La Fleur Alto Saxophone On eBay: Edited March 11, 2010
La Fleur Alto Saxophone On eBay: Edited March 11, 2010

La Fleur Alto Saxophone On eBay: Edited March 11, 2010

Edit: I have since met the man who bought this La Fleur. Kevin lives in the Metro Vancouver region. He and I have gotten together, and I have had the opportunity to see this alto in person. I’m therefore updating this post with the information that I have gleaned from my personal observations of this mysterious saxophone. Some of this information is already contained in the comments for this post. However, I felt it was important to update the post itself, and make it accurate.

When I came across this ad the other day on eBay, my heart jumped into my throat, because I thought that I had found a neck for my Klingsor tenor. This horn was even located here in Canada! Then I realized that this was an alto, and I thought: Crap, not another alto.

Up for auction on eBay, is a La Fleur alto saxophone.

In Case With Neck

    Source: eBay.com

The seller, a music store from Winnipeg, Quest Musique, describes the sax like this:

This sax was owned by a local professional Jazz Tenor Sax player and needs quite a bit of work. Save big, get it here and fix it locally!

Features:

  • Yellow Brass Body
  • Made In England
  • Case Included

Technician’s notes:

This instrument was made by LaFleur Band instruments in England and is made quite durably. This sax needs several pads replaced and an alignment done as well as the neck cork replaced. The construction feels very solid, built like a tank. It’s not in a playable condition yet, but should make for a decent student horn. The only noticeable denting is on the bow (pic 3) and the lacquer is about 50%. The case is very basic plywood and unpadded.

Left Side

    Source: eBay.com

Bottom Of Bow

    Source: eBay.com

This sax was actually made by the Karl Hammerschmidt company in Burgau, Germany. Hammerschmidt sold their saxophones under the brand name Klingsor. However, they made alto and tenor saxophones for England and Japan under the names La Fleur and La Fleur Deluxe. ¹

After seeing this horn in person, I can say with 99.9% certainty that this is not a Hammerschmidt saxophone. While it has many of the features of Hammerschmidts—and I’ve itemized these throughout this post—one unique feature it is missing is the 2nd octave vent in the body tube. Also, after seeing the sax in person, I can say it just doesn’t look or feel like a Hammerschmidt. Whatever it is however, like the Hammerschmidts, it is a very heavy horn.

If you look at the photos, you can clearly see the Hammerschmidt pedigree of this La Fleur saxophone. In the first photo, the one of the sax and its neck in the case, you can see the ridging on the underside of the neck that acted as the neck guard. This rather distinctive feature was found on the Hammerschmidt saxophones, and on most of their stencils. For example, it can be seen on the neck of this Genton alto, and on the neck of this Klingsor tenor.

The left-sided bell keys, and the left pinkie cluster with its nail file G#, are somewhat different to the other Hammerschmidt saxophones that I’ve seen to date, but not out of character with what we know of the company.

Hammerschmidt’s first saxophones were greatly influenced by the Conns of the time. As a matter of fact, I recently saw a Hammerschmidt with opposable bell keys on a European auction site. That saxophone would pre-date this one. And this Hammerschmidt, that was up for sale in Brazil in May of this year, had a nail file G# as well, along with a more 10M-style left pinkie cluster.

Getting back to the La Fleur, in the photo of the bow, you can see the rolled tone holes that this sax has. This too was a feature of all Hammerschmidt horns.

Hammerschmidt did not make student saxophones. This is a pro horn… Regardless of what the tech at Quest Musique might think about it. ²

If I didn’t already have a too many altos, including a full-pearl Hammerschmidt with the extra trill keys (which needs a restoration), I would most likely go for this sax. But I don’t play alto enough—read: at all—to buy yet another one…Regardless how good the price might be.

The auction for this La Fleur alto ends on December 28. Bidding starts at $0.99. At the time of writing, there were no bids yet on this vintage Hammerschmidt saxophone, in La Fleur clothing.

________________________________________________

¹ From the Hammerschmidt page of my main Bassic Sax site. This information came from a German saxophone researcher who had written about the Karl Hammerschmidt Company.

² Despite this La Fleur not being made by Hammerschmidt, I stand by my statement. This was not built as a student horn. There is no reason that with a proper rebuild, that this sax wouldn’t play as well as any of its vintage pro counterparts.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me the day I visited Kevin, so I’ll have to take it along the next time to capture some of this sax’s peculiarities. For example, the tone holes for the left palm keys are the tiniest I have ever seen on an alto saxophone. Compared to the ones found on my Hammerschmidt alto, they are just over 1/2 the size. (I’m guessing here, since I didn’t have the horns side by side, but I think I’m pretty close.)

