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Discussion Starter #1
I have a question which Im hoping gordon will jump in on but everyone else is more than welcome. Ive repadded just a few clarinets and a sax so far, so this is all still in the learning stages. My question is what do people recommend as the process for levelling a pad. Example assume key is correct alignment square in round ect. The pad grips firmly on two points with a feeler gauge and loosely on the other two, up until now Ive simply reheated the cup put a pad slick underneath and kicked the pad of manually let it cool and try again. Ive done the reheat and gently open and close the pad key as well, but this generally doesnt ever work for me. Ive just been shown another way which is to stick the corner of your pad slick under the tight section of the key reheat and close the key, didnt seem to work to bad. Can anyone recommend a no nonsense approach to doing it, "gordon" also do you prefer a hard backing glue like say shellac or a soft backing glue like the yellow glue. I find yellow glue works good for clarinets but shocking for saxes.
Steve
 

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The trick to "floating" a pad in my experience is learning to apply just the right amount of heat to the key cup for the glue/shellac that you are using so the glue is at the very last edge of the plastic state before going to the liquid state. When the glue is at this level, the most gentle upward push of the pad slick on the edge of the pad that is touching the tone hole first will bring the desired results.

It is simply a matter of timing (the glue) and developing the right touch so as not to move the pad too far (over correct) and it takes lots, and lots, and lots of practice. Be patient, you won't get it overnight.

Heating a keycup with some glue in it off the instrument (top down of course) is a great way to get the feel and timing of the melting characteristics of the glue you are working with. I was taught that levelling a pad is like making love to a woman, the lighter the touch the better the response. :roll:
 

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I agree with JBT, and assume that he is thinking mainly of saxes.

The need for intimate familiarity with the behaviour of the materials one uses, especially glues, is hugely important in instrument repair, and often overlooked. As JBT says, when it comes to adhesives, this is gained only by lots of experience, and an attentive, 'learning approach' to that experience.

"... Ive repadded just a few clarinets and a sax so far, so this is all still in the learning stages. My question is what do people recommend as the process for levelling a pad. Example assume key is correct alignment square in round ect. The pad grips firmly on two points with a feeler gauge and loosely on the other two...."

I assume you mean that the pad grips the feeler firmly at opposite ends of a tone hole's diameter.

This situation would not be comon on a clarinet, and I would suggest it indicates substandard pads, or a non-level tone hole edge. Deal with the cause.

It is very comon for flute, and indicates non-level rolled tone holes.

The problem is far more common on sax than calrinet. Again, have you checked the levelness of the tone holes? And are you pads of high quality? Are your key cups distorted - it's actually the back of them that matters, and I suspect this may not always correspond with the levelness of the edge of the cup.

Re glue. I try to make the pad as integral with the back of the key cup as possible. No air gaps. No semi-cheesy glue. And for saxes I prefer shellac for its higher rigidity.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks gordon, no I didnt mean opposite corners, I can see how if it was opposite corners that clamped and the sides didnt would indicate warped tone holes. I meant regarding just one corner coming down nice and firm and then orientating out from that point in both directions a gradual lay off, of resistance to your feeler gauge. This indicates that the pad is kicked of at the wrong angle of attack. I was curious as to other peoples ways of setting that pad level and perpendicular with the tone hole. Ive found so far that the glue works better with clarinets than the shellac. Up until now Ive just been adjusting the kick of the pad with a pad slick and I was curious whether there was a better way, when I saw someone use the slick under the tight section and then force the key closed it made me think as I had just never thought of doing it that way before, and Ive heard of others just openeing and closing the warm key but this doesnt work for me, I would love to go and do a course somewhere but I dont even know where to start for this sort of training. Im an aircraft mechanic by trade but I thoroughly enjoy making something that doesnt work suddenly work. Ive probably now repadded about 32 clarinets including alto and bass units all for free "well some beers and materials" and only 1 sax "mine". Ive had no success yet with flutes "they just **** me off" cant get them to seal correctly. But bacxk to topic just picking some peoples brains as I may eventually be looking at a career change
Steve
 

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I use glue as glue, not as a packing behind the pad to allow re-alignment of the pad relative to the key cup. Most manufacturers do the same.

"I saw someone use the slick under the tight section and then force the key closed "

Likewise, I use various methods to re-align (or should I say correct the alignment of) the key cup with the tone hole.

It's a pretty standard method.

