FAQ

Welcome to the FAQ!  This is a FAQ in the true sense of the word- the frequently asked questions that I get, and my answers.  I get a lot of questions, and I typically give long answers.  I also didn’t put a table of contents here, so just search for whatever word you are interested in, or just read top to bottom.  So here are the Frequently Asked Q’s, in no particular order:

 

What difference does silver/gold/whatever plating do to the sound?  What about delacquering?

It is hard to know. Horns are different one from the next due to tiny variations in the bore, toneholes, padwork, and setup. Even when they are one serial number apart with the same finish and same make and model there can be subtle differences, so you can’t know if the differences you are feeling are due to the finish or some other factor when trying two different horns. And if you were to plate your own horn and feel a difference, well since you can’t plate or relacquer or delacquer a horn without overhauling it and making a major change in the way it plays from the overhaul, its extremely difficult to tell what difference if any the finish is making.
It is pretty much useless to try to judge the sound of a horn by its color. You have to play it- and even then, assuming we are talking about a professional horn which was built right in the first place (and almost every real professional horn is), most of what you are judging is how well the pads are sealing, how well the neck tenon is sealing, whether the key heights are correct, whether the spring tensions are even, whether the adjustment materials are well-selected, whether the toneholes are level, how straight the body is etc.

 

 

 

I want to learn to fix saxophones.  How do I do this?

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T SCREW UP A PROFESSIONAL HORN, ESPECIALLY VINTAGE SINCE THEY AREN’T MAKING THEM ANYMORE.  Start on something else.  Experiment on something else.  Don’t do anything you aren’t 100% sure of on them.  Professional instruments have the capability to make music for centuries, so we are only stewards of these instruments for future generations.  Be humble, be smart, be not-an-asshole and don’t do anything permanent on a nice horn until you become a professional repairer- and even then, be careful!  Ok, with that said:

I would recommend starting by buying the “Complete Guide to Woodwind Repair” available here:https://web.memberclicks.com/mc/quickForm/viewForm.do?orgId=napbirt&formId=36938[1]

Also check the links on my website for vendors: http://www.stohrermusic.com/links/[2]

I have written more than a few articles here that may help:http://www.stohrermusic.com/category/articles-info/[3]

Watch the videos I have made on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/abadcliche[4]

And check out the site I am working on to teach people about saxophone repair and manufacture here: http://opensourcesaxophoneproject.com/[5]

The tools you will want to get started are listed here: http://opensourcesaxophoneproject.com/level-one-tools/[6]

The Open Source Saxophone Project is a work in progress, and it will take me several more years to get it to where I want it to be.

Anyhow, working on good saxophones to start is the best way. You want to know that the problem is YOU, not the inherent design of the saxophone. I would recommend something well built but cheap, like the student horns built in the 40s and 50s- Conn Pan American, King Cleveland, Martin Indiana, even a Bundy I (not a II). Just make sure they are physically clean. A straightforward job is what you want. I don’t care how cheap it is, don’t work on cheap modern imports. You will learn nothing and waste lots of time.

 

How did you get into this business?  

“I’ve always been handy and very interested in mechanical things and how stuff works. I also loved the saxophone, in fact went to college for it for a few years before I figured out the way I loved the saxophone was not the way that gets you As. I found an apprenticeship of sorts, but I am largely self-taught. My “master” was fired 6 months into my apprenticeship and it was sink or swim on 48th street in Manhattan. People would drop a horn off on Monday, I would go home Monday night and mess my horn up the same way, figure out how to fix it overnight, get a couple hours sleep, fix their horn on Tuesday. Luckily I never messed up and got a reputation for being honest and reasonable, two things which are sadly in short supply in this business. The internet has been a HUGE boon to learning this trade- knowledge that was sequestered and localized has been spread far and wide in the past decade and the state of the art in general has benefited immensely. For me, and I may have been lucky, I have never wanted for work. It is mostly word of mouth, and your reputation is everything. But honestly its not that hard! If you show up in the morning, put in a days work and stay honest and never shortcut, you will stay busy. “Good enough never is”. Just stay picky, stay hard to please, and never get comfortable.”

how I do things now at the highest end of my business: http://www.stohrermusic.com/for-sale/why-buy-from-stohrer-music/

 

 

 

How can I match lacquer on a vintage horn if I have to solder?

The short answer is my shop is somewhat unusual, and for me its about finesse rather than a specific procedure.