For more in-depth discussion about this La Fleur’s possible pedigree, please see the comment below where I quote former Saxpics owner Pete Hales, who gave his input into this unusual vintage horn.

…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!

30 Comments

    1. Tobi

      Hi Helen,
      here is an educated guess from Germany:
      For me, your Lafleur Varsity is an FX Hüller saxophone, delivered in parts (CKD) to the UK and assembled in England prior to the 2nd World-War. More precise, prior to 1938.
      I didn’t know yet, that FX Hüller had made horns with keys on the left side of the bell. This is completely new for me. Many features of the mechanics is clearly FX Hüller. Another hint is the “3A”-code, which was used by FX Hüller. Here the letter is smaller than the digit. For FX Hüller, it is the other way around.
      I hope this helps.
      Merry Christmas,
      Tobi.

      1. Hi Toby. Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier than this.

        Interesting. That is perhaps the most educated guess I have had to date. I does make sense, and comparing it to FX Hüller horns one sees much more similarities than one does to any other German manufacturers.

        I have up the other horns that all look like this in our new gallery. They are in the A.K. Hüttl gallery.

  1. OK, here’s the scoop on this weird, mystery horn. I had the chance to see this La Fleur up close and personal a couple of days ago. It is without a doubt, not a Hammerschmidt. It is definitely lacking the 2 octave vents in the body tube that the Hammerschmidts have. You can see these vents in this picture.

    Whatever this sax is… It is unusual. The tone holes for the left palm keys are the tiniest I have ever seen on an alto saxophone. Compared to the ones found on my Hammerschmidt alto, they are just over 1/2 the size. (I’m guessing here, since I didn’t have the horns side by side, but I think I’m pretty close.)

    Kevin is in the process of repadding this enigma of a sax, and is waiting for some out of stock pads to arrive from Music Medic, so it wasn’t able to be played yet. The next time we get together I will try to take a camera along and take some pictures of it.

    Besides wondering about this La Fleur’s pedigree, I’m also curious whether or not this is indeed a low pitch horn. It seems too recent to be high pitched, but since it’s from Europe, really, anything is possible. Once it’s playable, a tuner will give us an answer to that question at least.

  2. Pete Hales, the man formerly known as Saxpics, and I had a number of email exchanges about this rather mysterious La Fleur alto saxophone. What follows are Pete’s thoughts about the horn…

    >What companies in England made saxophones?

    That’s probably the easier of the questions, so let’s go there first: Hawkes, Boosey & Hawkes, Dallas Music (Grafrton). I don’t think anyone else evar did — and B&H may have made one or two models and then stopped. B&H did import just about everything into the UK, including horns stamped “Edgware” and “La Fleur” — these were generally Kohlert or Keilwerth stencils.

    B&H is probably most famous for importing Buffet (Evette-Schaeffer) horns.

    > Do you have any thoughts about who might have made this sax?

    1. Is it a Keilwerth? Doesn’t look like one to me. However, I only have the three eBay pics to look at: there’s no link to the pics on SOTW (and SOTW’s offline, at the moment). There is always a possibility that it’s a Keilwerth body with keywork from someplace else, but this horn has bell keys on the wrong side of the body for almost all Keilwerth designs. The exception is the New King “II” series and your La Fleur looks terribly unlike those.

    2. Is it a Conn? Well, it’s not a 6M, 26M or 28M. While Conn did have a habit of coming up with interesting models and selling them as stencils, I doubt this is one. No patent marking of any kind? No “A” and “L” stamp? No Mercedes-Benz low C keyguard? Conn generally had at least one of these characteristics.

    3. Is it a Kohlert? Again, you’d need a model with LH bell keys. There’s a couple and they DO have the ripply neck, but the keywork is all wrong.

    I, too, think it looks an awful lot like that Huttl. I cannot say for certain if Hammerschmidt stenciled all Huttl’s horns, tho. I do know Huttl was around until about 1970, tho.

    Pete wrote further on another day….

    Well, at one time, Kohlert was the largest German/Czech manufacturer and they did stencil a lot of horns, however I think that the body tubes and bells were sold together. However, I could be wrong. All I can say for certain is that if it doesn’t have the JGK stamp (past a certain date and this horn would be past it), it’s not a Keilwerth. There’s no real way of “proving” that it’s not a Keilwerh body, but I really don’t think it is. I think it’s a Huttl.

