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Bare Metal Saxophones
lacquerless finishes in brass, nickel, silver & gold
Q.  In my continued exploration of your site in search of further enlightenment I stumbled across a query from a man that had blue stuff in the bell of his MarkVI which he turned into a DIY project without seeking the best route possible.  In your explanation of chemical reactions which different metals undergo you noted that brass, silver, and gold do not rust, but tarnish.  In describing this reaction you said “Tarnish is a surface anomaly that actually halts once the tarnish has become so thick it forms a barrier against further sulfur reaching the base metal.”  Does this mean that by removing tarnish you are in actuality thinning out the body of the saxophone by allowing another layer of it to tarnish?  Will this affect resonance, playability or intonation?  Is it better just to let a good coat of tarnish form and forget about polishing my bare brass horn so that it will naturally form a protective layer? Your responses here-to-fore have been greatly appreciated and I thank you for your continued patience in helping me learn more about the saxophone world. Dan…

A. Good question, Dan. Thankfully, tarnish occurs at the molecular level. This means that even thick layers of tarnish affect only ultra thin layers of the actual finish metal – layers measured in microns, really. Most of the thickness of the actual tarnish layer is sulfur and empty space between the molecules of bonded sulfur, oxygen (sometimes also hydrogen or ozone) and the base metal. Think about what happens in chemical reactions like baking powder, where an acid substance and a base substance combine in a reaction that incorporates additional substances in order to puff far beyond the dimensions of the active agent itself. That’s how sulfur behaves when it attaches itself to your metal finish in the chemical reaction we call tarnish.

Stop and think for a moment that gold, silver, copper, zinc (brass being a copper/zinc alloy of about 80/20 proportions) and nickel are all found as their various sulfides (meaning chemically bonded with sulfur) in their ore forms. The mining industry uses chemical processes to separate these various metals from their bonds with sulfur in order to produce workable raw metals for manufacturing purposes. The simpler of these chemical sulfur-separation processes are available to the public as various dip & liquid tarnish removal products. A common example would be the Hagerty Silver Dip product that dissolves away even heavy layers of tarnish in a non-abrasive chemical process that breaks the bonds between silver, gold, copper, zinc, nickel — or alloys made up of any combination of these elements – freeing them from their sulfuric incarceration. In this chemical cleansing process only a few atoms of the base metal are lost…the ones on the very surface that had bonded with sulfur.

After these simple chemical sulfur separation processes we leave the analogy of tarnish formation & removal as it relates to mining these metals from the earth as ores. While chemical tarnish stripping agents will do a reasonable job on lightly tarnished metal surfaces, they fail to strip off all the crud
of undissolved bonding substances that were included in the tarnish structure. Chemical processes also do nothing to smooth irregularities left in the surface of your base finish metal created when the metal molecules that had bonded with sulfur were washed away. To finish the job requires either an abrasive to wear away the remaining crud & irregularities down to a smooth surface, or some sort of grading action that smoothes over irregularities. It’s interesting that metal smiths of old discovered ways to do this grading job in a totally non-destructive manner. The process is called burnishing.

Burnishing involves rubbing a base metal surface repeatedly with a very smooth object made of material that is significantly harder than the base material. Modern burnishing irons are made of high chrome steel alloys that are carefully shaped and polished to a mirror-like sheen. The rubbing — or stroking, as it is called in the metal working trades — is a very tedious process that can only be carried out by highly skilled craftsmen. The burnishing iron must be frequently re-polished during the course of a burnishing operation to assure it stays ultra-smooth at all times.

