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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, so I've been working on a 1950's Pan American Alto and I need some help. This is my first time working on a horn so I am still learning.

I've replaced all of the springs which was a pretty simple task; however, pad installation is giving me some trouble.
I used shellac to put the pads in, and all of them fit just fine. My problem is, even though I have seated the pads and they all have good looking rings on them, I still get leaks.
What else do I need to do? I understand that the tone holes need to be level and they are. I just can't seem to get these pads to seal?! I tried music medic's technique of "fluffing" the pads which is where you heat the pad cup then pull the pad down with a pad prick in the areas with a leak. This seems kind of a harsh treatment to the pads in my opinion. I am seriously desperate for help and have no idea what to do. No matter what other forums I've read, nothing seems to help, so I'm hoping a very experienced technician on here can help!
This has been driving me crazy for days!
:banghead:
 

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Yeah. The double-sided pad slick is really all one needs as far as pad spatulas.

So...you floated the pads once the keys were on, yes ?

I agree with you, I would not recommend the, ahem, 'fluffing' :| technique

(jeez.....in my 'hood, that term meant something completely different :dazed:).

You wanna install, float, then find the areas of the leaks. For example: "OK, the G is still leaking between 3 and 6 o'clock".

If the leak is substantial, I suggest using shims behind the pad (I use business cards of varying thicknesses, cut with an xacto blade into a crescent moon shape to fit the keycup.).

If the leaks are very small, then you can try key bending with a pad spatula. But for a novice, be careful ~ closing one leak may open a new one where the spatula was located. Just takes some getting used to.

Important thing here ~ when checking the sealing of the new pad...you want to apply VERY LITTLE pressure to the key when closing it.
If you have to push or squeeze down at all in order to get the light to vanish, then that's really not gonna cut it. One of my techs uses the back of his pinky to close sax keys...he says any more pressure required than that for a full seal is gonna result in a leaky pad for the player.

The other thing to consider is whether the leak is a pad leak or a mechanical one (the latter being the sort of leak resulting from interconnections among the keys). For example, both your low F# and E keys may be properly seated and sealing, but one or the other 'leaks' because the cork on the linkage when E is fingered is the wrong thickness, etc. So if the keys in question are the stack keys or the low B or Bb keys, check this out as well.

Sounds like you are off to a good start.

Where the springs really THAT far gone to require replacement ? I have done about 800 refurbs at this point, and I only had to do full-horn spring replacement 3 or 4 times.

Anyways...good on' ya !

Keep it up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the help! I replaced all of the springs but maybe 3. Most were really bad but I did a couple other just for practice.

Can you explain the "floating" technique?
 

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Floating is heating the key and then moving the pad on the heated bed of shellac hence "floating the pad".
 

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Right.

So after floating, you still get leaks. Typical, really, even after leveling the holes.

So you need to go to shimming next (or key bending if the leaks are small).

Stick the light in and go up and down the horn. Find each leak, and write it down, like:

Bis ~ 3 o'clock

G ~ 3 to 6 o'clock

G# ~ 2 to 4 o'clock

Side C ~ 5 to 7 o'clock

Low E ~ 10 to 2 o'clock

Use the spines of the keys to determine the leak positions (i.e., for me ~ the spine ends are 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock on most keys - stack, spat, bell - and 6 and 12 o'clock on the palmkeys).

Easy shim method:

Then you gotta reheat the keys and remove the pads. BUT when doing this, first mark the pad with a small dot (I use an ink pen, usually marking it at a point on one end where the key spine is) because your pads now have seats, so you of course wanna make sure those seats end up over the tonehole rims in the exact same place, or you will inadvertently double-seat the pad and that will cause even more leaking.

Remove the pad, cut the shim from the business card, trim it as required to make it fit nicely in the keycup; reheat the shellac in the cup and press the shim into the shellac so it adheres. Then heat the end of the shellac stick and wipe some of the heated shellac atop the paper shim.
Heat the keycup 'til the shellac in it (and on the shim) liquifies; heat the back of the pad quickly and carefully so the shellac liquefies, and pop the pad back in; wiping any oozy shellac away.