No need to mess around with re-heating, and also risking getting air pockets behind the pad when you lift various areas of the pad out of the key cup.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the info gordon. In theory isnt alignment of the pad using a pad slick the same as backing the pad with various levels of glue. Im assuming by your description your saying by not using the glue for padding, you ensure a seal by the key being in perfect alignment with the original bodylines by bending ect as per how the manufacturer made it and then simply by putting a pad in squarely it will guarantee correct seal, is this what you mean, or are you saying you shouldnt have to kick a pad off by say more than .5mm and rely on the glue to hold its position. Dont read into my post that Im questioning your correctness or anything, Im just trying to get a better understanding of how others do it, and Ive read numerous posts of yours and am impressed with the knowledge youve been willing to share. Do you use shellac for everything including clarinets, Ive been using the yellow based glue because I was recommended it and it worked so well, but I have no idea on its ability to retain position over time, but its rubbish for saxophones thats for sure, ive got shellac for this purpose and have used it for the sax with no probs. Ive purchased plenty of tools and equip from the musicmedic and made up quite a few custom tools of my own already now. Like I said before thoroughly enjoy what Im doing but Im relying on the wisdom of others to improve my personal knowledge and skills.
Thanks
Steve
 

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"In theory isn't alignment of the pad using a pad slick the same as backing the pad with various levels of glue...."

Sorry, I don't follow the first few lines of your post.

I use glue to attach the pad to the back of the key cup.

Some people use glue (and even cardboard) as PACKING. (I should not have used the word 'padding', and have now edited that.)

If you use glue as packing, then the key can be reheated after installation, and the alignment of the pad altered with respect to the key cup, hence the tone hole. I almost never resort to this. A pad slick can be used as a tool to assist with this. Some technicians use a pointed tool to pry a part of the pad further out of the cup, in order to deal with a leak. I consider that this constitutes a high risk of leaving air pockets behind the pad, which make it forever unreliable in the way it seals.

Yes, I almost always do adjustments to remove leaks, by altering the geometry of the key cup relative to the tone hole, AFTER the pad is installed. I'm not talking about just to the nearest 0.5 mm. I'm talking an accuracy of closer to 0.01 mm.

Pad slicks are also by some people to assist with ironing pads. This possibly smooths irregularities on the surface of the leather. It possibly does the same for the underlying felt. I typically press the pad progressively more firmly onto the tone hole as the adjustment proceeds, until I am using the force a player would typically use. This probably also smooths the leather, but only where the tone hole contacts the pad, which I am happy with.

When I do a repad, I clamp the keys lightly for say an hour, and sometimes use heat as well. This is not to remove leaks, but it seems to get the pad to accommodate discrepancies smaller than 0.01 mm, and make good adjustment more stable.

Regarding yellow glue. I have several different yellow glues. Yellow does not describe a glue.

As I said, I use shellac for saxes, because it is very easy to work with, I do not need to keep a glue gun hot all day, and because its rigidity may have acoustic benefits.

I regard these possible acoustic benefits to be negligible for clarinets. I used to use a cream coloured shellac for clarinets, but had to change because it did not adhere well enough to a higher grade pad I changed to. Probably something to do with a coating on the back.

So I experimented with many hot melt glues, and settled on amber-coloured pellets from J L Smith. A major criterion for me was that I received visual feedback from the glue when the key and glue were hot enough for good adhesion. That is not the case with "George's'-type pellets.

I consider that some hot-melt glue softens at a temperature that is too low for instruments that encounter warm situations.

Some manufacturers, for years, used a hot melt glue that had a consistency and sticking power close to that of cheddar cheese. Hopeless! It was slightly yellow.

If this does not answer your questions, feel free to ask about any more detail.
 

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Good thread. I'm still very much in the learning stages of this stuff myself. Lotsa trial and some error, hopefully none that can't be rectified. What I have noticed, though, is that after enough re-heating and manipulating that a pad can warp and become pretty much useless. I'm not sure if this happens just from the heat, from drying shellac pushing and pulling on the pad backing, or what. Is this a common problem? Any way to work with a pad that this happens to? It's frustrating when you're working on a small scale and ordering just the pads you need to overhaul a particular horn.
 

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"What I have noticed, though, is that after enough re-heating and manipulating that a pad can warp and become pretty much useless."

I wonder if it also has something to do with those air pockets I mentioned, that you are likely to introduce if you 'pull' on a pad..
 

