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I’m down here in Costa Rica. There is an excellent woodwind technician near me, but he does not have any shellac only hot glue. I am going to have him overhaul a tenor saxophone for me and when I visit the United States I intend to buy/order some real shellac sticks to bring back down with me for him to overhaul my saxophone with.

My question is exactly how much shellac is typically needed to properly, without skimping on the amount used, install pads on soprano, alto, tenor, and while we’re on the subject baritone saxophones.

Also, would any tech here be kind enough to sell me some sticks of yellow or red/dark amber shellac. The good stuff...

Thanks and blessings to all.
 

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For a Soprano at least 1 full stick - maybe a bit more. Alto - Stick and a half. Tenor Stick and 3/4 and baritone 2 sticks. Now these guesses are personal and on the high side of default. These numbers are personal to me, others may say more, some may say less. Box of 10 from Musicmedic is about $42
 

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One needs to get familiar with different feel when using hot glue or shellac. A lot of it has to do with the amount of heat required, and also how long the glue remains in it's "plastic" state. A strong argument could be made to let the tech use whichever medium he is most comfortable with. On saxophones I prefer to use the Ferree's G67 amber shellac sticks that are $14.40 per stick or $142.56 per dozen. They are pricey but the very best I have ever found. The sticks are quite long and I break them in half for ease of use. Covering the backs of pads entirely rarely do I use more than one stick per overhaul/repad.
 

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Like saxoclese said, Ferree's G67 amber shellac sticks are the real ticket. Hot glue does shrink over time which completely negates any previous adjustments unless it is spread so thin that it doesn't matter. On my last alto repad I used about 1/4 stick total but it will depend on the horn and the pads.
 

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That’s a huge price discrepancy between Graysax and saxoclese. About
$4.20 vs $14.40. Per stick.

But I am a religious believer in the importance of using the good shellac.
 

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View attachment 244952

Musicmedic has no less than three different kinds of shellac available. Synthetic and I assume natural. I have never heard of clear shellac. Must be synthetic, therefore it’s shellac in name only, I guess it’s actually some kind of glue.
 

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I use either MM amber or instrumentclinic.com amber, both of which are good quality shellacs. Clear sticks...they aren't glue-glue in the sense that they work and feel like hot glue. They do feel very shellac-like, although I suspect you are correct and they are not 'real' shellac. But still, both of the above suppliers clear sticks also work quite well, MM's feeling a bit more glue-like than IC's as far as heating/cooling/workability. And both of those suppliers' sticks are quite cheap and of good quality.

A strong argument could be made to let the tech use whichever medium he is most comfortable with.
Yes, a good point. If the tech down there does not have a fair amount of experience with shellac, might be better to let them use what they are used to using.
 

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AFAIK no shellac from any instrument repair supplier is 100% shellac anyway, so it has some things in it, possibly (or probably) synthetics. I've tried shellacs from more than a few places and many were good. I agree that the amber one from Ferree's is very good.

I haven't tried the real shellac from Music Medic, but the other two are 100% synthetic. It is basically hot glue that is made to feel more like shellac (dry more rigid, etc.). I really like some of Music Medic's stuff in general, but don't particularly like this synthetic shellac because it's the only glue that does this in a normal room (see attached photo), especially during the summer. This makes it seem less stable and more likely to move from temperature. After this happened I tried a few more sticks, both clear and amber, and from different orders (years apart if I remember) to make sure it wasn't a one off. I can't say for sure it will make the pads unstable... but it's enough that I don't want to risk it anymore.

Other (real) shellac sticks I've had in the same conditions barely move even after a couple of years (or not enough to even notice).

View attachment 244960
 

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That’s a huge price discrepancy between Graysax and saxoclese. About
$4.20 vs $14.40. Per stick.

But I am a religious believer in the importance of using the good shellac.
MM's is not shellac. It just looks like shellac and is called shellac. Hence the cheap price.
I tried it once, and never went back to it. I use Ferrees.

For me, one stick is more than enough for a repad, but then I don't put thick beds of shellac behind the pads, only enough to exclude air space.

I cut the sticks lengthwise on a bandsaw to make it more easily meltable.
To stop it breaking while I cut it, it rests on a stick of wood, say 15mm x15mm, or dowel.
I then heat along the length to smooth of the saw marks and make the sticks less fragile.
 

