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Discussion Starter #1
Got the alto out at the gig and was just noodling around like you might do to make sure it's all there, and it wasn't. Low C#, B and Bb were not really playing. I thought 'That's odd, how can C# not play?' The first thing I checked was to see if G# was rising while fingering C# and it wasn't. Then I saw that C# was only slightly opening, but the auxiliary arm of the B key seemed to be closing it as usual. I quickly looked for anything obviously loose, unsprung spring, etc., and not finding anything I decided I'd have to look at it later.
I play very little alto with this group and don't need the low notes, so this morning I took an in-depth look while I did a lube job on it. I couldn't see any real reason for all this but I did discover something I had missed after the last 'tech' worked on it - he had glued a piece of soft leather-like material to the actuating face of the lever that holds the C# closed and it apparently was simply gumming-up the action - not allowing the C# to open or close properly.
This is a Selmer USA and does not have the flat bronze spring on the lever like Selmer Paris, just the plain lever. I replaced it with a piece of thin cork but a piece of Teflon tubing on the stud of the key would also work - I just didn't have a piece of the right diameter.
Anyway, perfect function was restored but I have never run into this particular malfunction before, especially considering the horn has been playing fine and nothing had happened to it since just the other day when I was trying out some minor mouthpiece modifications on it.
I guess that piece of material had worked loose and it just got to the point where it caused the whole mess.
 

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I take it you do not lubricate this junction. (Lube could make certain materials gooey, or cakey )
 

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So the problem was friction?

Generally, if there's a case where one part slides on another, there's typically some kind of a "lug" that slides up and down on an arm. So the same part of the lug is always in contact with the arm, but the arm is contacted over a range.

In that case I usually try to put the cushioning material on the lug, so that you don't have a piece of metal riding back and forth on softer material, wearing it down, but rather the softer material sliding back and forth on the metal. This to me seems less likely to have the soft stuff bunch up or peel off.

It sounds like the specific location would be a good place for Teflon or Delrin thin sheet.

For cork or leather I always lubricate with cork grease. (I figure, if cork grease doesn't harm cork or adhesive when used on the sax neck, it probably won't hurt them in the key mechanism.) You have to reapply it occasionally, but it's ready to hand and seems pretty benign.

I suspect that lubricating that sliding joint with cork grease might have fixed the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
No, it was a strip of soft spongy leather as I said. It was too thick to start with and too spongy to allow free movement, plus the glue had decomposed, allowing it to slide a little. Just a totally crappy piece of material for that job and it had to go as soon as I discovered it. The guy did it just a few years ago and the alto doesn't have that many hours on it since, although it has been used on many gigs. The pads are in fine shape, for example. However, it is true that I have neglected it until now. It seems like the more I look at it the more stuff I find to fix that the NAPBIRT tech screwed up.
The thin cork I put on works fine and I use a very light Teflon grease on these sliding interfaces. But I just finished working on it again. The table keys had a lot of lost motion so I changed out some felts and adjusted the opening heights of the B and Bb which were far too open, using the screw adjusters in the key guard. This had also caused misalignment among the table keys.
When I finished that, I was back to square 1 with leaky bell keys. I had neglected to check the long lever from the B key that holds down the C# - the felt on the C# lever was too thick. I replaced it with cork of the approximately correct diameter and finished the adjustment using the sliding sandpaper strip - this is a precision adjustment to allow the B to close but also preventing the C# from blowing open. I was checking it after every stroke of the sandpaper and I finally got the bottom end up to full strength with the table keys in better alignment.
I also had to remove cork from the G# key foot - cork was too high, limiting movement in the other table keys. I had to make a fine adjustment to the G# hold-down as I realized it actually was blowing open with C# just a little if I didn't squeeze the keys.
Having two tenors, an alto, a soprano and a baritone, I think I could spend time on a sax every day. I'm glad I can do a few things for myself because there's no way I could afford to have this done much less spend the time running back and forth to the shop. Plus, I have to admit there is no tech that does things to my satisfaction so I might as well just do it myself. I had a tenor overhauled a few months ago and I spent two weeks on it when I got it back. That's just the way it goes with me.
So my next task on the alto is to clean the pads and put a treatment on them, then do a cleaning on the sax with no disassembly. That will take me about three hours.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The C# 'closing arm' from the B key; I ended up raising the B key opening a little with the key guard bumper screw because I wasn't satisfied with the voicing of the low C#. That worked perfectly and now all bell tones respond equally and strongly. I raised the B in this way because otherwise I would have had to start over again on this regulation. The C# was not opening quite enough because it's arm was hitting the closing arm from the B key. Raising the B key also raised the closing arm which allowed the needed C# opening. This did raise the B key in the table array but it was a little low after the previous work anyway and is now easier to touch. I still need to check the Bb on the tuner to see if I need to open it correspondingly to the B. Either way, neither of these two keys are near as wide open as they were when I started this.
I've had this horn for 30 years, bought new, and this is possibly the best I've had the bell keys sounding. At least for the last 20 years.
 