The analogy of burnishing to grading earth is quite apropos since in a grading operation no earth is actually lost. It is merely rearranged into a smooth surface of some specifically desired contour. Likewise is burnishing, which simply smoothes out a metal surface until all light is reflected evenly from every part of it. Thus a base metal surface that is ultra-smooth is also ultra shinny. Burnishing simply accomplishes the sheen in a non-destructive manner. Burnished saxophone finishes have been the sign of utmost quality over the decades. You may recall that the burnished gold plate Conn Artist Model (pic at right) was the absolute class of the 1920s. King, Buescher, Martin & Holton all had their top-line burnished gold finishes, too. The depression eventually killed off burnished saxophone finishes as routine offerings, though certain special instruments continued to be burnished (rather than polished) on a one-off basis. The last known production saxophones to be burnished are the wonderful SML ‘Gold Medal’ models produced in the 1950-70 timeframe. Even the plain brass Gold Medal SML saxophones were burnished before they were lacquered.

The photograph below shows a variety of burnishing irons & tools. Each of the tools is available from the Ferree’s Tools catalog. The quote to the right is excerpted from Eric Brand’s ‘Band Instrument Repairing Manual’ (also available in complete form from Ferree’s Tools). The original Eric Brand copyright date is 1939, so the procedures shown for processes such as burnishing are contemporary to a time when craftsmen were actually still routinely plying this noble trade. The excerpt gives a good idea of just how labor intensive the burnishing process is. It is no small wonder the craft is seldom practiced these days.

“…Two walrus hides are fastened to the top of the burnisher’s bench, near the front edge. One of these has some emery dust sprinkled on it, the other is sprinkled with powdered crocus. In using these, the working edge of the burnisher is rubbed across the hide in a straight line, at right angles to the front edge of the bench. This makes a track or groove in the hide. The groove is used as a guide for the tool in future polishing operations. Usually, a burnisher has several tracks in each hide, to accommodate narrow and wide tools. Before the burnisher is used, it is rubbed back & forth several times on the walrus hide with the emery dust on it. The tool is then wiped off and rubbed on the other walrus hide with the crocus dust on it. It is wiped off again and dipped in the soap water solution. Now the working edge is brought in contact with the metal and is rubbed back & forth in such a way as to lay one stroke right next to the previous one so that no dividing edge shows. Only a few strokes can be taken with a tool. Then it must again be wiped off, repolished on the walrus hides, cleaned, dipped in the soap water as stated above, and the burnishing continued…”

–Eric D. Brand
(presented courtesy of Ferree’s Tools, inc.)

Polishing always involves smoothing a metal surface by removing material in an abrasive process of either more, or less, of an aggressive nature. Because polishing wears away the fine, smoothed layer of finish metal created by the burnisher’s patient strokes, a burnished saxophone must NEVER be polished with anything more severe than a very soft cloth. Sadly, we see all too many cases where these great vintage burnished treasures have been aggressively polished – even subjected to barbaric buffing wheels & severe abrasives. A finish treated in such a manner can no longer be classed as burnished because the burnish treatment placed there by skilled craftsmen has been ground away. Even milder polishes intended for silver care remove a burnished finish, leaving it with millions of minuscule scratches that can be seen under bright light. Polishing or buffing a burnished metal surface is analogous to flossing with a weed eater…something no one in their right mind would ever consider doing.

While it is possible to burnish a smooth surface that was previously polished, that is highly impractical. Even if one had access to the equipment and skills necessary to burnish a saxophone, the time and cost factors involved in burnishing make it unfeasible today. Most repair techs do have burnishing irons they use for smoothing after dent work, but few of us have the skill, time or patience to actually do more than a minimum amount of burnish work. I’ve experimented with burnishing here at CS, so I know of which I speak. So burnishing is fast becoming one of those lost arts from the days when quality was king and the great craftsmen were the most prized employees of any American saxophone builder.

