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There are differing opinions among techs about whether rolled toneholes should ever be filed flat. The common argument given by the "never filers" is that if it is done too aggressively or repeatedly one can file completely through the rolled portion. Of course this is true, but any procedure or technique done to its illogical extreme can do more harm than good---for example, buffing or swedging keys.

The technique I prefer is to mechanically make the tonehole as flat as humanly possible by raising low spots and tapping down high spots and then taking it the rest of the way using a diamond grit tonehole file. Even in the best scenario when looking at the top of the tonehole with magnification one sees where the high spots filed down appear slightly flat and have lost their roundness. I then use craft sanding sticks in various grits to "re-round" those spots to look like the un-filed areas and then silver brush plate the exposed brass on silver finish instruments to make them match. When properly done, it is virtually impossible with the naked eye to tell any filing has ever taken place.
 

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There are differing opinions among techs about whether rolled toneholes should ever be filed flat. The common argument given by the "never filers" is that if it is done too aggressively or repeatedly one can file completely through the rolled portion. Of course this is true, but any procedure or technique done to its illogical extreme can do more harm than good---for example, buffing or swedging keys.

The technique I prefer is to mechanically make the tonehole as flat as humanly possible by raising low spots and tapping down high spots and then taking it the rest of the way using a diamond grit tonehole file. Even in the best scenario when looking at the top of the tonehole with magnification one sees where the high spots filed down appear slightly flat and have lost their roundness. I then use craft sanding sticks in various grits to "re-round" those spots to look like the un-filed areas and then silver brush plate the exposed brass on silver finish instruments to make them match. When properly done, it is virtually impossible with the naked eye to tell any filing has ever taken place.
This is a serious question, for you or anyone else: What are the odds that the average player would be able to find a tech that would know how to do this? Are these types of repair based on common knowledge and skills?

My Chateau alto has rolled tone holes, and they are all flat, but if there was a disaster could I reasonably be expected to find a tech who knew what they were doing with RTH? My concern is that the relative scarcity of RTH means that your typical tech would have little experience with them.
 

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This is a serious question, for you or anyone else: What are the odds that the average player would be able to find a tech that would know how to do this? Are these types of repair based on common knowledge and skills?

My Chateau alto has rolled tone holes, and they are all flat, but if there was a disaster could I reasonably be expected to find a tech who knew what they were doing with RTH? My concern is that the relative scarcity of RTH means that your typical tech would have little experience with them.
A common theme on SOTW and other saxophone sites seems to be that many repair professional techs 1) lack common sense, and 2) don't care about the instruments they work on. With nearly 20 years of experience in professional repair, and the scores of professional techs I have become acquainted with in that period of time, I can state unequivocally that I don't know even one who matches that description.

If you are concerned I would suggest having a chat with the tech you plan to use. It's that simple. ;)
 

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A common theme on SOTW and other saxophone sites seems to be that many repair professional techs 1) lack common sense, and 2) don't care about the instruments they work on. With nearly 20 years of experience in professional repair, and the scores of professional techs I have become acquainted with in that period of time, I can state unequivocally that I don't know even one who matches that description.

If you are concerned I would suggest having a chat with the tech you plan to use. It's that simple. ;)
Unfortunately, this appears to be almost true but there are exceptions. If you go to a music store with a repair department, chances are that it is 100% true and some of the techs are outright clueless. But like you said, talking to them often helps and if not, just find somebody else or do the job yourself, it is not that difficult.
 

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This is a serious question, for you or anyone else: What are the odds that the average player would be able to find a tech that would know how to do this? Are these types of repair based on common knowledge and skills?
What are the 'odds' that one's RTH's are so vastly out of level that a tad of filing and smoothing/rounding alone would not correct the situation ? What are the odds that if this is in fact the case, that the tech has NOT successfully made that kind of repair without ...'damaging' anything at all ?

A common theme on SOTW and other saxophone sites seems to be that many repair professional techs 1) lack common sense, and 2) don't care about the instruments they work on.
Here's the thing when it comes to this question. And I think it is rarely considered (on online chatboards) but it really needs to be.

The fact that an RTH horn may have toneholes which over time have been filed to return them to level...is NOT necessarily indicative of the horn having received a hack job by a tech or techs who 'don't care' or have no 'common sense'. I do agree that if a horn has had repeated significant filing, then that becomes an issue.

But the fact that a tech, today, may well utilize tonehole files on RTH's...is also not indicative of a neanderthal.

Quite simply, regardless of whether one might agree with it or not - filing RTH's was not a taboo the way it has become today. Thus I talk to a lot of old-timer techs who sorta scoff at the notion that 'one must not file RTH's, the only PROPER way to correct is by raising the low spots from inside the tube' or some such version of this.

