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I have never attempted to tweak the regulation of my horns preferring instead to take them to a horn tech. But is there some subset of this that I should be able to do to deal with minor leaks or just to tide me over until I can get my horn to a tech? If so, where does one learn that?
 

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First of all, anything that can be adjusted by an adjusting screw you can do yourself. If a key gets loose because a pivot screw has backed out, you can certainly tighten that at home. The next step would be inter-key actions that rely on cork (mostly) or felt (some) for timing of key closures. You really need a leak light to get into these. While many professional technicians carefully bend key feet to effect many of these adjustments, the non-technician can sand cork or glue shims to get the same result more slowly.

Then you get into leaks caused by a pad defect. You can't regulate a leaky pad into sealing, you've got to either re-float (which probably won't work) it or replace it.

The hardest part of your question is "how to learn it"? The way I learned this stuff was to observe carefully how the mechanism works - what key does what, which pads close together, how is the adjustment of that timing made, etc. Because every make of saxophone is a bit different, and each individual problem is a bit different, and there are thousands of possible permutations, there's not really any way to put forth a recipe for troubleshooting, as in 1) do this, 2) do this, 3) if A then B; I mean you could write all that down but it would be thousands of pages when the real answer would be "look at the thing and see why it's not working".
 

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I was afraid someone was going to say that. I hate trying to suss out mechanical things. I certainly don't want to mess up one of my horns. I may have to buy a cheap, junker just to practice on.
 

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I was afraid someone was going to say that. I hate trying to suss out mechanical things. I certainly don't want to mess up one of my horns. I may have to buy a cheap, junker just to practice on.
Good idea, i did the same, and had so much fun I am on my third junker?

But to answer your question, get a copy of Stephans book http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Haynes/Haynes_sax_manual.htm.
Watch Matt Stohrer's youtube videos ( including http://opensourcesaxophoneproject.com/category/guides/ ),
Read the guides on the musicmedic website

If you have a specific task or problem, use the search function on this site... most problems have been solved and reported somewhere here.

But whatever you do have fun.
 

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Without counting, I believe there are 26 keys on a sax. It is true that sanding or shimming corks is more time consuming than bending and IMHO, a better approach unless one is correcting a bent key.

However, I fail to see thousands of permutations. To the OP, it is, of course, a good idea to have a beater horn to practice on. But if you do what turf suggests, study the mechanism and don't do anything that can't be undone, you should not be daunted by basic adjustments.

Good luck.
 

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Without counting, I believe there are 26 keys on a sax. It is true that sanding or shimming corks is more time consuming than bending and IMHO, a better approach unless one is correcting a bent key.

However, I fail to see thousands of permutations. To the OP, it is, of course, a good idea to have a beater horn to practice on. But if you do what turf suggests, study the mechanism and don't do anything that can't be undone, you should not be daunted by basic adjustments.

Good luck.
I agree, also, the regulation is part the adjustment corks and part the seating of the pad in the cup. If I have just a minor leak in one of the "passively actuated" keys, that is, one that closes along with another one, I usually just heat the cup with a hair dryer (on max), which results in most cases in the shellac expanding / bubbling and pushing out the pad just a bit and then NOT pushing down the leaky pad but the one that it depends on/that actuates it. It's a very simple way and works 9 out of 10 times without sanding, bending or whatnot. Depending on which key it is, you may even be able to replace the pad if you apply the shellac on the new pad to complement whatever is left in the cup after you pull the old one. This is really only for emergency situations, you may get lucky or not, in which case you have to remove the key to do a real repad.

If you take things apart, make sure to take 10 times as many pictures as you think you need and stick the keys onto the rods in the sequence they came off the horn (and of course you are going to mess up but it is not really rocket science) and then marvel over the ingenuity and beauty of the mechanisms, i.e. how in the world could anyone come up with something as elegant and as functional as the saxophone mechanisms.

BTW, using a saxophone and let the candidate explain its workings is the ultimate aptitude test when you want to hire a mechanical engineer! :evil:
 

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The key to perfect regulation is that each of the keys involved have to have pads that are perfectly seated, meaning with the lightest pressure the light is eclipsed 360°. When I train an apprentice to regulate a saxophone the mantra is "isolate, then regulate". Each adjusting screw is backed out, or the key foot bent so that the primary key when closed does not completely close the secondary key. I like to seat or adjust the secondary keys first which on the upper stack is the small C above the B and on the lower stack, the F# above the F. Once that pad closes perfectly, that key is lightly corked shut to get it out of the way. Then each of the primary keys is adjusted to close perfectly as well independent of the key(s) they will be regulated to close.

