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Hi all,
I am having an ongoing problem with pads starting to leak after being set.

Firstly I have had my Yamaha Tenor professionally repadded late 2018, and adjusted by a couple of technicians since- last was in Feb 19, and it was sealing beautifully, finally, after that repair. The technician that did this has decades of experience and came very highly recommended by my clarinet teacher as well as several very experienced sax players who use him. After a few months, it started to play not so well and a leak light showed it was leaking all down the lower stack. I took it in to another also highly recommended professional technician who put a light down it and said the upper stack was sealing fine, but the lower very leaky. (This was my opinion too when I looked myself.) I just left it be because funds were a bit short to get it fixed - and I was annoyed that it was leaking only 4 months after being perfect.

Fast forward to last week - 4 months since the last technician looked at it, and it's playing terribly. I pop a leak light down it and now ALL of the open keys (top and bottom stack, B and Bb bell keys, and middle C) all have significant leaks. I have no idea how this happened. There's been no drops or 'incidents'.

If that weren't enough, my daughter's curved soprano was professionally repaired in July this year, and I popped a leak light down it myself a day after the repairs and there was absolutely no leak. The middle C pad had been replaced and tone hole levelled - everything else was just a re-regulation job as pads were working well, and it played very nicely. By October this year the sax is jumping up the octave and squeaking a bit - stuck a leak light down it and every pad that is sprung open leaks. Every.single.one. Including the brand new middle C pad. I took it back to the techie who worked on it in July and he quoted $160 to fix all the leaks. He said maybe it's been dropped - but we have been super careful with it and we are sure it hasn't been dropped. We don't bump it around, sit it carefully in the car. The only thing that could have happened to it is that it does spend a couple hours on a Thursday in a hot car - and the weather has just started to heat up again here. But that can't explain the issues with the other saxes.

Not to be outdone, I have been repadding a Keilwerth Tenor and Jupiter Alto. Every time I level a pad, it seems to be moving. I get all the pads on a stack done, then take a break. when I next get back to the repairs I pop a leak light down and most, if not all, of the sprung-open-pads are now leaking when they weren't before. This is happening over and over and over and I have spent whole days re-seating pads only to find them all gone out again the next day. It's incredibly frustrating.
Just last night I seated the G pad on this Jupiter Alto. I got it sealing beautifully with just fingertip pressure - the whole pad touching the tone hole all at once. I wedged the pad down for about 40 minutes, then removed the wedge and checked the seat again. It was perfect and I went to bed at 10pm happy. At 8am this morning I popped the leak light down it and it's leaking again in 2 places - one very small, and one pretty major leak. I'm SO OVER IT! That sax sat on my workbench in the middle of my house all night. The air was a nice middling temperature - not real hot, certainly not cold. Not a soul went anywhere near the instrument. Why had the pad moved?????

Why are all these pads moving? The only thing I could attribute anything to is perhaps heat exposure but the Yamaha tenor is never in a hot car, so it could be due to it getting some sunlight on its case through a window, but that would not explain the jupe alto and the JK tenor's pads constantly moving while I was repairing them, because they sat on a stand or lay on a table well away from all heat sources and windows, and often pads were moving overnight when weather wasn't hot. (It never gets cold enough here to call weather 'cold' either.)
It can't be the type of glue I'm using, because the Yamaha and sop were done with 2 different glues by professionals, and I am using instrument clinic shellac sticks on the ones I'm repairing.
It's not the pads - I have used 3 different brands of pads on the saxes I'm using and the sop and the Yamaha both have 2 more different brands of pad. All are affected.

It's not because of the wedging - I have set pads where I wedged closed for 30 mins, for 60 mins, and not at all. It doesn't seem to matter, they still un-seat within a day or two - neither does it matter whether I play the saxes or not. Some are moving after no play, others I play and they move too.