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This is an interesting thread. Here's how we do it:

Once everything is straight and all that can affect the tone hole, including key work, dents, bends etc., is repaired, we:

1. Level the pad cup.
2. Level the tone hole.
3. Put a pad in the cup (no shellac) and align the pad and cup to the tone hole.
4. Check that everything is still level and that key work is not damaged from the adjustment (bending).
5. Install the pad using enough shellac to give a solid base and allow for minor adjustments.

I used to install pads and go bending the cups after the pad was in. For me, the results were very good but they only got so good. Using a tool between the tone hole and pad for bending caused depressions in the pad, occasionally bent key work as well as damaging my pretty tone holes. It just never produced the exact consistant results I want.

With my current method, I find:

1. Replacing pads (when the horn comes in for service) is a breeze; all the work is done. Just pop the old pad out and pop the new pad in.

2. Any damage the horn is easy to spot. When the horn went out the pad cups and tone holes were level. I used to have some doubt when a horn came back. If a horn took a fall, I would think, "is this from the fall or is this something I did installing the pads." Now I know. If it's not right it's not from me.

3. Every pad installs just as easy as the last with little or no variation. If a pad is giving me problems, like hitting on the back or on the sides, I pull it out. Once all the variables are addressed the pad should slip into place. If it doesn't something was overlooked or the pad is no good.

Yes, this method takes longer than most others.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks curt, I only this week bought a couple hundred of dollars of clarinet pads from you. I do want to start a career path in this field, but here in australia there is not a lot of opportunities to get experience, and those that already do it certainly do not want to reveal there secrets. Even tried for courses at local universities ect, but theres nothing on offer. My hesitation in starting a business and advertise is Ive never pulled down things like cornets and general horns. I have plenty of tooling, I have a lathe, mill, oxy, drill presses, ally oxide blasters, plastic media blaster, paint booth, cnc router, nickel plating equipment ect, this was from being a jet engine mechanic for 13 years. But I have no technical background in overhauling musical equipment, would love to get some training from somewhere but Its not happening. The more I do little side jobs the more I want to do it permanently, absolutley get a thrill from something not working and then working. But without someones guiding hand it becomes a little bit daunting. Its like I guess cooking, we can all do it if we want, but if you do a course and become a chef the things you can do with food can boggle the mind and definetly please the taste buds. In the current field I work in "Aircraft" the money is good ect but I certainly dont get the satisfaction I get when I rebuild a instrument
Okay thats enough rambling
Thanks
Steve
 

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simso said:
Its like I guess cooking, we can all do it if we want, but if you do a course and become a chef the things you can do with food can boggle the mind and definetly please the taste buds.
I humbly disagree. :)

I cook and have done so in many restaurants and I'm fat. I consider myself a food expert! I think cooking is an art and instrument repair (physically repairing saxophones) is a science. Although I try to break cooking down to variables such as the proper portions of salt, sweet and oil, I always end up being creative and artistic. The more I learn about cooking the more creative I am able to be.

Saxophone key work and repair seems to be the opposite. It is easy to break the work into variables. The only real art that I can see in this part of the repairs is dealing with things that we overlook, fudging repairs or working under time constraints. For me, the less I overlook the less improvising I need to do.

If you are having a problem with your repairs why not start with basics. Start with one key on an instrument and see how perfect you can get it. Try to eliminate (repair) all the variables and see how you do. Then, consider one variable (like level tone holes) and see how you can improve on that aspect of your repairs.

When you are happy with your tone holes, they will direct you to the next variable. I mean to say, other shortcomings in your work will become apparent due to the improved tone hole. For me, this learning is cyclical.

Best of luck!
 

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MusicMedic said:
The only real art that I can see in this part of the repairs is dealing with things that we overlook....working under time constraints
I do believe that this part of it is, in fact, art, because not everyone that comes to me can afford perfection....perfection is, unfortunately, reserved for those horns/customers that need/appreciate it.

