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Hello,

I came down with a case of GAS (Get A Sax) today when I came across a Buescher 400 Alto in a local pawn shop for $369. I know just enough about Bueschers to be dangerous, and that seemed like a good price for a well-built sax, assuming I'm not wrong with the info that I have.

This one is 4635XX. That dates it to circa 1965-1970 (1965 was 408818 and 1970 was ~520000).

Generally speaking, I know that Buescher saxes made after the Selmer acquisition (Roughly after S/N 381,000 / 1963) are frowned upon...but this one appears to have all of the goodness of the Buescher built saxes, so I believe it was built before they "cheapened" everything.

Sadly the pawn shop had a local mobile instrument repair place give it a "tune-up".

For starters, can a sax tech with a trained eye please confirm that the pics below show my sax has snap-in pads? I was going to grab my spatula tools and pop one off to check, but I figured a post here on SOTW would be just as quick to get an answer before I tear into this one.

Assuming it is indeed a snap-in-pad Buescher, it now has "new" pads on the C key mechanism, F# and low Eb. The low Eb now has a brown plastic reso on it now like any modern sax has...the F# looks like the tech used an older pad they had sitting around instead of a new one...and the stack C pad appears newer than the rest - s if it's definitely a snap-in pad pad horn, they neutered a few of the snaps.

I bought it because:

  • It has an underslung octave key mechanism, which makes it an "earlier" 400 made during the Selmer years when they were still using the original Buescher parts and designs
  • It definitely has gold Norton screw-in springs and the tan rollers (the later black rollers are a sign of the cheaper student saxes after Selmer took over)
  • I *believe* it has snap-in reso pads - minus the ones that suffered the aforementioned savage neutering if it's really a snap-in pad sax
  • Despite the nickel-plated key look, the mechanisms are all heavy-duty and pro-quality, albeit with a heavier feel than my modern Yani T-901 or Yamaha saxxes

I have "dabbled" in sax repair on a Ditta Giglia Italian Tenor that I have - and it turned out great with white Roo pads and metal resos. I'm good at tearing a sax down and putting it back together...I have tone-hole leveling files...can re-pad with enough skill to make it all work...(have a shellac gun and some pad pricks and leveling tools, leak light, etc.) but I have no dent-removal tools or skills. I normally tear down a sax completely (but leave the springs alone), clean it, then take the body to a local shop for dent removal, then re-assemble and re-pad it myself. I want to get this one clean and fully-re-padded with new snap-in pads because I think it is a keeper. It plays nicely top-to-bottom as-is right now (what a lush, rich sound these Bueschers have!), but I can tell it is not sealed up as tight as a Yamaha YAS-23 Vito stencil I also have, and I'm sure it's because the pads are all old and shot, so I want to get it into tip-top shape.

On to my specific repair questions:

  • After I tear it down, what is the best solution to use to clean the sax without damaging the lacquer? I want to kill the stank - but I don't want to strip it. It still has a lot of lacquer which is all original as best I can tell.
  • Assuming this is a snap-in reso pad horn, which keys have snaps and which don't on these Buescher altos? I seem to recall when working on my Buescher 400 bari (1960 S-80) a few years ago that the smaller diameter pads had no snaps but had a metal resos and were shellacked in? Is that correct? Then the larger diameters were all snaps. I'd like to determine how many spuds and snaps were destroyed....1,2 or 3? The Eb is for sure...but what about the C and the F#? Did they all 3 have spuds-n-snaps?
  • Again...if it's a snap-in pad horn, to whom can I send the removed key-work to get the neutered spud(s) and snap or snaps restored with replacement spuds and snaps before I re-pad it, and what's a typical cost for that fix? I know Matt Stohrer does that type of repair but he doesn't normally work on horns like this one that aren't highly collectible. Who else can re-spud?

Thanks!

Shane

Pics:



















Replaced Eb:



Replaced F#:



Replaced C:

 

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Pic #10 looks to be a plastic resonator. Not sure what a prior "tech" may have done to make that fit. Pic #11 kind of looks like the upper is domed and the lower is the original snap in. Again not sure what the "tech" could have done to use a non-original pad fit. Same with Pic #12. The little pad doesn't appear to have a resonator snap (kind of looks like a little hot glue dribble is showing on the key cup). On the few Bueschers I've padded, I thought that only the pip pads didn't have snap-ins. Looks like you have a "box of chocolates" horn. You won't know what you've got until you start pulling it apart. I'm not a snap-in pad fanatic and there are lots of other issues that could trouble me more. If a spud removal to fit a plastic resonator is the worst problem, you've got a nice old horn.

