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When I bought my first alto 18 months ago from eBay, the seller (and the pictures) were not telling the whole story and it needed quite a bit of work. I pride myself in being able to fix anything, so I dove in and took it all apart. The lessons I learned were more educational than worrisome.
1) Before taking anything apart, understand how it works (now) and what it should work like when reassembled. This includes making notes on which keys all go in the same rod and in which order. Pictures are great but don't show motion or order of assembly.
2) Disconnect/unhook the springs before removing keys - I had several spring hooks - both push and pull type. When the springs are disengaged, the associated key(s) should flop freely as noted by others.
3) The large bath towel on the table worked fine in keeping parts in the same orientation and order. The towel eventually looked like an exploded parts diagram of the sax.
4) when the sax is bare, watch out for the spring tips. Some newer (YAS-23) have blunt tips while the older sax had very sharp points which can be rusty - take care not to cut/prick yourself while cleaning.
5) Clean all bores with a pipe cleaner and new oil. Wipe each rod and lubricate.
6) When starting to reassemble check your notes on the order of assembly and check that the pads meet the tone hole surfaces in a parallel/flat manner.
7) When finished, note that ALL keys spring back to normal position - it's easy to forget a spring (and the horn plays funny when that happens!)

Most of all, let your "passionate curiosity" be a focus on how each piece fits and works before disassembly.

Have much fun with your new hobby. I still do.

Cheers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
OK. Lots of progress. I've now done the C# and D# keys as in the demonstration video, the G# key (along with the bis key and F key, which had to be moved in order to get at the G# key on my Armstrong), and the three side keys. I took my time (lots of it....) and think I got everything back in place. It was fun. HOWEVER, when I play, the sound isn't what it used to be. I've tried numerous different reeds, and initially, I thought the problem was with my reed -- not on the mouthpiece properly, the ligature wrongly situated, whatever -- I definitely thought the problem was at the mouthpiece/reed end of things. But the mouthpiece is the same I've used for the months and the reeds are a variety of strengths and brands that I've been comfortable with in the (pre-DIY lubrication) past. And the reeds are all recently broken in. So after several days, I've decided for certain that the problem is coming from the horn itself. If I had to pick WHEN the trouble started, I'd say after doing the G# key and the necessary removal of the bis and F keys.
The notes more or less play okay, but the sound is as if it is coming through wet cotton. There is no joy in the sound (and believe me, less than a year in on tenor, I don't need a lot to be happy with the tone). I seem to have a harder time getting adequate air through the horn. I'm guessing this is what happens when you have a leak. Am I right? Is there anything I can do about it (I don't have a leak light)? IS there a sequence of notes Ii can play to determine the source of the trouble? I've read of Clean, Oil, Adjust for flutes. I've cleaned and oiled, but as far as adjusting goes, I've just put everything back (almost?) where it was originally. There doesn't appear to be much room for adjustment. Or am I missing something? Does the tension in the set screws or the long "screws" that go down the rods matter? I'm certainly prepared to go to a shop and get help, but if I need to go that route, I think I'll do the palm keys first, so if I confound perfectly good keys there, a skilled technician can sort that out too! Still, I'm eager to learn how to sort out this problem on my own -- with your advice, MIND YOU! Still curious, and all ears.....
 

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You need a leak light. If you are going to COA, a leak light is required.
So... try playing G and pushing down on the keys that are closed one by one. You may find a leaking pad that way. Got ALL of the springs making “normally closed” keys stay closed?
Oh. And you will want to get a leak light.
 

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You need a leak light. If you are going to COA, a leak light is required.
So... try playing G and pushing down on the keys that are closed one by one. You may find a leaking pad that way. Got ALL of the springs making “normally closed” keys stay closed?
Oh. And you will want to get a leak light.
How is he going to fix a leak when he finds one?

The horn needs to be looked at by a tech, especially after a questionable re-assembly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Well, that would be my next question! First, though, I’d like to know if what I think is a diminished tone arises from a leak I created. If so, then I’d understand what a sax sounds like when there is a leak. I don’t just want my horn “fixed”; I want to learn about how it works.
 

