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Removing Lacquer from Brass Saxophone


Trying to refinish my brass alto saxophone. How do I get the lacquer off? I tried soaking it in lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and I tried acetone [on eBay or Amazon affil link], no luck. I will silver plate if I can get the lacquer off, thanks.


Chuck L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Santa Barbara, California

You can't silver plate it yourself, Chuck; take it to a plating shop who will have the necessary experience and toxic chemicals to strip it as well as silver plate it. It's best to have them remove the lacquer at the same time.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Who made you so smart to think that I wasn't going to silver plate it myself. Wrong, I am going to silver plate it myself, since I spent $2800 on a brush plating outfit. The correct answer to getting the lacquer off was to use Aircraft Stripper.

OK, so I give you one more chance to redeem yourself, that is if you want to. Since I now have the lacquer off, the brass has some slight pitting, I guess from being exposed to the non lacquered areas for quite a while. I did silver plate the neck of the saxophone and it looks pretty good, (but being a perfectionist) it still has the pitted areas. How best to build this up? Nickel plate a few times, then wet sand with 600 or? Thanks for any help you might give. Chuck

Chuck L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Santa Barbara, California

Silver electroplating requires sodium cyanide solutions, so, yes, I am very surprised that someone would ship such a notorious and instant-acting poison to a residence! It's not only the ingestion hazard, but if you accidentally acidify it through inadequate rinsing, you create your own gas chamber. Dozens of trained workers have died over the years from this.

It is, however, possible to wipe on a very thin "immersion plating", We have an FAQ, "Silver Plating at Home", which explains the difference, and sources the immersion plating solution.

Copper plating is much easier to mush buff than nickel, and is the preferred approach for dealing with pits like those.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Chuck, I have a brass bed with lots of old varnish or lacquer on it and I am looking for a way to take it all off. What exactly is Aircraft Remover and where do I get it? Will it work for the bed you think?

Helen Mc [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

Ed. note: You can get Aircraft Stripper from this hotlink to Amazon, Helen.


I don't actually have a business. I'm a saxophonist who restores old saxophones to be given to the schools in my area. The answer to your question about removing lacquer off of a saxophone can be done in a few ways. If you go to LOWES, they have a brass refinisher kit where they keep all the lamps and chandeliers. It's a reasonable price and removes lacquer easily and a 2nd bottle helps polish the exposed brass. Another way is just to use Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil link] and wipe the saxophone down. this way is similar to the above method and is very time consuming. Fine or very fine #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon affil link] can be used to strip lacquer also and is also pretty time consuming. Just be careful no matter what you use and not to remove too much metal. Don't try and get rid of all pits or scratches due to the fact it will alter the playing and sound of the instrument in the wrong way.

Hope this helps..

Randy J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
private sax refinisher - Canton, Ohio

i have over 100 copper hinges in my kitchen that I am trying to remove a sealer/varnish from. I am repainting and need to bring them back to their original luster. any suggestions? thank you very much

Julie Price
hobbyist, homeowner - Morgan City, Louisiana


Your insight was very helpful. I'm currently finishing up my 1951 Buescher Aristocrat Tenor. Following your advice, it's coming out great.

Justin Bro
- Providence, Rhode Island
March 15, 2008

May 5, 2008

I have some too-shiny brass sconces and want to remove the polish so that they match my unpolished historic-reproduction brass chandeliers ... (I have a 210-year-old house.) I've read three different suggestions on this site but seem to have missed the fine points in deciding which approach to take. Should I use acetone [on eBay or Amazon affil link] ? Ammonia? Or lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon affil links] ? Thanks for your suggestions!

Mary Harbaugh
- Essex County, Massachusetts

I have a 1966 King Zephyr and is there a way of removing the lacquer without taking the keys off? Its really a pain to have to do it by taking all the keys off...

Piero S.
Student - Washington
June 16, 2008

June 4, 2009

I inherited a 1963 Selmer Paris Mark IV Tenor Saxophone with original lacquered brass. My Dad used a snap on microphone which scratched the bell on this lacquered instrument. I want to strip and refinish the bell with gold tinted lacquer. I took your advice on Aircraft Remover to strip the lacquer.
How do I microscopically polish scratches in the metal to try and approximate an original polished finish?
Where do I buy gold tinted Lacquer? Will my neighborhood auto body shop paint store be able to provide this?
After I prepare the bell I thought of hiring a local auto body shop painter to spray the lacquer. How many coats should be sprayed?
Do you recommend a type of gun, and settings?
Thank you,
Jim Rocanella Jr.

James Rocanella
hobbyist - Chico, California

Buffing is the only way to get the brass sheen required to match the other finish surrounding the spot to be re-laqueredd. Use a buffing wheel with buffing compounds. The lacquer, as well as all your buffing needs, can be purchased through Ferree's tools in Battle Creek Mich. google "Ferrees Tools". As for the gold tinted lac to match Selmer's...good luck. I rebuild horns and lac. matching is very difficult. No matter what you do it will be real tough to match a spot to the host color but again, good luck.

fred marych
- mpls, Minnesota
October 18, 2009

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