To be even more contrary, I earned my living as a cook many years ago, mostly doing high end grill work in Boston (this is how musicians earn a living in beantown). I worked in a classy breakfast joint in the Prudential center and grill chef at the Half Shell in Copley Square. Working grill during rush hours and producing high quality, perfectly cooked fish and breakfasts can be reduced to a science. The setup beforehand (sauces, filleting, batter preparation, etc) is art.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks curt, appreciate the help. I have a few clarinets here at the moment I might do as you say there. Up to now I guess Ive just been simply popping the key of , checking out the tone hole cleaning the cup putting new pad in and then reassembling the key. Check for leaks if large leaks I was bending the key if small leaks I was kicking the pad of, but Im not happy with the end result, dont get me wrong its sealed all the way around, but Im getting different clamping presssures at the different points and it was infuriating me, example some points it would tear my paper and others it would be a firm pull, when I was taking an old pad of it had even pressure at all four points, so I was not able to reduplicate what was there before. This is why I would love to be able to get to do a course, but none are on offer here in australia. Gordon mentioned that he does as you say gets everything perfect and then just pops the pad in. Do you need to hold the key clamped closed after its been repadded, or is this more of a sax requirement. Ill give it a go again today where I forget about the pad and align everything by eye first, Im assuming my goal is to obtain a perfect key alignment approx 1.5mm above the surface. Okay thats enough. Actually one last question Im asuming this process of perfect alignment is why people have so many problems getting flutes to seal, because you cant use glue to compensate for poor alignment. There is a repairer here in perth who refuses to do flutes, I guess this would be the reason why
Steve
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks curt and gordon, my confidence level just went up 1000 percent. I just did a simple key, one of the larger lower ones on the clarinet, checked prior to removal its clamping pressures. removed the key had a look at the current pad angle and thickness ect. Noticed it was slightly kicked of, so that gave me an idea. Removed pad cleaned cup reinstalled key. removed key rebent for even alignement, refitted did this about 5 times, until I was happy, put the pad in with even amount of glue, fitted the key whilst it was warm , wet my finger and rubbed it over the spinre of the key as it was cooling down, and it sealed perfectly all four points even pressure exactly. Basically I was reproducing the previous installers problems, I assumed that it sealed before therefore it will seal now without truly looking at the key properly. Now I just got to make up a tool that will allow me to clamp on the spine of the key and allow an even controlled bend of thee cup, I was using the vice in the shed with a punch and hammer to realign the angle.
Awesome>>>>>>>>
Steve
 

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Flute padding

simso said:
Actually one last question Im asuming this process of perfect alignment is why people have so many problems getting flutes to seal, because you cant use glue to compensate for poor alignment. There is a repairer here in perth who refuses to do flutes, I guess this would be the reason why
Steve
The principles of getting a flute pad level are basically the same. The cup needs to be level front-to-back and side-to-side. Remaining imperfections are removed by installing partial shims (small paper or plastic washers generally of .003" to .0005" thickness) cut into appropriate sized pie wedges. The pad is removed, and the shim is placed where the leak is to bring that area of the pad down to seal against the tonehole. This is meticulous and sometimes tedious work. There are some techs that should refuse to do flutes but don't!:D
 

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Is saxophone repair an art or a science?


It is in my mind a kind of applied science but then so is cooking to a degree.

There is a lot of science in cooking but this science gets subsumed by considerations of what is beautiful and fitting.

There is beauty in mechanical work well done, but it is not an art like the making of good music or good food.

There is science in everything and there is art in everything. The question is to what degree?

There is science in playing a saxophone for example, but like cooking this science gets subsumed by considerations of what is beautiful and fitting.

I agree with Musicmedic that dealing with the human side of the saxophone repair business is an art.

Nevertheless, getting along with others involves also a certain ammount of science. Not the science of mechanics or accostic or chemistry, but rather science pertaining to the regularities observable in human nature.

In the end we talk about the art of living not the science of living, even if a lot of living involve the study of patterns. Why?

Because the realm of art involves the expression of value whereas the realm of science involves the observation of fact and in the end we as humans are more interested in meaning than in information.


The discussion is futher complicated by the emotional resonance the words science and art have for different people.

In its classic sense, the word art denotes skillful activity.

The phrase The Art of Levelling a Pad is an example of the word being used in this clasical manner.

And Saxophone repair is certainly a skillful activity…

Saxophone repair could be called both an applied science and an applied art.

To complicate things, there is a lot of creativity in science. However are constrained by more rules than when cooking for example.

I can understand what Music medic is taking about when he talks about getting the variables under control. Everything leads to the horn playing as it was design to play meaning the creativity is focused on one desired outcome, whereas in cooking, the possibilities in terms of a final work are virtually without limit.

I think Schmuelyosef would agree that cooking is an art, I think he is trying to tell us that following the prescribed menu as a grill chef so as not to loss your job is a more a science than an art.

Or said differently, the inventors of the menu are artists; the workers are workers.

