A Couesnon Saxie

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

A few weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman who was the owner of a Couesnon Saxie. Michael has owned the Saxie for a number of years.

As a player with many years experience, Michael is often asked to speak and give demonstrations at schools. The Saxie sometimes accompanies him to these presentations, and is brought out at the end to wrap up the talk.

Despite owning this little French-made curiosity for years, Michael didn’t know that much about the horn. He was curious as to the details of its manufacturing, and its intended use.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

I had to plead a bit of ignorance, and tried to enlist the help of one of my saxophone historian friends. Unfortunately, Pete didn’t have a great deal of information on the Saxie either. He did however, offer up an avenue of investigation.

As I poured through the patents that Pete suggested that I investigate, I happened across this one dated June 3, 1924. It corresponded with the date on the bell shown above.

In Frederick B. Hammann’s patent application, he states that:

     Source: Google Patents

The patent drawing shows a horn remarkably much like the Couesnon Saxie.

     Source: Google Patents

Although Hammann’s original design idea may have been intended as a toy, Couesnon’s Saxie was likely something else. According to Pete Hales, the man formerly known as Saxpics:

If I was to venture an opinion on the Saxie and other sax-related toys, I’d say they were primarily used as a “gateway drug” into Couesnon’s real saxophones. I also think they were throwing out a lot of ideas to see if any would stick so they’d build some market share in the US.

Hey, they were one of the largest manufacturers in France, but the real sax-related money was in the US.

I also know that Couesnon more-or-less insisted in their ads that their sax/clarinet/oboe variants were “real” instruments, not toys.

That would make sense, since if you compare the Saxie to the original patent drawing, you’ll notice that Couesnon’s version has a couple of keys in addition to the open tone holes.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

Michael has provided the following description of the Saxie, to help us understand how this little instrument works:

It is pitched in C and has six tone holes and two keys, an f sharp trill, and a register key. Like a sax, the Saxie overblows on the octave. As there are no bell keys, the lowest note being D below the first line of the stave, the instrument is vented by two large holes at the foot, the bell being added purely for appearance purposes.

It is manufactured from unlacquered brass and has a brass one-screw ligature. It works well with a clarinet reed and it is assumed this was the intention as these would have been the most readily available to the students for whom this instrument was clearly intended—as a half-way house between the recorder and the sax.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

I am hoping that at least one of the readers of my blog might be able to tell us more about this interesting little instrument. If you know more about the Couesnon Saxie, please chime in here with a comment, or drop me an email. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Michael for sharing his special little vintage horn here. These gems are a real rarity.

This horn is currently in the shop awaiting dent removal. Michael brought it home temporarily so that these photos could be taken. Thank you for the special effort you made to get the photos done.

When you do eventually get the Saxie back from the shop Michael, I’d love to see some “after” photos. I’m sure the Saxie will be a thing of beauty.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2012, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.


  1. i have been trying for many years on and off t o replicate these nini saxophones unsuccessfully. Making the instrument body with the proper taper, making the ridged tone holes, the keys and all other parts do not present any diffiulty as i have facilities for this type of work. But i have not been able to locate a formula which would give even approximately the positions of the holes. the saxophone is a stopped conical bore instrument yet has the characteristics of a cylinderical pipt opven at both ends. Use of the formula for hole positions for this type of tube results in totally absord results. Use of the formular for a stopped conical pipe also results in absurd results. I am forced to conclude that hole positions on a saxophone whether mini or regular sized cannot be calculated as there is no formula which will eneble this to be done even approximately. should anyone know of how hole positions are determined on a saxophone i would most sincerely appreciate knowing what it is. Thank you all.

    • Overblowing of the saxophone mouthpiece gives a frequincy deviation which is dependant on the chanber volume of the mouthpiece, the location and size of the tone hole and the conicity of the pipe.
      The max deviation on a regular saxophone can be found at the third C#.
      In a soprano there is an extra tonehole to correct this deviation, which emphasises that there is no correct formula for toneholes possible.
      This makes it neccesary for the saxophone player to correct the frequency of the saxophone, expecially around the third C#.

      The best you can do is an approximation based on measurement of the frequincy deviation of a mouthpiece on a conical pipe.
      Maybe it is possible to make this approximation more universal by dividing the chamber volume by the volume of the knotted piece of the cone.

  2. gustavo pajarito lunar

    hello, i m from bs as arg. i m working whit ceramica, and i play clarinet and soo… well my inglish is not the best sorry. i was thinkin if you coul give me more pictures about saxi….. i want to make it in ceramica…. well gretings from de south….. gustavo

    • Hello gustavo. Welcome to my site.

      Unfortunately I don’t have many more pictures of the Saxie. And because I don’t own one, I can’t more photos for you.

      I do have a page on my website about the Saxie that has all the photos, but not in a slide show. You can click on any of the thumbnails, and expand them to size, and then save them in their full size.

      I hope this helps you somewhat gustavo. I wish I could help you more. Good luck in your making your own. If you do get one made, would you like to send me some photos of it? I would really like to see how it turned out.

      Warm regards,


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