Mark
 

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Pads look pretty rough, with some looking like pillows sticking way outside the cup. If a mix of pads currently, I wouldn’t worry about trying to keep the horn original. I’m a fan of originality but if some of the male portion of the snaps have been desoldered or ground out, it would be very difficult to find replacements! Also tough to find techs willing to use the snap in pads or install properly. Your call but playability probably won’t differ much either way. Guessing more than a few pads will need replacement.
 

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Soldering new "spuds" in the key cups where they were ground down is easy. Any tech with minimum soldering skills could do that. The trick is to find someone who has the right size replacement spuds and is willing to do just that part of a repad/overhaul. The question to ask yourself would be, is it worth the time and expense to restore the snap ons in the few keys that don't have them on a sax that is in this condition cosmetically when you can substitute metal seamless resos that look very much the same.

When I clean vintage lacquered saxes as part of an overhaul or clean, oil, adjust (COA) I remove the keys leaving the pivot screws in place and bathe the sax in a tub of lukewarm water and Dawn dish detergent. I use various brushes for both the interior and exterior to remove the stuck on material. After rinsing with clear water, I dry the body immediately using compressed air. Any remaining water is removed from inside the posts using cotton pipe cleaners. Depending upon the condition of the springs, I will sometimes give them a coating of Renaissance Wax before the cleaning process.
 

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“The trick is to find someone who has the right size replacement spuds and is willing to do just that part of a repad/overhaul.”

Yeah, that was my point and neither snap on resos or pads are readily available. Also, being a late 60s horn there’s no gold at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps a really nice horn after an overhaul but they don’t sell for high dollars, so invest wisely or plan to keep it.
 

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Pretty much what saxoclese said on the general direction of your project. To answer the last question, the small pads that are not snap in won't need any resonators. Especially if the tone holes are very small, it would be very difficult to center them precisely.

Also, this is a post WWII horn so most likely, they were using standard thickness pads in metric diameters, which is the B-60 series at Ferree's tools and you can get a full set even if there are 2 or 3 pads that you won't use as snap ins. Buying that set plus the remaining metal reso pads will be cheaper than ordering all the individual pads.

Renaissance Wax or Fastwax ( www.fastwax.com ) will help with prevention of further corrosion and ease the removal of gunk.

Last not least, if you repad the horn, don't do a partial
 

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“The trick is to find someone who has the right size replacement spuds and is willing to do just that part of a repad/overhaul.”

Yeah, that was my point and neither snap on resos or pads are readily available. Also, being a late 60s horn there’s no gold at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps a really nice horn after an overhaul but they don’t sell for high dollars, so invest wisely or plan to keep it.
Pads are available at Ferree's and they also take custom orders for snaps but it'll probably be cheaper to look for another really beat up horn.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Outstanding information. Thank you all!

I know it's no collector horn...but it should be a good pro horn when I'm done with it.

My other alto is a Vito (Yamaha YAS-23 stencil) student model, so this will be an upgrade (and that tone!)

Since it is only the three pads I mentioned that have been changed from OEM, perhaps ONLY the Eb had the spud ground off and the snap discarded? I'll clean as suggested above with dawn/water followed by a compressed air dry and repad the whole horn with the Ferree's snap-in pads and use some shellac-in metal reso pads as needed on the three that have been violated.

If it's only one snap gone on the Eb key once I tear it down, I'll see if I can source a snap for that key. Otherwise I'll look for a beater on Ebay or locally that has snap-in pads and harvest what I need and sell off the rest to someone who is in a similar situation. I suppose since it's not a collector 's horn that it doesn't really matter that it's missing spuds & snaps, but it will bother me not to have it "correct", so I'll probably see what I can do.

I'll post up pics once I get it cleaned and sorted.

Thanks again; you folks are great - and very helpful as always. Happy New Year!

