Saxophone/cleaning a sax


I have an older Tenor sax --  would like to improve
it's appearance.  Not a complete refinish.  Maybe a shinier
   Could I just clean it good and then spray with a little
clear shiny lacquer.  (carefully around the bell)
  Krylon makes a clear lacquer in a spray can.

      What do you think?



DO NOT DO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Refinishing a saxophone is a very delicate process. The clear "spray paint", BTW is not lacquer, will gum up the horns mechanism. Real lacquer is derived from tree sap and takes much more pressure to spray then what you get from a spray can. Plus as you use a can, the pressure diminishes with the loss of the product from the can. And you will likely get it all over the pads and into the keys and make the horn very sticky. I know this because I've seen it done and I've had to clean it up. It's a mess.

In order to do what you want you would have to completely remove the keys and apply real lacquer to the body in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. If the temperature is to low, or the humidity is to high the "lacquer" will frost as soon as it hits the metal. Meaning it will turn white.

The process to get a sax cleaned up as you said "make it shinier" is a re-lacquer. This requires completely tearing then horn down, removing all the remaining lacquer, polishing on a buffing wheel, degreasing, spray a new coat of lacquer and then allow it to bake in an oven for 20 minutes to cure the lacquer.

If the horn is silver plated, then it may be turning black in some areas due to oxidation. Keep in mind silver does not oxidize, but copper does and so does sulfur. The silver on the horn has a little of both mixed in. It's the sulfur that causes it to turn black. The best way to prevent this is first take it to a tech that can disassemble the horn and then polish it correctly so no residue is left on the horn. Then when the horn is in storage, get some of those anti-silver tarnish strips. A tech can order these or steal them out of a flute case. Keep a few of them in your case and they will greatly slow the oxidation process.

My personal opinion on this is to take the horn to a tech who can clean and polish it but not do any type of re-lacquer or plating. The first reason is the cost is going to be extremely high. From $800 to $1500 depending on where you take it This is because all the pads would also have to be replaced as part of the process. So it's a complete overhaul. Also there are only a few techs I know of that can re-lacquer a horn correctly and not remove to much metal. When the horn is polished the buffing wheel is spinning at about 1500rpm. At that speed it's like sandpaper on the brass and it will remove some of the surface. Any engraving or logo's will be diminished, and some could be erased entirely. Removing some of the metal will effect the way the horn vibrates and change it's tonal character. Also depending on the make and model, could seriously diminish the horns value as players who want vintage horns prefer to have them in original factory finish regardless of the horns appearance.

Also another reason many techs are getting out of the re-lacquer business is due to increased OSHA regulations, the chemicals used are dangerous and require periodic safety inspection and have to be disposed of properly. These inspections have to be done by a 3rd party and the shops just don't want to mess with all the paper work and legalities, and expenses they get into. Or some who are a bit less ethical and don't bother to report that they have the stuff. Would you want to do business with them anyways?

My recommendation is to find a tech who can look over the horn and clean and polish it properly. If you need to find a tech go to # AKA, The National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians, and do a tech search.# You should have several in your area that can help you.

I hope this helps.

Charles Harris  


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Charles Harris


questions regarding equipment, performance, repairs, lessons, etc. Almost all saxophone related questions.


I am a professional member of N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instruments Repair Technicians). I have been repairing saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and brass instruments since 1993. I perform in several professional groups covering genres form classical, jazz, and rock.

N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians

St. Petersburg Junior College (AA) University of South Florida.

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