The only thing I can say is consistent across the board is that pads which are sprung closed are not developing this problem. I have now seated 9 palm keys, 6 side trill keys, 3 Eb keys and 2 F# trill keys and not a single one of them has 'shifted' or started leaking once I had them sealed the first time. So what the hell is going on with all the pads where keys are sprung open????

Before anyone asks: the method I am using is a combination of heating, pushing with pad slicks, very occasionally pulling pad down with pad pricks (hardly ever) and if all else is failing, using shims. Pads with and without shims are changing. Pads with more and less shellac are changing. Pads that miraculously seated first go are shifting. Pads that took 30 mins to sit properly are shifting too. No I am NOT using any methods that involve heating the cup and then pushing the key cup closed or forcing an impression into the pad or using gorilla grip to force the pad. I'm doing it "properly".

I was having a lot of fun with these repairs but I'm ready to throw in the towel. Honestly at this rate I can't even afford to keep playing my own saxes because they seem to need couple hundred bucks of repair each sax every 3 months because of moving pads! Please help!
 

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Do you use key clamps?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Nope. I just use cork wedges under key feet or key guards to wedge them closed after initial seating, and never on the saxes I play. And yes, I wedge before fitting key corks so the wedges aren't compressing corks either.
 

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mysterious.

Obviously, there is no poltergeist in your house.

I remember a tech talking of something similar but that was a player binging a horn to him, the horn was closed than he put it in a case putting sheet music inside the case (!) and that pushed all the keys so that things were no longer sealing.

It is obviously something that you do, either in the seating of the pads or afterwards. Yes, a certain amount of elasticity in any material may exp a little leak not major ones.
 

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One bad brake job at the car dealer I started doing it myself.
Replacing pads and fixing leaks ain’t rocket science.
Although I wouldn’t try to fix dents on my sax or car.
In both instances it’s having the correct tools.
 

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Key play may well be the culprit here. But you may be asking 2 different Q's and lumping 'em into one.

If the issue were solely your work, I would simply say you aren't floating the pads correctly; your method relies upon some compression of the pad to achieve a seal, and after the wedges are removed the pads initially seem fine but over a short time flex to their own equilibrium state which is not quite the state they were in when you removed the wedges. A typical DIY'er dynamic - it takes a lotta horns and a lotta time to really, really dial yourself into how pads seat and seal and react.
That still MAY be the answer to the horns YOU have been repadding.
Just last night I seated the G pad on this Jupiter Alto. I got it sealing beautifully with just fingertip pressure - the whole pad touching the tone hole all at once. I wedged the pad down for about 40 minutes, then removed the wedge and checked the seat again. It was perfect and I went to bed at 10pm happy. At 8am this morning I popped the leak light down it and it's leaking again in 2 places - one very small, and one pretty major leak. I'm SO OVER IT!
Quite seriously, it takes padding around a dozen horns before one can actually get things to behave well in a timely fashion. So if the fact that a non-leaking sax right after pad installation has 2 leaks the next morning actually drives you nuts - you will need to recalibrate your expectations. This happens all the time. Just go in there, find the leaks, and remove the leaks via key adjusting, refloating with a shim, however....and the second time you may well nail it.
This is why a lot of techs prefer the horn remain in their shop a few days after the repad is initially 'completed'. Also why other techs recommend that the customer bring the horn back in a week/month afterward for another look-see and tweaking if needed.

The 2 horns done by the tech, however...strange.

My question here would be - if it started leaking a few months after the initial repad, and then after the first re-adjust...why didn't you take it BACK to the tech who had done iether the original repad OR the first re-adjust ?
It would behoove players to return to the person who did the initial work, as they would have more familiarity with the horn and the work they did on it. As opposed to jumping from tech to tech.

Anyways, in this instance yes - Alan's point is good. Unspring the stack keys and try to move the keys north-south..see if there's key play in the barrels.
 

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I may have missed it, but what are you using to float the pads? I don't know of anything that isn't stable after an hour, but it could be that the pad is shifting because whatever you are using to float isn't stable.