I deal mainly with vintage instruments, which have nitrocellulose lacquer, which 1) is not really available anymore because it is inferior (protection-wise) to the modern epoxy based lacquers and is also very dangerous and expensive to use well and 2) oxidizes and ages in a way unique to each instrument as far as coloration and wear pattern.
Also, the owners of the instruments I work on typically don’t like the idea of refinishing any part of their instrument or applying more abrasive means of cleanup than is strictly necessary (i.e. buffing, which needs to be done before lacquering). Therefore, for me, its more about minimizing damage to the lacquer on the front end and cleaning up afterwards in a way that makes the area worked stay in character with the look of the instrument itself. I don’t want a giant patch of burned lacquer, and I don’t want a giant patch of super-shiny brass when the rest of the horn has a nice golden brown patina. Getting things to not burn in the first place is sometimes possible, but when a lot of mass needs heated (like a bow brace or something) and lacquer burn is inevitable, it becomes more about the cleanup and the various tricks I can utilize to make the resulting bare brass look naturally aged like the other bare brass spots on the horn that have occurred naturally through wear. If the horn is mint condition otherwise, I’m basically screwed. Thankfully though, I don’t see a ton of major damage to mint condition horns.

This is different than most repair shops, where (for example) a modern trumpet has its leadpipe torn off by a dad with pliers trying to remove a stuck mouthpiece, and the repair shop will straighten the leadpipe out, resolder it, buff it, and lacquer it.

Of course if the horn is plated, you can soft solder all day long and not leave a mark if you are careful.

Here is an example of a repair on a crushed-in neck brace on an SML. This is after the crush was fixed and the brace resoldered. I have cleaned up the burned and crackled lacquer and the area is bare brass, and I have cleaned it in a way that the edges are not starkly defined. Next step is to get the patina started by (and I’m lucky this works for me, everyone’s personal chemistry is a little different) rubbing it with my hands for a little while and applying some gentle heat. This will darken it very evenly and make it difficult to see that any work was done, and lucky me it stays even and continues to darken naturally over time while also resisting any spotting or corrosion. I learned this about myself by owning a bare brass horn for a long time. I’m very lucky! I knew a repairman who had to wear gloves because his personal chemistry was so corrosive he left red fingerprints on bare brass. Another way would be to use liver of sulfer. http://www.stohrermusic.com/wp-content/gallery/gallery/1507075_10151944194782399_752895637_n.jpg

Here is an example on a mint condition Mark VI alto belonging to a customer of mine where the horn was shipped improperly by the seller to them and the octave mechanism was twisted and bent sharply downwards, which resulting in the octave actuating lever being completely broken off and it needed brazing/silver soldering. This is an extreme close up and hopefully its not easy to tell. At distances of more than an inch or two, it basically disappeared. http://www.stohrermusic.com/wp-content/gallery/gallery/dscn1282.jpg

 

I work in a repair shop and I am frustrated

This is probably a problem that is encountered by every shop. I am lucky enough that I have worked myself into a spot where I can turn down those jobs if I am unable to convince the owner of the justness of the cause. To get where I am today I’ve had to 1) stop working in a place where I’m not the boss and people can just walk in off the street 2) become somewhat hard to reach (for example you need to spell my name correctly to reach my website or email me) 3) become known for doing high-end work 4) work only on instruments that are physically valuable or emotionally valuable to their owners. This means that my customers are highly motivated on their own to do the right thing, and all that is left for me to do is to do a job worth all the bullshit of finding me, talking to me, getting on my waitlist, and paying a premium price.
It certainly wasn’t this way when I started, but I always had this goal in mind, and I was known even in my early days for turning people away or recommending competitors across the street. I am very lucky that it has worked out for me. There is definitely a very strong need for the “I’ve got $50 and I need this tonight” type of job; I just find it less fulfilling than doing work that will last on an instrument that will still be making music long after I’m gone.

How much should an overhaul cost?  What about a repad?  What is the difference?

