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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I have a Buescher Aristocrat Alto (s/n 310xxx) and I am trying to find out how much it is worth. It is in good playable condition and most of the horns I have seen for sale are in really poor condition. I received this horn from a friend and the lacquer on the bell, bow, and neck have been removed. It has all new pads, but the action is sluggish. I might consider selling it, but I would first like to know its value. Thanks in advance for all of your help!
 

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I'm afraid you've painted a pretty ugly picture of a reasonably desirable sax - a "Big B" Aristocrat - one of the more desirable Bueschers. But it might not be as bad as it first appears. You won't know until you take it in and have a competent tech check out the sluggish action. I would expect a sax with new pads to not have sluggish action, as that would all have been taken care of in the repad/overhaul . . . unless the repad was done be an amateur which could have been a total waste of time and money. Or it could have been damaged after the work was done. So you've got quite a question mark there about true playing condition. Get the action straightened out and the pad job verified or be prepared for a low selling price.

Secondly, there are a lot of these saxes around with nice - or at least presentable - lacquer. Unless the lacquer looked like something from a low-grade zombie movie, I don't think stripping it off did anything but hurt the value.

That's all the bad news. The good news is that you have what could be quite a player - Big B altos are very good, pro-level saxes. It is certainly worth getting a repair estimate on.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks for the reply!

The sluggish action is due to old springs (as these were not done in the re-padding). Also, the lacquer was removed by the previous owner to give the horn that "old vintage sound." I have added some pictures of the horn so you can see what I mean. Thanks again for al of the help!

 

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timberwolf54 said:
Thanks for the reply!

The sluggish action is due to old springs (as these were not done in the re-padding). Also, the lacquer was removed by the previous owner to give the horn that "old vintage sound."
Well, you don't need to remove lacquer on a Big B 'Crat to get that old vintage sound, since it's already a horn with the "old vintage sound," and one of the best sounding horns out there! Actually, it doesn't really look all that bad in the photos. Some folks like that look. More importantly, if you like the tone quality, it would be worth getting some of those springs replaced. I have an even older series one Aristocrat tenor and the action is not at all sluggish.
 

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If you re-lacquer a horn, you lower the value.

If you just remove the lacquer, The value isn't ruined, but it's still not worth as much as an original lacquer horn.

Re-lacquering the horn consists of buffing the metal very thin, to make it shiny, then a new coating of lacquer is sprayed on over the shiny
(and thinner) brass so the horn won't sound as good.(less Metal...Bad)

Removing the lacquer,(according to many)makes it even more responsive and full sounding. In the 70's,(big fad) people would dip Mark 6's in hot buckets of detergent or chemicals to dissolve the lacquer.
Mike Breckers Mark 6 had that no lacquer "dipped in chemical" look to it.

Your sax looks great!
Why in the hell would you want to get rid of it?????
Get some new springs, and keep it.
You asked how much it's worth....
It's only worth what someone will pay for it.
It seems to be in the $600- $900 dollar range,
Ebay has many of these selling all the time....
 

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king koeller said:
Removing the lacquer,(according to many)makes it even more responsive and full sounding. In the 70's,(big fad) people would dip Mark 6's in hot buckets of detergent or chemicals to dissolve the lacquer.
I heard from a tech that dipping to clean the horn was part of an overhaul years ago.
 

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timberwolf54 said:
Thanks for the reply!

The sluggish action is due to old springs (as these were not done in the re-padding).
Old springs to not cause sluggish action, bent/binding keys and dried up oil on the rods do. As long as theyre are not broken the springs do not need replacing, and if your tech told you they need to be replaced to feel good then find a new tech.
 

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TenTenTooter said:
Old springs to not cause sluggish action, bent/binding keys and dried up oil on the rods do. As long as theyre are not broken the springs do not need replacing, and if your tech told you they need to be replaced to feel good then find a new tech.
Hey thanks for pointing this out, TenTen. I am definitely not a tech and I took him on his word that it was the "old springs." Your explanation makes total sense. Especially, since, as I said, I have a '30s era Aristocrat tenor with many (or all) of the original springs and the action is not at all sluggish.

One thing I do know is a good tech (emphasis on the word "good") could get that horn playing beautifully. Just changing pads is not enough in many cases. My tech wouldn't let a horn out of the shop with "sluggish action" if he was changing the pads. He'd also get the action right, unless I told him I wanted sluggish action (and who would want that?).
 

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Old springs to not cause sluggish action, bent/binding keys and dried up oil on the rods do. As long as theyre are not broken the springs do not need replacing....
That's what I think.

One thing I do know is a good tech (emphasis on the word "good") could get that horn playing beautifully. Just changing pads is not enough in many cases. My tech wouldn't let a horn out of the shop with "sluggish action" if he was changing the pads.
One problem is the inherent features of vintage Bueschers (snap in pads, norton springs). Find out ahead of time if the technician is prepared to deal with these issues and what they plan to do. Removing snap in resonators and nubs is a common thing that is done, and this can work well, but it removes value. Buescher springs aren't mounted directly into the posts like about every other horn ever made. Buescher springs are mounted into a sleeve that is then screwed into a threaded hole in the post.
 

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A Buescher sax never plays or feels good without the snap in pads. It messes around with key heights and the action. The result of adding standard pads and removing studs makes for all sorts of other issues that you would rather avoid.
 

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Carl H. said:
I heard from a tech that dipping to clean the horn was part of an overhaul years ago.
It still is, but just to clean it, not remove lacquer. Even so, old, fragile lacquer could be compromised. Most anybody doing an overhaul will at least wash the horn inside and out (for their own protection when working on it and to clean it). Hot water is very bad for lacquer, so these washes are lukewarm at the hottest, with a very mild detergent. If the springs are still in it, they have to be treated with a water-displacing 'oil' like WD-40 to prevent rusting.
Of course, 'dipping' to remove lacquer can also be done on really nasty-looking horns. Then, it's dipped again to remove corrosion and brighten the brass. Frequently, at customer request, the horn will then receive a clearcoat to keep it from tarnishing again. This can be done repeatedly with no loss of brass. I once took my old Mk VI apart, removed the lacquer with stripper and hand-polished everything. It looked great (took weeks) but there's no practical way to live with a de-lacquered horn if you don't like the green/black look that it quickly gets.
 
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