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Discussion Starter #1
These are some things that you can check yourself both before and after you pay to have your sax overhauled. The definition of that term in this instance is that all of the pads have been replaced, the keywork has been tightened, the keys have been regulated, and all of the necessary body and dent work has been completed.

Key noise
Without playing, finger some scales on the sax using every possible key going both fast and slow. Listen to the noise individual keys make---especially the side keys, low Eb and the fork F#. Record this sound if you have the set up to do so.

Key play
Beginning with the palm keys, try to "waggle" each key from right to left, and then try to slide the key back and forth on its rod or between its pivot screws. Make a list of the keys and mark the ones that have any movement at all.

Pad seating
For this you will need a bright leak light (or a dull leak light in a pitch dark room). Check all of the independent normally closed keys first to see if there are any leaks. Then go to the normally open individual keys such as low C, B, and Bb. Close each of these with the lightest possible pressure on the key and see if the light eclipses at exactly the same instant all 360 degrees. Next do the same with the upper and lower stack keys, closing each key individually with the lightest pressure. On the C and F# you will need to press the key cup to get the key to close by itself. Remember, the lightest possible pressure and instant closure 360 degrees is the standard.

Key regulation
This is the critical area in saxophone repair and involves many variables that are all interrelated. These are key tightness, pad seating/level keys and tone holes, spring tension, and the adjustments themselves. If one or more of the variables are lacking then perfect regulation is not possible. First check the B to C key closing. Again, with the lightest possible key pressure both keys should eclipse the light completely at exactly the same time. Next check the A to C and Bis closing using the same standard.

Go to the bottom stack and check the F to F# and Bis key closing. Then hold down the G# key and check to see that key closes with the other two. Perform the same check pressing the E key. It should also close the F#, Bis, and G# perfectly at exactly the same time with the lightest possible pressure on the key. You can also check the same key regulation when you press the D key by itself if you like. Some techs adjust this firm, and some leave the D to F# closing light or even open.

The bell keys regulation is next. Press the low Bb key and check with the leak light that the lightest possible key pressure closes the Bb and the B keys perfectly around their circumference at exactly the same time. Then hold the low C# key down and press the low B key. Using light pressure, the B and C# should close together at exactly the same time.

Neck tenon fit
The neck tenon should go in smooth and feel very snug without tightening the screw. Without tightening the screw, gently try to rock the neck up and down by holding it near the opening. The movement, if any, should be minute. Next tighten the screw just 1/4 to 1/2 turn. The neck at this point should not rotate right or left.

I'm sure others can add to this list. I left out key heights and spring tension on purpose because those areas can be subjective depending upon the taste of the player.

Summary

Making a check list of these things both before and after an overhaul will give not only a way to measure the quality and thoroughness of the work, but will also give the player or novice repair person some idea of the detail that goes into a quality overhaul on their saxophone.
 

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Very informative, jbtsax! It all made sense to me and seems like a fair check on work. And, as you say, it lends some appreciation to how much work a good tech does in overhauling a horn. I'm having two of my horns done later this year so it is especially timely for me. Thanks!
 

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Good thread John. The key regulation baffles me, so its good to see you spell it out. I have a Holton Tenor I tried to repad and the right hand stack keys all stop short of closing by about 1/32". You have to put some pressure on them to close. Needless to say the horn doesn't play. Thats what I get for messing with something you professional techs do.
 

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I have a Holton Tenor I tried to repad and the right hand stack keys all stop short of closing by about 1/32". You have to put some pressure on them to close.
You need to heat the keys in situ and then float the pad forward a fraction so its not hitting on the back edge first, subject to this, thinner pads or bend the key
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Good answer Simso.

Assuming the tone holes are level and the key cup is parallel to the tonehole---I like to use Curt Altarac's method of "dry fitting" the pads. You put the pad in the cleaned key cup without shellac and check the closing. If you have selected the correct thickness of pad it will be slightly open in the back. With a bit of practice you can then use this opening to estimate how much shellac to use to act as a "shim" to bring the pad to the correct thickness. This can get you very close so the last bit of adjustment when the shellac is heated that Curt calls the "push and pull" of seating pads can be used to seat the pad to "light touch" perfection.