I never clamp after floating. I always thought of mashing the pad down on the tone hole, especially if using moisture and heat, as a a quick and dirty way to get a deep seat in the leather and hide any inaccuracies in the floating process. It can make a deep enough seat so that light can't be seen, but that doesn't mean that it is sealing. Also, if there is a deep seat then any motion in the key work (which ideally shouldn't be there) means that the pad alignment can shift and the forced deep impression in the leather now creates a problem instead of hiding one. It could also be that whatever is used to clamp the pad down is not the same directional force as fingering the pad when played.

But diagnosing pad issues over the computer is like diagnosing medical issues over the phone. It could be this, that, or the other.

Mark
 

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I'm with Milandro's poltergeist theory but my ghosts do me favors. I can leave a slightly leaking sax over night and the next day, leaks are gone.

JayeLID is right. Leaks happen. It pays to ask what pads, thicknesses and hardness you are using and if you've tried a few brands.
 

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There is more than one kind of "leak" on a saxophone, and I will address them one at a time.

Independent key leak

This involves a single pad and keycup. On pads that are "sprung open" the goal to achieve is that when the key is closed with a very light touch (with the spring engaged) the light is eclipsed 360° at exactly the same time. The same standard should be used for spring closed keys even though the spring closes the key with more force. Once this has been achieved without compressing the felt beneath the leather, the variables that can change the pad seal include:

- expansion or contraction of the glue or shellac,
- air pockets in the layer of glue or shellac,
- the keys getting bent due to excess finger pressure from the player, or the sax getting bumped
- the key tilting or moving horizontally due to looseness inside or space at the ends of the hinge tube

If the felt inside the pad has been compressed as the pad is "leveled" which is easy to do without even knowing it, that introduces the variable of the compressed felt expanding to its natural state and pushing up that portion of the leather.

Keys that close together

Assuming all of the conditions above have been eliminated or dealt with, leaks can still exist as a result of one or more keys going out of regulation. This is where one key must close one or more other keys at exactly the same time with as close to the same closing pressure as possible. Variables that can cause keys to go out of regulation include:

- poor choice of "quieting materials" between where keys make contact with one another that can compress under normal playing conditions
- spring stiffness that is not properly balanced between primary and secondary keys regulated to close together
- keys that tilt or move horizontally due to looseness inside or space at the ends of the hinge tube
- keys getting bent due to excess finger pressure from the player or the sax getting bumped

Forcing a deep indentation into the pad rather than just a light "impression" when "seating", not working with leveled toneholes, and using pads that are poor quality or too soft can add to and/or compound all of the issues listed above.


Even when the best materials and the greatest degree of attention is paid to all of these variables some slight movement inevitably takes place when a saxophone is play tested or "broken in" after a repad or overhaul. This is why the best technicians play each completed sax for an hour or more and let it sit overnight then check and make adjustments the next day and repeat this process one or more times before returning the sax to the customer. Even then they like to do a follow up in 4 to 6 weeks to insure everything remains settled in and to see if the customer's "playing habits" are starting to take a toll.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks everyone for all the suggestions.

mysterious.

I remember a tech talking of something similar but that was a player binging a horn to him, the horn was closed than he put it in a case putting sheet music inside the case (!) and that pushed all the keys so that things were no longer sealing.
Nothing being stored in these cases other than in the storage compartment but good to check. Neither of the playing saxes have end plugs though so possibly there is some movement in the case. Actually, the sop has a plug but whenever I open the case, the plug has always fallen out and it's not possible to tighten the sleeve enough to hold it in firmly.

Have you checked if there is not excessive play in the keywork?
Yep. A little play in a few areas but nothing that would cover all of these across all 4 saxes I've had issues with.

Key play may well be the culprit here. But you may be asking 2 different Q's and lumping 'em into one.

