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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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I like curts articles and find them informative, but in this instance I dis-agree, keys wear.. its as simple as that. Classic examples of this exist and present themselves readily with oboes and clarinets
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Mouthpiece Maker
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I like curts articles and find them informative, but in this instance I dis-agree, keys wear.. its as simple as that. Classic examples of this exist and present themselves readily with oboes and clarinets
Couldn't the examples from other instruments be wearing for the same reason Curt suggests -- imperfect alignment?
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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I remove and refit at least 200 keys each day, when a key has an end at almost 45 degrees to the hinge itself then it is definetly showing signs of wear, when a key has burs on the hinge tube from rubbing against another key, then there is definetly signs of wear.

Does poor fitment increase the wear, unquestionably. Does better fitment minimise the wear, again yes agreed. However the topic curt started was keys dont wear. - I dis-agree, keys do wear and for a multitude of reasons.

What is perfect alignment, a rod to hinge tube clearance of 0.001" or 0.0001", there is no such thing as perfect, what is the perfect spring tension to achieve the lift of the key without causing undue wear inside the hinge tube or at the ends of the keys. Its a hard thing to call

We can all definetly improve our work, I know I can, but are my customers willing to indulge me to take there instrument to a better mechanical level, after all time costs money. Whats a realistic repair level and a realistic price to pay for that level of repair
 

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I'm agreeing with Simso on this. I've seen plenty of examples of wear on good quality instruments. One problem is that keywork tends not to get oiled enough.
Saying that brass gets harder with wear may not be correct. I think you've got to stress it a fair bit, but we could do with a metalurgist to confirm that. But anyway,. you have brass against brass friction, steel against brass in the posts. Brass against steel on tubing / rod hinge screws. I've seen how brass can wear away steel rods so that they aren't cylindrical and have to be replaced. I've seen post holes worn so the rod screw wobbles. But most common is the wear that Curt says doesn't happen. It does. More so on some instruments. Plated keys can be more resilient. But they do still wear.
Yes a good fit will last longer. I guess the impression of little wear may make it seem like there is none. And regular maintenance - oiling the mechanim, will slow it down even more. That doesn't mean it has stopped.
Entropy is a basic law of physics whcih even Music Medic can't halt.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009
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My Radio Improved tenor, for example, had them posts so worn that I had to bussh almost 90% of them. Many old selmers I see have worn posts faces, at least ~.5 mm inside what would be the actual face of the post. Conns, oh my, that's SOFT brass tubing... wear everywhere... Bueschers, not so much wear at all, I think that a clever guy noticing this over a wide experience picking up "coincidentally" that brand... it's just to make a point. So I disagree with this article. But I do agree, good fitting renders the most stable instrument, requiring very little to no tweaks after it's done.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Tech/Forum Contributor 2007
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i also disagree with this article, i cant' think of any instrument that has more attnetion paid to key fitting during assembly then a hand made flute (haynes, powell, brannen) and they are specifically strung in a manner to have material to be able to take up the play from wear over the years. i do agree that a well fit key will wear less, but a well fit will not wear is kind of nuts...
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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Quotes from the article:

"When properly fit, Saxophone keys don't wear. (or not much, anyway)"

'I had wondered how Brass (which gets harder as it is worked) could wear between two keys when the keys barely press against one another. When they do press against each other with some friction, the brass faces of these keys should get a little work hardened, unless there is an abrasive at work. " (emphasis mine)

"a great job of fitting all the keys on an instrument (which must involve straightening the body, removing dents, and aligning posts first), this work will be stable for a very long time and will only take the most minor adjustments after that time. "

"When an instrument is not damaged, it should really only need an overhaul once in its life. After that, yearly maintenance (done properly) should keep it playing great for many-many years. But, that's a topic for a different day... "


I agree with those statements.


I do not agree that saxophone keys don't wear in practice- but that's not what was written (except in the attention-grabbing and conversation-starting title- publicity 101 :innocent02:).

Most players don't disassemble, clean and re-oil their horns as much as they should- most of us here would agree that the color oil we most commonly see in saxophones is black or perhaps even black paste. This is an abrasive, just like not changing the oil in your car, and it WILL cause wear. In a perfect situation like Curt describes- excellent key fitting (rare) with yearly cleaning and oiling (rarer still)- key wear will be minimized to the point that the keys should need refit once every 50 years- or more likely with a maintenance habit like that, a key or two will be tightened up once every couple years.

But it will still happen.

In a less perfect situation, it will happen faster. Introduce a common variable like dirty oil, posts that are out of alignment from a small knock the player didn't even notice, a rod that is getting rusty inside a hinge tube, a pivot screw that is not perfectly aligned with its receiver- it will happen faster still. As repairmen we can minimize these variables and look after the horn as best we can, but its the player who owns it and decides whether to bring it in for preventative maintenance (and decides to trust us to pay for work done that may not be immediately apparent) or only when something is noticeably wrong- at which point it is usually a more expensive fix, but a more readily apparent difference before and after.