It completely depends. There will be many secondary and tertiary factors that will affect the process and the outcome, and each repairer will do the job a slightly different way based on their skills and biases and experience. What you need to do is take it around to a few shops for estimates and information and then make a decision- and don’t do it based only on price. Ten cheap fixes add up to more than one expensive fix, and your horn never feels as good in the meantime.  The best thing for your horn is often whats cheapest in the long run. But the highest price doesn’t necessarily equate with the best job, either.  An expensive job done poorly is the absolute worst.  I would encourage you to read this to get your head in the right space about pricing services you don’t understand: http://www.stohrermusic.com/2011/05/the-unprofitable-valley-or-why-so-much-stuff-is-mediocre/

 

It really depends on what the actual services being performed are- many different complex procedures can be done (or not done) behind the words “repad” or “overhaul”, and then of course there is the skill and honesty (or lack thereof) of the person doing the work that will further affect the outcome. But because this is complex and takes a long time to explain and we live in a world where time is at a premium and not many people understand how the objects we used in our daily lives work, people try to compare prices based on the words used, rather than the actual services performed. So the words are nearly meaningless, and comparing prices is basically impossible without spending a long time figuring out what exactly is being done, and how skilled the person doing it is- which is further complicated by the fact that there is no standards board for saxophone repair, and the main way to find out if someone is good or not is the opinion of the saxophonists who have used them for repairs- who are themselves non-experts in the field of repair!

This is why I take so much time to write out exactly what I do on my repair page:http://www.stohrermusic.com/repair-services/[1]

I also speak about this at length in my “Unprofitable Valley” article, which I would encourage you to read.

 

 


What should I look for when buying a used horn?

Whatever you get, get one that is in clean physical condition and original finish. Not because refinishes are always bad, but because the specific type of repair work necessary to get them playing as well or better than new (mechanical rebuild of the mechanism) is in short supply. Remember when buying used you are not just buying what the factory made, but what every owner and repairman has done to it since. Less layers between you and the factory means less of a chance there are gremlins. Buy it from somewhere reputable with a return policy, and GET IT CHECKED OUT BY A REPAIRMAN or better yet, two or three of them. If you do it right, you can end up with a lifetime sax for not a lot of money.  And just go ahead and skip the

 

 

You only recommend vintage horns because that is what you make money on, right?

I suggest vintage horns because that is what I like and what I feel represents the best value. I fix vintage horns because that is what I like, and I liked them before I could fix them- in fact its my love for old saxophones that made me want to do this. I didn’t get into it for the money, certainly.

Most of my advice is given to people who I am not doing business with, simply because when you only do one overhaul per week, there aren’t many people that you do business with in a year. So my motivations are really just to spread the love around and make people realize how great the horns are, and how they may have been judging them incorrectly, and how you can get a ton of horn for not a lot of money, or how many of them are exquisite pieces of craftsmanship and art. Of course you can spend a lot of money if you’d like, but thats just market value. The intrinsic value of these instruments is what attracts me, and I’d still do this job (though probably a lot less hours per day) if I wasn’t getting paid.

Buying vintage/used is an option for people who are interested, curious, and have the time and energy to spend researching and learning. These are typically the kind of people who call me, so its just part of my ecosystem if you know what I mean.

If I come in contact with someone who just wants to walk in to a store and buy new, I usually tell them to stick with the “big four”- Yanagisawa, Yamaha, Selmer, and Keilwerth. None of them are perfect (though Yanagisawa comes closest) but all of them are great saxophones that are repairable and will last a century or more.
The only warning I really give- and again because of my ecosystem this is something that the person I am talking to has found on their own long ago- is that the horn won’t do the work for you. There is an expectation that intonation just happens, that “my sax is playing out of tune”. Saxophones can play in tune or out of tune, and so can you. Hear the note first and then play it. Rigid intonation in a horn means inflexible tonality, which is a high price to pay for being too lazy to use your ear.
Most important improvements IMHO is the automatic octave mechanism, drawn toneholes (which came from flutes), and ergonomic improvements. The saxophone is quite similar to what it was when it was invented, and most of what we think of as “modern” on modern saxophones are merely ergonomic improvements.

 

 

Any question about the “air stream” going through the horn, like “is this small dent disrupting my air stream and making my horn less good?” or “why don’t we put dimples on the inside of the horn like we do on golf balls so the air can move faster?”