If the issue were solely your work, I would simply say you aren't floating the pads correctly; your method relies upon some compression of the pad to achieve a seal, and after the wedges are removed the pads initially seem fine but over a short time flex to their own equilibrium state which is not quite the state they were in when you removed the wedges. A typical DIY'er dynamic - it takes a lotta horns and a lotta time to really, really dial yourself into how pads seat and seal and react.
That still MAY be the answer to the horns YOU have been repadding.
Quite seriously, it takes padding around a dozen horns before one can actually get things to behave well in a timely fashion. So if the fact that a non-leaking sax right after pad installation has 2 leaks the next morning actually drives you nuts - you will need to recalibrate your expectations. This happens all the time. Just go in there, find the leaks, and remove the leaks via key adjusting, refloating with a shim, however....and the second time you may well nail it.

My question here would be - if it started leaking a few months after the initial repad, and then after the first re-adjust...why didn't you take it BACK to the tech who had done iether the original repad OR the first re-adjust ?
It would behoove players to return to the person who did the initial work, as they would have more familiarity with the horn and the work they did on it. As opposed to jumping from tech to tech.
Honestly I agree that it's probably 2 different issues. The ones I'm doing myself almost bother me more because if I could get that to stop happening, I could fix the other horns myself. As it is, I don't dare try yet!

If it was as simple and doing it again...once.. I would adjust expectations. The problem is that most of these pads I have seated upwards of 4 times, and still having issues. Yet never with a key sprung closed... so it can't just be that I'm super bad at repadding, surely? I do agree that I have probably been exerting too much pressure with the pad slicks so I will have a few more goes with more shellac and less pressure, or with shims, and see if it sticks better, thanks.

As for the techs - I didn't go back to the original repadder because this was his THIRD attempt to get the tenor working, and after that last attempt he had to admit that he's too old for the gig now and he retired then and there. Honestly, the repad job wasn't that great either. I didn't go back to the guy who readjusted it yet because I don't have the cash to have it fixed again, after now 4 attempts on this horn. He's too far away to take it to just to get an opinion, so I just had another tech that is closer to me take a quick look at it when he was working on my daughter's sax. He hasn't worked on it, just quoted, noting that only bottom stack was leaking... until more recently when now the whole thing is.


I may have missed it, but what are you using to float the pads? I don't know of anything that isn't stable after an hour, but it could be that the pad is shifting because whatever you are using to float isn't stable.

I never clamp after floating. I always thought of mashing the pad down on the tone hole, especially if using moisture and heat, as a a quick and dirty way to get a deep seat in the leather and hide any inaccuracies in the floating process. It can make a deep enough seat so that light can't be seen, but that doesn't mean that it is sealing. Also, if there is a deep seat then any motion in the key work (which ideally shouldn't be there) means that the pad alignment can shift and the forced deep impression in the leather now creates a problem instead of hiding one. It could also be that whatever is used to clamp the pad down is not the same directional force as fingering the pad when played.

Mark
I am pretty sure that I have had some pads that I didn't clamp which also moved overnight, but I will try a couple more to be sure. I agree that they may not be clamping in quite the right direction. I'm using stick shellac (amber) from Instrument Clinic. I would hope that this is ok? the other saxes where they are leaking have a mix of hot glue (I think - the 1st tech who repadded it later declared shellac is too messy to work with, so I think he must have used hot glue on the tenor) professional shellac (1 new pad on the sop) and, horror of horrors, contact cement on some of the original pads on the sop (only because they haven't been replaced yet since I got it, and until now, they were actually ok!

I'm with Milandro's poltergeist theory but my ghosts do me favors. I can leave a slightly leaking sax over night and the next day, leaks are gone.

JayeLID is right. Leaks happen. It pays to ask what pads, thicknesses and hardness you are using and if you've tried a few brands.
Yep I've used Prestini deluxe and student line, some from instrument clinic, some metal and some plastic and some no resos. I've also got a handful of cheap Chinese sheep leather ones on the alto jupe and honestly, they seem to shift somewhat less than the others. Could this be a clue? They are a much stiffer pad. The ones installed by my techs were imported Italian pads.