By the way, preparation is crucial in both cooking and saxophone repair.









On technical matters:

I can understand Music Medic’s proceedure.

It is

1. Level the pad cup.
2. Level the tone hole.
3. Put a pad in the cup (no shellac) and align the pad and cup to the tone hole.
4. Check that everything is still level and that key work is not damaged from the adjustment (bending).
5. Install the pad using enough shellac to give a solid base and allow for minor adjustments.

A) I see a pad cup that has been straitened on the anvil- if this was necessary- level over a tone hole which has been trued, in the context of a mechanism that has been tightened to some degree.. The pad cup is at a correct distance from the tonehole for the thickness of the pad you are using.

B) Dry fitting the padcup with the pad you are planning to use is the way to get the cup at the right distance over the tone hole for the pad in question.

C) You glue in the pad with a minimum of adhesive.

D) And now your reward; You now have only make tiny adjustments by manipulating the geometry of the cup or- for those who can’t help playing with micro touch and needle -by making tiny adjustments carefully heating the cup just enough so that the shellac doesn’t liquidify.

This makes perfect sense to me, however there is one small point in the logic of this proceedure that has not been dealt with.

The point has to do with the relation between leveling the cup over the tonehole and truing the tonehole in the sense that leveling the cup over the tone hole could involves the use of shims which have a tendancy to damage the tonehole.


I don’t mind disassembling and reassembling a horn one more time –if at the end of the day, mate- I could arrived at the reward of things being 95 % in place.


I have spend countless hours in the past year on just 3 horns packing pads and heating and adjusting with the needle all because I didn’t have the sax in the kind of proper alignment Music Medic is avocating.

I have acquired some of the familarity with glue that Gordon is talking about however I need a larger over all strategy,

Especially at this point when I don’t have Gordon’s magic with bending keys with the pads in the cups.

Music Medic is saying is that he now alters the geometry of every thing that needs it geometry altered before gluing in the pads

I am sure this is- or should be –standard practice.

Perhaps I should consider truing my toneholes after everything thing else has been done since getting the pad cup level over the tone hole and at the correct distance from the tonehole could involve the use of the shims and these tend to leave their mark on the rim of the tonehole.

If this involved disassembling and reassembling the instrument one more time what does it matter?

Am I right about this idea of truing the toneholes after everything else-except the installing of pads- has been done?
 

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Simply use a wooden tongue depressor or popsicle stick instead of a metal shim to bend and align the key cup and you won't leave marks on the toneholes. This is not that complicated.

John
 

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"Is saxophone repair an art or a science? "
It doesn't really matter.. and as you say, it all depends on how you define those terms.
When people do not understand the science, they tend to call the results 'art'.
When I have to fill in my occupation, I often write "engineering craftsman" or "precision engineering craftsman"

"... there is one small point in the logic of this procedure that has not been dealt with.

The point has to do with the relation between levelling the cup over the tonehole and truing the tonehole in the sense that levelling the cup over the tone hole could involves the use of shims which have a tendency to damage the tonehole... getting the pad cup level over the tone hole and at the correct distance from the tonehole could involve the use of the shims and these tend to leave their mark on the rim of the tonehole."

That is where another issue of experience I often mention comes into it: An experienced technician becomes so intimately acquainted with the materials he is working with, including brass, especially flimsily supported brass He gets to know what he can do and what he cannot, without damage. This includes choosing an appropriate 'slick', as JBT suggests.

It also includes sometimes supporting the resonator rather than the pad itself. It includes bending methods which put pressure on neither the tone hole nor the pad. It includes a whole raft of things. each situation is taken on its own merits.

And yes, I have the same pleasurable 'rewards' that Musicmedic describes. They come from correcting the root problems, whatever they may be, and however they may be done.

I have a reservation re making key cup alignment relative to tone hole, without a high quality pad in the cup: It assumes that the plane represented by the back of the cup is parallel to the plane represented by the edge of the cup. I no longer make this assumption, considering the likely stress distortions involved with the stamping and silver-soldering processes involved in construction. That, for me, is partly why I make adjustments after the pad is installed.

The merit in ANY method, resides in the fine detail of how that method is carried out. Often an experienced craftsman is not even aware of the many details that have evolved in his methodology. It becomes intuitive. Perhaps that is why it is sometimes described as an art, or craft.

(Simso, I wonder if you would consider at least some use of paragraphs - using the 'enter' key - so that your posts are a lot easier to read?)
 
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