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It gets a little tricky when you're still a beginner to distinguish horn problems from player problems.

Could manifest as higher resistance, note instability (can't sustain or stay on pitch without cracking), motorboating, note not speaking. Best to just take a look with a light or use the paper trick. Sometimes it's so big you can see it without a light.

Who knows what you did to break it. Could be anything from a backwards or disconnected spring, a cork/felt you knocked off, rod binding. All the sort of stuff a tech can check. If you want to figure it out yourself, then that's exactly what you have to do. Figure it out yourself. Check every detail. But you also have to know how it's supposed to work, where the springs are supposed to connect, what corks/felts are supposed to be there and how thick they're supposed to be. If you don't know all of that before you disassemble, you're not going to know after.

You said you did the C# and D# keys. Those are actually the C and D#, not C#. You also said you had to remove the bis and F to get to the G#. I don't see why that would have been necessary. My guess about the problem you created is that you failed to re-attach one of the G# springs or attached the spring the wrong way so that the G# isn't fully closed.

I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you can get yourself in trouble going in blindly. I can't really criticize too much since I completely disassembled my first sax as a child within days of getting it because I wanted to thoroughly clean it. I've since disassembled many horns many times and do most of my own repairs. I even made my own leak light. But I'm fairly mechanically inclined and understood all the mechanisms from the very beginning. If you don't have a good understand of how everything works, you shouldn't mess with it. If you want to learn, then actuate each mechanism and watch it move until you understand all the levers, linkages and forces involved before you take it apart.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
You need a leak light. If you are going to COA, a leak light is required.
So... try playing G and pushing down on the keys that are closed one by one. You may find a leaking pad that way. Got ALL of the springs making “normally closed” keys stay closed?
Oh. And you will want to get a leak light.
Thanks for your suggestion re: playing the G and pushing down the closed keys, but that didn’t reveal anything about a leak or “fix” my tone issue. Springs all appear properly in place. I’m zeroing in on a cork that came off the little arm that protrudes from the F# key (at least I think it is the F# key — the tone hole just below the G# hole anyway). I found the cork on my bench while working on my G# key, so I used some contact cement to glue it back in place (or what I assumed was its place). There is an adjustment screw immediately above the replaced cork, and another one above a similar cork beside it, but I have not touched the adjustment screws. They LOOK like they would benefit from cleaning and lubricating, but I’m only curious and enthusiastic — not stupid — so I have left them alone. Still, I don’t understand how a slight difference in thickness/height of this cork would create the problem I’m having. Please set me on track if I’m off here. I don’t understand how what I did to specific keys would create leaks on other keys…….
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Maybe it’s time for a tech! I’ve got a leak light on order
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
It gets a little tricky when you're still a beginner to distinguish horn problems from player problems.

Could manifest as higher resistance, note instability (can't sustain or stay on pitch without cracking), motorboating, note not speaking. Best to just take a look with a light or use the paper trick. Sometimes it's so big you can see it without a light.

Who knows what you did to break it. Could be anything from a backwards or disconnected spring, a cork/felt you knocked off, rod binding. All the sort of stuff a tech can check. If you want to figure it out yourself, then that's exactly what you have to do. Figure it out yourself. Check every detail. But you also have to know how it's supposed to work, where the springs are supposed to connect, what corks/felts are supposed to be there and how thick they're supposed to be. If you don't know all of that before you disassemble, you're not going to know after.

You said you did the C# and D# keys. Those are actually the C and D#, not C#. You also said you had to remove the bis and F to get to the G#. I don't see why that would have been necessary. My guess about the problem you created is that you failed to re-attach one of the G# springs or attached the spring the wrong way so that the G# isn't fully closed.