There is more than one kind of "leak" on a saxophone, and I will address them one at a time.

Independent key leak

This involves a single pad and keycup. On pads that are "sprung open" the goal to achieve is that when the key is closed with a very light touch (with the spring engaged) the light is eclipsed 360° at exactly the same time. The same standard should be used for spring closed keys even though the spring closes the key with more force. Once this has been achieved without compressing the felt beneath the leather, the variables that can change the pad seal include:

- expansion or contraction of the glue or shellac,
- air pockets in the layer of glue or shellac,
- the keys getting bent due to excess finger pressure from the player, or the sax getting bumped
- the key tilting or moving horizontally due to looseness inside or space at the ends of the hinge tube

If the felt inside the pad has been compressed as the pad is "leveled" which is easy to do without even knowing it, that introduces the variable of the compressed felt expanding to its natural state and pushing up that portion of the leather.

Keys that close together

Assuming all of the conditions above have been eliminated or dealt with, leaks can still exist as a result of one or more keys going out of regulation. This is where one key must close one or more other keys at exactly the same time with as close to the same closing pressure as possible. Variables that can cause keys to go out of regulation include:

- poor choice of "quieting materials" between where keys make contact with one another that can compress under normal playing conditions
- spring stiffness that is not properly balanced between primary and secondary keys regulated to close together
- keys that tilt or move horizontally due to looseness inside or space at the ends of the hinge tube
- keys getting bent due to excess finger pressure from the player or the sax getting bumped

Forcing a deep indentation into the pad rather than just a light "impression" when "seating", not working with leveled toneholes, and using pads that are poor quality or too soft can add to and/or compound all of the issues listed above.


Even when the best materials and the greatest degree of attention is paid to all of these variables some slight movement inevitably takes place when a saxophone is play tested or "broken in" after a repad or overhaul. This is why the best technicians play each completed sax for an hour or more and let it sit overnight then check and make adjustments the next day and repeat this process one or more times before returning the sax to the customer. Even then they like to do a follow up in 4 to 6 weeks to insure everything remains settled in and to see if the customer's "playing habits" are starting to take a toll.
Thanks for all this detailed info.
I am seeing leaks on independent as well as linked keys. The linked keys don't seem to be much worse so I don't think it's uneven springs, issues with regulation corks or key play. At least not often.
I do think that I may have accidentally been compressing felt too much when I'm levelling, as I am using a reasonable amount of force at times. I'll try changing that.

As for the earlier factors you listed for independent keys - I'm not usually playing it between seating and shifting, so it's not keys bending or excess playing force. I do wonder about air bubbles - I haven't been doing anything in particular to try to get rid of them - I jus read in an article that one should press down on the middle of the pad to express air bubbles when first inserting pad in key cup. This wasn't mentioned in the guide I'm following to learn how to do this, so I haven't, but I'll start. Any other ways to get rid of air bubbles? or detect them?

All the tones holes on the saxes I'm working on have been professionally levelled, and key cups have been checked for level too, so that's out. I do wonder about pad quality... I was told yesterday by the tech that the Prestini pads are really good leather (when he looked at them) but the rather stiff Chinese cheap pads do seem to do better for me than the softer more expensive ones. Not sure what I can do about that at this stage - I don't have the cash to replace all the pads on now 3 saxes that I have Prestini pads for.

I'm going to try a few more again without clamping, and with lighter pressure on the pad. Thanks!
 

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As many people keep saying, clamping creates a false sense of the horn “ closing”.

You create a temporary indentation in the pad which appears to close but as soon as the pad relaxes the seal isn’t what it was under pressure.

Another thing is, from what you wrote and how you write it, I get the feeling that all of this is relatively new to you. Pad quality is very important. If you are saving on materials you probably will encounter problems because of that. I have seen many amateur technicians using Chinese pads and that, together with their inexperience , has always produced leaky horns. I gave up on them. Once a person whom had returned several leaky horns before which required several corrections down the line , bought a set of very expensive pads for a nother more expensive horn et voilà , the horn was sealing very well. He probably paid more attention to this horn but the pad’s quality were for sure a factor too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
As many people keep saying, clamping creates a false sense of the horn “ closing”.