Shane
 

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Soldering new "spuds" in the key cups where they were ground down is easy. Any tech with minimum soldering skills could do that. The trick is to find someone who has the right size replacement spuds and is willing to do just that part of a repad/overhaul. The question to ask yourself would be, is it worth the time and expense to restore the snap ons in the few keys that don't have them on a sax that is in this condition cosmetically when you can substitute metal seamless resos that look very much the same (?)
And in this case, given the fact that by this time the 400's had been neutered and bore little to no resemblance to their THC predecessors -and also the fact that one in overhauled, good playing shape only has a market value of perhaps $600...(THIS one is even the 'second redesign' down from that era, so even more of a step down than the first redesign).... the answer is fairly obvious:

Don't pay for installing new snaps, it'd be a waste of $ and would gain absolutely nothing as far as horn performance nor resale-ability. You paid about upper-end scale for what it is worth as a project horn...I would have paid no more than that, and you didn't :|.

Just get snap pads for the remaining snap-spud cups, and use conventional pads for the ones where the spuds have been (wisely and mercifully) removed.

I think Ferrees is the ONLY supplier that STILL offers bona-fide replica snap-in pads (this meaning not only the center holes but the metal backings as well).

MusicMedic will gladly take any of their available pad offerings and punch the center holes larger to fit a Buescher snap spud...just add a special instruction when you are purchasing noting "please punch center holes for Buescher snap-in installation".But MM pads do not have the metal backings, they are just standard pads where you would have to put some shellac in there to install properly. IMHO a much wiser course of action than trying your hand at the bona-fide metal backed pads.

I am NO fan of snap-ins. There is a VERY good reason that techs ground out the spuds for generations when doing repadding...it was not just out of laziness or ignorance. IMHO there is nothing gained by using the metal backed bona fide pads, and it will be a pain in the *** if you have never done it before.
Most folks these days just go with conventional pads with the larger center-hole stamp and use a 'hybrid' method of installing with some shellac/glue (many do not do not a complete conventional 'floating' technique ) and then key bending. I believe there are thread discussions about these techniques if you search for 'em...

(Of course if your goal as a hobbyist repairer is more akin to "I wanna do it the way they did it back in the day/the way the mfr intended the pads to be installed"...just to satiate your curiosity or gve yourself a bit of a challenge...then certainly give it a whirl - why not ?).

If you do not have any red rot or verdgris on the horn, then a soap bath as described above it a good plan. IF there is rot or verdgris, however (and I see red rot), soap will not do the trick and you may wanna run the horn body & neck by a tech so they can chem-bathe or sonic-bathe it....which would NOT be expensive since the horn would already be broken down and they would not have to reassemble it. Then after you get it back hit the body with some hand polish such as Wenol or Maas and a microfibre cloth (do not use Noxon or Brasso - too aggressive) and that will clean it up really nicely.
 

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And in this case, given the fact that by this time the 400's had been neutered and bore little to no resemblance to their THC predecessors -and also the fact that one in overhauled, good playing shape only has a market value of perhaps $600...(THIS one is even the 'second redesign' down from that era, so even more of a step down than the first redesign).... the answer is fairly obvious:

Don't pay for installing new snaps, it'd be a waste of $ and would gain absolutely nothing as far as horn performance nor resale-ability. You paid about upper-end scale for what it is worth as a project horn...I would have paid no more than that, and you didn't :|.

Just get snap pads for the remaining snap-spud cups, and use conventional pads for the ones where the spuds have been (wisely and mercifully) removed.

I think Ferrees is the ONLY supplier that STILL offers bona-fide replica snap-in pads (this meaning not only the center holes but the metal backings as well).

MusicMedic will gladly take any of their available pad offerings and punch the center holes larger to fit a Buescher snap spud...just add a special instruction when you are purchasing noting "please punch center holes for Buescher snap-in installation".But MM pads do not have the metal backings, they are just standard pads where you would have to put some shellac in there to install properly. IMHO a much wiser course of action than trying your hand at the bona-fide metal backed pads.

I am NO fan of snap-ins. There is a VERY good reason that techs ground out the spuds for generations when doing repadding...it was not just out of laziness or ignorance. IMHO there is nothing gained by using the metal backed bona fide pads, and it will be a pain in the *** if you have never done it before.
Most folks these days just go with conventional pads with the larger center-hole stamp and use a 'hybrid' method of installing with some shellac/glue (many do not do not a complete conventional 'floating' technique ) and then key bending. I believe there are thread discussions about these techniques if you search for 'em...

