Josef Dörfler & The J. Keilwerth Connection
Josef Dörfler learned the trade of woodwind instrument making with clarinet maker Franz Than in Graslitz/Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. After he completed his training Dörfler went to work for Julius Keilwerth, who also had trained with Than. Julius Keilwerth had been producing saxophones under his own name in Graslitz since 1925.
After WWII German speaking residents were expelled from Czechoslovakia. Like many German instrument manufacturers from Graslitz, the Dörfler family left via freight train in September 1946. At the time, each person was allowed to carry no more than 50 kg (approximately 110 lbs) of luggage. The mayor of Nauheim, Germany, Heinrich Kaul, had let it be known that the city was open to receiving immigrants who could strengthen the local economy with production facilities. Julius Keilwerth had settled there as well, and soon Josef Dörfler began working for him again—mostly as a repair technician. At the time he did his work out of the laundry room of the Stelzer bakery in Nauheim.
Dörfler Strikes Out On His Own
In 1949 J. Keilwerth moved to a new facility, and Josef Dörfler decided to form his own company. On March 1, 1949 this new company was officially founded, located at Hügelstraße 21 in Nauheim. Here Josef Dörfler, together with Josef Kühnl and Franz Hamm, did work for Julius Keilwerth. They would pick up Keilwerth body tubes and bring them to the shop. There they would attach the key work that they had built, based on Keilwerth specs. Afterwards, the horns would be sent back to the Keilwerth factory where the saxophones were turned into the final product.
Dörfler & Jörka (D&J) Company History: The 1950s
Due to declining orders from Keilwerth, Josef Dörfler, together with financier Hubert Jörka, founded Dörfler & Jörka, Saxophonherstellung (saxophone manufacturers)on September 1, 1950,and began manufacturing their own saxophones. The D&J plant was located at Steinstraße 18.
Jörka was the son-in-law of accordion and harmonica manufacturer Köstler. At the time Köstler was the most important and influential employer in Nauheim since they employed 300 townspeople.
Features of Dörfler & Jörka Saxophones
- Rolled tone holes.
- A distinctive thumb screw that fastened the neck from the front. This same type of thumb screw was used on the Hohner President and Hammerschmidt saxophones. However, unlike the Hohner that had a double socket neck, D&J horns had a conventional neck and socket assembly.
- Mother of pearl, or fake mother of pearl buttons (depending on what the ordering company requested) on the key guards, which while decorative and pretty, made it impossible to adjust the underlying felts for precise key height adjustments.
- D&J manufactured their own saxophones that were J. Keilwerth copies, but these body tubes and necks were not 100% identical.
Dörfler & Jörka offered the following 4 finish options:
- Lacquered body with nickel-plated keys
- Silver plated
- Nickel plated
First and foremost Dörfler & Jörka supplied saxophones to dealers such as Gebr. Alexander Mainz. The D&J saxes are stencilled with many names. To date, the ones I’ve either seen or heard about include:
- Artist #3oo
- Carl Ludwig
- Carl Schiller
- De Villiers
- Gebr. Alexander Mainz
- H. Genet
- Jean Baptiste (older ones obviously)
- John Burg Zürich
- Julius Keilwerth (maybe?)
- Kaiser (some)
- Key Tone
- King Tempos (some)
- La Sete Professional
- Original Hopf Classic
- Pierre Maure Artiste
- Rene Dumont (Some)
- SML (some…Yup, you’re reading this right.)
- Star Tone
- Toneline Artist
- U.S. Bandmaster
- Warner Concerto
Court Action and Horn Changes
Because of the aforementioned copying of their horns, in the early 1960s J. Keilwerth sought redress in the courts. Keilwerth’s court action at the time concerned itself with the tenor saxophone. However, the court in Düsseldorf ruled against Keilwerth stating that copying of saxophones was allowed.
Despite their win in the courts—presumably in an effort to not anger J. Keilwerth—Dörfler & Jörka nonetheless changed the design of their tenor saxophones. They also changed the design of their alto, and from that period onward used the Martin as their model. Both companies still wanted to work cooperatively with each other, and continued to do so. For example, Keilwerth hired D&J to manufacture Selmer Bundy saxophones for the US market.
Company History and More J. Keilwerth Connections: The 1960s
Until the mid 1960s D&J employed between 15-20 people who were responsible for all aspects of the company’s alto and tenor saxophone production. Dörfler & Jörka did offer baritone saxophones; however these instruments came from France as raw parts, and were finished in Nauheim. D&J never made or sold any soprano saxophones.