The stream of air that is flowing through your horn is actually going quite slow- think of how long you can play between breaths and blow out your full lung capacity on your hand in the same time. Not actually a lot of movement, right? Nothing compared to a golf ball or similar system where aerodynamics is important.
The thing that is happening inside your horn is that waves of pressure both high and low are moving through the air column inside the horn, bouncing off the steady pressure of the atmosphere at the first open tonehole (or bell) to create a standing wave. Much like waves crashing on the beach while the ocean stays put, the air itself is not really moving, only jostling around as waves move through it. Especially since inside the horn, this is happening much faster- at the speed of sound, and the air through which the wave moves is moving so slowly by comparison that it is nearly standing still. So the things that matter internally are less about aerodynamics as you might apply them to a car or a golf ball and more about avoiding turbulences and eddies and unwanted resonances in the standing wave, which is a much more complex subject, but one that can also be approached empirically, and sometimes even the best CAD designers and acousticians have to revert to it. Like Selmer has on its modern altos. Many of them have an insert on the tonehole below the B key, which was done to prevent the “splitting C” or “playing through a fan” effect you can sometimes get with certain players on certain setups when playing 2nd octave C. Here is a photo of it: http://i.imgur.com/QGo0oTu.jpg[1] So that is Selmer, who should know everything by now, right? Or maybe they did back when they were building the VI, right? Nope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7efNh7qJlc[2]

(video shows the patch installed inside the bow of late Mark VI altos to try to fix the low D and C gurgle)

These two fixes actually show the main tools we have when addressing acoustic issues on a saxophone (which I will oversimplify here since you can talk about it for years and literally get advanced degrees in it): in the case of the tonehole, reducing what I will call turbulence by relocating the turbulence or interrupting it. You can try this yourself by playing your octave A or G#, whichever one gives you a hissy sound, and then putting a needle or sharpened pencil point over the octave pip as a sort of splitter. The hissing sound will be reduced.

The second, seen in the bow patch, is the changing of the internal volume of a certain area to change the length of a wave for a certain pitch by changing the volume of the air column. You can do this yourself (and people often do) by dropping a champagne cork or neck plug down into the bow of the horn to see if it changes the response of your low D and low C.

Of course, this is vastly simplified. The system that is the internal air column of the saxophone is all interconnected and interrelated, and you and your physiology is a part of it when the reed is open, which is most of the time. This is why it can be so hard to narrow down acoustic gremlins- two people can play the same horn with the same mouthpiece in the same spot on the neck and get two different results because of the differences in the shapes of their palates!

 

 

 

 

What’s your take on new developments in saxophone technology, i.e. Kangaroo Pads, over sized brass resonators and the like? Do these things have much weight in your mind, or do you find yourself sticking to the conventional/traditional methods for saxophone repair and overhauling?

I do make a concerted effort to try new things and to keep an open mind. I don’t want to become one of those old timers who always thinks he knows best and only does things one way, regardless of what the customer wants, you know? So I try to be objective, and do what works best, but I am constantly searching for new ways to do it better.

I think my repair work is like 80-90% traditional, with the remaining percentage being relatively recent developments in adjustment materials (like synthetic felt and teflon) and some tooling (like post swedging pliers, my swedging collets, some other stuff). I definitely do think that sometimes “new” is confused for “better”, though. And sometimes “easier” is the real reason, when “new” is sold to the customer, or sometimes “more profitable” is the real reason, when “new and improved” is sold to the customer.

I personally don’t like kangaroo skin pads. I find them to be porous. This is not a problem limited to kangaroo skin pads, cheap pads also often feel porous, but kangaroo skin in my experience seems to be quite porous on average by comparison. This used to be an argument among repair people- is kangaroo skin porous? And it was argued for a while. Now it is accepted that it is porous, and the new argument is whether it matters! Well of course it matters- leaks matter, porous skins are a leak. As the waves of high and low pressure roll down the horn, porous skins on the pads means that as the high pressure goes past the tonehole, molecules of air get forced out through the skin. As the low pressure wave rolls past, molecules of air are sucked in. This brings the peak and the trough of the wave closer together, which is just like turning down the volume. I’ve heard it said by some people who are confronted with this that they like the resultant sound, which they describe as dark. To each his own I guess, but I like resonance and instant response, and if I want to darken up my horn I’d rather put a darker mouthpiece on it or use smaller resonators than purposefully introduce leaks. But thats just me.

(I should also mention it is possible to treat pads with something- there are many variations on what that is, from paint to plasticizer to waxes- that will make them non-porous. I personally have not yet found a treatment that has drawbacks in use, so I prefer to start with non-porous leather, but it is certainly possible that a kangaroo skin pad can be found that is or can be helped to be non-porous.)

