lack of lacquer

P. Muariat after 6 months in the Houston humidity

P. Muariat after 6 months in the Houston humidity

Above is an example of what the climate in Houston does to a unlacquered brass instrument.  A growing trend in the manufacturing side of the industry is to produce horns with no finish.  Bald brass.   P. Muariat.  Yamaha, Borgani, Yanigisawa, and a whole host of other brands produce horns without any protection on the brass. This is not unique to the saxophone world – many brass instruments are produced like this as well. Claims like “Lose the dampening effect of all that lacquer and let your horn resonate freely” and “the absence of lacquer allows the finish to age over time, forging a mature sound that is uniquely your own” abound.

I am not going to express an opinion  about the effect lacquer has on the playability of a saxophone – have heard all sides to that argument since as an apprentice a band director had me strip the lacquer off some french horn bells because (no kidding) “it will make them play more in tune.” What i would like to address is how a necked brass body can be kept up and  keep it from getting as bad as the above relatively young saxophone.

  1. Lacquer it.  Ok, I realize that is a bit extreme, and probably not a useful option.
  2. Aerosol Furniture polish.  Spray some on a soft lint free cloth and wipe down the metal.  The solvents will remove any oils, and the wax will help protect the finish.  Do this carefully, as you do not want to jar any keys nor knock off any key corks.  I just read an interesting article linking these products to neurotoxins, so I may rethink my usage.  There are several options for home made furniture cleaners I may look into in the future.
  3. Wax.  carnauba Car Wax.  This requires that the horn be disassembled, as you do not want to get this on any organic part.  Applied as directed (bypass the buffing part) it forms a durable shield between the exposed brass and the atmosphere.  When I got the ruined lacquer off the H Couf baritone saxophone project that I have been working on for the past 4 years, i waxed it repeatedly.  That body still has not started to seriously degrade.
  4. Always wipe the body down. Keep the surface free of debris and oil will help.

Here is an in depth article on the chemical process involved in brass oxidation, copyright 2002 by Lois Fruen

~ by inhorn on October 20, 2009.

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