Saxophone/V Kohlerts Sons Tenor Sax
I was recently given a saxophone that was once owned by my great grandfather. It has been passed down from family member to family memeber. This is a little funny becasue I am the only saxophone player in the entire family (why would the others simply just store this saxophone?). I play on a Selmer super action 80 Tenor.
This saxophone is somewhat confusing to me becasue it has no serial number that I can find. It appears that it was stored well since the finish is in great shape for it's age. The only marking on this saxophone is on the front of the bell. It is labelled " V. Kohlerts Sons / Makers / Graslitz / CZECHO - SLOVAKIA".
The lower hand position also has some unusual fingering positions. It includes what appears to be "trill keys", and a fourth finger position that is a smaller tone hole, on top of another tone hole (see Pics).
The lack of a serial number confuses me, but the interesting and unique fingering positions intrigues me. Please help me understand more about this tenor saxophone.
What you have is a very unique and interesting piece of saxophone history. In the early years of the saxophones development there was no such thing as a standard key system. Pretty much all manufactures would try various things to get an edge on their competition and make a truly unique instrument. Adolph Sax came up with the basic design then every manufacture put their own spin on it. It wasn't until the early 1900's before everyone started to agree what keys were standard and what wasn't. It still took until the 1970's before everyone begin to agree to use the design Selmer introduced with the Super Balanced Action and Mark VI. When looking at vintage instruments its very easy to tell the make and model just on a few unique features. However after Selmer's success the 1950's and 60's pretty much every manufacture has jumped on the the same design. With only a few minor exception most horns today are in essence clones of the Super Action 80.
The Kolhert company began in the early 1900's and made some very unique designs as you can see. They often outsourced their factory having made horns for Keilwerth and King. The Kolhert 57 was the best they ever produced and is considered by some to be superior in sound and design to the legendary Mark VI. However the political history of Eastern Europe took its toll on this company and by the 1960's the Kolhert company was fully absorbed into the communist system and it production suffered greatly.
OK... Now back to your horn... As this horn does not have a serial number and it looks like the touch pieces are metal and not pearl would place it's production prior to 1915. (Yes it's at least 100 years old). The lack of a serial number means it likely never had one. Considering the time and location this was made serial numbers were not really necessary. The idea of serializing a product only came into existence after modern factories were able to mass produce products and the only way to tell them apart was to stamp a number on them. I believe this was first done with the firearm industry. In Czechoslovakia in the early 1900's I'm not sure the idea of mass production had reached that area of the world. It's likely the design and construction of this horn could be unique unto itself or it was just never serialized. It's also possible the serial number could have been erased when and if the horn was ever re-lacquered. I would need to see the horn myself to determine that.
I had the opportunity to rebuild an alto very similar to the one you have in your possession about 3 or 4 months ago. The extra keys on the left hand are auxiliary keys for the low C#, B and Bb. The tone hole on top of the low D key is an Eb trill key. It's similar to the design seen on old Conns, Martins and Bueschers from the time that has the the extra trill key on the back. This key is often plugged as it tends to leak. IMHO the Kohlert design is superior to the other designs from that time period. Selmer even copied this on their very short lived Model 28. Based on the photos you sent me, it looks like the corks on the bottom of the C#, B and Bb aux keys are missing therefore they are not going to operate properly. When one of them is depressed, it should close the entire lower stack (right hand keys). These corks have to be quite thick and often come off as they age.
I would recommend you take this horn to a tech in your area that has experience with vintage instruments. If you don't know of anyone, go to www.napbirt.org and do a tech search for someone in your area.
I would like to see a few more photos of this to better determine it's condition. Close up photos of the key clusters and pads would be a big help. If you could send them to me that would be great. My e-mail is email@example.com