I do like re-usable brass resonators (the ones by Tenor Madness are great) but I’m not a huge fan of massively oversized ones. Too close to the tonehole makes the pad harder to seat by deforming the leather close to the pad seat. Also sometimes these huge resos are really heavy, which makes the horn feel sluggish unless you put really heavy spring tensions on it. So the reasons I don’t like massively oversize resos isn’t because they are new (they aren’t, Buffet did it back in the 30s) but because they make it harder to do a long-lasting padjob with what seems to me to be minimal benefit (bigger sound) relative to the cost (shorter pad life, probably more leaks in the meantime).

One of the things I like to do in all areas of interest is read contemporary accounts, meaning read about what people were saying about historical events as they were happening, or read about vintage horns when they were new. Some of the things you learn when reading stuff like this (and I’m speaking generally here, but that means it also applies to saxophone stuff) is that while we think of ourselves as living in an era of unparalleled change and advancement on the cusp of perfection, so did everyone else all the time since forever, fads are constant and repetitive, and most of the time we don’t seem to have any idea about what is going on because we are easily confused and can’t tell what really matters. The things that last tend to last for a reason, and sometimes- not all the time- its because its a Good Idea. So dismissing time-worn knowledge as a kneejerk reaction to a belief that we are more advanced than our forefathers is a bad idea.

I also am very lucky to quite frequently see mint condition, original pads and original corks vintage horns from the 1920s-1960s that still play. And I see what the factory did and I see what I did and I can directly compare- did I divine the intentions of the designers correctly? But perhaps the more interesting thing in the context of this conversation is just how amazing they feel under the fingers and how well they play on 70 year old pads with only cork and felt for adjustment materials, no synthetic oils or CNC machining, and minimal resonators.

So the longer I am in this business and the more experimenting I do, the more I feel like we’ve got this whole saxophone thing pretty well figured out, and the main challenge lies not in finding new things to sell but finding ways to do what we already know how to do, but do it well. If you want a horn to play well, you can take or leave a lot of things, but you won’t get anywhere without craftsmanship.

 

 

 

Should I use key clamps?

Well, this is just my opinion here.

I don’t like clamps. I like a very light pad seat-in fact I do my seats so light that they are lighter than the lightest possible touch that the player would use. Combine extremely light, extremely even pad seats on high quality pads with mechanical perfection of the keywork and firm, non-compressing adjustment materials and you end up with a horn whose pads are adapted to the particular playing pressure of the player who owns the horn, reaching a state of equilibrium and long-lasting perfect adjustment that feels great and stays that way for a long, long time. Things have to be this way for me, because I do a lot of business at a distance, and I can’t have guys coming back in every month as things “settle in”. It has to be perfect, it has to be right, and it has to stay that way. Otherwise I’d have no business, or at least no repeat business. And I must be doing things right, because I have a lot of repeat business.

If you clamp your keys, you are putting pressure that is probably stronger or at the very least different from your normal playing pressure, which compresses the leather and felt in a different way than you would, which is basically prematurely aging your padwork. However, if the padwork is not very good, clamps will improve it. Often you will find that guys who use clamps get addicted to them- and this is because the horns plays at its best right after the clamps have been taken off. As the felt begins to rebound a little bit, it does so unevenly, and leaks appear. Put the clamps back on for a while and they will go away. Repeat.
The only time in my opinion you should very lightly put key clamps on your horn or cork the keys shut is for shipping or traveling. And even then, you should be careful to adjust the clamps or corks so that the pressure put on the pads its not greater than your playing pressure, because the point here is not to seat the pads but to keep the keys from moving relative to the horn as it gets knocked around and going out of adjustment.

 

 

Did you ever do any work for (insert name here)?

I’m very lucky to get to work with some recognizable names in the saxophone world, but I don’t typically spread it around. Lots of people in this business will use the names of people who have walked in the door once or twice as if its some sort of mark of quality. In NYC, I saw it happen more than once that a big name person would get free or very cheap work with VIP service, while the little guy would get ripped off and then when they’d complain the answer would be “well if its good enough for [bigname_saxophonist] then it should be good enough for you”. I seriously hate that shit. So I don’t list them out. People who know me well might hear a story or two when its relevant, but I don’t feel comfortable shouting a list out into space.

