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Discussion Starter #1
Hello!

So, I've read differing opinions on when to use very carefully installed shims to get woodwind pads to seal and when to just use clamps to reseat them. I'm guessing in many cases, both techniques are required for a good seal, but I'm curious of what the woodwind technicians out there think regarding the benefits/drawbacks of each method. One obvious benefit to reseating with clamps is the technician's time (and we all know time=money)! I'm not a technician myself, but I work with one regularly as I own a business selling refurbished instruments (primarily flutes & piccs)- so while I'm aware of some of the process, I'm really a newbie in the woodwind repair world.

I guess my primary questions are, how well does an instrument that has been serviced without reseating hold up over time vs. an instrument that has been reseated? How well does each method withstand things like temperature and humidity fluctuation? And at what point in the process do you decide which technique to use?

Thanks for your insights!
 

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Shims for screwed-in flute pads, glue + floating for all others.
Clamps are a brute force method in my opinion and should only be used for shipping a sax (although I prefer wrapping it in saran wrap. Clamped pads that are normally open will eventually regain their natural shape, or lose their natural elasticity if clamped too hard or for too long.
A well-seated pad will completely seal a tone hole under its own weight, without any excessive force applied.
 

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Shims for screwed-in flute pads, glue + floating for all others.
This. Although, I'd add that key bending (straightening misaligned keys), properly applied, is a valuable technique.

If I can't get a pad to cover without excessive clamping, I'm not doing the job right. Either I'm cutting corners or wasting time on a pad that needs to be replaced.
 

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This. Although, I'd add that key bending (straightening misaligned keys), properly applied, is a valuable technique.

If I can't get a pad to cover without excessive clamping, I'm not doing the job right. Either I'm cutting corners or wasting time on a pad that needs to be replaced.[/QUOT

Pretty much.
 

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Hello!

So, I've read differing opinions on when to use very carefully installed shims to get woodwind pads to seal and when to just use clamps to reseat them. I'm guessing in many cases, both techniques are required for a good seal, but I'm curious of what the woodwind technicians out there think regarding the benefits/drawbacks of each method. One obvious benefit to reseating with clamps is the technician's time (and we all know time=money)! I'm not a technician myself, but I work with one regularly as I own a business selling refurbished instruments (primarily flutes & piccs)- so while I'm aware of some of the process, I'm really a newbie in the woodwind repair world.

I guess my primary questions are, how well does an instrument that has been serviced without reseating hold up over time vs. an instrument that has been reseated? How well does each method withstand things like temperature and humidity fluctuation? And at what point in the process do you decide which technique to use?

Thanks for your insights!
Both techniques are not required for a good seal.

A flute is the hardest instrument to do right, Im not talking about getting it close, but doing it right is incredibly difficult and time consuming. A flute that is adjusted and set to "close" plays okay but is hesitant on the lower notes, a flute that is sealed and adjusted well, is a joy to play, it speaks clearly. A flute with small leaks just wont play well at all, it is the most unforgiving instrument in the woodwind world IMO

A clamped pad is the worst thing in the world to do, first lets identify its a big band aid method, after clamping a pad, its ability to seal, can be as little as 1 minute to 2 months or so before it fails, the fact is in the end it will fail.

A flute that is adjusted / shimmed / bent / levelled or by whatever means required to achieve a positive even edge seal with a light touch, will last for years.

When I take a person on for employment who is a ""repairer"", I do not care what qualifications they have, I get them to repad a flute for me as the employment process. You would be astounded by what I see and what others call acceptable, people get insulted when you show them how far of the mark they are

A flute that has been padded correctly (im infering a single pad or all pads) will play nice straight up with no clamping required.
 

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This. Although, I'd add that key bending (straightening misaligned keys), properly applied, is a valuable technique.
Yes, of course. Straighten the keys as good as possible before repadding. The less misalignment you have to compensate for, the better.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks, everyone! This has been very helpful. The consensus is definitely "DON'T clamp" and that a good seal will last much longer with proper adjustment/shims/leveling. Given that everyone said the same thing, I'll take this as pretty sound and reliable advice!

Followup question- when dealing with student level instruments (ie Gemeinhardt 2SPs, Jupiter 507s, etc.) where hours of a technician's time to create a perfect seal with shims or new pads can amount to more money than the value of the flute- do you see any value in light clamping to keep costs down, or would you still opt to not clamp?
 

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You would be astounded by what I see and what others call acceptable
@simso- This made me chuckle. I'd say at least 75% of the pre-owned flutes that arrive with the promise that they were "just worked on by a technician", are not even close to playable. Those, of course, take a trip to my tech before they are resold. Admittedly, my standards for a good seal are pretty high, but if they weren't high, there'd be a problem! The worst is a flute that hesitates from F on down...
 