I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you can get yourself in trouble going in blindly. I can't really criticize too much since I completely disassembled my first sax as a child within days of getting it because I wanted to thoroughly clean it. I've since disassembled many horns many times and do most of my own repairs. I even made my own leak light. But I'm fairly mechanically inclined and understood all the mechanisms from the very beginning. If you don't have a good understand of how everything works, you shouldn't mess with it. If you want to learn, then actuate each mechanism and watch it move until you understand all the levers, linkages and forces involved before you take it apart.
Thanks very much for your advice, Lydian. Maybe my reply to datsaxman will explain my situation better. You thought I was wrong about needing to remove part of the bis key to get at the G# key, but maybe you can see from the picture that the arm that sticks out from the bis rod keeps me from getting to the screw at the end of the G# rod. My Yamaha alto is quite different and doesn’t require moving this arm to access the bis key screw.
Given my re-glue of the cork (as described to datsaxman), maybe you’ll have some further advice for me. I only wish I’d started playing and dismantling saxes as a child — no doubt, I’d be much better at both by now!
 

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Okay. The F# key has the bar on it that can hold the G# key closed when you are holding the G# but playing lower notes.
that long thin lever is also hald down when the F# key is pushed. That is the bis key. If the bis key leKs, even a little, there could be all kinds of trouble with most Notes.
Not sure what you glued, or where, but that mechanism has to Be just right.
 

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Not sure which cork fell off from your description, but that little arm is the bane of every saxophone repair person's existence! Well, not really, but it's a delicate adjustment. The way it works is this:

For 1 + 1 Bb (like the flute fingering) pushing down the F key (which also closes the F# key, yes you got the name right!) must close the Bb bis key. It has to close perfectly, but must not also hold the F# key open. That's why a slight change can cause a leak - if the right hand keys are open even a tiny bit, it adds a bunch of resistance to those notes that use them.

Similarly, when you play low Bb, B and C#, those keys will also operate the G# key. This is so you can slur between those low notes and G#. So the little arm must hold the G# key closed when the right hand keys are used, so as not to cause a leak. But it must also be adjusted so that holding the G# key down doesn't hold the F# key (and thus all the other right hand keys) up.

Your horn has adjustment screws for both the 1+1 Bb (the one nearest the F# key) and G#. They must be set perfectly - it's not hard to do, even without a leak light, but it is quite delicate and can be tedious. I would recommend NOT putting any lubrication on those adjustment screws. If they are hard to move, good. Some techs put mild Loctite on those screws so they won't lose their adjustment.

Also, those little bumper corks should have a rounded end, so that the orientation of the cork doesn't change when you move the screw.

It's a fiddly adjustment, and could absolutely cause the changes you described after taking keys off and cleaning. Good for you for attempting it. Good luck getting working right again! I hope this helps a little.
 

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@Mando, Unfortunately I can't tell which cork you're talking about. I am glad you resisted the temptation to clean and lubricate the adjustment screws. That would indeed ruin them. But as others have said, they have to be adjusted perfectly or keys won't close or stay closed. There are so many interactions to check and adjust, there's no way I can talk you through it by typing post after post.