I hope you’re still with me, Dan. I’m about to answer the question you directly asked. Polishing encompasses a wide variety of techniques. Simply rubbing your sax down with a treated polish cloth is, in fact, a polishing operation. What makes polishing cloths ‘treated’ is that they have infused into their fibers both a chemical agent that dissolves the sulfur bond and an extremely light abrasive. This light abrasive is often no more than talcum powder, but when rubbed vigorously or repeatedly over your saxophone’s bare metal surface, even talcum powder will eventually break stray particles of tarnish residue and unruly metal molecules loose to smooth your metal’s surface into a sheen. If all you do to your sax finish is wipe it down with these treated cloths, Dan, you will not live long enough to wear away a significant amount of actual surface metal. If you don’t believe that just get yourself a piece of stock brass plate about 25 to 30 thousandths of an inch thick and see how long it takes you to rub through it with your polishing cloth. Your brass experiment may gleam like a diamond, but your cloth will be in shreds and you still won’t be able to see any negative effects to the metal from your rubbing.

What is true is that the aggressive wear that high powered buffing equipment causes to a saxophone will eat away significant metal if buffing is carelessly done. But there is no comparison  between your polishing cloth and a 2 to 5 horsepower electric motor spinning a wheel of perhaps a foot or more in diameter at 1,000 to 3,000 revolutions per minute. I’ll leave the math to you, but how many strokes of your treated polishing cloth do you think relate to even one minute of operation on a buffing machine? [Hint: pi is about 3.14, so the travel of the surface of your 12" wheel is over a yard per revolution.] And that buffing wheel is loaded with an abrasive compound considerably more potent than mere talcum. Why so much horsepower? Because the buffing operator presses the instrument against the wheel with enough force to stop a weaker electric motor. Long story short, any manual polishing you do to your saxophone is never going to remove more than a few microns of the finish…even if measured over your entire lifetime. On the other hand, a buffing wheel can wreck a saxophone’s engraving in a few careless seconds. There is simply no parallel between any polish operation you can do by hand with the metal erosion caused by commercial buffing equipment.

Of course there is one more kind of polishing that is applicable to your saxophone: That’s the hand polishing we do in our restoration efforts here at CS. In our hand polishing we always strive to use the least invasive methods that will work for any particular application. The protocol goes like this: 

1) Strip any lacquer that is present, then clean with either a chemical or detergent based degreasing agent.
2) Apply a dip product.
3) Rub the instrument down with treated polishing cloth.
4) Apply a polish product such as Flitz or Hagerty All-Metal Polish per package directions. Repeat as necessary.

We stop at whichever level of the above protocol yields the desired result. An authentic, undamaged burnished gold plate finish often responds at step 2. Many silver plated horns are finished at step 3. Tougher finishes like brass and nickel require the full protocol, often with repeats of step four. While this may sound as if it is potentially abusive, keep in mind that these metals are much harder than silver or gold. While that additional hardness requires more aggressive polishing techniques, it also means you are working on a surface that is proportionally more resistant to wear. I would propose that the amount of surface material removed from any particular one of your saxophone finish metals in order to polish it to a satisfactory sheen measures about the same in terms of microns of thickness lost. That proposition of course assumes the starting conditions of each finish were tarnished in a similar way. In English: the stout rubbing required to polish brass removes no more metal than the light rubbing required to polish gold or silver.

So why does anyone buff saxophones at all? Quite simply: Cost. The guy that makes saxophones shinny for the lowest price gets to make a lot more saxophones shinny. Of course there’s a catch — but under-funded school districts simply don’t care about anything but cost, and by the time an individual customer learns the dread truth, the damage has been done. Why stop here, huh? Below is my spiel to prospective bare brass restoration clients on tarnish management. I hope you enjoy your reading assignment… :-)

Bare Metal Finish Saxophones: Tarnish Control Strategies

Every owner of a bare metal finish instrument must make an initial decision on their tarnish control strategy. The strategy chosen determines the degree to which you will accept or fight tarnish, and governs your actions once the decision is made. Making an informed decision up front should relieve one of guilt or apprehension about the normal progression of tarnish when a less stringent strategy was initially chosen. The reason that’s important to the bare metal finish saxophone owner is basic human nature: We must all accept the consequences of our actions (or lack thereof) if we are to maintain our sanity. If you fail to elect a strategy, or fail to follow the strategy you select there are consequences.