On the "bridge linkage", the same principle applies. Both the Bis and the G# must be seated independently before regulating them to close with F#. Some techs like to regulate the Bis and G# to the F# first and then regulate the F and the E to close the F#. I prefer to regulate the closing of the F# first and then move on to the G# and then the Bis. This area of the sax my mentor called "the junction" can be the most challenging to regulate. It is not uncommon to go back and forth a bit until everything closes as you want it to.

Once all of this is done, the adjustment to have one key close the other is possible. Small turns of the regulation adjusting screws or judicious bending of the key feet can accomplish this step. There are three other variables that effect the regulation and make "perfect" regulation a challenge. They are play or "slop" in the key work, silencing material that compresses (like natural cork), and softer brass that can bend when pressure from another key is exerted.

Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is the relative strength of the springs involved. Generally the Bis and G# springs must be set weaker than the springs of the keys that close them. The same is true of the C and F# springs that need to be weaker than the springs of the keys that close those keys. Another saying in repair that takes on more meaning as one learns more is "Everything affects everything".

It should be noted that the level of precision in regulation that is achievable on a pro model sax undergoing an overhaul is quite different than a student's Bundy II in for a "play condition". Depending upon the make and model and the situation, the standard of regulation is going to vary.

For a Do It Yourselfer, regulation that is "grossly" out of adjustment can be made better using a leak light, the proper tools, and some common sense or mechanical ability to get you through the gig or to buy some time till you can take it to the shop. To do regulation at the highest level takes training and lots of experience.
 

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My vote...go to a tech unless its crazy simple and obvious. The linkages are a total pain and you will likely end up at the shop anyway.
Get it done right and play.
+1. As a player and repair tech myself, I couldn't agree more. Gotta say this: The single, biggest reason most people can't (and when they do, screw up) work on their own horns is because they don't know how they work. I'm talking about things as simple as springs to multiple linkage keys. Never ceases to amaze me how some have no problem "working" on their own horns, yet call a plumber when their dishwasher isn't running right. I guess I shouldn't complain. It keeps money coming my way.

Rant off.
 

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I was afraid someone was going to say that. I hate trying to suss out mechanical things. I certainly don't want to mess up one of my horns. I may have to buy a cheap, junker just to practice on.
Yeah, well I bought a $100 King Cleveland alto about three months ago. I replaced all the pads and corks. I have the upper stack working sort of. It's been sitting on my workbench for a month collecting dust. I am determined to get it going again but the frustration level is too high right now and it's too cold to work in the garage. And my wife hates it when I bring all my stuff in the kitchen to work on it. So it sits. She's going out of town Monday - Thursday this coming week. Maybe I'll get back to it.

My point is, buying an old cheap horn is better than messing up your main horn so you have to go hat in hand to the tech and pay him to fix the mess you've made but it's probably best to tackle something small at first like replacing a single pad and leveling it. Once you've done that and feel good about it you might try replacing some of the corks and felts. Doing all of the corks and felts and pads in one big job is asking for a major headache. I know.
 

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+1. As a player and repair tech myself, I couldn't agree more. Gotta say this: The single, biggest reason most people can't (and when they do, screw up) work on their own horns is because they don't know how they work. I'm talking about things as simple as springs to multiple linkage keys. Never ceases to amaze me how some have no problem "working" on their own horns, yet call a plumber when their dishwasher isn't running right. I guess I shouldn't complain. It keeps money coming my way.

Rant off.
Yep, when I built my house, I fired my plumber, ripped out a lot of what he had done, re-did it myself and when the "oh so feared" state plumbing inspector came, he looked at the work, looked at me and asked "who was your plumber?". I had one part that was not according to code and he explained why, asked me to snap a picture of the corrected part with my phone and send it to him so he could close the inspection :)
 

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I have never attempted to tweak the regulation of my horns preferring instead to take them to a horn tech. But is there some subset of this that I should be able to do to deal with minor leaks or just to tide me over until I can get my horn to a tech? If so, where does one learn that?
I would suggest getting a copy of The Saxophone Workbook: "A Complete Guide to Tone, Technique, Performance & Maintenance" published by Berklee Press and available from them or Amazon for about $15. The repair section covers maintenance, building a personal repair kit, troubleshooting, and then several repair procedures in order of easy to difficult. You can find your own level of interest and skill and progress as far as you desire.
 

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I used to have a few local techs to choose from to work on my horns. These days? They're all gone. So over the years I started to learn how to adjust my own horn; replace pads, springs, corks, etc. Just recently I had a horn that need a new spring and two pads replaced. The estimate from a local tech someone recommended? Two hundred bucks to get in the door.