Then give 'er another go ~ install the keys on the horn, and heat the keys to float the pads again. Don't squeeze or press down with a whole lotta force; the idea is not to displace the shellac, but rather let the shellac and shim work together to fill in the space behind the pad as it is floating level to the tonehole.

This time the shims should make the leaks disappear, or at least minimize the prior leaks so some key bending can take care of the rest. If all goes well.

Good luck. This is exacting stuff, it takes time and patience and really, it'll take a person at least a half-dozen horns before they will start to really get the hang of it. But if you just stick with it, you can get a decent result.

Let us know how it goes.
 

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Say no to shims. They seldom if ever get rid of the leak and make the pad unresponsive to adjustment. Ask the best guys in the business what they think about partial shims and saxophones. Heat the key cup, mash the resonator into the back of the pad cup (helps make the pad nice and flat), maneuver the pad so that it is covering as much of the tone hole as possible, then using either a pad prick or a dull flat head screw driver bring down the edges of the pads to cover any remaining leaks (I started using a screwdriver with the encouragement of Tim Glessman, Tim learned from Randy Jones). Do this carefully until the pad seals around the entire pad cup with the lightest touch you can manage. Lightly wedge the key shut until the shellac cools, check again, lather rinse and repeat. It takes time, patience, and experience to do this quickly and efficiently. Good luck!

-Micah
 

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I would not recommend the, ahem, 'fluffing' :| technique

(jeez.....in my 'hood, that term meant something completely different :dazed:)
That adds a whole 'nother meaning to "second ending." :twisted:
 

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What else do I need to do? I understand that the tone holes need to be level and they are. I just can't seem to get these pads to seal?!
Are the pad cups level? They should be.

I just can't seem to get these pads to seal?! I tried music medic's technique of "fluffing" the pads which is where you heat the pad cup then pull the pad down with a pad prick in the areas with a leak. This seems kind of a harsh treatment to the pads in my opinion.
I personally don't fluff pads often. At least not on pads I install from scratch; pads that are already installed and have their seat are a different case, similar to the OP's. Others use this technique often, with great success.

I would agree that if you're at the point where you either have to fluff or use partial shims (like if the tone holes or pad cups weren't addressed), I'd do some judicious pad pricking instead.

BTW, shims (both whole and partial) were discussed maybe a month ago in another thread, with a variety of opinions from a number of the member techs. Search the forum and you'll get a lot of advice on this, and saxophone repair in general.

Like averageschmoe, I use a screwdriver for this task. It's not harsh if you use the tool delicately. I have also used the dull end of a needle spring for really small areas, but you can angle the screwdriver to cover different amounts of area, too, so the screwdriver tends to be my preferred tool.

If you're poking holes in the leather, you're pushing horizontally against the pad too much. The idea is to get enough of a grip to move the pad vertically, in and out of the pad cup, at that location. Dull the blade with a file to take some of the "bite" away if you're not sure...

Good luck. Keep us posted.
 

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did you level the toneholes?this is really important....just looking at them is not good enough...
good luck,philip
 

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Without floating the pad (which will create inconsistencies in how level the pad is in the cup) you can bend the key with pliers that have had the teeth removed (smooth), a wooden/rawhide mallet/ and a hammered-flat Upper/lower stack rod that has been bent in an L shape.

Step 1. Make sure the pad is sitting completely flat and level in the key cup
Lateral leakage - use the smooth pliers to straighten the cup by adjusting the key arm. Make sure you do this first.
Front end leakage - use the flattened rod to wedge into the rear of the key and apply pressure to the front of the cup. Be careful you don't do overdo it.
Rear leakage - use the rawhide or wooden mallet to hit the key arm near where the cup is attached. This will bend the rear of the cup down. Too much and you'll have front end leakage. A small wedge might be required to reach the hard-to-get-to key arms such as in the bottom stack.

