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I see lots of old horns with the lacquer completely worn off the bell engraving and don't understand it. The bottom of the bow, the lower left (where it may rub against a chair), I understand that.
Bit way out on the bell?
Does the fancy engraving inherently weaken the lacquer?
 

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If the engraving has been done after the bell has been lacquered, the lacquer is more likely to come off as the engraving has gone through the lacquer.

If the bell hasn't been degreased all that well before lacquering (and after engraving), then that too can make the lacquer come off.

On bells that have been engraved and then lacquered afterwards, there are high sopts in the engraving which can be felt, and also where the lacquer can wear through easily.

Once perspiration, moisture or skin oils get under the lacquer at any point were there is damage (ie. a deep scratch or where engraving has been done after lacquering), it begins to spread between the lacquer and the brass causing the lacquer to separate from the brass and flake off.

Though some people have mid-'60s MkVI saxes with the engraving done after lacquering that they've owned for decades and they still look good, but some people have more corrosive perspiration which will cause the lacquer to go within a couple of years.
 

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Rowka said:
I see lots of old horns with the lacquer completely worn off the bell engraving and don't understand it. The bottom of the bow, the lower left (where it may rub against a chair), I understand that.
Bit way out on the bell?
That's where one grabs the sax to put it in and out of the case, on/off a stand, to hold it generally...
 

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I pick mine up by the neck or those little poles that go up the side.. sometimes the things that close the air holes. :)
 

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My 43 year old Selmer looks great on the bell. Maybe it is because I never touch it when removing it from the case. The neckstrap hook is another story.
 

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I just admire my sax in its case. Darn, it's shiny and pretty.

Is it supposed to make noise?

But seriously. Take care of your horn, but the music you make with it is sooo much more important than its appearance.

My wife is middle aged, has a few wrinkles. She takes care of herself, but lives her life. I would wonder about her if she got to her age and had completely smooth skin.

It's a fact of life that horns wear. Wherever you touch your horn, your hand oils will start the aging process. If it rubs against your leg, it will wear.

My VI alto has all sorts of wear. Probably the least is the bell. The most is the neck.
 

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There's another thing on this, and that's the fact that engraving means an irregularity. I'll save you the physics behind this, but electrons tend to concentrate on metal edges, tips etc. Corrosion is happening there first, so also on the lacquer.

Another thing is that engraving can hold moisture longer, which makes it again more prone to corrosion.
 

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Jolle said:
There's another thing on this, and that's the fact that engraving means an irregularity. I'll save you the physics behind this, but electrons tend to concentrate on metal edges, tips etc. Corrosion is happening there first, so also on the lacquer.

Another thing is that engraving can hold moisture longer, which makes it again more prone to corrosion.
This makes sense to me. But given that, why are horns engraved at all? Hasn't someone figured out that the finish would be more durable at all points on a horn without engraving? Is this another little planned obsolescence plot against us? Is engraving a destructive vanity? Should we go to the Selmer factory and stage an engrave-in until the manufacturers promise never again to take an engraving device (what DO you call those) to the bell of another innocent saxophone?

Sorry, I'm getting carried away, but my question is a serious one: if Jolle is right, wouldn't saxes, or at least their finishes, be more durable if they weren't engraved?
 

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Doh!

Certain lacquer formulations may well wear differently immediately surrounding the engraving if the horn is exposed to harsh or corrosive elements like high atmospheric salinity/moisture/sweat. But in general engraving does NOT, make the lacquer "unstable" or prone to coming off. Take a look at all the Conns and Selmers engraved through the lacquer from the 40s-50s. Even modern Selmers are engraved through the finish. To take one person's anecdotal evidence of lacquer wear around the engraving as an indication of an industry-wide malaise is off base. Engraving is typically on the same areas of the bell that have the most surface area -- also the same areas that are handled the most, often times without even thinking about it.

Engraving is certainly not necessary on a saxophone any more than carved columns are necessary on the front of your house. It is a purely decorative art that in theory expresses the commitment of the maker to create an aesthetically-pleasing instrument. I believe this was true up to a certain point, but is largely not true anymore. Oddly enough, the best modern factory engraving as far as quality and design is coming from Taiwan. They seem to have a genuine interest in continuing the art. Selmer Paris engraving could and should be done away with. I think it looks awful. But I digress. If you want to see how engraving is done, search YouTube (or SOTW) for sax engraving.
 

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I was rather hoping you'd weigh in on this, Jason. In fact, it seems to me that, properly executed and maintained, engraving should not be detrimental to the life span of a horn or its finish. But as I don't really know enough about the process or the chemistry involved to prove my intuition, I rely on the experts to tell me what's what.

BUT: are you implying that the engraving doesn't affect the tone??? And that if I had Ben Webster's engraving on my horn, I wouldn't sound just like him?


ah, god no, don't go there!!!:shock:
 

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Jason DuMars said:
Well, I engraved "Charlie Parker" on my alto, and I still sound like me. :(
I had John Coltrane tattooed on my butt, and I STILL can't play Giant Steps as fast as I want. . . .
 

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Jason DuMars said:
Doh!

Certain lacquer formulations may well wear differently immediately surrounding the engraving if the horn is exposed to harsh or corrosive elements like high atmospheric salinity/moisture/sweat. But in general engraving does NOT, make the lacquer "unstable" or prone to coming off.
If it's good lacquer and the atmospheric conditions are not too harsh. If they are, corrosion of the lacquer occurs first at the "corners" of a sax : around toneholes, at the point where ribs, sockets etc. are attached to the instrument, and immediately surrounding the engraving. I've been looking at plenty of pics because I don't want to disagree with the experts, but on most pics it's rather obvious that at these points the lacquer wears. I see it with my own saxes as well.
To take one person's anecdotal evidence of lacquer wear around the engraving as an indication of an industry-wide malaise is off base.
I agree completely. I didn't want to state that lacquer will come off. I just said that, given the physical laws, if the lacquer comes off, it's likely to be at these places.
 

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Jason DuMars said:
Doh!

Certain lacquer formulations may well wear differently immediately surrounding the engraving if the horn is exposed to harsh or corrosive elements like high atmospheric salinity/moisture/sweat. But in general engraving does NOT, make the lacquer "unstable" or prone to coming off. Take a look at all the Conns and Selmers engraved through the lacquer from the 40s-50s. Even modern Selmers are engraved through the finish. To take one person's anecdotal evidence of lacquer wear around the engraving as an indication of an industry-wide malaise is off base. Engraving is typically on the same areas of the bell that have the most surface area -- also the same areas that are handled the most, often times without even thinking about it.

Engraving is certainly not necessary on a saxophone any more than carved columns are necessary on the front of your house. It is a purely decorative art that in theory expresses the commitment of the maker to create an aesthetically-pleasing instrument. I believe this was true up to a certain point, but is largely not true anymore. Oddly enough, the best modern factory engraving as far as quality and design is coming from Taiwan. They seem to have a genuine interest in continuing the art. Selmer Paris engraving could and should be done away with. I think it looks awful. But I digress. If you want to see how engraving is done, search YouTube (or SOTW) for sax engraving.
Yanagisawa engraving is still pretty nice, particularly on the higher numbered specimens...
 
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