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Discussion Starter #1
Upon taking my freshly repadded 1919 Conn C Melody to my most excellent tech for some final setup.... he said "Oh no, nobody ever mentioned anything about key swedging to you did they?" He showed me how some of the keys that I was sure had no leaks... would leak if he shifted the key up or down the stack. He also showed me how my palm keys could wiggle to the left and right.

He was very kind to take a palm key off right in front of me there, and grabbed his key swedging pliers. With the rod in the key, he swedged it in about 5 seconds, re installed it, and heated up the key cup again and re seated the pad. Now that D palm key is smooth and tight, with no side to side wiggling, and snaps sealed every time it is used.

He told me to save myself some money and learn a few more things that I should pull it ALL back apart and do a little swedging. He even showed me which keys really need it and which ones I don't really have to do.

My question is : Looking here http://www.musicmedic.com/catalog/products/tool-pl310.html Music Medic has a choice of three sizes, 3.5, 4, and 5 mm tip opening. I have no idea which set would be proper for my C Melodies hinge tubes.... any help would be appreciated. At 35 bucks a pair I want to make sure I get a set that will work for my particular horn.

Thank you in advance!
 

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In reality you'll need all of them, and all of them thin versions. And master the technique. Swedging looks nice, neat and easy but I assure you, it aint. After swedging you need to face the front of them hinge tubes and facers are REALLY expensive. You'll be looking at a minimum of $500 bucks to get decent equipment. I'd advice you to get your horn tightened by a pro. It will charge you way less than the bill for tools and a potential bill to ammend things you're most definitely gonna do wrong your first time around swedging.

Anybody can repad a horn if the mechanism has been rebuilt rightly. As a matter of facts, I'd advise anybody interested on repadding his/her own horn to go see a friendly tech and get advise as for how that particular project should be approached and hire that tech for making sure you'll succeed.
 

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I would measure the rods and see what you will need. In the end it is nice to have all of them, but you can buy them as needed. My friend who does all the instruments at the university has a very nice facing tool that's inexpensive and easy to use. It looks like a screwdriver with a point in the center surrounded by a file surface. But I would but a cheap ebay dog and practice with that rather than my own horn.
 

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Welcome to the start of the repair world.

Swedging has good and bad points, a good point is it tightens a key up very cheaply, bad point it does not stay tight for long as youve thinned further the very thin metal to start with, and its not the whole hinge tube youve thinned but the outer edges only, so it will need fixing again in a shorter time than it did before, especially since the action is now only being carried on the outer edges.

Key extensions are very good, but time consuming and requires very good hand skills.

Reaming and oversizing is also good but again your thinning the hinge tube, and you now have to make new hinge rods, one advantage is the hinge tube is now being supported on the rod for its entire length therefore distributing the load better than in the the swedging application.

Mylar shims are the cheapest and work very well, but you have to work with very fine shims to remove the end play

Knurling is excellent, but again in some areas you are reducing the inner wall thickness, but the hinge is bening supported along the whole rod length.

Your total outlay, really really expensive to cover all the options. But yes start with all the basic sewdging pliers
 

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Agree with Juan.

After swedging you need to face the front of them hinge tubes and facers are REALLY expensive.
In addition, anti-sweding tools (my own made up name) for when you swedge slightly too much and have to loosen the key for best fit. Also deburring tools for after facing the tube ends. Lapping is sometimes an option in some situations. All of these are not so expensive but critical IMO and tehre could be many. Otherwise you can (accidentally) swedge slightly too much and then you have a rod mostly stuck in the tube.

Another issue is whether the rod screw is loose inside the hinge tube, the hinge is loose between posts, or both. These problems are often fixed in different ways. That the repairer described in the first post did - "simply" swedged with pliers and floated the pad - can work, but sometimes doesn't work so easily.

As far as which size to choose, it depends on the hinge tube diameter on the instrument you are working on. Music Medic describe the hole is full circle when pliers open 1mm. I assume that where the size is determined i.e. the 3.5mm pliers have a 3.5mm open circle when open 1mm. Measuring the Conn tenor I have here, I'd say most likely you'd need the 5mm ones, but obviously I can't be sure what you will need. But really there's a bit more to it than just having one plier and swedge.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Dang! This is a whole other side to my overhaul! Now that I think back... he had some swedging pliers that had all three sizes in one set of pliers!... I need to get one of those.

On the palm keys the hinge tube had play on the rod so it could swivel left and right. All of the stack action was still tight in this regard, but some things on the stack can slide up and down.

Would it be possible just to swedge it a little bit and have some improvements, but not so much that will need the facing because there is still play? And perhaps add some mylar shims in addition to that?
 