You create a temporary indentation in the pad which appears to close but as soon as the pad relaxes the seal isn’t what it was under pressure.

Another thing is, from what you wrote and how you write it, I get the feeling that all of this is relatively new to you. Pad quality is very important. If you are saving on materials you probably will encounter problems because of that. I have seen many amateur technicians using Chinese pads and that, together with their inexperience , has always produced leaky horns. I gave up on them. Once a person whom had returned several leaky horns before which required several corrections down the line , bought a set of very expensive pads for a nother more expensive horn et voilà , the horn was sealing very well. He probably paid more attention to this horn but the pad’s quality were for sure a factor too.

Thanks. I agree about the pads but I did start out with cheap pads in case I ruined them! What puzzles me though is that many of these cheaper pads have been easier to seat and have remained seated better than the deluxe line Prestini pads, so I'm loathe to blame the pads.

Yes it is relatively new. I've only done 2 horn overhauls - these two... well, 2.5 if you count a sop I've done 5 pads on.

Just to clarify, I am NOT clamping to get the pad to seal. I have already got the pads sealing well with a very light touch, with all 360 degrees sealing at the same time. I am clamping AFTER it is perfectly sealing as this is what Steven Howard's book said to do.

Out of interest, what pads would you recommend? Are Prestini's deluxe line ok in your book? The technician who saw them yesterday said he thought it was very good quality leather.
 

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I have just as much experience of repadding a saxophone ( I have done 2 under supervision ) as you do, and I have changed the occasional pad here and there, so I am not pretending to know more, but I have had many horns done by a number of people, some with a lot of experience and some less and most of the “ home” repairers have been getting results not very different for what you describe with the need of going back two or three times to correct few pads opening.

Part of it must be due to difference in experience but another part has to be materials. I have used a tech which a lot of experience but who saves on materials and his work has often required a few corrections down the line.

Prestini are certanly more than decent pads, of course there are gradations there too, but their pads are not as valued as Music Center ( Pisoni) or for example Music-Medic. But I should think that the most likely reason for the pads changing their seat in time is to be found in your beginner’s skills perhaps coupled with the materials choice.
 

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I'm not afraid of seeing a "seat", the indented circle, in a pad and I'm not exactly sure why it has become a taboo in the sax world. Just refer to the classic Selmer movie showing how the pads were done on Elkhart Mark 6s.

That said, even on horns done completely level will eventually show the crease. Look at your sprung shut keys. Do they work? I've read and rejected an argument that the pad lasts less long b/c that's not an issue for a DIY. I'm using MusicMedic regular tans in both thick and hardness. I can get exact replacements one pad at a time if a pad goes bad.

I'm guessing that the leaks are just the pad material reacting. Felt can take a long time to compress and it probably doesn't rebound in a consistent way. My suggestion would be to get the sax as close as possible and start playing it.
 

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If it was as simple and doing it again...once.. I would adjust expectations. The problem is that most of these pads I have seated upwards of 4 times, and still having issues. Yet never with a key sprung closed... so it can't just be that I'm super bad at repadding, surely? I do agree that I have probably been exerting too much pressure with the pad slicks so I will have a few more goes with more shellac and less pressure, or with shims, and see if it sticks better, thanks.

Yep I've used Prestini deluxe and student line, some from instrument clinic, some metal and some plastic and some no resos. I've also got a handful of cheap Chinese sheep leather ones on the alto jupe and honestly, they seem to shift somewhat less than the others. Could this be a clue? They are a much stiffer pad. The ones installed by my techs were imported Italian pads.