Adjusting regulation is a whole different matter and things can get really F&*ed up if you don't do it correctly. Someone else can tackle that monster.

Don't use this method if you don't like the idea of bending keys. I know there are probably plenty of techs on here that would disagree with the above method, but it's not incorrect.
 

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If you have leaks, then its a matter of a couple of things, the pad is too thick or too thin, the tone hole hasnt been levelled, the pad is too wide for the keycup, if all these have been addressed then its hand skills
 

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One of the most argumentative areas of the forum is the repairs. Don’t you love it when a bunch of techs all argue about the many methods on how to do one thing ( and then argue on how bad the methods used by the “ others” are) ?


Then one sees that, whoever, us mortals who buy the techs services, chose to work on our saxophone, he or she would use a method that other equally qualified techs would frown upon or plainly despise.

But once a medical specialist advised me on which doctor to chose for a certain procedure and he was very clear that he plainly wouldn’t use the services of some of his colleagues with much the same attitude displayed here.

This proves to me, one again, that this is a minefield.
 

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Say no to shims. They seldom if ever get rid of the leak and make the pad unresponsive to adjustment. Ask the best guys in the business what they think about partial shims and saxophones. Heat the key cup, mash the resonator into the back of the pad cup (helps make the pad nice and flat), maneuver the pad so that it is covering as much of the tone hole as possible, then using either a pad prick or a dull flat head screw driver bring down the edges of the pads to cover any remaining leaks (I started using a screwdriver with the encouragement of Tim Glessman, Tim learned from Randy Jones). Do this carefully until the pad seals around the entire pad cup with the lightest touch you can manage. Lightly wedge the key shut until the shellac cools, check again, lather rinse and repeat. It takes time, patience, and experience to do this quickly and efficiently. Good luck!

-Micah
Hehe....Just say No to the prick/screwdriver method. In this instance, way more trouble than it's worth and certainly not the way to go for a novice.

I can give you an alternate list of 'the best in the business' who swear by the shim method, so as Milandro and Scott say.... people have differing opinions as to the best methods to use. IMHO, you can mess with the prick method after you have done a few horns (although even then quite honestly, it's still more trouble than it's worth).

I disagree wholeheartedly that a shim in any way compromises the ability for a pad to adjust, level, float, or seat....when shimming is done correctly.

All I can say is...having done refurbs on a crapload of horns over the past 12 years - as I am sure everyone else here has (I may hit 900 saxes by the end of 2014, actually)...over 70% of them I have ever serviced have had shims in there of some sort when I removed the pads...whether the pads were 10 years old or 50 years old or 70 years old.

It's a tried and true method which has withstood the test of time...every tech I have ever used (that'd be over a dozen) uses the method in one way or another, and every one of those techs is highly regarded. Safe to say it is an industry standard as it was in 1920, '30', '50, '80, '00.....

heck....someone else can provide you with a list of successful techs who swear that shellac is horrible and sinful, and hot glue is the way to go.

Etc, etc.....

I find the 'debate' funny, because honestly...all we are trying to do here is give the back of the pad a substrate which allows it to conform to the edge of the tonehole. So the substrate needs to occupy some volume behind the pad and do it in a stable manner.

So...all the shim does is take up the exact same amount of volume behind the pad that the shellac would occupy using the prick method. But it's significantly easier to level a pad with the solid piece of shim in shellac behind it, as opposed to relying solely on the liquid shellac occupying the same area, as the shim is a more solid substrate occupying that space....is all. Also less chance of damaging the pad.

It's pretty simple in concept, relatively easy to carry out successfully, highly successful, and holds really well actually .

But the intent of all the methods is the same....and the fact is, there are a few ways to achieve the exact same desired result, some easier than others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I haven't gotten to work on the horn today but I might sometime tonight. I'm going with the shim method because I haven't tried it myself and "pad fluffing" sure as hell doesn't work for my situation.

I'll let you all know how it goes.
 

