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Ersatz unlacquering method - drawbacks?

#1
Longtime reader, first time poster. Just looking for a simple answer.

I play a Keilwerth EX-90 II alto saxophone. I'm in love with the horn itself, though from what I understand it is considered a semi-pro horn. The horn plays spectacularly, however I'm not infatuated with its aesthetic (almost yellow-green finish, presumably nickel plated underneath based on its heritage). I've wanted to delacquer or at least matte this for years but as a student on a relatively tight budget, DIY-ing this task would be my preference.

I read somewhere on the forum that gently using steel wool on a sax can matte the finish, and that a 3M abrasive pad could produce the same result without the steel wool residue posing a threat. I tried this first on my spare student alto (Vito) and it worked miraculously well, creating a marvelous texture and an ultra-thin layer of oxidation thereby self-limiting the reaction. I have also since done the same to the head joint of the EX-90, with even better results sans oxidation. Keep in mind this does not seem to be taking off any of the lacquer but simply reducing the shine and producing a very nice matte texture.

My sax professor has some sort of vendetta against unlacquered saxophones, and though I trust his judgement in most cases, he has supplied no information on my question thus far apart from an advisory against doing this.

My questions are as follows; does this process have any adverse effects, should I continue on the remainder of the horn, is there anything I should do in addition to / after the abrasive pad to protect the horn?

Thanks very much in advance.

Pictures (could not attach for some reason:)
http://i.imgur.com/Ox6QYeQ.jpg - full head joint
http://i.imgur.com/hOzSu86.jpg - close up of texture
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#2
Administrative note: I understand your post didn't, well, post immediately. You can see details here. Note that you might get auto-banned if you post the same thing repeatedly.

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though from what I understand it is considered a semi-pro horn.
The EX-90 is a horn made by Amati for Keilwerth. I'd call it "intermediate," at best.

however I'm not infatuated with its aesthetic (almost yellow-green finish, presumably nickel plated underneath based on its heritage
The EX-90 II did have a black nickel finish available. However, unless you or a previous owner had the horn lacquered over the nickel, I'd just call it "lacquer." The reason to be concerned with this is because nickel oxidizes differently than brass. That could mean that your "matte" finish could become really ugly in a month or so.

My sax professor has some sort of vendetta against unlacquered saxophones
Well, I don't have any vendettas. Although, I have watched "V for Vendetta." Does that count?

Anyhow, I can understand telling people not to "delacquer" a horn. First, it could easily hurt the resale value of your horn. With your horn, that's not going to be much of a concern, of course, but if you were talking about, say, an SX90, that could be significant. Second, it's really, really easy to take off more metal than intended and/or damage something. That not only would hurt your resale value, but you could end up with an unplayable horn. Encapsulating this, you've got the possibility of ruining a horn to make it look prettier. That'd be something I'd tell my students not to do.

However, take a look at this. If that's sorta what you're thinking of, I'd recommend sending jbt a PM, unless he posts here before you can send one :). He says, in his ad, that he used the 3M abrasive pads.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#3
My questions are as follows; does this process have any adverse effects, should I continue on the remainder of the horn, is there anything I should do in addition to / after the abrasive pad to protect the horn?
There are no adverse acoustical or mechanical effects to what you are doing. Aesthetic and economic effects are a matter of interpretation. You will find the body of the saxophone and the keys to be much more difficult to texture than doing just the neck. If you are not comfortable with removing and replacing all of the keys, I would recommend against doing the body yourself. If you are simply putting scratches in the lacquer, then there is nothing to be done to protect the finish. If on the other hand lacquer is removed in the process, I would recommend using Renaissance wax for a bit of added protection.
 
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