Martin Hammerschmidt started producing clarinets in 1873 in Egerland, in what is now part of the Czech Republic. In 1910 his son Karl assumed management of the company, and in 1934 Karl’s 6 sons—all of whom were woodwind instrument makers—carried on with the family business until the end of the war when they were forced to return to Germany. Here they re-established the company in Burgau, and between 1952 and 1982 also produced alto and tenor saxophones under the trade name Klingsor, while maintaining the trade name Klingson on the rest of their instrument lines.
For their soprano and baritone saxophones Hammerschmidt had the J. Keilwerth company in Nauheim, Germany provide them ready-made horns. The New King, and later the Toneking, sopranos and baritones were delivered to Hammerschmidt complete with engraving.
Even before the Hammerschmidt brothers moved back to Germany and started the official production of their Klingsor line, they developed individual prototype horns. For example, this very early tenor has bell engraving that says Watzkenreuth Fleissen. Watzkenreuth Fleissen is actually located in what is now the Czech Republic. This sax was likely made before Hammerschmidt moved back to Germany. Note it is also marked Karl Hammerschmidt, not Klingsor.
Hammerschmidt Saxophone Features
The early Hammerschmidts—from about 1952 to approximately 1954—had soldered tone holes. Later the company introduced drawn and rolled tone holes, which became one of the features that these saxophones are known for. Another feature that they are known for is their triple octave vents. The two body vents opened simultaneously and were intended to provide a better response in the D2 to G2 region of the horn.¹
The earliest Hammerschmidts had split bell keys with wire key guards like those found on the American horns of the 1920s. Slightly later models had right sided bell keys with wire key guards that resembled those eye brow key guards found on the King Zephyr.
The next evolution in Hammerschmidt key guard design appears to have been the introduction of the acrylic ones, similar to those found in the Keilwerth Toneking and The New King, as well as the Conn Connstellation. These key guards are another one of Hammerschmidt’s more famous features.
Eventually Hammerschmidt did switch to the industry standard of metal key guards on their Klingsors—they had been using them already on some of their stencil horns—and for a while at least they were producing Klingsors with both kinds of key guards.
According to a Hammerschmidt brochure, there were four finish options available on Hammerschmidt saxophones: lacquer, lacquer with nickel plated keys, nickel plating, and silver plating with a gold washed bell. Many of Hammerschmidt’s saxophones were rich with extra details like full pearl treatment, a G# trill key, a high D# trill key, a fork Eb, and elaborate engraving on the body to bow connecting ring, bow guard, and neck guard.
The following photos show 3 of the 4 finish options that Hammerschmidt offered: nickel plate, silver plate with gold wash bell, and lacquer. You can also see many of the extra features mentioned.
Hammerschmidt built stencil altos and tenors under a variety of names, including: DABICO, Genton, Hüttl, and numerous others. My Hammerschmidt Stencil Info page provides links to information and photos about each of the stencil brands that I’ve found to date.
For the Japanese and British markets Hammerschmidt marketed their horns under the names Lafleur and Lafleur De Luxe, with the differences between these two lines being purely cosmetic. For the German and Austrian markets Hammerschmidt sold their horns under the Klingsor name. It has been estimated that during the 1960s the company sold approximately ½ of their horns—including the Keilwerth-bought soprano and baritone stencils—under the Lafleur names.
Facts & Figures
German saxophonist, saxophone historian, and repair technician Uwe Ladwig, writes regular articles for the German music journal Sonic: sax & brass. In doing research for his article about the Hammerschmidt saxophones he spoke with the company’s previous owner, the then production manager, as well as two employees. According to these sources, during the 30 years of saxophone production—1952 to 1982—approximately 5000 Hammerschmidt tenor and alto saxophones were made by the company.
Company records show that during the 3 decades of saxophone production, Hammerschmidt employed between 7 and 9 permanent saxophone builders who looked after all aspects of production from manufacturing the bodies to final assembly. It was only the smaller auxiliary pieces, such as posts, that they bought from outside sources such as J. Keilwerth.
Unfortunately there is some inconsistency that some Hammerschmidt saxophones suffer from. Both altos and tenors can have intonation problems, and the most likely underlying reason for this is that the company copied an old version of a neck. This neck had been made of soldered brass. The new Hammerschmidt neck however, was made with brass pipe material that was blown as one piece. Therefore, while the external dimensions were correct, the internal ones weren’t. On the end closest to the mouthpiece, the brass was too thick. While on the horn end of the neck, the material was too thin.
The 1970s brought about cheap Japanese competition in the form of Yamaha and Yanagisawa saxophones. Hammerschmidt—like almost all other European manufacturers—suddenly found the demand for their products declining. By 1982 the company’s foray into the world of saxophone manufacturing was over. They could just no longer compete with the cheap Asian horns flooding the European market.
Due to the very small number of saxophones produced, and the customer requested modifications, Hammerschmidt saxophones really need to be viewed as more of a one of kind item, than a production series of horns.
Make sure you check out the Hammerschmidt Gallery to see some the different models and stencils that the company produced.
Recently Hammerschmidt was selling saxophones under the Klingson name through their website. However, their origins are unknown. Although there is currently no information on the site anymore about these Klingson saxes, in October 2008 I noticed that the prices of the soprano, alto, and tenor saxes—they weren’t selling baritones—was not what one would expect to pay for pro model horns. The prices at the time were: €790, €890, and €990, for the soprano, alto, and tenor respectively. The 2010 Otmar Hammerschmidt price list shows that the cost for these instruments has not gone up.
¹ Source: 1969 Hammerschmidt Brochure
Note: The source of information for this page is mainly from Uwe Ladwig, in der deutschen Fachzeitschrift—German music journal—SONIC sax & brass.
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.
Vielen dank Uwe! Wenn ich noch in Deutschland leben würde, würdest Du alle meine Saxophon Reparaturen machen. (Besonders mein silbernes Hammerschmidt tenor 035XX.) You did such a great job on Dave Denton’s minty Klingsor 047XX, that I would love to see what you could do with my survivor of an Amsterdam Café.