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A clamped pad is the worst thing in the world to do, first lets identify its a big band aid method, after clamping a pad, its ability to seal, can be as little as 1 minute to 2 months or so before it fails, the fact is in the end it will fail.
Followup question- when dealing with student level instruments (ie Gemeinhardt 2SPs, Jupiter 507s, etc.) where hours of a technician's time to create a perfect seal with shims or new pads can amount to more money than the value of the flute- do you see any value in light clamping to keep costs down, or would you still opt to not clamp?
How long do you want the repair to last? Simso and I, along with some other techs, were discussing in another thread the wisdom (or lack thereof) of doing band-aid repairs to keep costs down.

Why would you lightly clamp the pad? Because it's leaking. Why is it leaking? Is the skin torn or the felt warped? Replace the pad. Is there a leak in one or more areas around the circle? Remove the key and shim the pad. Tone hole not level (from a dent or lack of previous attention)? Level it. Maybe the pad was clamped too hard in the first place. Replace it and install the new one properly. Bad key fitting (a big cause of "my flute doesn't play once I get down to F")? Swedge keys (you'll probably have to unpin each stack), address the double-ended pivot that connects the left and right hand stacks, countersink posts, and be ready to shave some of the C key rod in your lathe (so the pivot end seats deeper) so the Bb and A don't wiggle.

I service a lot of these student line flutes. Some of them are serviceable without totally repadding the instrument, and other aren't, and I'm sure to explain why to my customers. Sometimes it's cheaper to replace the flute, especially in our current climate of "disposable" instruments.

I love hearing my customers tell me they horns are "still playing great."

I agree with simso - flutes are tough to get right. Charge appropriately for quality work.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks @southfloridahorns. That's helpful. When it comes down to it, I guess it really is pay the price for the job done right or buy a new instrument when dealing with student flutes if you want it to last. I won't doubt that many will choose the band-aid for the cheap price if given the option, though. I know many of my lower end customers would. In addition to the folks who just want quick/cheap repairs for their kids' instruments, I get a steady flow of the folks who are looking for a pre-owned student flute made by a reputable brand for their child for under $200 from the get go- this is just REALLY hard to accommodate if they want one with quality maintenance/repair work. Since I rarely have anything this low besides an occasional older Gemeinhardt or Armstrong with tons of cosmetic wear that I more or less acquired for free, I usually just direct them to ebay... but even then, you'll be hard pressed to find something that will net out to under $200 after all necessary adjustments, unless you get very lucky.

To be honest, my main reason for even thinking about it in the first place is that my technician, who I've been working with consistently for over 3 years, reseated one of my student-level flutes for the very first time. Prior to that, the hundreds of instruments he's worked on for me over the years have always been done with shims/adjustments/leveling or whatever else all you brilliant people do! :) (And I mean that with sincerity- I have great respect for the work you all do and the expertise it requires!) I questioned him on it since I vaguely remembered seeing things similar to what you've all written in other places online, but he wasn't too concerned that it would be troublesome down the road. But now you all have me questioning what he said! Thing is, since this is the first time I've ever seen him reseat something, he must have had a reason to not be doing it before..... Keep in mind, we've been working together since 2011. Now I'm really scratching my head wondering why he reseated this one. I'm guessing this flute was just particularly problematic? Fortunately, we have a very good working relationship and I know he'll have no problem at all if I say, "dont reseat unless I say it's ok" (which, now reading what you've all written, really ISN'T ok AT ALL unless perhaps you have a customer who outwardly CHOOSES a well-explained and not-recommended band-aid repair that everyone knows may not last, for the sake of saving a buck ... Unfortunately, I can't completely discount the appearance of this customer...I'm sure you've all met this guy too...).
 

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To be honest, my main reason for even thinking about it in the first place is that my technician, who I've been working with consistently for over 3 years, reseated one of my student-level flutes for the very first time. Prior to that, the hundreds of instruments he's worked on for me over the years have always been done with shims/adjustments/leveling or whatever else all you brilliant people do! :) (And I mean that with sincerity- I have great respect for the work you all do and the expertise it requires!) I questioned him on it since I vaguely remembered seeing things similar to what you've all written in other places online, but he wasn't too concerned that it would be troublesome down the road. But now you all have me questioning what he said!
For years, I did subcontract work for rental outfits who specifically required me to cut corners to keep the costs down. Pad clamps will get you close for a short while (and I still did a lot of the other procedures before slapping on the clamps), but as simso said, it's only a matter of time 'til they come back - either to you or another shop willing to put in the proper time. Wish I'd had the pleasure of working with you instead.

Thing is, since this is the first time I've ever seen him reseat something, he must have had a reason to not be doing it before..... Keep in mind, we've been working together since 2011. Now I'm really scratching my head wondering why he reseated this one. I'm guessing this flute was just particularly problematic? Fortunately, we have a very good working relationship and I know he'll have no problem at all if I say, "dont reseat unless I say it's ok"...
You're fortunate to have an established, good working relationship with your tech. Ask him why he clamped this one, and work from there.