(Of course if your goal as a hobbyist repairer is more akin to "I wanna do it the way they did it back in the day/the way the mfr intended the pads to be installed"...just to satiate your curiosity or gve yourself a bit of a challenge...then certainly give it a whirl - why not ?).

If you do not have any red rot or verdgris on the horn, then a soap bath as described above it a good plan. IF there is rot or verdgris, however (and I see red rot), soap will not do the trick and you may wanna run the horn body & neck by a tech so they can chem-bathe or sonic-bathe it....which would NOT be expensive since the horn would already be broken down and they would not have to reassemble it. Then after you get it back hit the body with some hand polish such as Wenol or Maas and a microfibre cloth (do not use Noxon or Brasso - too aggressive) and that will clean it up really nicely.
I respectfully disagree on the difficulty or lack thereof of installing snap in pads. I have heard all kinds of weird rumors about needing to use paper shims behind the pads for leveling them and what not. Arguably, I have only done 2 complete True Tone altos - no glue at all - and it was a breeze. And again, one person's owl is the other person's nightingale but I thought I throw in a little counterbalance because I really believe that a lot of the antipathy against snap ins is based on false rumors and resulting predisposition against them.

Also, apparently, metal backings were not used throughout all iterations of snap in pads, so any pad should in theory work as long as you have a punch set to punch out/enlarge the center hole (I punch through the back using a kitchen plastic cutting boards as counter surface.

And of course, you are right about Noxon, Brasso which cannot be stressed enough!
Happy New Year everybody
 

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Outstanding information. Thank you all!

I know it's no collector horn...but it should be a good pro horn when I'm done with it
In 1967 I bought this model Buescher 400 with a 417XXX serial number. It was not a pro model. It was marketed as a student/intermediate model. I played it seriously for 1 year, semi-seriously for another 2, and then packed it away. I decided to sell it in 2016. The finish looked mint. All spuds and Norton springs were there. The pads were original, but sealed rather well. It took me about a year to sell it, and the selling price was only $350. So be careful about putting too much money into it! Mine did have a nice sound, but B2 and C#2 were really, really sharp.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
In 1967 I bought this model Buescher 400 with a 417XXX serial number. It was not a pro model. It was marketed as a student/intermediate model. I played it seriously for 1 year, semi-seriously for another 2, and then packed it away. I decided to sell it in 2016. The finish looked mint. All spuds and Norton springs were there. The pads were original, but sealed rather well. It took me about a year to sell it, and the selling price was only $350. So be careful about putting too much money into it! Mine did have a nice sound, but B2 and C#2 were really, really sharp.
I've always wondered what made these models not "pro" other than the marketing post-Selmer buyout. I think it is as "pro" as any other Buescher...it has all the features of an older pro Buescher horn...and really, it is built just like my 1960 Buescher 400 bari...same Norton springs, same snap pads, same Nickel plated steel linkages, , amber rollers, round-metal bent-rod key guards (vs. student model sax sheet-metal guards)...in fact this horn has the "fancy" engraving unlike my 400 bari which just has the Buescher name and no fancy hand engraving work. I know many people dismiss nickel keywork as the hallmark of a "student" horn, but I assure you the keywork and linkages on this thing are solid.

With that stated, I do actually have a late 70's 7300XX Buescher alto that just says "Aristocrat" on it in an oval logo - and that one is definitely not a pro horn...it has sheet metal guards, feels flimsier than this 400, no snap pads, no Norton springs...it is just like a Bundy II student horn. Comparing the two side-by-side shows that this model 400 alto horn is far superior.

I'm going to "go for it" with the Ferree's metal snap pads. They're under $75.00. I already know how to do a "real" pad job with a shellac gun, float pads, etc. as I did that myself on a Ditta Giglia Tenor I have (just like the one Jay recently sold) so that can be my backup plan if the snap pads are a nightmare. If that's the case, I'll Music-Medic Roo-Pad the whole horn by buying the pre-punched pads and then install the snaps so I don't further neuter the horn.

Also, based on the above, I'll take it to my local shop when it is stripped for a chem bath. I'm in Atlanta, and Ken Stanton Music has a full-service repair shop in Kennesaw, unless anyone on here recommends a different Atlanta shop to clean it up.
 
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