Thanks for all this detailed info.
I am seeing leaks on independent as well as linked keys. The linked keys don't seem to be much worse so I don't think it's uneven springs, issues with regulation corks or key play. At least not often.
I do think that I may have accidentally been compressing felt too much when I'm levelling, as I am using a reasonable amount of force at times. I'll try changing that.

I'm going to try a few more again without clamping, and with lighter pressure on the pad. Thanks!
The words "cheap" and "Chinese" raise a red flag for me although I confess I have never repadded a sax using them. A method that works well for me is:

- cover the entire back of the pad using Ferree's amber stick shellac,
- flatten the shellac on a steel "jeweler's" block while it is still warm
- insert the pad into keycup hot enough to melt the shellac
- give the pad 1/4 turn to evenly distribute the shellac without pressing down on the felt
- before the shellac is set, push down on the resonator in the center of the pad to make sure it "bottoms out"
- when the key is installed on the saxophone, reheat the key and tap the key closed repeatedly to help the pad find its level position
- when the shellac is cooled check the closing of the pad and make minute adjustments pulling any low areas up with a needle spring

The steps that come before are even more important

- complete all necessary key fitting
- make sure the tonehole is perfectly flat
- select pads that do not fit so tight in the keycup that they bunch up and are hard to "float"
- "dry fit" the pad before adding shellac to check the alignment of the key cup to the tonehole
- while "dryfitting" estimate the thickness of shellac that needs to be applied to the back of the pad

Other techs do things a bit differently which is fine if it works for them. My system is the result of nearly 20 years professionally repairing saxophones, attending clinics and workshops, and networking with other techs and is constantly evolving as I pick up new ideas.
 

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You must tell the pads to remain seated during the entire performance..........and no flash photography.
 

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Thanks everyone for all the suggestions.

Yep. A little play in a few areas but nothing that would cover all of these across all 4 saxes I've had issues with.

Honestly I agree that it's probably 2 different issues. The ones I'm doing myself almost bother me more because if I could get that to stop happening, I could fix the other horns myself. As it is, I don't dare try yet!

If it was as simple and doing it again...once.. I would adjust expectations. The problem is that most of these pads I have seated upwards of 4 times, and still having issues. I do agree that I have probably been exerting too much pressure with the pad slicks so I will have a few more goes with more shellac and less pressure, or with shims, and see if it sticks better, thanks.

As for the techs - I didn't go back to the original repadder because this was his THIRD attempt to get the tenor working...I didn't go back to the guy who readjusted it yet because I don't have the cash to have it fixed again,...I just had another tech that is closer to me take a quick look at it when he was working on my daughter's sax.

I'm using stick shellac (amber) from Instrument Clinic. I would hope that this is ok? the other saxes where they are leaking have a mix of hot glue (I think - the 1st tech who repadded it later declared shellac is too messy to work with, so I think he must have used hot glue on the tenor) professional shellac (1 new pad on the sop) and, horror of horrors, contact cement on some of the original pads on the sop (only because they haven't been replaced yet since I got it, and until now, they were actually ok!

...I've used Prestini deluxe and student line, some from instrument clinic, some metal and some plastic and some no resos. I've also got a handful of cheap Chinese sheep leather ones on the alto jupe and honestly, they seem to shift somewhat less than the others. Could this be a clue? They are a much stiffer pad. The ones installed by my techs were imported Italian pads.


Thanks for all this detailed info.
I am seeing leaks on independent as well as linked keys.

I do think that I may have accidentally been compressing felt too much when I'm levelling, as I am using a reasonable amount of force at times. I'll try changing that.

I do wonder about air bubbles - I haven't been doing anything in particular to try to get rid of them -Any other ways to get rid of air bubbles? or detect them?

All the tones holes on the saxes I'm working on have been professionally levelled...

I'm going to try a few more again without clamping, and with lighter pressure on the pad. Thanks!
OK great detailed responses to EVERYBODY's questions, LOL...you are thorough. My thoughts based upon your replies (and I put in bold your replies which jumped out at me). Pretty much concurring with Saxoclese's comments above....