I totally understand where you're coming from. I work on my own cars for the most part. But sometimes I get in over my head. I did what should have been a simple tune up on one of my cars a while back and ended up breaking a spark plug in the cylinder. Hanging my head in shame, I had to bring it to a mechanic to fix my mess. You're in that spot right now with your horn. It was a good first attempt, but it's time for professional help. If you have a good enough relationship, i.e., give him a lot of business, he might even let you watch him fix it and tell you what he did.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Thank you, datsaxman, Lydian, and Skeller and previous posters. I think you’ve really helped me narrow this down. As I said earlier, I DID partially dismantle that bis key in order to get at the G# rod, so that alone could point to trouble at the Bb tone hole. (I guess that’s the correct name — there are so many ways to finger Bb….). Even more important is the cork I re-glued: it is also intimately related to the bis key. It is almost exactly in the centre of the photo and is on the bar attached to the F# key. (There is a similar cork attached to the same bar about a centimetre to the left). Here is another pic with my pin pointing to the cork I re-glued. I just glued the cork back where it was (more or less evidently…). I’ve SINCE realized that the 2 screws immediately above the 2 bits of cork on that bar are adjusting screws. So even though I didn’t touch the screws, the height/thickness/position of that bit of cork must be critical! That’s quite likely the source of my trouble. I think my next step is to remove the bis key again and see that I can insure it is well seated. Then the next place to look is that fallen cork I re-glued. That’s likely the source of the changed-for-the-worse tone. Given that the replaced cork was glued on with contact cement, I doubt that it will be a simple matter of removing and re-glueing in a slightly different position. So it sounds like I’ll be back on alto for a bit while my tenor visits the shop! Oh, I’ve learned a lot with your help and had lots of entertainment. My secondhand tenor was so inexpensive it’s not worth throwing much money at in a shop, but if it becomes a wall hanging or planter, no big loss either!
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You definitely added some thickness there and will have to turn the screw. Otherwise your F# won’t close. Back it out too much, the bis won’t close when you play a fork fingering. It’s a very fine adjustment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
So would experienced folks REMOVE the F# key when re-glueing the piece of cork? I did NOT. After I found the bit of cork on my work table, and then determined where it had come from, I just brushed on contact cement, and rather blindly used tweezers to stick it up under the little arm. At the time, I did not know about the function of the two adjusting screws or I might have treated the glueing of that cork differently.
 

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So would experienced folks REMOVE the F# key when re-glueing the piece of cork? I did NOT. After I found the bit of cork on my work table, and then determined where it had come from, I just brushed on contact cement, and rather blindly used tweezers to stick it up under the little arm. At the time, I did not know about the function of the two adjusting screws or I might have treated the glueing of that cork differently.
Whatever works for you. I’m not a repair guy, but I would have just removed the screw. Then I would have been careful to match the profile of the break, or better yet, replace the entire cork.

I’m not convinced you’re using contact cement properly either. You’re supposed to brush it on both parts, dry for 15 min, then put the them together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Whatever works for you. I’m not a repair guy, but I would have just removed the screw. Then I would have been careful to match the profile of the break, or better yet, replace the entire cork.

I’m not convinced you’re using contact cement properly either. You’re supposed to brush it on both parts, dry for 15 min, then put the them together.
Yep. That’s how I applied the contact cement. But I’m sure I wasn’t able to situate the original cork exactly as it had been before it fell off. All in all, I’m pretty happy that this cork issue — which wasn’t even something I signed up for — is the only things (so far….) that has gone sideways.
 

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What I would do first is remove that adjustment screw, take all the cork out then put a cork in that has a rounded end. Use contact cement as you described :) Then put it back in (obviously the little piece of cork will have to be narrower than the screw), and adjust it so the bis Bb key just closes when you close the F key. If that adjustment is a little loose it's OK as long as you don't use the 1+1 Bb fingering, which most saxophonists don't. The adjustment on the other screw, the one that holds the G# key down, is more critical, it has to be perfect. If it's loose, the very low notes (Bb, B and C#) will be stuffy, if it's tight none of the notes below G will speak right.

If you can't get the screw out or you can't cut a cork that will screw back in OK, then you have to take the whole right hand stack off. At that point I would definitely go see a tech, it won't be expensive to just fix that adjustment, and maybe he or she will let you watch :)

Or you could come over to my house, I'll do it for free.... oh wait ... you're in Canada. Never mind :)

BTW- if you can successfully navigate through this, you are ready to do a complete disassembly. I think it's a good idea(TM) for saxophonists in particular and woodwind players in general to be able to disassemble and reassemble their instruments and do light maintenance. I was taught this by my clarinet teacher at the age of 12, he used a full 1 hour lesson to help me take apart and put back together my clarinet. It was frightening, but exhilarating at the same time, and I have done that with every instrument I own since. This has helped me at gigs and on the road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
This sounds like an excellent plan, Steve, with lots of supporting detail! I’ll give it a go. I realized that I might as well mess with the cork and try to get things right, since the next step seems to be go to a technician to fix the cork. So it doesn’t sound like I have much to lose by trying to sort out the cork myself first. But your instructions — and those of many others — have made that a possibility. Thanks again.
 
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