    As mentioned, the Kohlerts and Keilwerths with LH bell keys look very different from the LaFleur.

    IIRC, Huttl was about as far Eastern Germany as possible, without being Austria. According to some Googling, Huttl’s from Baiersdorf.

    Since neither Pete nor I know where Hüttl got their saxophones other than Hammerschmidt, we are full circle again. The lack of 2 body vents makes the Hammerschmidt pedigree uncertain.

    So, if it’s not a Hammerschmidt, not a Keilwerth, not a Kohlert, and not a Conn, then what is it? Maybe we’ll never know. It might be one of those saxes that will remain an enigma for some time to come.

    At this point I’m leaning toward it coming from a small cottage type shop that bought its parts from other companies. Body tube from company A, keys from company B, assembled in C, and engraved with brand name X.

    Given what you wrote about it before you started to work on it (that it has a wonderful tone), I think you will really like it. It will definitely be a lot different than a modern Yamaha.

    1. kevin

      What a great mystery!I am going to look at some pictures of Huttl.The La Fleur is in at Tom Lee for some of the work I couldn’t do.I will have it playing soon and will post a sound demo on youtube.

      Thanks for your interest in this old horn Helen!

      Kevin.

    2. Steve

      Well, I have one of these La Fleur Tenors and can’t decide if it is made in the UK or Poland? It has a Circle Stamp with a #11 inside the circle.
      So what do you guys think?

      Thank you,

      Steve The Beave

      1. Hi there Steve. Welcome to my site.

        I have one of these La Fleur Tenors and can’t decide if it is made in the UK or Poland?

        Neither. Your sax was made by Amati in what was Czechoslovakia. It is actually quite easy to identify through its key guards. Compare it to other Amati horns here in the Amati gallery in Bassic Sax Pix. Check out this Corton tenor. It has a number under the serial # too.

        Here are a couple of stencils that Amati made for King called Lemaire.

        Enter Amati saxophone into eBay’s search engine, and you’ll find some. (Hey, you’ll even find this one. Wrongly ID’d as a possible Kohlert, not; or Hammerschmidt from Poland (huh?), definitely not.)

  3. Mal-2

    May I inquire what the “logic” is that switches between the two body vents? That is, the LH3 key switches between body and neck octave keys, but what switches between the two body octave keys? If I had to guess, I would think maybe it’s RH3.

    1. I have only checked on my alto so far. Although it is currently hanging on the wall in my living room, and does need a rebuild, I have played it. You can tell that it will have a beautiful sound when fully restored. (It leaks like a sieve, and needs all new pads.) The 2 body vents open simultaneously and close when the neck vent opens.

      I’m not sure why they would have 2 vents in the body tube. I’m sure a designer like Steve Goodson would be able to explain it. I think some of his new horns have multiple vents as well.

      I’ll check my other Hammerschmidts as well. The nickel plated tenor is similar in design to the alto, so I wouldn’t expect a difference, but the silver plated tenor may be different. They’re in my studio buried under mouthpieces, reeds, reed cases, etc, etc. I’m cleaning up a little later today anyway, so when I get everything put away, I’ll check out the mechanisms on the tenors.

      1. Mal-2

        I believe you are correct on the Goodson horns having two body pips, but I believe they are triggered sequentially rather than together (though there might be some notes where both are open). I seem to recall that Yamaha baris use one pip just for second-octave D and Eb, which is why I thought maybe your horn switched in a similar manner.

        1. I checked the other 2 Hammerschmidts of mine, and the body vents on those too work simultaneously. So for whatever reason, the designers who came up with design for the Hammerschmidt saxophones, thought that 2 vents was the way to go.

          1. k gould

            I think this La Fleur is a Keilwerth stencil,looked at some pics and the pinky cluster and other keys/rolled tone holes look very similar.I think this must be it probably 1020’s 1930’s engraved “Made in UK” to avoid anti German sentiment following ww1.Possibly assembled by La Fleur in UK?Why no serial # says no.21 on bell is this serial?or model#?

  4. Update: Well I would not have predicted this outcome for the auction of this La Fleur alto. By auction’s end there were 31 bids on this horn. The winning bid was $166.50 US. At the time of writing, the viewing counter shows that 629 people have viewed the eBay page.

