darker and more honey-like than the more common epoxy based lacquers used today.
I think it's the the nitrocellulose lacquer, age, and probably variations in the lacquer mixture. For instance, in the '30s & '40s Buescher offered "clear" and "gold" lacquer. The gold is rather opaque and hard to miss. The "clear" lacquer was translucent but probably had a tint to it. I've seen horns with original "clear" lacquer that has aged to an overall brown-looking finish, a dark honey color, and a coppery-bronze color.
 

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I wonder if they made the finish darker by putting the sax in an oven for a while.
 

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I believe the Yamaha / Woodstone 82ZWS uses nitrocellulose today. It has a honey lacquer appearance.
 

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I am sure that it is a combination of quality of lacquer and pigments added to the lacquer itself.

I have two King Super 20 only few hundred of pieces apart, one is very dark and the other one is much lighter, they not beeing relcquered (and I have had another one which was also in the same range which was identical to the lighter one).

Obviously lacquer starts its life as clear but pigment is added to it, to the point that some Kings have silver parts which don’t look silver at all because they are covered of lacquer making it the same hue of the brass!

I don’t think that any modern horn still uses nitrocellulose but there are many brass horns with as dark as light chocolate lacquer

This is , obviously from the engraving, a normal brass horn covered of a very dark lacquer, the pigment is in the lacquer.

 

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The engraving has not tarnished. Is a clear lacquer applied after the engraving?
 

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not normally,



but some brands did.

This is how some people identify re-lacquers (on the brands which didn’t lacquer after engraving), if the engraving is full of lacquer is a re-lacquer.

In this ^ case it wasn’t lacquered over post engraving. Clearly the engraving effect would be greatly diminished if it weren’t done this way! Of course the sax in the picture is new.
 

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Nitro’ lacquer darkens with exposure to sunlight. You more commonly see it in guitars that have the same kind of lacquer. If the pick guard is removed, you can see the “tan line” where unexposed lacquer is still light-colored. True closet horns (horns that were never played) are often lighter in color - not because they were shot in lacquer without color added, but because they lack exposure to UV.
 
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