Note that while I'm primarily using saxophones in my examples below, there are stencils of other instruments. I'm just more of a saxy guy, so you get saxy examples. =========== The term "stencil" comes from the practice of one company building an instrument for another company or storefront which would literally take a stencil of an engraving pattern and start engraving. As an example, SML made saxophones under the King Marigaux name for King Musical Instruments. The only difference between the two? The engraving (some King Marigaux had an altissimo F# key, too). Let's look at this with a non-musical example: Ford used to make a car called the Pinto. Ford's Mercury division made a car called the Bobcat. What's the difference? Mechanically, nothing. The headlights, taillights, and a bit of sheet metal is different. Both are going to explode if you hit 'em. In other words, pretty much a copy. As a better vehicle-based example that Terry would like, the Jeep, used in WWII, was originally designed by and built by Willys -- but Ford started making them when Willys couldn't keep up with demand. Willys then licensed the design to a whole bunch of companies, post WWII. Stencil Rules of Thumb: Very few (especially US) stencils were always made by one company and a stencil named one thing wasn't always from one manufacturer. This means that a Selmer New York sax could have been made by Buescher, Conn, or Martin. I've also seen the names "Acme" and "Vega" used by at least a dozen companies, each. American-made stencils were sometimes built with older tooling, poorer quality control, fewer features, etc. In other words, they're not as good as the horns they're stenciled from. There are exceptions, though: * The Selmer New York saxophones, which were primarily made by Conn and Buescher, were generally fairly high quality, but did lack rolled tone holes. * The Holton saxophone stencils made for Gretsch are pretty decent. * Conn Cavalier saxophone stencils are pretty much junk. European-made stencils are pretty much the manufacturer's professional horn, with the professional model's serial number, but with a different name engraved on the bell. The SML-made King Marigaux horns are a good example of this. However, there are some interesting exceptions and notes: * There was a company called Ditta Giglio/Santoni that made copies of other manufacturers' horns. They're actually decent copies. * Pierret made two saxophone models called the Parisian and Parisian Ambassador for the Olds company. While they're stencils of Pierret's pro horns, they aren't as good. The theory as to why, that I've heard most often, is that the brass used on the Parisian and Parisian Ambassador is thinner. * Amati used to make a saxophone called the Toneking, which was a copy of Julius Keilwerth's Toneking model -- and even had the Keilwerth "Best in the World" stamp on 'em. Keilwerth sued Amati over this. * Dorfler & Jurka used to make alto and tenor saxophones that looked an awful lot like Julius Keilwerth saxophones. Keilwerth sued 'em and eventually bought the company. * You could successfully make the argument that all Germanic-brand saxophones produced prior to WWII are copies of Conn saxophones. Some of them are really good copies, but they're copies. Not stencils. -------------- I'm also going to mention Chinese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese horns in passing. You're going to have to do your own research on this. * "House-brand" instruments -- say, you go to Wal*Mart and they have Wal*Mart branded saxophones -- can come from the same supplier. In other words, your Wal*Mart-brand saxophone might not be any different from the Target-brand saxophone. If you like the horn, buy it where it's the cheapest. * There have been a few companies that design their own instruments, but farm out production to an Asian company. That's not exactly "stenciling," though. * There have been some companies that put their name on horns made in Asia and call it their own. The Julius Keilwerth ST-90 saxophones (IIRC, the "II" through "IV") are completely made in Taiwan (R.O.C.). There may be some Keilwerth design elements, but not much other input. * Some big instrument names have their own companies in another Asian country. Yamaha, for instance, has a plant in Indonesia. However, there is no real difference between a YAS-23 made in Japan or in Indonesia. P. Mauriat and Cannonball, IIRC, used to contract out all their horns, but eventually bought their own factories in Taiwan. * There are an awful lot of "counterfeit" instruments made in China. Some are obvious, like a blue Selmer Reference 54 sax -- that's not a color used by Selmer for the Reference 54 -- but some are very subtle, like a Selmer Mark VI soprano with the wrong keywork. ================= Someone's going to say, "So what?" The reason you want to know this is because you certianly can find things like a King Marigaux at prices significantly lower than a SML Gold Medal "II."