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If you stil wanna get pliers IMHO get he 5mm ones for the main stacks and the 4mm nes for the side keys if you need swedgin of palms and side keys (thats considering a vintage american horn)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If you stil wanna get pliers IMHO get he 5mm ones for the main stacks and the 4mm nes for the side keys if you need swedgin of palms and side keys (thats considering a vintage american horn)
Thankyou... I'll be honest the Feree's heavy duty key swedging pliers look pretty good. I just need to find out what they charge for that bad boy... They are double hinged similar to bolt cutters, come polished and beveled, and have all three sizes in the nose.

My techs set looked custom made though, out of some odd sort of really huge needle nose pliers. They worked real nice and didn't mar the key though!
He definitely did the machine work himself on those... I still have access to the univerisity machine shop and mills though..... hmmmmm....
 

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On the palm keys the hinge tube had play on the rod so it could swivel left and right. All of the stack action was still tight in this regard, but some things on the stack can slide up and down.
Sometimes it's not so clear. Palm keys are often easy to notice this tilting for play around the rod. For stacks try tilting the key itself but trying to not make it move up or down on the length of the hinge at the same time e.g. supporting with your finger on the hinge. Or remove the keys, put the rod screw inside and wiggle it like that to check. Or try to wiggle the rod screw on one side inside the hinge tube (off the sax).

Would it be possible just to swedge it a little bit and have some improvements...
If you swedge i.e. create less play, then as long as you don't create any binding, it will have some improvement i.e. the key can move less from a reliable position. So better than more play? sure. But this is likely not to get to the most reliable condition.

...but not so much that will need the facing because there is still play?
Although it is sometimes preferable to swedge too much and then fit, a beginner can often get some binding from swedging by accident too. So you might try not to swedge "too much" but will. At least it's possible. The facing is not because there is still play. It is to have a more accurate fit (parallel) of the post and hinge tube, for less wear (i.e. more surface area support). This is done either if you want to do it, or if you swedge "too much" by purpose or by accident.

And perhaps add some mylar shims in addition to that?
You can add shims in addition or not addition. The problem with shimms is first, they are softer and more squishy than actual metal support. But regardless, they are of specific thicknesses, and about (maybe more than) 99.9% of the times, the thickness is not exactly the same as the play you need to "fill". So you will either get binding keys or still some play. Another problem is when disassembling again, all those little bits that you might not even notice are there, etc. Too many issues IMO.

I'll be honest the Feree's heavy duty key swedging pliers look pretty good. I just need to find out what they charge for that bad boy... They are double hinged similar to bolt cutters, come polished and beveled, and have all three sizes in the nose.
I think these pliers are excellent, especially because of the double hinge. I think the previous version didn't have that. If I remember there are four holes. At least mine also have a very nice polished finish which I didn't need to finish myself.

You can make swedging pliers yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well I think its safe to say that I do not plan on doing enough swedging to warrant the Ferees pliers after checking in with their price today. Although clearly a well designed tool, I would just need to use it on one horn. Ordering both the 5 and 4 mm Music Medic ones is the more economical route, and thats what I'll do. I need to order pearls from them anyways so I'll stack that order together....
 

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also on a lot of older horns the posts can get knocked causing a greater gap than what really needs to be swedged and realigning the posts should be addressed prior to swedging. generally it is best to do all of this before padding.

also it is possible to swedge things too tight... if you have lateral play on the rod, that needs to be fixed, as swedging won't help that, i have had good luck adding metal to the hinge by hard soldering and then redrilling the tube. also make sure that your post heads are not all worn out too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Regarding post heads, see this from SOTW's abadcliche (Matt Stohrer). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_smvJxfZzPg
Thankyou for showing me this. Awesome video Matt... I will check for this on my horn. If it is present.... I am thinking it will remain. As an amateur with a workshop full of tools meant for restoring muscle cars I have no means to fix this. My horn already plays anyways... Its just an issue of trying to get it that much smoother and faster than it currently is.

Just a suggestion, if it is really severe could one take the post off, solder a plug into the post hole, and re-drill on a precision mill?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
i have had good luck adding metal to the hinge by hard soldering and then redrilling the tube. also make sure that your post heads are not all worn out too.
Wouldn't this end up in an abrupt change from silverplate to bare brass on a horn such as mine? I can see how it is a reliable way... just wondering how you account for that? re-plating the key?
 

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Wouldn't this end up in an abrupt change from silverplate to bare brass on a horn such as mine? I can see how it is a reliable way... just wondering how you account for that? re-plating the key?
More or less yes but if it is so short it can be almost unoticable. If the keys are lacquered then silver soldering would burn the lacquer. You can replate. You can use the pen kits that IME aren't very good for resistant plating but look good.
Anyway I disagree that lateral play on the rod can't be fixed by swedging. Swedging can (most of the time)fix both play around the rod and play in the length of the hinge between posts (obviously after aligning the posts).

