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SML Rumor Control


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Commentary: SML didn't make their own saxophones

One of the biggest rumors in the SML world is that SML never actually produced their own horns. Assembled them, definitely -- several folks have been to the SML plant and seen their production process -- but there has always been the question of whether or not SML actually fabricated their own horns.

One of the "prime suspects" that allegedly produced SML horns was Beaugnier, a small shop from Mantes, France that produced a variety of stencils for a bunch of companies, including Olds, but it is better known as a "wholly owned subsidiary" of Leblanc.

A part of the fun I've been having recently has been researching the Leblanc company through the various patents that have been granted to them (check out ep.espacenet.com).

Interesting findings:

* The patent for the "switchable" G# that is found on most SML models is actually held by Beaugnier (patent FR979343)
* The patent for the "rocking" thumb rest found on some SML models is also held by Beaugnier (patent FR904355)

I started to despair of the actual origins of the SML saxophone, because it was next to impossible to find even a single patent on them -- which generally means that the horn I'm looking at is a stencil of some kind, that there is no technical innovation of any kind that was introduced in the horn (as with Keilwerth) or the patent expired prior to 1920 (and SML was founded in 1935).

Persistence paid off, though: I found a patent issued to SML -- for the Gold Medal, no less (the octave key mechanism, specifically). It's FR1119074.

Unfortunately, I can find no other SML saxophone patents. There are lots for oboes. Some for clarinets and flutes, but no other saxophone ones :(

Now, as some have pointed out, one patent does not necessarily mean that the horn was fabricated by SML, it just means that SML had a hand in their design, as with the case of such companies as Lyon and Healy: they designed some of their horns, but had other folks actually fabricate and assemble them (Martin and Holton, to name some in L&H's case).

The main reason for this controversy, in my opinion, is because of horns like the Heimer -- this is a horn that was possibly built with the SML tooling, from all indications, yet it doesn't play anywhere near as well because of poor brass (very thin) and poor quality control. Fortunately, all SML-made horns are extremely high quality instruments.

Anyhow, I don't think it's really that much of an issue: yes, it's 100% probable that SML had another manufacturer actually cast the body of the horn and all keywork, but it appears incontrovertible that SML did design their own horns and if a different company fabricated all the parts, it was to SML's specifications.

Finally, as mentioned, the main "contender" for the assumed fabrication of SML horns by another company is Beaugnier, as SML seems to have used two of their patents, as mentioned above. The number one main reason I don't think that is the case is because Mr. Vito Pascucci, the president of G. Leblanc -- which owned Beaugnier -- says that he'd like to have bought SML so he could be producing saxophones of that caliber again. If Beaugnier produced SML, why would Leblanc need to buy them out?

Postcript: several people asked, "Well, why don't you send Leblanc an e-mail aking them to actually say that they've never had anything to do with producing SML horns?" The simple answer is because they don't give out that kind of information. I was informed in an e-mail by a Leblanc official that that kind of information is proprietary.


Commentary: Miscellaneous Rumors
  • There's a popular rumor that SML bought their baris from Buffet -- essentially considering them Buffet Dynaction stencils. This info is false and is based on a comment from a couple of folks that don't play Buffet horns. I do. The SML is a completely different animal. (See also http://www.saxpics.com/SOTW_Archive/sml/sml/boardset-saxjazz-boardid-sml-thread-5-startmsg-63.html.)
  • It has been suggested that Cousenon either produced SML horns or stenciled a model from SML. The stencil is possible, but not probable. They did not produce the SML horns. Cousenon is a very respected brass manufacturer and was formerly a producer of extremely high quality saxophones that look radically different than SML horns, although some models had similar features (like rolled tone holes).
  • FE Olds did not stencil or import saxophones from SML (Olds doesn't ever seem to have made their own saxophones, by the bye). Their horns are extremely different and are of relatively low quality. Their Parisian Ambassador tenors (made by Beauginer) do bear a passing resemblence to the SML's. This is not repeated in Olds' other horns.
  • Conn did not produce or stencil the SML horns. SML "borrowed" several features from a lot of horns. The most obvious features that SML "borrowed" from Conn are rolled tone holes and the LH table keys (from the Connqueror [26/30M] models). The neck is mostly Buffet.
  • I've found it odd no one's suggested that Dolnet made the SML horns. They didn't, of course, but their horns look closer to the Rev A and B horns than do Buffet's, Olds' or Cousenon's.
  • There is a common rumor that Pierret manufactured SML saxophones. This, I believe, was mainly caused by a number of postings that SML produced a "Santy Runyon" stencil. They didn't. Pierret did.
  • Ther are occasional rumors that Malerne made SML horns. This is kind-of backwards, because SML purchased Malerne in 1977, but the statment is based on the fact that Malerne seems to have made some of Buffet's Evette student horns -- and I've already mentioned the flap about Buffet making SML's baris.



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