...which, now reading what you've all written, really ISN'T ok AT ALL unless perhaps you have a customer who outwardly CHOOSES a well-explained and not-recommended band-aid repair that everyone knows may not last, for the sake of saving a buck ... Unfortunately, I can't completely discount the appearance of this customer...I'm sure you've all met this guy too...
It's all in how your shop chooses to deal with this kind of customer. If your tech does a band-aid because the customer asks for it, you need to decide if that's appropriate.

Now that I'm independent of the music stores and rental outfits, I can set the bar wherever I like. And if the repair exceeds the value of the instrument, I recommend replacing the instrument. Of course, I have refurbed flutes available for such an event...

If your shop loses business because your tech is turning out work that will fail shortly, it's bad for both of you. And, speaking from experience, it's demoralizing to know that, as a tech, you could have done better given the chance...
 

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It's better to loose business or loose a sale rather than doing something half heartedly, as this will lead to bad name bad reputation and eventually no work or sales, 1 negative does more damage than a 100 positive feed backs.

There is no shame for those that cannot repair flutes, knowing ones limitations is the key, offering a service and not being capable of delivering is shameful.
 

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I often think about the "worthiness" of a repair.
In my opinion, there are two types of instruments - those that have long-term stability and those which easily go out of adjustment. These two types don't directly correspond to "student" vs "pro" instruments.
If any given instrument cannot stay in playable condition over extended periods of time (say 1000 hours, just to drop an arbitrary number) it's going to cost the owner an amount that has no direct relation with the initial cost of the instrument, and the maintenance cost will inevitably exceed the initial investment.

In that light, even a bottom-feeder horn may prove to bemore dependable (and cheaper, in the long run) than some top class instrument - or it won't. Key question for me is, how satisfied is the user with ergonomics, tone and intonation, how affectionately does he/she like the instrument, how much satisfaction is achieved from playing it?

Just think of Gould's piano chair...was it worth fixing?
 

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...Followup question- when dealing with student level instruments (ie Gemeinhardt 2SPs, Jupiter 507s, etc.) where hours of a technician's time to create a perfect seal with shims or new pads can amount to more money than the value of the flute- do you see any value in light clamping to keep costs down, or would you still opt to not clamp?
Definitely not. It could be said that the skill of a technician is not measured by his success with easy work on a fantastically made instrument, but on how he can economically turn a relatively sad state student flute into one that plays really well and reliably. That needs a lot of skill, time-cutting equipment, and enormous experience.
 

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A flute that has been padded correctly (im infering a single pad or all pads) will play nice straight up with no clamping required.
I would argue that a saxophone or clarinet should play perfectly without clamping...why use up pad life to cover up shoddy work?
 

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Clamping the keys (for 24 hours-ish) helps to create a firm impression on the leather and felt, right? If it's done correctly (long enough and not too tight or loose) the impression will be permanent and will help with the seal. I would think this works in tandem with a correctly leveled cup and pad and isn't a "short-cut" but part of the process. Correct me if I'm wrong.
 

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I would argue that a saxophone or clarinet should play perfectly without clamping...why use up pad life to cover up shoddy work?
I am in complete agreance with you
 

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Clamping the keys (for 24 hours-ish) helps to create a firm impression on the leather and felt, right? If it's done correctly (long enough and not too tight or loose) the impression will be permanent and will help with the seal. I would think this works in tandem with a correctly leveled cup and pad and isn't a "short-cut" but part of the process. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I think that's correct. I also see nothing wrong with repeating the process occasionally if it is not played often enough. No one objects too strongly to keeping palm keys, G#, C# or D# closed with spring tension. So, if you are using key clamps, it's the same thing.

Do I do it? Yes because some of my saxes don't get played for long periods. Humidity in Florida may be a factor.

Shimming a used pad seems questionable because it needs to be removed. If not reinstalled in the same position, the indentation on the pad may be altered.
 

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First, I think any discussion on clamping is relevant only for the pads that are normally open. The others should seal completely and reliably immediately after competent installation.

Other than "ironing out" microscopic irregularities in the surface of the leather (or membrane), which takes a lot less than an hour, I consider clamping to be a short-lasting bandaid for shoddy alignment of a pad with a tone hole. It also squashes the felt unnecessarily, hence damaging the slight "give" that the pad on a normally-open pad needs in order to seal reliably.
 

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Clamping the keys (for 24 hours-ish) helps to create a firm impression on the leather and felt, right? If it's done correctly (long enough and not too tight or loose) the impression will be permanent and will help with the seal.
It will help an imperfect seal (that would otherwise be leaking), but I don't see how it can help with a seal, ie a pad that is sealing which is the what should be happening if it comes down true onto the tonehole, and the tonehole has its integrity (both of which should be a given)

What tech would go "oh, that pad isn't quite sealing. I know I'll clamp it for 24 hours, then when the cusotmer picks up the horn it won't leak in my workshop (only when he/she gets it home)?"
 
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