Keep in mind that bare metal saxophones include those plated in silver, nickel or gold, in addition to a bare plain brass finish. Tarnish on all of these finish metals comes from the same source – sulfur in our air – so the tactics we employ to execute our tarnish control strategy are the same for any bare metal finish with which we deal. Let’s go over the possible approaches and their indicated player actions:

Level 1
The minimum strategy is to decide to do nothing except practice good maintenance habits and let nature take its course. Good maintenance habits include keeping a saxophone clean & dry as a matter of routine (note: a player who cannot – or will not – meet this minimum care requirement has no business with a bare metal finish saxophone).

Level 2
The second tier of tarnish prevention strategy involves a wee bit more player effort, but not so much as to require a large amount of your time. This includes placing tarnish prevention strips (made by 3M or Hagerty) in your saxophone case, and occasionally wiping down the open areas of your instrument’s body & keys with a treated polish cloth (like the Hagerty Silver Duster).

Level 3
The highest level of tarnish control builds on the second tier by adding periodic ‘deep cleanings’, plus a protective wrap of specially treated cloth to your basic tarnish prevention regimen. One of these cloth wrap materials is marketed by Hagerty as Silversmiths Cloth. There are other manufacturers of similar cloth products, as well. CS can cut you a wrap of Silversmiths Cloth, or you can buy bulk material & cut the wrap yourself. The wrap completely blocks new sulfur bearing air from reaching your saxophone’s surfaces. Your cleaning sessions involve using a treated polish cloth cut into thin strips (use pinking shears to minimize stray strings that will catch on keywork); and/or lengths of knitting yarn doubled twice, to run under & around all your keywork. You can thread your yarn onto a neat plastic needle so that getting into the crannies of your instrument is a snap. There are details about these deep cleaning procedures in our Q&A section. How often you perform the detailed cleaning depends on how your sax is used, on your location (coastal climates are the worst, but industrial areas where sulfur is generated in manufacturing processes are also problematic), and on your devotion to tarnish prevention. In general, monthly is too often to deep clean, and yearly probably not often enough. The brave among us will disassemble their sax (partly or totally) for our cleaning sessions. If you have the horn apart you can lightly use products such as Hagerty All-Metal Polish or Flitz to supplement your treated polish cloth. We do not advise using polish products on fully assembled saxophones, though. You can make a real mess under your keys and get polish on pads, corks & felts that you simply can’t get off with the horn assembled. The one exception might be polishing your inner bell (only) with a polish product so the instrument has that shinny maw that we all relish on stage.

At tarnish strategy level one you simply let nature take its course. At some point your tarnish will become thick enough to stabilize the appearance of your instrument. That point could be years away, depending on how often your sax is out in the open air. At strategy level 2, your usage patterns are the real key to how long your saxophone really looks spiffy. I’ve put freshly polished silver plated saxophones away with just a couple Hagerty strips in the case & come back after up to five years to find them looking as sharp as the day we stored ‘em away. Of course instruments that are actively played will not have this same experience because they are constantly being exposed to new sulfur-laden air. Unless you are a stickler for top appearance at all times, level 2 will probably keep your sax looking reasonably sharp between repads. Your tech can update the hand polish at those times when the sax is already apart to return it to a pristine sheen for you. If you have adhered to level 2 your hand polish updates will be much easier than the first hand polish during initial restoration.

Level 3 is for the purists, or for the discerning performer that simply wants their tools to make a snazzy stage appearance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to stage 3 if you have a good reason. If you are simply exercising your AR tendencies, though, give yourself a break. Level 2 is really quite effective for the average hobby player that does an occasional paying gig. Of course you can mix & match among these basic strategies – for instance, adding a protective wrap or anti-tarnish strips to level 1 or 2. The point is: Decide up front on your tarnish management strategy and stick with it. Each approach is right for some individuals. Adopting the right strategy minimizes your work, and assures your bare metal saxophone is not a source of poor mental health. These are noble accomplishments in and of themselves. If you can live with the cool old blues horn look then level 1 is a reasonable choice for you. Bear’s conscience is now clear if order a bare metal finish restoration from him.

