Dolnet Instrument Models
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Dolnet (pronounced DOL-NAY) is a model which has been getting steadily more popular since I started this website. There is a good reason for this: the horns are solidly made, are quite jazzy and have a fairly good sound, although there are some negative comments here and there regarding intonation.
There isn't a Dolnet model or serial number chart, per se, so I essentially am creating this based on engravings, user input and manufacturing differences.
As far as real Dolnet history goes, Dolnet was founded in 1880 and started manufacturing saxophones around 1888. I'm going to let guest columnist Laurie Pimblett take it from here:
Over the years I've been exclusively collecting French saxes. Along the way I've made a small collection of Dolnets; these I regard as unknown treasures of the sax world, and I rate them very highly indeed. They are often good -- sometimes breathtaking -- and rank amongst the best saxes I've ever played!
I understand that there were two partners in the Dolnet company, going by the names of Messieurs Pigis and Lefevre; their workshop was situated at Mantes, the historical 'heart' of France's woodwind craft workshops, and fascinatingly, the home of the Selmer marque [and Buffet, etc.].There is much in common with Selmers in terms of technical points and general ease of action and feel, though sometimes there are small errors in construction -- such as occasional solder- and rod-looseness both very easily dealt with -- but not worth getting 'sniffy' about if you want a potentially superb instrument like a Dolnet.
... and the quoted and requoted line that's going around the Internet (this is Wichita Band Instruments' version):
Dolnet horns were produced in very small numbers by a small French workshop that specialized in saxes. See page #193 of the German book "That's Jazz", for a photo of Lester Young playing a Dolnet tenor.
IMHO, it appears that Dolnet production parallels Buffet, SML and Couesnon production, more than Selmer: not only is the keywork design on early Dolnets similar to early SML's (and becomes similar to Buffet after about 1940), some of the Jean Cartier stencils have the beautiful Sparkle Lacquer that is most famously found on the Buffet Super Dynaction. The overall look is definitely influenced by (or influenced) Couesnon horns. All this makes me agree with David Hughes (an e-mailer): the Dolnets were produced until at least the mid-1980's, not the 1960's as many websites indicate (see also Saxophon-Service, which advocates an end date of 1984).
As mentioned, there isn't an official serial number list, although there are some ranges cobbled together, below. It seems, however, that the serial number ranges incorporate the full production of ALL instruments produced by Dolnet, not just saxophones. I'd think that production of saxophones was no more than 500 horns per year.
Also note that the "Bel Air" series introduced letters after the serial number. If you see a "C" after the serial number, it isn't a C instrument!