Due to declining business, Hubert Jörka retired on December 31, 1965. At that time J. Keilwerth took over the production machinery and some half-finished products. The only exceptions to this were the instruments in progress and other materials that were in stock that Dörfler still could sell to someone else.
On January 31, 1968 Josef Dörfler officially closed his business and began working for J. Keilwerth again. At the time, part of his duties included working as an instructor for Gerhard Keilwerth, Julius Keilwerth’s grandson.
The lowest known serial number for Dörfler & Jörka saxophones is approximately 6,000, while the highest is approximately 18000. The assumption that the serial numbers did not start at 1 is supported by Martin Dörfler.
Uwe Ladwig is a German saxophonist, historian, and writer for the music journal SONIC: sax & brass. He has put together a very speculative serial number chart for Dörfler & Jörka saxophones. This is only a best guesstimate, and not meant in any way to be an official listing.
D&J saxophones with serial numbers over 18XXX can easily be explained because of the Keilwerth takeover. By the mid 1960s Keilwerth was building saxophones with serial numbers in the 50XXX range. The partially finished saxophones that Keilwerth assumed from its takeover of D&J that had not yet been engraved were given Keilwerth key guards and a traditional neck fastening screw. The D&J saxes that already had their engraving, for example Jubilee, were then assigned a Keilwerth serial number. Pictured below is quite possibly one of these saxophones.
Late Breaking Serial Number News
Since writing this page on D&J (and obviously since Uwe compiled his research) some other Dörfler & Jörka saxophones have come to my attention that have serial numbers well below 10,000. (See section below on The Evolution Of Dörfler & Jörka Key Guards.) Of course the appearance of these horns throws Uwe’s very speculative serial number chart into disarray. I did mention above that the chart was only a guesstimation on Uwe’s part.
Over the next while I will continue to collect samples of horns with different serial numbers and see what I unearth. So far the lowest that I’ve come across is tenor 75XX. (One of the horns I mention below.)
Edit: Uwe has managed to update his speculative serial number chart. I have updated the one included on this page accordingly.
Dörfler & Jörka Made Keilwerth Horns And Dörfler & Jörka Necks
On the D&J produced Keilwerth saxophones—such as the Jubilee pictured above—a regular Keilwerth neck will not fit because the socket size on Keilwerth and Dörfler & Jörka saxophones is different.
To illustrate this difference, I have photographed my D&J-stencilled De Villiers tenor, and my JK-made Jubilee—which is actually a stencil of the Toneking with a high F# key. In the following photos, the Dörfler & Jörka (serial # 11XXX) is shown first, while the Keilwerth (serial # 29XXX) is second.
- The socket (receiving end of the body tube) on the D&J is 28.00 mm.
Source: H. Kahlke
- While on the JK the socket is 27.82 mm.
Source: H. Kahlke
Not only is the socket size different, but so too are the necks on the D&J saxes. I had an email discussion with Palo, of Just Saxes, about this very topic a while ago. This is what he had to say:
The D&J necks are different from Keilwerth’s. D&J necks have a VERY stuffy D2, in most cases, and the mouthpipe opening (not the tenon) of the neck is extremely small; I’m not talking about “extremely” as a technician’s term, which could be thousandths of an inch, but in terms of the naked eye. The tip opening on most D&J tenor necks is almost soprano-like in diameter.
As you can imagine, it doesn’t close down to that small diameter all of a sudden, rather the neck tapers down to it.
D&J’s may have some or many parts in common with Keilwerth, with different finishing, but the necks are different…
D&J tenors should not be considered equivalent to, say, a Toneking. The neck alone makes them very different.
While your experience may differ with regards to D2, as indeed mine does, Palo is correct about the mouth pipe opening. The opening is smaller on the D&J horns than it is on some other tenors.
Here is a photo that illustrates the differences in the openings of the mouth pipes in 3 of my tenor sax necks. They are from left to right: my Hammerschmidt, the De Villiers, and my stock Mark VI necks. Notice the De Villiers, in the centre, does appear smaller. But is it really?
I have created a separate page specifically for the neck and socket differences between the Dörfler & Jörka and Julius Keilwerth saxophones. I think you will find the results very interesting.