$2 worth of sewing notions and a
small length of knitting yarn can
change your life. The plastic needle
makes handling the yarn a snap.
Thread your yarn into tight
places – under/over any key
or post. Work the yarn like a
shoeshine rag. A needle threader
takes the tedium out of setting
your rig up. Woolen yarn has
the perfect texture for picking up
dirt, grease or grime – cuts tarnish
away, too.

(background: Don owns a bare brass tenor that CS restored for him in mid 2004. Project details appear below.)
Q.  What can I use to remove spots from the bare brass finish.  The cloths you provided help, but I am finding that they don’t entirely remove spots that turn green and seem to almost burn into the surface of the horn. Thanks, Don…

A. The first thing to understand about that ‘green spot’ issue is it can’t happen absent moisture. I could tell that you play hard from the original condition of your horn, and that moisture (actually water droplet spots) traces were all over. You can minimize this spotting by thoroughly drying the sax after you play (even leaving it out on a stand to dry completely, if you can). Other than prevention, as you say, these green moldy spots are quite tenacious.

If you have a Dremel tool, the best way to remove ‘em quickly is with a tiny wire brush (brass, or even the steel brush for really tough spots – like were on your key cups before). Especially with the brass brush, you can’t do any damage to your horn’s surface (soft brass wire won’t scratch brass sheeting cuz they are the same hardness). Even the steel wire on those tiny Dremel brushes is thin enough that it won’t scratch solid brass unless you really bear down hard. If you can easily get to the spots without touching pads, corks or felts with the wire brush that’s your best bet – but be sure to wear safety goggles cuz the spinning wire can ‘shed’ as it works. As the attached pic shows, you can also mount these brushes in a small pin vise for more control (but less effectiveness than when spinning in the Dremel tool). The unbranded versions of these brushes cost is about 1/3rd that of the ‘real’ Dremel product, but are just as effective.

On areas where you can’t get the wire brush at the spots cleanly – or if that method simply scares the BeJesus out of you – you can (eventually) remove these spots with small amounts of polish (Flitz or Hagerty’s All-Metal Polish) applied on a Qtip and then rubbed vigorously with your polish cloth (you may need to repeat several times). Flitz is available at some hardware stores and auto parts stores, while the Hagerty line is typically associated with jewelers and the silverware sections of large department or home stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond or Linens & Things). Another technique that I discovered by accident is that WD40 will remove SOME of these spots. I’m not sure why it works on some and not on others, but it does sometimes dissolve these green spots. Maybe it’s the degree to which the spots have festered or ‘dug in’, or perhaps it’s that mold is a living thing and I’m sure there are different varieties of these pesky lil’ buggers. Lemme know if you need more hep, k?


The Swan..
This spectacular 423k Cleveland Super 20 earned its descriptive nickname during our resto process. Read on and you will understand exactly why …

If ever there was an ugly black duckling, this was it. The poor distressed beast had received at least one good buffing in its past, plus had been subjected to an industrial strength black coating that stood defiantly in the face of every method we routinely employ for stripping conventional saxophone finishes. This extremely tough stuff was something akin to a baked enamel auto finish. I can say that now because the (nasty) specialty stripping product we ordered that is specifically intended to strip auto baked enamel finishes is what finally started our progress toward this incredible bare brass restoration project result.

