Saxophone Forum


by thegableguy
(5 posts)
1 year ago

Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

Hi folks, 

I've decided I want to strip the lacquer from the body of my SA80 SII alto, bought new around 1997. Horn works beautifully, no dramas whatsoever, but it's entered that dowdy phase between shiny & nice and old & vintage-looking. I really like the idea of fully stripping the body and leaving the keys in their current semi-worn state, think it'll look great. I never liked the greenish tinge to the lacquer of the SA80 SIIs.

(I don't believe for a second that it'll change the tone in any noticeable way - or if it does, the difference will be a tiny fraction of the difference you get changing reeds! This is purely a cosmetic thing for me.)

I've read a bunch of different forums about different stripping methods and have been experimenting on the neck, but with no visible result thus far. I boiled the neck in water for about 20 mins last night, alternating between hot & cold water; it did nothing (well, made it slightly shinier & cleaner, but the lacquer is unaffected). I tried acetone this morning, applying lightly with rags to begin with then actually soaking in acetone for 5-10 mins; again, zero effect. These methods seem to work on Mark VIs, but I'm guessing that 30 years earlier they had different lacquer applied using a different technique to what they used in the late 90s. I can't find any specific advice for this model of sax, so hoping one (or several) of you might know what I can try...? Thanks in advance!

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  1. by historicsaxwhisperer
    (399 posts)

    1 year ago

    Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

    Are you going to hve the hornm taken apart and repadded or just wiping it as is?....

     

    White Vinegar works on older lacquer. Inexpensive and a natural acid.

    If acetone did not work, I doubt the vinegar will.

    A bare brass horn always has a much more free vibration. If sound is what you are after, you will be pleased when it is stripped.

    Good Luck

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    1. by thegableguy
      (5 posts)

      1 year ago

      Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

      Ta for the reply. I'll be taking the whole thing apart and doing it properly, though I'm just starting with the neck for now until I find a process that works. I've tried paint stripper today and it seems to have done the trick, although the shiny new brass underneath isn't exactly the look I had in mind...! I'm sure it'll get there in time. 

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  2. by bjroosevelt
    (47 posts)

    1 year ago

    Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

    Couple of notes:

    1). On the acetone.......if you tried your wife’s nail polish remover instead of actually purchasing acetone, you would not be expected to get results.  Nail polish remover contains hardly any acetone any more......In my neck of the woods, we can still get real acetone at the hardware store.

    2). I don’t understand why so many people downplay the materials used in horn construction (brass/lacquer) when it comes to sound quality.  Changing mouthpieces and reeds will definitely have an impact on the sound quality....but I would expect you are going to hear something quite remarkable when you get that laquer removed.

    I do not subscribe to the theory that the mouthpiece-reed combination makes the primary sound and the saxophone just amplifies it.  When I play my mouthpiece without the sax attached, I get an annoying whistling airy sound.......when I stick the mouthpiece and reed on the horn, I get a beautiful sound.   I KNOW that what happens to the sound waves inside of that horn is the primary determinant of the beautiful tones that come out the other side.  

    I like to think of the design of the sax (metals, lacquer, key-stack configuration) as the sun, heat and water.  I like to think of the mouthpieces and reeds as the seeds

    If you don’t have the sun, heat and water, it really doesn’t make a different how good the seed its, because it ain’t going to grow.  Even a lousy seed will produce decent results if the sun, heat, and water are correct. 

    Keep on trying to get that lacquer off.  Would you really go through all of this hassle just for looks? 

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    1. by thegableguy
      (5 posts)

      1 year ago

      Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

      I used acetone from the hardware store - completely submerged the neck for 10 mins - and it did exactly nothing whatsoever, so it's not a matter of potency. It's simply the chemicals used in this lacquer not responding to acetone, which is understandable. I've just tried paint stripper this afternoon and it works fine. 

      Re the tonal change, let's agree to disagree. I'm expecting absolutely no difference in tone, so yes, I'm doing this purely for aesthetics! Call me vain, I don't mind. I just think it'll look fantastic when the bare brass ages / tarnishes a little. 

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  3. by GFC
    (794 posts)

    1 year ago

    Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

    Modern lacquers are epoxy-based, so you could approach the problem from the standpoint of epoxy removal.  There are epoxy removal products available.  Of course you will be generating hazardous waste.

    If you want to keep green spots from forming on your bare brass horn you could either do a liver of sulfur treatment or use car wax.  Liver of sulfur is used for antiquing copper and brass. It essentially pre-tarnishes the surface, forming a protective oxygen barrier of zinc sulfide.  Results may vary.

    Can't speak from personal experience, but there is to my mind a solid theoretical argument that lacquer fuzzes up the upper partials to some degree.  It's pretty clear that the body and especially the neck have a dynamic rather than passive role in tone production.  Some people who I respect highly, with experience with large numbers of horns, believe that lacquer makes a significant difference.

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    1. by thegableguy
      (5 posts)

      1 year ago

      Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

      Thanks for that. I've tried paint stripper and it's worked a treat. Polished it up with some car wax and it's surprisingly shiny, shinier than much of the rest of the horn now. When I've got a little more time between gigs I'll take the rest of the horn apart and get to work, should take a day or two and it'll be ready to rock.

      I've never subscribed to the notion of different horns sounding markedly different to one another, to be honest. I'm much more about using whatever tools you have to hand to create the sound you want. That's saying nothing of the mic you're using (or the competence of the guy mixing), the room you're in, the mouthpiece & reed you're playing, the volume of the other instruments you're playing with, whether you're healthy or have blocked sinuses, whether you're having a really good night or just can't find the groove as occasionally happens. Of all the different factors involved in producing a good sound, I'm willing to assert that lacquer (or lack thereof) would account for somewhere between zero and a very, very small difference - vastly less than anyone can actually hear in a live performance. 

      But in the immortal words of J Lebowski, that's just, like, my opinion, man.

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    2. by GFC
      (794 posts)

      1 year ago

      Re: Selmer SA80 SII lacquer removal

      Correction: copper, not zinc, sulfide.  Some people use automotive paint stripper.

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