Comparing Dörfler & Jörka & J. Keilwerth Toneking Saxophones
As you may have gathered from reading this page, there are strong physical—as well as sonic—similarities between D&J and Keilwerth horns. In order to accurately assess the physical similarities, seeing the 2 horns side by side is key. In the the following images, the Keilwerth Toneking alto, serial # 45366 (circa 1963) is always the horn pictured on top. A D&J horn is always below for contrast/comparison.
- The Toneking has rolled holes.
Source: A Friend Of Bassic Sax
- As already noted previously on this page, Dörfler & Jörka saxes have rolled tone holes. For example, above is D&J stencilled Senator tenor # 89XX.
- There are felts on the key guards of the Toneking which allow for the adjustment of the key height.
- The post shapes are 2 trapezoids stacked on top of each other.
- D&J used decorative plastic or real mother of pearl buttons on the key guards, as shown here on Roxy alto 8985.
- The posts are cone shaped. There are lots of German board games that I played as a child growing up, that had game pieces shaped like this. Perhaps that was their inspiration.
- The Keilwerth has a Lucite clothes guard.
- In this photo you can see the conventional neck tightening screw previously mentioned that Keilwerth used.
- D&J used regular metal clothes guards, as evidenced here by Rene Dumont alto 14462.
- You can also see the distinctive thumb screw that fastens the neck in place.
- Note the key shapes;
- The location of the chromatic F# key.
- Then compare those to this De Villiers #11XXX made by D&J.
- Do you see a difference? I don’t see a difference.
The Evolution Of Dörfler & Jörka Key Guards
In the spring of 2011 I received a number of emails from owners of D&J horns in Europe whose saxophones looked a little different. The first email came from a fellow in Sweden who owned a Dörfler & Jörka-stencilled, Ravoy tenor with wire key guards. This horn was interesting for a whole host of reasons:
- It was the first Ravoy saxophone that I had seen that had been made by D&J;
- The horn was pretty darn minty;
- The sax had among the lowest serial numbers I’d ever seen: 77XX;
- It had wire key guards!
Source: Kjell Lundman
Just a few weeks after Kjell contacted me, I received an email from a fellow in Germany. He owned a Dörfler & Jörka-stencilled, Original Hopf Classic tenor which had belonged to his father. His father bought the horn new in about 1956 in Frankonia, West Germany. The sax had cost 600 DM! That was a lot of money at the time.
Like the Ravoy shown above, there were some remarkable features about this D&J stencil horn:
- The condition of the horn was quite remarkable—tarnish not withstanding;
- The sax had the lowest serial number I have seen to date for a D&J horn (75XX);
- It had a metal angel wing key guard that resembles the ones that J. Keilwerth used on their Toneking and The New King horns that they produced for the US market during the 50s and 60s.
Source: A Friend Of Bassic Sax
Since these 2 above-noted horns have been brought to my attention, a couple of others with angel wing-style key guards and low serial numbers have also popped up. This Roxy tenor (7XXX) as well as this Paragon tenor (763X), together with the illustrated Ravoy tenor (77XX) and the Original Hopf Classic tenor (75XX), are the first real proof that Dörfler & Jörka saxophones did evolve during the course of their production run—at least in the key guard department. One is left to speculate why Dörfler & Jörka changed their key guards. Did Keilwerth have anything to do with it? Were the angel wings just a little too much like those found on their horns? Did Keilwerth pressure D&J to change the key guard design?
Furthmore, at this point we can only wonder if D&J made changes that went beyond the cosmetics of key guards. For example, did they make changes to the body tube or neck areas of their horns?
It needs to be mentioned that although the J. Keilwerth company assumed control of Dörfler & Jörka in the 1960s, the current J. Keilwerth company has no record of the serial numbers or stencil names that D&J produced. Contacting the J. Keilwerth company about your D&J sax will not net you any information.
I have created a Dörfler & Jörka Stencil Gallery. If you are interested in seeing more images of these unusual vintage German saxophones, make sure you check it out.
Note: The source of information for this page is mainly from Uwe Ladwig, in der deutschen Fachzeitschrift—German music journal—SONIC sax & brass.
Uwe’s information sources were Gerhard Keilwerth and Martin Dörfler, both of whom are from Nauheim.
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.
The other source for some of the information I obtained was from an article about instrument makers in Nauheim, Germany titled: Die Entstehung der Musikinstrumentenindustrie in Nauheim. The article was written by Von Karl-Heinz Pilz, of Nauheim.