    This Hammerschmidt sax generated a fair amount of interest–considering how it was advertised incorrectly by the seller. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it might have been mentioned on SOTW. That’s usually how an auction for an obscure brand of horn like this gets this kind of attention.

    1. k gould

      I got interested in the La Fleur from reading here,I got it today!I have taken it apart and it is in real good shape.I even managed to play a little before I took it apart.It has a wonderful tone!I am taking lots of pictures of the overhaul and will post on SOTW.(oversaxedman)

      1. Hey there Kevin.

        Thanks for the update! Glad the horn arrived OK. From the photos it appeared to be in good shape. I’m also glad you like the La Fleur’s tone.

        I’m not sure if you saw my reply to your original comment on my Questions & Suggestions page, but even if you did, it makes sense for me to repeat the info here, on the page for the sax itself.

        This horn is a real head scratcher. While I am 95% convinced that it is a Hammerschmidt, it might be something else. If I had been personally interested, I would have contacted the music store and asked for more photos.

        We know that Le Fleur was an importer of instruments to England, and as such sold all kinds of brands under the Le Fleur name. Boosey & Hawkes is the brand most often associated with Le Fluer I believe, but I’ve also seen Conn tenors with the Le Fleur name.

        If I had asked for more photos, I would have asked for shots of the engraving, and of stamping of the country of origin. I would have also asked specifically for photos that show the octave vents on the body of the sax. (In other words, photos of the right upper side portion of the saxophone body.) Hammerschmidt used 3 octave vents on their horns. Two on the body, and 1 on the neck.

        While the Hammerschmidt connection is a very probably one, this Le Fleur does bear a striking resemblance to a Hüttl tenor that was sold on eBay a number of years ago. It too was said to have been manufactured in England. (BTW, Hüttl had many of its saxes stencilled by Hammerschmidt as well.)

        In any event, I’m sure that you will enjoy the experience of rebuilding the horn. It will be very different to the YTS-23 that you have.

        Would you be willing to send me some up close photos of the sax when you get it? I would really appreciate it. I would like to know one way or the other if it is indeed a Hammerschmidt, or if it is something else.

        Please keep me in the loop as you rebuild the sax Kevin. Let me know when your pics are up on SOTW, or you can send them to me directly.

        Also, I’m curious: How many octave vents are in the body tube? Depending on the number, that will bring us closer to confirming that this is indeed a a Hammerschmidt, or that it is something else.

        I’ve attached a photo of one of my Hammerschmidts that show the area I’m talking about. You can clearly see the 2 octave vents. 99% of saxophones only have 1 vent on the body tube.

        1. Mal-2

          99% of all saxes smaller than baritones, that is. Double body vents are much more common on baritones than on smaller horns, and wasn’t Keilwerth fitting double vents to their basses as well?

          1. Yes, you are correct. I was speaking about tenors & altos in this case because that is all that Hammerschmidt made.

            I’m not sure what Keilwerth did/does with their bass saxes. I’ve never been up close & personal with one. There isn’t even a clear, detailed photo on the ‘Net of one (at least not one that I’ve come across), that shows that area of the horn in detail.

            Speaking of bass saxes, I took mine out of the case a couple of days ago. I decided I wanted to record a couple of tracks with it in my friend’s studio. OMG is it leaking! 😯

            I knew it needed work, but it is so bad. I’m going to have to take it into the shop before I do much of anything with it.

            Since it got moved across the country with me in ’04, I haven’t had it to a tech, because I have really only played it a few times in a few songs. And since I got ill in ’06, I haven’t played it at all at a show. I could still fake it through a song or 2 if I needed to do so, but it sure as hell wouldn’t work for recordings.

        2. k gould

          Hi Helen,

          There is only one octave vent on the body.I am starting to doubt this is a Hammerschmidt,La Fleur was bought out by Boosey in 1940.La Fleur was UK’s dealer for Conn and the similarity of this horn to a 6m and nail file g# have me thinking this is a Conn stencil.Perhaps an unusual one with rolled tone holes.I am taking it to my local tech to have the dent removed from the bow and perhaps he will have some input.I will also upload some pics to SOTW in the next couple of days.I am really enjoying working on this old horn,wish I had done this a long time ago.I have a mechanical background and have always liked detail work.The cork work on this horn is extensive and the pearls are very beautiful!

          Kevin

          1. Hi Kevin.

            Well with only one octave vent, it pretty much rules out the Hammerschmidt horn idea. I haven’t seen a Hammerschmidt with a single vent yet.