Reality is what we live in, perfection is what we strive for.
 

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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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I'm with Matt - however I would just like to state that we are thinking 2D and Key Wear happens in 3D.

Most of the wear I see that needs addressing the most is that through out the Hinge Tube where the key rotates 35 degrees or so in the same spot over decades of playing and the hole through the tube gets oblong and the rod gets worn and grooved.

Replace with a round (non grooved) rod and a perfectly round hole as well as the length of the rod properly fitting between 2 posts and the results are amazing.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Technician
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Everyone,
Thanks for your comments. It's cool to get your ideas especially when you DON'T agree with me!

If you work from the premise that keys don't wear you may start to see some things as symptoms rather than the problem. These things include:
Uneven key wear.
Angled key wear.
Play in key work where there is no gross signs of brass shavings or excess wear in key ends.

If you work from the assumption that keys do wear (especially hinge tubes) you might expect to see the following on a regular basis:
Hinge tubes that have dug into post faces.
Hinge tubes with mating surfaces that are oddly shaped.
-Such as a cup shape pressed into a bowl shape (or keys that are "spooning")
-Angled wear between two keys that mate up "perfectly."
Hinge tubes that have burrs inside extending into other keys working their way between the key and the steel rod?
Lacquer and plating missing from key ends and post faces.
Instruments that you have swedged very well which constantly require more swedging.

I don't often see these things so I'm inclined to think that something other than wear is happening.

Certainly you would never need to cut through the plating (such as nickle) unless you were improving the fit beyond that of the manufacturer. Yet, we all know that nickle plated keys dull our hinge tube cutters.

Matt, I think your point about oil+dirt=abrasive is very good. I am always looking for a way to improve this. This was one my primary goals when 'designing' a key oil.

Simso, 200 keys? Wow.

Juan, I never noticed that Buescher are any harder than Conns in general and I don't find that they wear any faster or slower.

Thanks again for your insights everyone. Now, I'm going to wear some keys on my old Conn Bari for a few hours!
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2017
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I'm agreeing with Simso on this. I've seen plenty of examples of wear on good quality instruments. One problem is that keywork tends not to get oiled enough.
Assume I know nothing about maintenance. (because I don't). Is oiling something I should do myself? What do I oil? What kind of oil? How often is often enough? Is disassembly required?

What is the meaning of life?
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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IMHO: oiling should only be done with a disassembly of the instrument and removing the old oil. Adding oil to whatever is already there does nothing for the abrasiveness of whatever dirt/dust/etc. is in there, not to mention that using capillary action (oiling joints and letting it wick in) means a thinner oil if you want penetration and whatever dirt/dust/etc is on the joint will get wicked in as well.

(Plenty of folks who have a rental fleet of 1000 horns will disagree with this, and for good reason- but I am not speaking about what is the quickest and most economical way to do it- I'm speaking about what I feel is the right thing to do for the horn.)

So feel free to do it yourself, but only if you disassemble it. Wash the old oil off of the rods and pivots with a gentle cleaning of the body, use pipe cleaners + naptha to clean out the hinge tubes and pivot recievers.

Bonus- check for leaks and needed adjustments as you put it back together.

MusicMedic calls this process a clean-oil-adjust (COA) and I probably would too if they didn't come up with the name first! Hehe. I have a similar procedure that I use, currently listed out in painful detail under my "new saxophone setup" page: http://stohrermusic.com/?page_id=60

This is also basically what I do for a major checkup/refreshing after I have overhauled a horn. Not everyone chooses to do it, but those that do prolong the life of their overhaul by several years, with a better feeling in the meantime.

Any good synthetic oil specifically sold for saxophone key oil is fine. I use the Musicmedic stuff currently. For saxes I use the thick stuff in hinge tubes, grease for the pivots.

Can it be done in a pinch just by adding oil? Sure. Is it worth your time? Not in my opinion.

Just like changing the oil in your car, its a preventative thing- you don't wait until your engine seizes to change it, and you don't just keep adding oil, you replace it.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meaning_of_life :)

Also an excellent Python movie. Just a wah-fer thin mint!


Thanks Curt!
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2017
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Who's got time for this? How often should this happen? I get an "adjustment" done every 45-90 days but that's just a fix-a-leak thing. My horns seem to be going strong after a long time (years) without this...
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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I do this every year or two on my saxes, similar schedule for the customers of mine who want the service done. I definitely see my post-overhaul customers much less than every 45-90 days. If I did, I would be very dissatisfied with my work.