From our tests (on the neck tightening screw) we knew that this doggedly stubborn black coating could be momentarily softened by high heat (just long enough that if you acted very quickly you could scrape a small spot free), but once the heat source was removed this resilient substance noir again assumed its impenetrable defensive position. When I say ‘high heat’ I’m speaking of a MAPP gas (propane/acetylene mixed) torch we use mostly for silver solder repairs to broken parts (working temps +/- 1,000 degrees F). Obviously the heated approach was not practical on a King Super 20 body since all of its soldered tone hole fabrications would likely have been laying on the floor before we were half way into a heat-based strip procedure. The good news (I suppose) is that after two tedious applications of this ultra-industrial strength auto baked enamel stripper we finally got the horn body freed from its black prison garb — on the outside …

The next issue we discovered was that much of the ubiquitous ebony coating that had been over-sprayed through the tone holes was only weakened by our two outer stripping applications. The strip product is a spray application (which in theory should have duplicated the original over-spray areas), but apparently the coating was applied over a layer of yuky ‘sax plaque’, which had permitted it to grasp stronger little footholds all over the inner sax body. I can only surmise that the plaque had acted like a reinforcing agent that both changed the texture of the inside coating and reinforced it in some evil fashion. Weakened by our prior stripping activity, these little islands of congealed fuzzy goo began to flake off when the sax body was moved around. Obviously an unacceptable condition — dangerous to the player’s health in addition to causing a mess of ‘black dandruff’ — a solution had to be found. Now the one thing we’d learned for certain about this nuclear winter stripper product we were using to pry swannie’s pin feathers loose was that each application returned our brass finish to a mottled mess. The horn had already been polished twice (usually once is enough, with maybe some retouch at the end to remove all my grubby setup/regulation prints), a process on bare brass that’s always a Bear of a hand job to undertake. Besides: Since two separate applications of our chemical stripper had not done the job inside this old warrior so far, so a third repeat would only serve to confirm what many of you already think of my sanity. The decision was apparent: We’d have to blast …

click images to view full screen

And blast we did. On a 90 degree early Tulsa summer afternoon I loaded the sand blast gun with sodium carbonate, and with the help of the dependable Arm & Hammer man we forever eradicated the remaining black fuzzy masses from the horn’s inner reaches. If you had asked immediately after the process I would probably have mumbled that an exorcism would have been easier to endure — for not only did we need the big blast rig, but extracting the residual tentacles of black death had required reaching through tone holes to spot blast with the air brush micro-blaster. Why the spot treatment? Well … mostly cuz when one lets loose with the finest abrasive known to man with the big gun, the target disappears in the first three milliseconds. The baking soda blast process is a bit like what I image clearing ice from your drive with a flame thrower would be: You sure don’t want to slip over a missed spot with that thing running, and the steam fogs yer glasses to where you can’t see a thing. Our baking soda blast party ended with a horn that was squeaky clean inside and out, plus a snow white polar Bear, clothes and all, in the shower. Thank goodness Arm & Hammer has a mildly pleasant taste … 

Of course the insidious blackness had been sprayed over springs & all, so it was (almost) automatic (certainly inevitable) that our original King springs were trash. “Resistance is futile,” said the black goop as we attempted to salvage a few springs, so we fitted ‘er up with a whole new set of stainless steel springs. Now I don’t care how much you allow in your cost estimate or work schedule to install a new set of saxophone springs, it’s never enough. By the time you get ‘em all fitted to the posts, clipped to the correct length (for both appearance & performance), then get the whole horn back to a harmonious, efficient feel, you’ve gone into the sack on your time & costs. I figure this must be one of those obscure Murphy’s Laws that apply only to saxophone techs. I wish somebody would write all this stuff down …

Among the more typical issues we face in the average bare brass restoration, some additional special obstacles had to be addressed on this Super 20 tenor. As you see from the low B pad cup the lower half of this instrument was covered in severe mold and corrosion, requiring repeated applications of corrosion cracker and Hagerty’s All-Metal Polish. In the worst spots we had to resort to a Dremel-sized brass or steel wire brush to get the corrosion out of pits and the cup engraving. If done carefully, the work with these small, low powered rotary brushes does not produce significant scratching. Any scratching can usually be polished away with our Hagerty AMP, but in any event, the surfaces look so much better without the gook and crud that the trade-off is well worth the brushing procedure. I’ll add quickly that we do not recommend DIY efforts with rotary wire brushes. At CS we experimented with this technique extensively on parts horns before we were ready to apply the process to a client restoration. 