Just a suggestion, if it is really severe could one take the post off, solder a plug into the post hole, and re-drill on a precision mill?
You could, but you'd have to make sure the new hole is very accurately aligned with the threaded hole on the other side (or any other posts that hold the same rod). If it's not then the rod would twist and bind the key once partly or fully tightened. This is often the reason companies build the saxophones with play there, to overcome inaccuracy in the alignment of the holes.

As Matt says in the video fixing this can sometimes be an issue. Especially when the play was "built-in" to mask inaccuracy in alignment...

I will check for this on my horn. If it is present.... I am thinking it will remain. As an amateur with a workshop full of tools meant for restoring muscle cars I have no means to fix this.
Actually you do (probably). It's a sort of band-aid but suprisingly good and reliable one. I don't resort to this unless I have to, but it is actually very stable because the rod screw almsot never moves inside the post.

First align posts as much as possible. Then insert rod and check alignment, for example by wiggling the rod and checking how much it moves comparing with the other post hole. Then tighten rod completely and check alignment by "springing" the slot side inside the post. You should be able to tell which direction it can move to and which it can't. If it's not twsiting, no problem. If it's already twisting, even slightly, best to slightly enlarge the post hole, only in that direction, to the point the rod isn't flexing when completely tightened (as you'd have to do that anyway to remove the twisting, regardless of what method you will use to remove the play in the post).

Take the rod out and smear a thin layer of grease on it, only on the part that is approx the area where it is inside the loose post. Insert the rod, usually not all the way. Sometimes tightening it completely is needed though for the best alignment. Then let thin super glue wick into the space betwee the greased rod and the post. Wait until completely dry. It is self-aligning more or less. Screw the rod out and check. You might have to sand/file some super glue out because it's too tight, etc. Then be careful not to insert the rod again too aggressively. An issue that can happen is too much grease got on the post hole so the glue isn't reliable, but more often it's not a problem.

I've used it as a self-aligning method when budget was a major concern on cheap instruments where removing this play would have a big effect on reliably. I was surprised by how solid this repair is actually. It's also pretty easy to remove if you want.
 

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Just a few notes:

  • If you do swedging you really need quite a wide range of tools...
  • For tightening around a shaft, but not unnecessarily lengthening a tube (hence over-thinning the metal) , you need a wide plier tool, or a collet-type tool.
  • If lengthening the tube is the primary aim, a narrower plier tool serves better.
  • Plier tools that have several sizes are often rather useless, because there is often no room around the key's tube's appendages to accommodate a long nose sticking out of the tool past the hole actually being used. I have three variations on this theme, and actually seldom use them.
  • If you uses an under-diameter plier hole, then you you scrape precious metal off the tube before any swedging takes place.
  • If you use an over-diameter plier tool, then the tool can actually result in a tube that is a fit looser than before. (I sometimes use this phenomenon to free up a tube that is over-tight after swedging, but I use flat jawed pliers, i.e. infinite diameter hole.
  • At the ends of tubes, a collet tool is almost always more suitable than a plier tool, especially for access.
  • Simso mentions a shorter wear life after swedging, because the tightening is done only at the ends of tubes. But it is possible to swedge along most of the length of some keys.
  • Some swedging pliers have handles that are too springy for doing the job with a feeling of good control.
  • Wide-jaw pliers need a lot of force applied via the handles. Smaller, cheaper tools just don't do it. I don't have it, but I like the look of the big Ferree tool for this, with its really robust, double lever handle.
  • Lubricating the plier surfaces involved helps a lot.
  • Many plier tools are not polished sufficiently, such that they leave a more damaged surface on the key. Polishing a hole in steel is not that easy, especially without specialised gear. A well-polished tool has a good chance of leaving silver plating intact, and possibly even lacquer.
  • Narrow pliers tend to leave conspicuous diameter changes on the key.
  • It would be foolish to tackle swedging without having the tools to deal with tight pivot tubes.
  • It would be foolish to tackle swedging without having adequate means to dress the end of a tube to flat and accurately perpendicular to the axis.
  • When an amateur does swedging with pliers, there is a good chance of bending a tube sufficiently that it binds, so he should know how to deal with this.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Very good advice thankyou. I am currently considering not doing anything else to the horn as a possibility. It is really playing quite fine right now... In the SOTW Member Recordings/Reviews I posted a recording done on the sax... It seems to be ok as far as I am concerned though if a Pro tried it they might have some complaints....
 
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