Codera

B&S Codera saxophone, Codera bell engraving, sax keys, German saxophone

Source: heueregatta on eBay.com

Resoblades Model Features Adjustable Palm Keys Strathmann Non-stick G# Key B&S Non-stick G# Key Wear-free Octave Mechanism Models
Alto Tenor Finish Options Patents The Next Generation of Codera The End of B&S-made Coderas

B&S began production of the Codera model in 1997. The horns were based on the ideas of Wolf Codera (who gave VMI the license to manufacture them1) and were available in alto and tenor versions only. What made these saxophones so unique, was their resoblade technology.

What, exactly, is a resoblade anyway?

Although the Codera model had conventional pads on all body tube keys, the five keys on the bow and bell (Eb, C, C#, B, & Bb) all utilized resoblade technology. Simply put, resoblades were a piece of metal with a sealing ring.

B&S Codera saxophone, resoblades, sax tone holes, sax keys, German saxophone

Source: heueregatta on eBay.com

resoblade, B&S Codera model saxophone, saxophone key design

Source: doctorsax.biz

Although this sounds simple, their construction was, in fact, quite complex. According to the website pro-music-news.com:

Resoblades are made of a thin metal plate mounted to the keys with a sophisticated mechanical construction… The design allows free swiveling and precise adjustment. A sealing ring provides precise covering of the tone hole rim.

Source: pro-music-news.com

Through this, the special suspension, which was different from that of the Dutch-made Toptone saxophones, an optimal coverage of the tone hole was achieved.

To get a better idea what this looked like in real life, here is a photo of the low C mechanism on tenor #011334…

Codera Model, resoblade, low C key mechanism, B&S saxophone

Source: quinntheeskimo-Vintage-Horns on eBay.com

Other features of the Codera model

Besides the resoblades shown above, the Codera also had a few other premium features. Some eventually were found on other B&S model saxes such as the 2001 and Medusa. Others, like the resoblades, remained exclusively the domain of the Codera.

Adjustable left palm keys

If you’re familiar with JK saxophones, then you’ve likely seen this type of adjustable palm key before. However, unlike JK’s left palm keys where all 3 were adjustable, only the high D and F found on the Codera could be adjusted for height.

It should be noted that looking at photos provided to me by Dave Kessler, whose music store was an authorized B&S seller, when this feature became available on the 2001 Series and Medusa models, all 3 palm keys were adjustable.

At this point you might be asking yourself: Who used this feature first, JK or B&S? That’s a good question. Nothing that I’ve come across in any of the literature would indicate who might have devised such a feature; when it came into use by JK; or if it was patented or not.

Unfortunately most of the modern JKs that I have in my gallery were sold with no serial numbers provided. That said, the lowest confirmed serial # that I have for a modern JK with adjustable palm keys is this SX 90 soprano # 104941, which the serial number chart puts from 1996. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help us a great deal in determining which company used this type of key first, since the Codera was well past design phase by then. Remember, it hit the market in 1997.

The Strathmann non-stick G# key2

Stathmann-G-Sharp-Diagram-p.-160-Uwe

Even if you can’t read German, take a look at the date in the italicized line above: April 14, 1968. It was on that date that the man who invented a non-stick G# key, Arnfred Strathmann, wrote a letter to Julius Keilwerth. Herr Strathmann let them know that through a conversation with Mr. Dörfler—who came to work for Keilwerth in January 1968—he was made aware that JK was interested in his invention. However, for unknown reasons this device was not implemented on Keilwerth saxophones at the time. It would take three decades before JK used a similar design—such as the one on this CX 90 tenor. (Note that the original was intended to go all the way to the F key, but Keilwerth stopped theirs at the F#.)

Getting back to the Codera…

B&S used a variation of this type of anti-stick G# key on their Codera. Later on some of the Medusa models would benefit from this feature, as would latter editions of the Series 2001.

This is tenor #011334 with the rocking mechanism that was used to prevent the G# from sticking. Notice that like JK, B&S also had their lever end at the F# key, rather than extend to the F. However, their design differed somewhat from JK’s. Not only is the B&S spring obvious from the front, I’m guessing the two companies used totally different types of springs.

Codera Model, anti-stick G# key mechanism, saxophone keys, B&S saxophone

Source: quinntheeskimo-Vintage-Horns on eBay.com

Wear-free octave key mechanism

The Codera model also featured wear-free, felt pivoted, ball joints for the octave key mechanism. I do not recall seeing this on other saxophones either before or since. Unfortunately the best view I have found is from alto #011256. Sadly the photo remains slightly out of focus, despite my best efforts to fix it. (You know what they say: You can put lipstick on a pig…)

alto sax, B&S Codera, octave mechanism, sax keys

Source: quinntheeskimo Vintage Horns on eBay.com

Here is another view of a tenor Codera that appeared for sale on the German eBay site. The focus in this shot is somewhat better.  Unfortunately the seller didn’t provide the horn’s serial #.

Notice how the arm that operates the little octave lever is of a more conventional design. I don’t know if all tenors were designed this way, or if B&S switched the Codera’s design on all altos and tenors at some point during the production run.

Unfortunately I don’t have any other close-up photos of this mechanism in alto Coderas, or in tenors with confirmed serial numbers. At the moment, alto #011256 is the only one that I have seen with the above style of octave key mechanism. That said, felts were still used in the unique octave mechanism design of all Codera saxophones that I have detailed photos of.

