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Saxophone/Old Dorn & Kirschner, C.G. Conn, and Carl Fischer


C.G. Conn
C.G. Conn  
Dorn & Kirschner
Dorn & Kirschner  
QUESTION: Hello Jeff. Recently I was digging through my basement when I stumbled upon three very old looking instruments. The research I have done on them hasn't lead to anything significantly helpful, so I thought I would ask an expert about what exactly these are and if I should have them fixed up. The first is a Dorn & Kirschner with A 15153 L on the back of it. It appears to be silver. The second is a C.G. Conn made in Elkhar Indiana. On the back it reads PATD.DEC.8.1914. (please see image for this next part) !119954 A 44368 L. Finally, the last is an old metal clarinet that says nothing but Carl Fischer on it. Thanks!


Let me do some research for you. Please allow a couple of days.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again,

Just checking in about the two saxes and the clarinet!



Hi Ben,

1. Dorn and Kirschner was a music store and repair school located in Newark, New Jersey. The store closed in 1992. The instrument rental business developed during the 1920s and 1930s and revolved around a rent-to-own concept akin to the installment plan made popular by the automobile industry and subsequently applied to furniture, home appliances, and other consumer goods. Dorn and Kirschner boasted one of the area's largest instrument rental programs, serving a sizeable section of central and northern New Jersey. With just the pic of the back its hard to tell who actually made it. Most likely, it was made by Martin for them but there is no serial chart to date it. From what I can see....1920's

2. Conn alto sax was made it the last parts of 1917. The "L" tells me that it tunes to modern standards of A=440. The ergonomics turns many people off today but it was "the cats meow" back in the day. When these horns are setup correctly they sing with a beautiful, sweet tone unlike anything on the market today. It appears to be silver plated which was not the cheapest finish at the time.

3. You have a stencil clarinet. Carl Fischer is a music industry company since 1872. The instrument portion of their operation was primarily as dealers and importers, not makers.  There are no serial number lists for the company to date the instruments that are labeled with their name.  

What is a stencil?

A "stencil" refers to an instrument built by a major manufacturer for another company or storefront. On receipt of the instrument, the storefront would literally take a stencil and engrave their own name or design on the horn.
American stencil manufactures were generally:
* Conn
* Buescher
* Martin
* Occasionally Holton
* Occasionally HN White (King)
American stencils generally have the following characteristics:
* A different serial number chart than the pro horns form the manufacturer
* Stencil manufacture didn't begin in the US until about 1920
* A reduced feature set than the pro horns (for example, Conn stencils don't have rolled tone holes)
* Generally lower quality control than pro horns, but still great horns compared with today...
* Designs were generally based on earlier tooling (i.e. body and key work).
* Generally limited engraving
* All American stencils I have seen have been low pitch, A=440hz (modern intonation) horns (I still recommend checking with a tuner, in case some are high pitch and aren't marked)
* Occasionally new designs were released only on stencil models (new key work, different octave vent designs, etc.). If the design was good, it occasionally found its way onto the pro models
* American stencils were generally made by the lowest bidder for the contract. For instance, if the Vega company requested a bunch of saxophones, they would buy them from whoever was the cheapest supplier: Conn, Buescher, etc. This means that most stencils were not always made by one specific company over the life of the stencil.

Your clarinet was made in the mid to late 1920's.  

The stencils were the hardest to research as there is very little information about them and sometimes less for the companies that put their name on them. The question about rebuilding them is a very sticky one, depends on what you plan on doing with them. If you plan on flipping them = losing money. For a correct rebuild, with correct materials and procedures, the saxes would start at $600 in our shop, the clarinet $300. Most metal clarinets (not all) had horrible intonation and if it is missing the tuning barrel (where the mouthpiece fits) it's only good for making into a lamp. The saxes are better but must be setup correctly to play correctly, with Conn being the best of the two. Fix them and play them, ROCK THE HOUSE!

Jeff Frazier - owner J and J Woodwinds 866-996-6394


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Jeff Frazier


Any questions related to the repair, refinishing and restoration of band instruments (woodwinds and brass).


I am co-owner J and J Woodwinds LLC, a full service repair and restoration facility locatd in Shreveport, Louisiana. We have been in business since 1985 providing customers worldwide with the repairs and restorations that many will not do!

Apprenticed under one of the finest repairmen in the business at Williams music in the late 1970's/early 1980's. His brother is listed as one of the top band instrument repair techs in the nation!

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