Another special issue on this restoration involved a multiple bend to the upper body of the horn, and a silver neck pull-down that had probably been exacerbated by the blow(s) that caused our upper body bend. Straightening body bends is fairly routine in saxophone restorations, but the technique is one that requires skill gained from experience — not to mention a little art … plus a modicum of luck. [There is more on the body straightening process in our Q&A section under advanced DIY issues]. Of course the horn had been adjusted to play with the bend (which in itself was amazing cuz a number of keys in the upper stack would not move freely or go back onto the main stack rod without straightening), so posts were out of position all over the place. Happily, all the keywork went back together and worked smoothly (after straightening everything and doing some rod/key lap-fitting), but we were left with this precarious buckle in the silver neck. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a good b4 pic of the problem, but I’ll try to explain it …

At the bottom of the brass reinforcing bracket that’s soldered to the underside of a King silver neck there is a gap of maybe a half inch that is unreinforced silver. This gap between the bottom of the reinforcing brace and the brass neck tenon fitting means that all the force absorbed by the brace is transmitted to this small area of soft silver at the base of your neck. [Rhetorical question: if I can see this why didn't the King designers see it?] Well, the blows and pull down action this neck had endured left us with a crumpled silver crease about an inch in length along one side of this (obvious) stress point. The crumpling was like the marks from wadding a sheet of paper, quite deep and convoluted. There was the real possibility that if this crease was straightened incorrectly the creases in the silver would rupture, leaving us with a very ugly repair. The tack we chose was to work the crease from the inside using only gentle hand strength applied by the back (convex) side of a Ferree’s hook burnisher. Needless to say, this was a tedious and slow task, but the care paid off in the end result. Once the creases were eliminated it was a short job of smoothing the outer neck surface with the convex side of the hook burnishing tool — and this silver King neck was restored to its original beauty and glory. I suppose the moral of this story is that your King S20 silver neck has a huge design flaw that could cause it to crease and rupture in a severe pull-down or drop situation. So the next time you think about doing the Chuck Berry slide to your knees as an entré to your ‘Woolly Bully’ solo, think again — and no Fred Astaire dance moves using the tenor neck as your walking cane, either, k?

OK, enough commiseration. The story does have a happy ending. We finished the horn with a set of flat metal reso pads and Bear gave it the slick custom set up that removes every possible friction point. These rare birds seem to glide over the notes effortlessly when we’re done, and ‘swannie’ was no different. The horn just soars now. When they look as good as they play — or vice-versa — it makes Bear a proud papa. If you’re curious, this project was about 10 weeks in process, including a ten day side trip to Indiana for the skillful re engraving artistry of Sherry Huntley at Artistic Engravers. No one does better work on faithfully reproducing an original saxophone engraving pattern than Sherry. This fine feathered old dude made the transformation from ugly blackness to bare brass wonder, and recently flew back home to land in a thrilled owner’s hands. Our ugly duckling now stands at stud swan back on the ole home pond near Spokane, Washington. Wave if you see him out there in Wahoo land … 


This beautiful King Super 20 Tenor Saxophone belongs to a valued CyberSax restoration client. It is NOT available for purchase.

If you have a saxophone in need of a similar restoration procedure we would be pleased to help you plan and execute your own project. We do have a number of very desirable core horns that can be purchased on a turnkey restoration basis. You are welcome to call or email Bear to discuss what is involved in reserving a slot in his restoration schedule for either a horn you already own, or one we have in stock for our turnkey program. Our work is neither fast nor cheap, but your patience & expense will be amply rewarded.
click here to see more images from recent CyberSax restoration projects

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