The notion that all it takes is to glue or snap the pads in the key cups to do a proper repad seems to be all too common on this forum. To me a good analogy is painting newly constructed room to look good. Of course it is easy to do, and it doesn't take a professional to do a good looking job---IF all of the preparation steps have been professionally done beforehand.

-framing
-drywall
-taping
-priming
-sanding
-calking
-priming
-masking
-etc., etc,

None of the steps can be done well if the preceding step(s) are flawed or overlooked. It is the same with saxophone overhauls in my experience and that last step is the great regulation that makes a sax dependable for long periods of time between adjustments.
 

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Certainly true for a complete overhaul.

Also frequently true for a sax that doesn't play "right". Just replacing the pads won't address other issues and even if the greater resiliency of new pads covers up some of the issues it'll be a transitory fix.

There are, however, players who are happy with their horns as is but for pads which are shot. For those- and it's a decent subset of the overall population- a simple repad with minor work on egregious side issues is quite satisfactory.

Professionals or perfectionists need not apply.

The notion that replacing pads simply involves slapping them in with glue is naive of course- but neither is it a Herculean task to do a decent job.

The snap ins are sort of out there as an unknown. In almost no cases can the pads simply be snapped in with no futzing about to ensure a good 360 light touch seal. In some cases the aftermarket pads are seemingly just "wrong". In many cases they snap in and, with only minor adjustments, they play just fine. Others' experience may vary- but I've done a lot of resopad replacements without shellac which were as good as any shellac job- others not quite as fine but still satisfactory.
 

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Good analogy re the painting, JBT, and good check list in OP.

"Professionals or perfectionists need not apply."
What about kids who are likely to give up playing an instrument because it is so frustrating (because of pads that seal poorly or have in-built, uncorrected unreliability because of other mechanical issues) and do not have the skill to know it is the instrument at fault, not themselves?
 

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There's a huge gap between the perfect and the acceptable.

As above,"There are, however, players who are happy with their horns as is but for pads which are shot. For those- and it's a decent subset of the overall population- a simple repad with minor work on egregious side issues is quite satisfactory."

Kids whose horns are too unreliable to play properly aren't part of the above subset.
 

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There are, however, players who are happy with their horns as is but for pads which are shot. For those- and it's a decent subset of the overall population- a simple repad with minor work on egregious side issues is quite satisfactory.
I guess this is area dependant. Here, this is a very small part of the overall population. However a very big part is those who will want to have the critical things repaired, sometimes repairing other problems later, with the intention to bring the instrument a good and reliable playing condition for a budget. A repad without attending many issues almsot never achieves that in comparison with attending to the important issues, with possibly or likely not changing all pads.
 

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The pads aren't touching the toneholes anywhere.The keys stop a little above them, then you have to squeeze to get them to shut. I used Ferrees .185 pads.
 

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Henry, in my environment, teachers expect the instruments that their pupils learn on not to be a limiting factor. They expect these instruments to play very well indeed - the best they possibly can. It is normal for these teachers to send their pupils to me to get kids' instruments up to this standard. And reliable. If I was not able to do this for a reasonable price, then those teachers would stop using and suggesting my services.

I get the instruments into that state by doing one heck of a lot more than just putting in new pads. Putting in pads is actually quite a small part of the job I do.

Perhaps these kids are privileged. Their teachers would never accept what Gary just described. Perhaps that is one reason almost no DIY work is done here, in spite of a strong national DIY leaning.

I realise that players and teachers may have no choice but to accept lower standards in some environments. A flute teaching customer once left my city for another, and after a few years declared to me that she thought probably every flute in that new city was in a worse state to play than every flute in the city she came from. They just did not have a yardstick of quality workmanship and instrument playability.

I feel pretty uncomfortable about low standards of instrument servicing being promoted in this forum.
 

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The pads aren't touching the toneholes anywhere.The keys stop a little above them, then you have to squeeze to get them to shut. I used Ferrees .185 pads.
There's probably a regulation problems of either the F# (upper most lower stack) key hitting sooner than lower stack, or adjustment screws of G# and/or Bis Bb hitting the keys before the F# can close. Or both of these issues together. If you first made sure each key on its own is sealing with light touch, then fix the regulation. You can't check the seal of each key in this condition.
 