1) Your pads and shellac choice are fine. If using InstClinic pads, buy the ones they market as the "new pads !" model, not the standard model - the former is a better pad.
I do believe the fact that firmer pads, although cheap chinese ones, seem to yield more success is a CLUE as to what is going on here.
(MusicMedic "Soft Feel" pads are good pads which are firmer than the IC's or most Prestinis, just FYI. They are actually a medium leaning towards firm pad, and you may wanna try some of those and see if they are more agreeable).
BUT simply buying expensive pads, I regret to inform you....will likely NOT solve your ills. Since you already used respectable pads, the issue here is NOT the pads.
Read on....

2) Pressure - a tech I worked under, when floating the pads, would literally use only the back of his pinky finger to put pressure on the keycup. Literally the fingernail of his pinky finger closing the keycup, nothing more. If the pad did not float and seal simply with that amount of pressure, atop liquified shellac, then either the key needed adjusting or the pad needed shimming (assuming tonehole level). It is a rule of thumb (ba-dum-bump !) method which has served me very well.

3) Matt Stohrer has a method he shows in a YT vid of applying shellac to the pads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0n00Em_AGM&t=500s

I do an altered version of this...say, 75% identical to what he suggests. I think the method and application of shellac prior to dropping in the pad is KEY (ugh....ba-dum-bump !). This was a mistake I was guilty of for a while : insufficient shellac beneath the pad (although having refurbed over 1000 saxes at this point, I can also state that this has obviously been a shortcoming of many a tech over the generations as well; as few horns I removed pads from actually exhibit a sufficient amount of shellac substrate).

So, given you have quality materials, I would posit your methodology is still not quite dialed in yet. Typically, for me, using the above methods for applying the shellac to the pad, then floating with the pinky pressure; made things work much more agreeably than my previous methods (applying the shellac to the keycup only and using slightly more 'insistent' pressure while floating).

Does this result in me 'getting 'em all right' the first time around ? No. But it does do the job on the vast majority of them, and the ones where it doesn't I can get in the second try (sometimes requiring some key bending, sometimes requiring installation of a shim).

4) Lastly, repeating myself....honestly, it really takes repadding quite a few horns until one gets to a point where they can feel confident about their work. And by that I do not mean "partial repads on 3 or 4". I mean....'full repads on 6 or 7' minimum.
I know people insist that simply following directions to a tee should result in success the second or third time around...but fact is your body needs to do it repetitively several times on several horns before you begin to develop 'the touch' so to speak.

BUT STILL keep in mind that indeed, after the initial seating, the felt IS likely gonna decompress a bit to find its own equilibrium.
No method of floating and seating is going to prevent that from happening.
Which is why, as repairers usually state...it is our preference to revisit the repad a few days, weeks, maybe a month later...for a look-see and subsequent tweak.
 

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I'm not afraid of seeing a "seat", the indented circle, in a pad and I'm not exactly sure why it has become a taboo in the sax world. Just refer to the classic Selmer movie showing how the pads were done on Elkhart Mark 6s.
Agreed. Another industry standard practice which suddenly, coincidentally became 'suspect' with the advent of internet chat boards.....

The only 'issue' of it being, as correctly noted by many, the seat need not be very deep... and using a relatively high-pressure seating method to compensate for unlevel holes, unlevel cups, or mediocre pad installation... to 'make leaks disappear' ...will only result in an ephemeral solution.....
 

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I have experienced the exact same problems as the OP in the past. I believe I solved most of this problem by using the Matt Stohrer method as Jay and saxoclese state above. The other thing is that if you have Instrument clinic roo pads they continually loose their seat. Get rid of them or only use them in keys that are held down by spring pressure and in the normally closed position. You literally have to play those pads for hours to get a seat even if you clamp. I will never use hot glue again. I have a horn that I used shellac on the top half and glue on the bottom half. Nothing but problems with the glue. I think Instrument clinic sells quality products. However not the roo or the hot glue.
 
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