No thanks. I'd rather take the time to learn and fix my own horns. Heck, some of the other players in the band now let me give their horns a go at rehearsals for easy fixes. It ain't rocket science, and you'll never know your aptitude until you try. Just check out the resources above that have been recommended. That's a good start.
 

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I used to have a few local techs to choose from to work on my horns. These days? They're all gone. So over the years I started to learn how to adjust my own horn; replace pads, springs, corks, etc. Just recently I had a horn that need a new spring and two pads replaced. The estimate from a local tech someone recommended? Two hundred bucks to get in the door.

No thanks. I'd rather take the time to learn and fix my own horns. Heck, some of the other players in the band now let me give their horns a go at rehearsals for easy fixes. It ain't rocket science, and you'll never know your aptitude until you try. Just check out the resources above that have been recommended. That's a good start.
It's funny that you mention that, I got the same requests after letting some of the local bigwigs try my restored vintage horns. So I guess I must be doing something right. Of course, it takes me probably 5 x longer than the average tech but it's a labor of love
 

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Sax work is often described as not rocketr science.
However, for me the process is as follows, and I doubt more than perhaps 1% of players have sufficent of the required aptitudes to carry it out, including rocket scientists.

For every part and material:
1. What is its function, including relative to every part it is connected to?
2. Is it carrying out this function as well as possible and reliably as possible?
3. If not, what are all the options for dealing with it?
4. What is the best option?
5. Do I have the skills, materials, and equipment in order to carry out this option?
6. If not, get them!
7. Finally, what are the ways in which I could botch that up?
8. Do I have the skills/materials/equipment to deal with such botch-up?

Yes, that could well be hundreds of permutations.
 

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Posting from the Physics Dept ...

Definitely not rocket science. From the rocket science dept itself.

The number of permutations is considerable. And irrelevant.
If you follow a logical procedure, as outlined above, it is really only one thing at a time, so the number of possible permutations is never important.

Except to say that it will take some time to get it right.

As somebody with a lot of experience in gravitation and orbital dynamics, and a fair amount of sax regulation, there is no comparison.
 

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A simple "bench test" for the DIY repair folks is as follows. Regulate the keys and level the pads so that you can close the F key perfectly with the lightest amount of pressure possible which in turn perfectly closes the F# (the key above it) exactly at the same time, the G# sprung open, and the Bis. This is the "graduate exam" for saxophone repair. If any step can't be done to perfection, diagnose the cause or causes and come up with adjustments to remedy the problems, defects or deficiencies.

One can argue that a saxophone can be played quite well using more finger pressure and with keys that do not close as precisely as this standard and they would be right. However that standard is not acceptable at the highest levels of professional saxophone repair, nor does it insure the long term stability and dependability of adjustments that discriminating players have come to expect.
 

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A simple "bench test" for the DIY repair folks is as follows. Regulate the keys and level the pads so that you can close the F key perfectly with the lightest amount of pressure possible which in turn perfectly closes the F# (the key above it) exactly at the same time, the G# sprung open, and the Bis. This is the "graduate exam" for saxophone repair. If any step can't be done to perfection, diagnose the cause or causes and come up with adjustments to remedy the problems, defects or deficiencies.

One can argue that a saxophone can be played quite well using more finger pressure and with keys that do not close as precisely as this standard and they would be right. However that standard is not acceptable at the highest levels of professional saxophone repair, nor does it insure the long term stability and dependability of adjustments that discriminating players have come to expect.
Now here's where things get complicated which is why I talked about "permutations". My 12M baritone is a good example. The pad immediately above the "F", which we can call "F#", is closed when you push the right hand index finger, middle finger, or ring finger. In each case, at least one other pad is being closed.On my particular instrument, it is not possible, due to 75 years' worth of wear in the mechanism, to have accurate closure of all the pad combinations. There is a cure; but it's not what I would call an "adjustment"; the key barrels need to be swaged and some rods may need to be replaced as well. If an action cork falls off, I'm not going to tear the whole horn down for a complete mechanical overhaul (even though it needs it); no, I'm going to make my adjustments a reasonable compromise, knowing which fingerings a leak is likely to cause more of a problem. Similar stuff goes on in the left hand stack as well as the B-Bb bell keys.
 

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Re bench test: it would be fair to mention that the test is much easier on a modern Selmer style instrument with screw adjustments on the G# and bis keys. Classic instruments can be more troublesome to make the adjustments with cork or felt.

As to the "highest level", finer tolerances often need fine tuning on a regular basis. This flies in the face of saying the adjustments are more stable or long lasting. But sure, pat your self on the back again saxoclese. You're the best. We, who may disagree, suck. And our horns leak and no one will play with us.
 
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