It happened again, recently.
A customer brought in a horn for work, which was simple enough. But before I let him leave the shop I took off the hand guard to show him what was underneath – a habit I have developed through hard experience.
There was the usual “green stuff” that one finds under hand guards or tennis tape. But there was also something else I knew to look for, something that he could have claimed I did unless I showed it to him before he left: a dent, a small one, under the finger hook. “Huh! I didn’t know that was there!” he said.
One of the meanings of the word “occult” is “hidden or secret”. That is precisely what damage underneath a hand guard is – occult damage. Often you have no idea that it’s there, or how it got there. By leaving your hand guard on the horn all the time you don’t see the damage or some other insidious process such as lacquer wear or green stuff build up.
Remove your hand guard
Get in the habit of removing the hand guard from time to time to inspect your horn, especially after traveling with it. Wipe the horn clean in that area. If there’s green stuff, you can usually clean it off with denatured alcohol (which should not hurt your lacquer finish) or lacquer thinner (which might take off your lacquer).
If you find a dent at least you’ll know it’s there and you can have it taken care of next time you visit your repair tech.
Beware The Occult!