From my earlier post: "its the player who owns it and decides whether to bring it in for preventative maintenance (and decides to trust us to pay for work done that may not be immediately apparent) or only when something is noticeably wrong- at which point it is usually a more expensive fix, but a more readily apparent difference before and after."

Diff'rent strokes.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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Morning curt and others. 200 keys is really not much when your work previso is every instrument that comes into the shop is stripped cleaned and serviced before the repair is carried out, so a clarinet service for example is 21 keys then a sax or oboe and they mount up pretty quickly.

I believe when a key is in play the ends do not rub together perfectly, a point on the key will be raised, imagine a nub sitting on the end, this is the point that will initiate wear, the plating on the rest of the key will not be affected.. just the nub, with insufficient maintenance that nub will wear away, as it wears away it mixes with any residual oil and becomes a lapping paste, this then promotes wear even faster within the tube and on the end face.

By dressing and fitting the key properly youve distributed the wear face from a nub to the whole surface, ideally greater surface area carrying the load will minimise the wear. I agree good key fittin minimises wear but will not remove it from happening

The other issue, I find a lot of wear exists within the tube itself and not just the ends, I think this is common for the fact a brass tube is rolling on a drill rod, the spring is applying a side load and causing minute binding.. Particles of wear (debris) if not addressed exasperates the problem and creates more wear (hence why I like to strip instruments for a service)
 

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I do this every year or two on my saxes, similar schedule for the customers of mine who want the service done. I definitely see my post-overhaul customers much less than every 45-90 days. If I did, I would be very dissatisfied with my work.


From my earlier post: "its the player who owns it and decides whether to bring it in for preventative maintenance (and decides to trust us to pay for work done that may not be immediately apparent) or only when something is noticeably wrong- at which point it is usually a more expensive fix, but a more readily apparent difference before and after."

Diff'rent strokes.
I understand. I think because my instruments get handled a lot (and often by others) that they just get "out of whack" periodically. I offset my playing ability with an energetic stage presentation and sometimes bump into things (or people) as the night wears on. Then everything gets tossed into cases and on to the next place. It's only madness in the summer then it's just local stuff a couple of three nights a week until The following year. I certainly can tell how much better they play after my tech does whatever it is she does but it's usually only a half to an hours visit with little disassembly involved. She fiddles - I play test - she fiddles some more, sometimes with heat or a minor take-apart; money changes hands and I'm off. Hell- it could be the placebo effect, but I leave thinking things play a lot better. So do you think an overhaul every three years is about right? Five? What? I average 3-4 nights a week. Is there something I should look out for? I come from the world of guitars where it seems easy to notice a problem and the only preventative maintenance is obvious stuff.
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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Many of my customers make their living with their horns, including travel etc. (including the bass sax transported by camel through a desert...!)

In my experience so far, a customer playing a horn 5+ hours a day will benefit from new pads every 5 years. This is my shortest period so far. The average is more like 7+ years of leak-free life. Anything less IMHO is an artifact of damage (and I include not swabbing out your horn under "damage"), poor materials, or less-than-perfect work in the first place. However, pads are just the most noticeable (to the consumer) of the links in the chain. If you play a horn 5+ hours a day and you leave the same oil (and accumulating particulate suspended therein) in for 5 years, you are slowly wearing at your keywork- and the more worn it gets and the more oil you add to the sludge in there, the more the wear accelerates.

As an aside: IMHO, swedging is only part of the job. If your hinge tubes aren't straight, exactly fit with squared and smooth ends (and the posts, too), you will experience wear faster than you should. Imagine two totally flat and smooth plates mounted on an axis rotating against each other- this is your hinge tube ends as they should be- perfect bearing surfaces. Now imagine one of the plates has a high spot. If these plates are to move freely and are mounted tightly around a perpendicular axis, the high spot will be the only area of the two plates touching. This smaller surface area will wear faster than normal (also perhaps wearing a groove into the other plate) and create looseness, which begets more wear.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Tech/Forum Contributor 2007
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clean lube adjust is a standard flute term, it is generally suggested as annual maintenance on good flutes.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009
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2 metal bearing surfaces of the same hardness rubbing together (as in hinge tubing face vs hinge tubing from another key) wear faster than different materials. That woudl be the only reason to insert washers or other bearing surface between keys.

When there's abrasive media sludgin the action, you see wear on the steel rod too. I've seen brass wear w/o the corresponding steel rod wear on many saxes. Of course, when everything's dirty it doesn't helps. When there's binding and a tech files a key to make it fit w/o adressing the binding condition, it doesn't help. Instruments that are state of the art fitted and properly maintained lasts almost indifenitely, I agree with that, but "there's no wear unless there's other damage going on" is not accurate nor correct.
 

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Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
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Couldn't the examples from other instruments be wearing for the same reason Curt suggests -- imperfect alignment?
Or expansion of the timber.
 
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