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Good padwork can be done almost as many ways as bad padwork can (for instance I have never used shims, and I like to think my padwork is good), and it is one of the areas of this craft where you can do it every day for 50 years and still be learning on your last day at work. If this question could be answered neatly, it would have been done a long time ago.

My advice is to try to understand the mechanics of the situation: the tonehole, the key geometry, the pad, the adhesive you are using, and the material properties of each. You need (IMHO) a sound understanding of all of this to do good padwork, because each time you do a pad, something will be different than before, so understanding the WHY is essential to learning what decisions to make.

That said, start with flat pads, flat toneholes, properly aligned keycups, the proper amount of adhesive to make the pad sit parallel to the tonehole when the pad cup is parallel to the tonehole and everything will go much easier. But then again, each of those bullet points is a whole subject in itself, composed of many other subjects...

 

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Yep, and some people can do it and some cannot.

I have had guys apprentice in my shop and even after months of doing it numerous times a day, they still cannot get it right, and other folks have had it perfect by the end of there first working day, go figure.....

I recently had to let a guy go, he came to me as a local repairer (running his own business), but could not keep his business afloat, so I took him on as an employee and after a year and a bit of working for me, and tutoring him daily, he still could not get it right, some people can do it and some cannot.
 

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Hehe....Just say No to the prick/screwdriver method. In this instance, way more trouble than it's worth and certainly not the way to go for a novice.

I can give you an alternate list of 'the best in the business' who swear by the shim method, so as Milandro and Scott say.... people have differing opinions as to the best methods to use. IMHO, you can mess with the prick method after you have done a few horns (although even then quite honestly, it's still more trouble than it's worth).

I disagree wholeheartedly that a shim in any way compromises the ability for a pad to adjust, level, float, or seat....when shimming is done correctly.

All I can say is...having done refurbs on a crapload of horns over the past 12 years - as I am sure everyone else here has (I may hit 900 saxes by the end of 2014, actually)...over 70% of them I have ever serviced have had shims in there of some sort when I removed the pads...whether the pads were 10 years old or 50 years old or 70 years old.

It's a tried and true method which has withstood the test of time...every tech I have ever used (that'd be over a dozen) uses the method in one way or another, and every one of those techs is highly regarded. Safe to say it is an industry standard as it was in 1920, '30', '50, '80, '00.....

heck....someone else can provide you with a list of successful techs who swear that shellac is horrible and sinful, and hot glue is the way to go.

Etc, etc.....

I find the 'debate' funny, because honestly...all we are trying to do here is give the back of the pad a substrate which allows it to conform to the edge of the tonehole. So the substrate needs to occupy some volume behind the pad and do it in a stable manner.

So...all the shim does is take up the exact same amount of volume behind the pad that the shellac would occupy using the prick method. But it's significantly easier to level a pad with the solid piece of shim in shellac behind it, as opposed to relying solely on the liquid shellac occupying the same area, as the shim is a more solid substrate occupying that space....is all. Also less chance of damaging the pad.

It's pretty simple in concept, relatively easy to carry out successfully, highly successful, and holds really well actually .

But the intent of all the methods is the same....and the fact is, there are a few ways to achieve the exact same desired result, some easier than others.
And now I'm curious. Please name names. Personally I have never had success adjusting shimmed pads, once I remove the shims I find, the pads seat much easier. Maybe I just haven't seen the right technician's work?

Guys I know who don't use shims: Jeff Peterson (manager of artist development Yamaha Los Angeles Atelier), Randy Jones (owner of Tenor Madness), Tim Glessman (owner of Sax Alley), Mike Cleveland (Shop manager, Horn Improvement Mission Viejo, CA), Ernie Sola (as far as I know, the horns he's maintained that I've had a chance to look at were devoid of shims), and the good folks at Music Medic.

I haven't seen them used in the three shops I've worked for, haven't heard them discussed at any repair clinics regarding saxophone pad work, or mentioned in Technicom. There are many right or wrong ways to repair woodwinds, unfortunately I see far more wrong than right on my bench.
-Micah
 
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