That said, as far as interesting customers, I sometimes deal with older guys in their 60s-80s who are getting that one last big overhaul on their horn- possibly a horn they’ve owned for 40+ years. They know they are not long for the world and they love music and they just want to spend some time playing the horn and not fighting it, you know? And pads last about a decade, so sometimes this is really the last padjob they will ever get. So that’s a big challenge for me, to make it the best its ever been, to make sure that a huge part of their life goes out on a high note- or a easy-as-pie subtone low Bb. Its a feeling that usually makes me get pretty choked up to see some guy who’s been with a horn his entire life say its never played better, and as he walks out the door to know also that I’ll probably never see him again. Kind of a heavier responsibility than I really thought of when I got into this business, but those have turned into my favorite types of jobs. To be honored in that way, by being chosen by a guy who’s been around and for a job that really, really matters to him- thats a big deal to me.

Another experience that stuck with me was I was doing some work for a big name guy- a living legend, really- and we were sitting in his hotel room near the Blue Note where he was going to play that night and he was telling me some stories about the old days (firsthand info about John Coltrane is always fun) and he mentioned that he was just tired. He wanted to retire, and most everyone he came up with was dead, but he just kept on living, so he had to keep on playing. That was an eye-opener for me. No matter how much you love a job, its a job, and you never want to do it to the point where you are falling out of love.

 

 

 

I don’t want to be a professional repairer.  What should I know about repair?

The more you know about repair, the better saxophonist you will be. Understanding why and how a thing works will make it easier to use. As far as what work you want to actually do yourself, that is a different matter and only you can know that.

I highly recommend reading this book: The Complete Woodwind Repair Manual, by Reg Thorpe. I actually thought I would one day write a repair book until this one came out (unfortunately it was not written yet when I started, and the books available at the time were really outdated) but Reg has done a spectacular job. Just reading it will make you a better player and consumer and judge of repairs.

You can purchase that book here: https://web.memberclicks.com/mc/quickForm/viewForm.do?orgId=napbirt&formId=36938

What do you think of the modern Chinese/Taiwanese/Vietnamese high-end import horns?

Decent, but not great. Definitely a lot of horn for the money!  And great to be able to just pick one up without doing the research and navigating the minefield of buying used/vintage.  But, I doubt guys like me will be overhauling them 80 years from now. And if you were to bring it to me and ask me to make it right I would bitch and moan and charge you a lot because I would be spending a lot of time fixing tiny flaws and manufacturing shortcuts. But there is nothing wrong with it that will keep you from enjoying it in the near term, and I have a professional obligation to be snobby about quality.

As far as super premium build quality, you’ve got the olden days, and then you’ve got Yanagisawa, and then Yamaha, and then everybody else occupies a spectrum from decent to godawful. But in the past ten years the weight has shifted from mostly godawful to mostly decent- but additionally in the past 50 years the weight has also shifted from great to decent, so if you were to plot saxophone manufacturing quality now it would resemble a bell curve.

How did you get to where you are in the repair business.

Lots and lots of luck.  I was in the right place at the right time a lot.  And I worked hard in the meantime.  That’s really it.  I’ve never advertised. Word of mouth is what advertising tries to replace. If you show up in the morning, put in a days work and stay honest and never shortcut, you will stay busy. “Good enough never is”. Just stay picky, stay hard to please, and never get comfortable. When you get busy enough, you can pick which jobs you accept. Pick what you are best at, pick what you love, try to do better every time, and you’ll get busier. Its a virtuous cycle- just a hard one to get started.

The recipe I followed: http://www.stohrermusic.com/2011/05/the-unprofitable-valley-or-why-so-much-stuff-is-mediocre/[1]

how I do things now at the highest end of my business:http://www.stohrermusic.com/for-sale/why-buy-from-stohrer-music/

 

 

Why is relacquering/refinishing considered to be bad?  Is replating as bad as relacquering?

Relacquering involves buffing, and buffing is an abrasive process.  During buffing, metal is removed from bearing surfaces- the ends of hinge tubes, posts, toneholes… and you end up with slop in your mechanism and unlevel toneholes. And it’s not like they purposefully try to buff these places – look at this video of how it is done! It is an extremely imprecise abrasive operation on a precision instrument. Clearly the skill of the individual doing the work can make it less bad and refitting the keys and leveling the toneholes can fix much of the damage. If the relacquering is done by a chemical strip and then hand-polished, that will make matters better as well.

But in reality, the way most relacquers were done (because not many people do it anymore – it used to be a matter of course during overhauls back in the day) was fast and furious, usually by the lowest man on the totem pole in the shop because the job itself is dirty, dangerous, and all-around sucks to do.  So Now not many folks do it, and even less folks do it well.