This style of octave mechanism was unique to the Codera model, and wasn’t seen in other B&S models such as the 2001 or the Medusa.

Source: universalsax on eBay.de

Source: universalsax on eBay.de

Model Numbers

As mentioned at the outset, the B&S Codera model was only available in alto and tenor versions.

Alto

B&S Codera alto saxophone, alto sax, resoblade,

Source: jlsmithco.com

  • Model 3238

Tenor

B&S Codera tenor saxophone, tenor sax, resoblade

Source: jlsmithco.com

  • Model 3248

Finish Options

I have not come across any official listing of finishes that the B&S Codera model was offered in. To date these are the finishes that I have seen that have appeared for sale on the various sites…

Codera Patents

Wolf Codera did obtain a patent for his resoblade technology. It took me a while to find because his patent application was filed with the spelling Wolf “Kodera” for some reason. Although the paperwork is itself in German, Espacenet does provide the following translation of the abstract:

resoblade from EU patent, patent drawing, Wolf Codera, Wolf Kodera, The invention relates to a key (1) for a musical wind instrument having sound holes, with a reverberating surface (9) facing the sound hole, for the sound, and with a sealing surface (2) adjacent to the sound hole edge, whereby the sealing surface (2) annularly surrounds the reflecting surface (9), and a second reflecting surface (9) is fitted radially outside the sealing surface (2). The key (1) is fastened to a movably accommodated support (3), which guides the key (1) between a position that closes the sound hole and an open position.; The invention is characterized in that the key (1) is fastened to the support (3) by means of an elastically ductile intermediary piece (4), and the intermediary piece (4) tapers from a first, base-forming end to a second, more pointed end, and the intermediary piece (4) is fastened at one of these ends to the key (1) and at the other end to the support (3). The intermediary piece (4) is enclosed by a vibration-reducing damping body (15) [sic should be 5] which is softer than the intermediary piece.

Source: espacenet.com

Codera saxophones: the next generation

If you were a member of SOTW in the early 2000s, you may remember seeing Wolf Codera participating in discussions about the saxophones that carried his name. It is on this forum that you can still find evidence of the two models of saxophones that were to be the next generation of alto and tenor Codera horns: the Codera Tresonance and the Codera Vintedge.

This is how Wolf Codera described these saxophones:

The Tresonance model is featuring Medusa body, resoblades on palm keys/trill keys/lowest five keys, Vintedge pads in the remaining cups, titanium clothguard (changes bell resonance), Codera Keyguards etc.

The Vintedge model is featuring resoblades just on the lowest five keys, Vintedge pads in the cups and the rest is like the Medusa.

Cork and felt are mostly replaced by synthetic materials, engravement is rich, Selmer style.

Source: B&S Alto Codera discussion

The resoblade technology in these latter Codera saxophones had been refined. This is how Wolf Codera described upgrading existing B&S Codera model horns with the new resoblades when the time came:

The most easy thing getting the resoblades replaced is to order the desired blade unit and replace it just using a screwdriver.
The “new” resoblade units (which are used on the Codera saxophones “Tresonance” and “Vintedge”) available at Codera-windstruments & tools look a little different from the license blade units used by VMI for “their” B&S Codera horns but they can be easily used in the B&S Coderas.

The main difference is the later replacement, which means: it is less expensive using the Codera spare parts (sealing rings glued into screw mountable blade portions, decoupling elements and adjustment nuts) in contrast to the B&S Codera spare parts (glued sealing rings, glued acoustical decoupling elements and glued adjustment nuts).

However it is most important to let a repairman check whether the lowest five tone holes are flat and whether the body-bow connection is tight.

Having fixed these problems you get one of the best saxophones ever produced.

Source: SOTW B&S Alto Codera discussion

Sadly, the Tresonance and Vintedge never made it into full-scale production. Wolf Codera did offer some pre-series Tresonance tenors for sale on SOTW for $3500 US in June 2003, but those last few posts appear to have been the end of the line for these horns. I’m not sure the altos ever did get made…

The end of the line for B&S-made Codera… well sort of

Around 2000, the Dutch company Toptone obtained a stop work order for Codera saxophones after cooperation negotiations between VMI and Toptone broke down. However, according to Petra Stark3 from B&S, some instruments were made until 2003; in total only 250 Codera saxophones were ever produced.

At this point you might be asking yourself: What is Toptone? Who are they? Why could they stop the work that B&S was doing on their Codera saxophones? Those are all very good questions, and not all that easy to answer. I will endeavour to do so in the coming months as I research the brand more. At this point all I have are a bunch of rumours. In time, when I have enough confirmed material, this section of the page will link to a Toptone page that I’m currently working on.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

1 Quote from Wolf Codera on SOTW.

2 Saxophone: Ein Kompendium, by Uwe Ladwig. Second edition 2012, p. 160.

3 Ibid. p. 150

Note: With the exception of the citations noted in the body of the text, and in footnote 1 above, the source of the information for this page was Uwe Ladwig’s book cited in #2 above. I would like to thank Uwe for so generously allowing me to use his research, and very much appreciate the trust he has shown by allowing me to do my own translation.

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