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I just accidentally dropped the stick and it snapped in half... Then I just heat up the tip, take a bamboo skewer and separate a bead that sticks to the skewer and push it around in the cup until I got even coverage. In most cases, that will be just fine, if I can't level the pad, I take it back out and add a bit more shellac to give me a bit more flexibility and then adjust by pressing down the cup where it is too high. If necessary, I use a needle as described by saxoclese or else some micro forceps that I still have from my days in academia.
 

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If necessary, I use a needle as described by saxoclese or else some micro forceps that I still have from my days in academia.
You can get a lot of control when moving a pad with this - a piano tech's hammer voicing tool. Between $13 and $30.
 

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You can get a lot of control when moving a pad with this - a piano tech's hammer voicing tool. Between $13 and $30.
That looks like it might be handy for doing "Medieval Torture" as well. :shock: This is a tool sold by Jim Schmidt for "adjusting" his gold pads. It has an ideal shape for this purpose, but unfortunately the one he makes bends far too easily at the tip. If it had harder steel, it would be perfect. Maybe someone smarter than myself can tell me how to harden it. (hint, hint)

View attachment 244974
 

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If you use a pricky thing to lift part of the pad, then great care is needed to avoid introducing an air pocket behind that area, making the pad unstably mounted, hence unreliable sealing on the tone hole.

If you insist on adjusting pads by the distribution of glue behind it, then it is surely better to press the high side of the pad in further, which will automatically "float" the non-sealing side higher.
Of course to do this without making the glue ooze out, one needs pads that fit well in the key cups, and to heat the glue to just the right viscosity.
 

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MM's is not shellac. It just looks like shellac and is called shellac. Hence the cheap price.
I tried it once, and never went back to it.
It looks like they have real shellac now too. They specifically say the two types are "synthetic" and the third is "natural". They used to not have it. It is actually cheaper than their synthetic shellac. Maybe real shellac prices can vary depending on the non-shellac things in it... and how much of it there is...? Some other suppliers have supposedly real shellac for a lower price than Ferree's.
 

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If you use a pricky thing to lift part of the pad, then great care is needed to avoid introducing an air pocket behind that area, making the pad unstably mounted, hence unreliable sealing on the tone hole.

If you insist on adjusting pads by the distribution of glue behind it, then it is surely better to press the high side of the pad in further, which will automatically "float" the non-sealing side higher.
Of course to do this without making the glue ooze out, one needs pads that fit well in the key cups, and to heat the glue to just the right viscosity.
Point well taken. I can state that any "lifting" done is a very small amount after which the key cup is heated in that area to help redistribute the shellac. A really neat tip I got from Jeff Peterson at a NAPBIRT workshop is to heat the key and then "pull" the low area of the pad toward the edge of the keycup causing it to ride up slightly on the curved inside edge as shown in the illustration below. Using the saxophone pad leveling rings sold by Music Medic, one can grip the edge of most types of resonators to have a way to pull the pad.

View attachment 245036
 

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View attachment 244952

Musicmedic has no less than three different kinds of shellac available. Synthetic and I assume natural. I have never heard of clear shellac. Must be synthetic, therefore it’s shellac in name only, I guess it’s actually some kind of glue.
I have been using the Music Medic clear shellac for years and I really like it. It does not shrink when cooling like hot glue does. Hot glue is ok for smaller clarinet pads, but I never use it. We used it in school when I got my degree in Brass & Woodwind instrument repair and I have never used it since.

I don't know what the clear "shellac" is made of, but it behaves like any other shellac and very consistent.

By the way, I do know a tech in Costa Rica. In the San Jose area. I visited Costa Rica twice for a month each trip back in 2005. I hear Playa Jaco has changed very much since my trips back then. PM me if you want contact info for the tech I know there.

Willy O
 

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White shellac = dewaxed shellac (~0-1%);
light amber shellac = partially dewaxed shellac (~2-3%);
amber (dark) shellac = normal wax shellac (~5%). Try Google "dewaxed shellac".

White shellac much harder and brittle than amber (dark) shellac.
White shellac bad; amber (dark) shellac good.

...Me hungry; where's Jane?
 
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