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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi...
Today I was driving and thinking about some old saxophones with missing keys. I know for sure that you can build some from scratch (well, that's what they do in the factory, of course).

So I have been looking for spares on the internet, but I didn't found anyone selling materials for such a task. How can a tech do if needed? How to create the cups and the brass tubes? How to solder the pieces together?

I'm looking for your opinion...
 

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Hehehe...this is something I have been dealing with on a few projects recently. There are a few options:

1) find a parts horn, same model.

2) parts horn, different model (or in some instances even a different brand) and have tech alter the key to work (this may require cutting, swedging, or even replacing or moving posts). Some techs are very adept at doing key alterations. Most, however, abhor it or do not wanna go there.....

3) if a contemporary horn, particularly a common one, parts can be ordered via mfr. You can also order a contemporary part and alter it to an older horn (I often use Yamaha 23 front F keys for vintage saxes which do not have one. It is a pretty easy graft, particularly because it is a 1-piece mechanism which avoids altering the upper stack altogether).

4) there are a lot of techs who have boneyards....parts and pieces acquired over their years. Some even sell on eFlay, although most for exhorbitant prices. There is a marketplace section for parts and accessories here as well. One can always post a 'wanted' ad.

5) have a machinist fabricate a new one. But of course you need an old one for the machinist to work off. This is really expensive, but then again it gets you a perfect replica.

Most sax techs would not be set up, or desire, to literally produce a new key from scratch. But machinists do that stuff every day...they have tons of cool equipment to figure out the spec and produce an exact match.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Uhm... the machinist options is the more appealing to me (I hate to modify a vintage horn in an irreversible way).
I will look at the Yamaha 23 front F: it could came handy!
 

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There are two kinds of soldering done on brass instruments - soft and hard. Soft-soldering uses a regular torch and solder consisting of a tin/silver alloy, temperatures around 400F. Hard soldering is brazing, and temps go about 1200F. It requires either oxygen gas plus fuel gas or at the minimum, MAPP gas with a special nozzle that draws in air. The rod used is a brass alloy. This is used for the joints that require higher strength. For example, the hook eye for a sax will be brazed to the base plate but the base plate will be soldered to the body tube. This is because the contact area between the eye and the base plate is small and requires a high-strength bond. The base plate is large, so soft solder can be used to attach it to the body. In the same way, posts are brazed to their base plates which are soldered to the body. Keys are brazed to their rods. The better saxes used hammer-forging to harden the keys to provide a crisp action with minimal bending.
 

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Hi...
Today I was driving and thinking about some old saxophones with missing keys. I know for sure that you can build some from scratch (well, that's what they do in the factory, of course).

So I have been looking for spares on the internet, but I didn't found anyone selling materials for such a task. How can a tech do if needed? How to create the cups and the brass tubes? How to solder the pieces together?

I'm looking for your opinion...
What key and for what sax are you missing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What key and for what sax are you missing?
Not my sax, actually... My father craves for old silver watches and I often visit flea market with him. There was a silver Amati tenor that I readily discarded because it lacked a key in the lower stack (I don't really remember which).
Later I thought that I could have bought it for little money and try to fix it (I spend a lot of unnecessary money on broken things that I try to fix... I should really investigate why; probably I just find it amusing). But from the answer of 1saxman I think that brazing is not my cup of tea... I can use a router to make an electric guitar and I manage a butane torch to do some basic repadding, but I really don't like the idea of an oxygen fuel less than 1 mile from a free flame ;)
 

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You can silver solder with a Primus gas torch or natural mains or bottled gas/compressed air mix (with a compressor for the air) - you don't need oxy-propane for this. Provided you can get enough heat and use heat reflective bricks to form a brazing bench (or some other heat reflective material), you'll be able to hard solder fairly large pieces.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You can silver solder with a Primus gas torch or natural mains or bottled gas/compressed air mix (with a compressor for the air) - you don't need oxy-propane for this. Provided you can get enough heat and use heat reflective bricks to form a brazing bench (or some other heat reflective material), you'll be able to hard solder fairly large pieces.
I don't think I understood: the Primus is a butane torch?
 

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I just went thru this on an old Buescher soprano. I got the key cup off a junk horn and used brass rod, tube and square rod for the rest. Silver solder of various temps since I did not have jig to hold the entire structure. It was the G key which is pretty complicated, needing to control the 2 octave keys. Did touchup silver plating when done. Learned a lot and will probably do a version 2.0 sometime - yes, I kept the horn for me.

Impressive video.
 

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This is one way to do it.
. This is bass clarinet work i did but sax is similar.
Thanks: that's exactly the sort of material I was looking for...
That's a brilliant piece of craftsmanship there, indeed....but the tooling and skills necessary are fairly advanced.

If all you needed was a lower stack cup, it would be much easier to modify one from a junker horn which you could likely buy for around $100, sans neck. The main thing would be to figure whether the diameter of the junker lower stack rod is at least as large as that of the subject horn.

Keep in mind also, a vintage Amati has a very low market value. They can be quite alright players, but some folks would argue that it would not be worth the effort.

Not to sound like a naysayer, because lord knows I have spent a lotta time and money on old players which others would criticize. Any such endeavor taken upon yourself, and accomplished, is ultimately gonna be a good experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Keep in mind also, a vintage Amati has a very low market value. They can be quite alright players, but some folks would argue that it would not be worth the effort.

Not to sound like a naysayer, because lord knows I have spent a lotta time and money on old players which others would criticize. Any such endeavor taken upon yourself, and accomplished, is ultimately gonna be a good experience.
Yes, I know that Amati is not a great horn and I haven't decided yet if buying it or not (I have time, since the flea market is only periodical). If it was a Mark VI I would have taken it to a proper tech... but, again, it would have been just for fun. I'm probably trying to compensate the fact that I'm a lame player even on well-setup instruments :D

Beside, it's always interesting to look at the pro's solutions, like that of slausonm: I'm a simple employee and I will never reach that amount of precision and grace with my garage works, but I find them truly fascinating.
 

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JayePDX, yes, it takes some skill and some machinery, BUT there is only a few dollars in raw materials the way I did it. Searching for a junk horn or parts for a donor is more time consuming for me than just making it from scratch. Besides, if I make it from raw materials I can form them to a similar design as the rest of the keys so they match. Most of the time my goal is to make an invisible repair. I would rather people say "which key did you replace?"than there's the one right there...the funny lookin one :)
 

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So I have been looking for spares on the internet, but I didn't found anyone selling materials for such a task. How can a tech do if needed? How to create the cups and the brass tubes? How to solder the pieces together?
There's actually been a lot of keys on Ebay over the last year or two. Sometimes in big lots though.
There was someone showing their method of making key cups on here a while back. Can't remember who it was but they built a jig to press a flat piece to the right shape.
For smaller keys you can just turn then from a solid bar.
Rods can be solid brass. You can drill a hole through shorter pieces but it becomes tricky the longer they are.
Other bits can be made from solid brass.
Most techs I know can make keys.

There is a section on here for part wanted. Not been successful for me but worth a try.
 

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