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"Limiting factor instruments" is not what I suggest, imply, or advocate for at all. Nor do I endorse the kind of unfortunate work that Gary wound up with (and will hopefully get resolved).

While the provided checklist is indeed useful for use by someone who doesn't have a good feel for how the instrument works in checking condition, and while any of those conditions when present to an unacceptable degree require addressing, it's that "unacceptable" part that is the rub.

The oft trumpeted .0001 inches of precision for adjusting a 1.6mm leather on felt pad is a nice talking point- but simply facetious when it comes to a standard for other than at the moment of adjustment. Use for one hour would wreak changes far in excess of that. No reason not to seek perfection upon initial installation, but foolish to expect that even random changes in humidity woudln't affect the pad to a level several times the advertised precision level.

Any tech, even a basement garage guy such as yours truly, would inevitable find a bit of thissa and thatta to address while repadding a horn. That's any horn- including one that you yourself had just worked on a month earlier.

I do claim, though, that there are many horns in the hands of many players which are already in sufficiently acceptable mechanical condition that a simple repad (and that DOES include resynching and levelling/ centering the pad cups over the toneholes as part of pad installation though not levelling the toneholes themselves -not that that would need to be done were they out of whack, but that that is not the case for many horns; perfect vs the acceptable). The "all your horns are substandard and only professional help can enable you to excape the pit of degraded performance you are unwittingly subject to" has a grain of truth embedded- but also more than a touch of hysteria.

There's a happy medium. I fully realize you'll almost certainly disagree and respect your opinion in this matter while retaining my own position.

Good slant on the situation Nitai. I'd assert that it reflects the "not perfect but good enough" approach in regards to mechanical issues I advocate for for many cases but am probably drawing a bit too much out of your comment.
 

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And Gordon- were you within striking distance of my residence, I'd almost certainly take instruments in to you for work. None of my comments should be taken as not having a high regard for the pursuit of "the best" in any area of endeavour.

It's just that, in some- perhaps many- cases, the perfect is the enemy of the good. A realized acceptable is preferable to an unrealized perfect. Trite but true.

For many non professional but dedicated players they can cough up the bucks for a decent pad job with accompanying required adjustments. They simply can't spring for the full deal. The real world choice then often comes down to "better but not perfect", or "do nothing while waiting for a moment when one can afford the whole overhaul". That moment may never arrive.

Nitai, and he can feel free to rain on my parade, seems to have customers who support the former. You advocate for perfection but may wind up with players having the latter.

I'd think in real world vice ideal world dealings you too strike a happy middle, though you may not see it as such. Good luck and happy tooting!
 

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It's a lot easier to focus on and achieve mechanical stuff that is close to mythical "perfection", if one works in a catchment where there is almost no focus on cosmetic beauty. It is but rarely that I get a re-lacquering or de-lacquering, or total polishing of silver request. Players here would far rather spend their money on function, so I am able to focus primarily on that.

A forum can give a distorted picture, but it seems that many guys in SOTW have a enormous amount of time and/or money to spend on cosmetics. 99.5% of my time is spent on function. I believe a high level of function can be achieved, for a reasonable (time) price, for all but the very worst student horns and worn out "vintage" horns.

What annoys me is that I get presented with Selmer Paris instruments, only a few years old, where all pads should be changed to overcome their inherent stickiness problem, and almost all corks and felts should be changed because of unsuitable materials, or appalling quality felt, or failing glue. And many pivots need attention to stop binding. Not to mention that some vital springs have a fair degree of sluggishness in their action because of not being long enough for their diameter. It's a lot of time/money to correct all that! And the owner though he paid a lot for "perfection". Likewise the sloppy pivot tubes in student Yamahas. Many cheap Chinese instruments have none of these problems.
 

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thanks for sharing. my technician informed me that its going to take three months to completely repair and overhaul my horn. i will do these things when i receive the horn
 

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Quite. It doesn't take 3 months to do it, so you should be able to book it in for 2.5 months away, and be without it for 2 weeks. Unless the player wnats free storage for 2.5 months. :)
 
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