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... For cork or leather I always lubricate with cork grease. (I figure, if cork grease doesn't harm cork or adhesive when used on the sax neck, it probably won't hurt them in the key mechanism.) You have to reapply it occasionally, but it's ready to hand and seems pretty benign..
I would never use "standard" cork grease, because pretty much all of them cake pretty badly. That introduces fiction.
I used to use Alisyn cork grease because it is vastly superior, but even that cakes slightly.
I now use a very sticky but low viscosity grease from Kraus. In my experience it does not cake at all. Probably available elsewhere too. The stickiness draws it to where it needs to be. Many greases just get pushed away.

BYW IMO many (most?) cork grease either damage cork or damage the glue that holds the cork on.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yeah, cork grease tends to get sicky in actions. I do use it on the neck corks every single time now, after years of abusing the corks. They seem to last a very long time.
 

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Yeah, cork grease tends to get sicky in actions. I do use it on the neck corks every single time now, after years of abusing the corks. They seem to last a very long time.
My (new, I moved recently) local tech applies hot paraffin wax to neck corks. So far, it lasts really well, and doesn't need extra cork grease. Even when the surface has worn down, I anticipate that it will help slow the diffusion of cork grease into the glue interface, so I'll call it a Good Thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I had been neglecting this horn for a long time so I took a couple of hours and gave it a cleaning and pad treatment. I use Pledge for both things. It actually cleaned up pretty well. Part of the job is also a lubrication. Anyway, played it last night on the gig and I have to say, with the minor mouthpiece mods I did plus the cleaning, lube and adjustments and the different neck, the horn was smoking last night. I really think its playing the best I can remember. In fact, I was going to have an overhaul on it soon but all I'm going to need to do is put it in for a couple of minor dents and some reshaping of the bell flare. It does need some swedging in the key work but I'll leave that for the next pad job.
BTW, Pledge cleans and treats pads while removing sticky organic compounds (usually sugars).
 

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.... BTW, Pledge cleans and treats pads while removing sticky organic compounds (usually sugars).
I think that possibly a big part of the sticky pad issue is regional. I cannot even remember the last time I found any evidence of sugars on pads.
Locally, I think it would be quite unusual for wind players to eat or drink sugary stuff while playing.

That said, I used to be an exception. As a youngster, spending a lot of time in theater pits, I sucked hard candy during long rests, and often tucked it in my cheek during the next passage. I was a flute player. I had to stop this when I started playing reeds as well. Who would eat candy while playing reeds!
On flute, I never blew saliva into the instrument like some people do. I did not have sticky pads. I had control of saliva, collecting it under my tongue, behind my front teeth, until I had a chance to swallow it.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Gordon, the breath and saliva almost always contain 'sugars' whether or not any has been ingested recently, and you are not going to see it on the pads. You know its there and it has defeated your best efforts when the pads start to stick. I play lots of outdoor gigs this time of year and its hot and humid around here. Anything I come up with that works here will work anywhere.
I get home from a gig and just put the horns on their rack and forget about them. I put the stuffers in while packing up after the show. Days later, maybe weeks later, I open the case, reach in and press the G# - it pops open. I smile. It just don't get no better'n that. :)
 
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