            However, the company still exists. If you are interested in finding out for sure, you could always contact them and find out. Although they don’t make saxophones anymore, they are still manufacturers of high-end clarinets.

            The Hammerschmidt Company is located in Austria now. Their website is entirely in German. Their contact page allows you to direct your inquiry to whomever you wish in the company. There are a number of Hammerschmidt family members working in the company. If you like, I can help you with navigating the page, and getting your email to right spot. Let me know if you’d like to do that. (German is my first language.) I’m sure that you can send your inquiry in English. If that turns out to be a problem, I can translate it for you.

            BTW, I was talking to Sarge at World Wide Sax a few months ago when he was looking at my tenor Hammerschmidts. We were discussing the 2 octave vents on the body. He told me that Conn did have some models with 2 vents on the body as well. IIRC, he said it was the Conqueror. So it would not be totally unheard of for a company to make different models, some with 1, and others with 2 octave vents on the body tube. However, since Hammerschmidt only made about 5000 saxophones in total, it would seem a bit unusual that they would have such different design features on their horns… Unless it was a process of evolution in model design.

            At this point, not enough is known about the saxes that we can say definitively one way or the other how the models of Hammerschmidts evolved, & how these design changes appeared in their stencil lines.

        3. This is an interesting photo. This is from an auction of the oldest Hammerschmidt I’ve seen to date. (Notice the sax has split bell keys.) There were very few photos on the Hungarian auction site that was selling this sax, and unfortunately a couple of them were blurry.

          There were no photos that showed the body tube area where the octave vents would be, so we have no idea how many there are in this horn. The seller also does not speak or read English, so we can’t ask him either. (BTW, the sax did not sell.)

          The photo that I’ve uploaded here, shows the bell brace fairly clearly. If you look at it closely, you’ll notice that it has a slightly different shape to the one of the Le Fleur that we’re talking about that Kevin just bought. The bell brace of Kevin’s Le Fleur is however the same in shape to that of the Hüttl tenor that was on the German eBay site a few years ago.

          The similarities between the English-made Hüttl tenor and the Le Fleur alto are certainly greater than they are between the Le Fleur and known Hammerschmidts.

          The mystery continues. I think I’ll get my buddy Pete to look at these. He always likes a good vintage sax mystery. Maybe he’ll have an idea that we haven’t thought of yet.

          1. k gould

            Hi Helen,

            Two steps ahead on that,contacting Hammerschmidt and I emailed the retailer that sold the La Fleur.The tag was on the case”Matchetts”Belfast Ireland.Still in business!No replies yet.This case is very interesting,it appears as old as the hills and twice as dusty!The hardware is fully functional,surface corrosion.Pics soon!!

    1. Come on Mal-2. You’ve got G.A.S. right now. Get out of those student horn blues. Get yourself a vintage German pro horn for pennies. (Maybe dollars if a couple others bid on the thing.) You’ve got the necessary skills to fix up a horn, so you could likely do the job yourself.

      If you like a darkish sounding sax, with the ability to kick ass when necessary, this could be a good horn for you.

      Besides, you just sold a horn to Canada, here’s your chance to even out the balance again. 😉

      1. Mal-2

        Meh, I have four altos now: Jupiter JAS-767, Orpheo, Yama-Vito, and Buescher Aristocrat. The Aristocrat was appropriately dark, but not at all compatible with my bright mouthpieces (Lakey or Rousseau JDX, I didn’t have the Meyer yet). That’s why it’s out on loan, possibly forever. The Vito has a bit more complex sound than either the Jupiter or the Orpheo, but it hits the wall as far as volume goes. The Jupiter is by far the horn that lets me drive the most air without it clamming up, and it is also fitted to my hands, which the Vito is not and the Orpheo only partly is.

        Now I have to figure out what to do with the Vito. Flip it as is? Re-pad and flip? Re-pad, get the bell fixed, and flip? Lend it out? Keep it and sell the Orpheo? Unfortunately I would get next to nothing for the Orpheo even though it is a worthy backup horn.

        I’ve been financing my G.A.S. in a few different ways:
        * Grab stuff cheap and flip it at a profit (I search eBay for misspelled auctions) — maybe I add value, maybe not.
        * Buy multi-packs and split them up for sale (like the two JDX mouthpieces — paid $57 for both, got $50 for one)
        * Sell stuff I don’t like, even if I take a loss on it. It’s better than sitting on it.

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