Today, I think most techs do not grind the heck out of unlevel RTH's. I think most (reputed) techs, when presented with unlevel rim situations where filing would significantly start cutting into the RTH, would do a combination of pushing/tapping/filing/smoothing. And I'd say this is a reasonable way to approach it.

But I am also firmly in the camp of techs who have told me something along the lines of: "so this guy comes in with his _________, and he tells me that he doesn't want me to touch the unlevel RTH's with a file...it all has to be done by pushing/pulling/tapping - because that's what the internet says is right. I looked at 'im...and pointed to the door".

I like to buy those techs a beer. If a tech has his methodology, and it includes light to moderate filing, and they can ascertain when not to file a hole which has already approaches 'overfiled', then let them do their work.

Agreed, nothing wrong with raising the issue and having the conversation, of course
 

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Great in theory.
However if a rolled tone hole has been filled and neatly rounded, there is pretty much no evidence that this had been done.
So if subsequent filing is contemplated for any reason the tech does not really know how thin the metal has been filed already.
This, to me, is a big issue with flutes at present, because some very heavy (and excessive!) filing is being done at factory level, by reputable brands on their cheaper models.
 

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This is a serious question, for you or anyone else: What are the odds that the average player would be able to find a tech that would know how to do this? Are these types of repair based on common knowledge and skills?

My Chateau alto has rolled tone holes, and they are all flat, but if there was a disaster could I reasonably be expected to find a tech who knew what they were doing with RTH? My concern is that the relative scarcity of RTH means that your typical tech would have little experience with them.
What are the odds of such a cataclysmic accident? Most musicians never have such a disaster.
 

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What are the odds of such a cataclysmic accident? Most musicians never have such a disaster.
And yet last night, a close friend brought by a nice Buffet 400 tenor which suffered a cataclysmic fall that mangled the low C area including the post and tone hole, the same for the high F#. That's waaaaayyyy above my DIY 'pay grade' but would be much worse on an RTH horn.

It may seem odd but I fully agree with Gordon about the danger of thinning the roll rim and a future tech filing through. I had that issue with '46 10m but, fortunately, the rim was still connected on one side of the break and my tech was able to solder it back together. That repair was anything but easy.
 

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I once acquired a Chu that had a hack job done by a tech. Several tone holes were filed to the point of cutting through the rolled brass, leaving a worthless horn. This horn was returned to the seller but you can destroy a horn when filing rolled tone holes. We’re talking about thin material with unpredictable thickness. Seems a crazy gamble to use a file.
 

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Once that rolled rim has been filed through the chimney wall is very thin-much thinner than a 'plain' (unrolled) tone hole. The metal is stretched during the rolling process and ultimately becomes thinner. Better to raise them from underneath but, time consuming and sometimes means having to remove the bell or top bow- in the case of baritones.
 

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Thing is it takes a while to actually reach a 'point of no return' on a filed RTH.

As filing was probably the 'usual' method in the past for most techs, the issue becomes how many times have the holes had a file taken to them ? And that can sometimes be easy, and sometimes hard, to tell.

I would also posit, without going out on too much of a limb methinks, that most filings done in past or present do NOT include the subsequent post-file 'rounding' step which Saxoclese mentions....therefore it is relatively easy to spot filed holes because the rounding step didn't really take place. Much more likely they were just filed level then smoothed....and again, that is easier to spot.

Also, with a bit of a discerning eye one can visually identify when an RTH is near the 'point of no return' simply by comparing the lip of the filed hole to other lips on the horn.

Gotta say, end of day, in my experience of working on horns for 17+ years...rarely have I come across an RTH horn which had mistreated toneholes in the fashion most people on internet chats seem to believe is very common. I would say, ohhhhhh....maybe 10% of the time, absolute tops, have I had to deal with such issues. I would hazard to guess that 90% of the RTH horns on a venue such as eFlay are also not displaying such excessive conditions.
 

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Once that rolled rim has been filed through the chimney wall is very thin-much thinner than a 'plain' (unrolled) tone hole. The metal is stretched during the rolling process and ultimately becomes thinner. Better to raise them from underneath but, time consuming and sometimes means having to remove the bell or top bow- in the case of baritones.
I absolutely agree with this, however I think that it a) depends on the severity of the un-levelness and b) depends upon whether the client is ready to spring for that labor/time.
I was pointing out that, again in internet-land, there has come to be a common misunderstanding that a tech who uses files on an RTH is 'doing it wrong'. And I find this quite ridiculous, as the reality is more nuanced than this.
 

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What are the odds of such a cataclysmic accident? Most musicians never have such a disaster.
I agree. I purchased this sax new, the toneholes are all fine, and I do not anticipate such a disaster. I was just wondering if today's techs are generally facile in this sort of repair.
 

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Back to the O.P's original question: Are rolled toneholes more difficult to get flat than normal ones? If any filing whatsoever is prohibited, then the answer is definitely yes. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to get any tonehole perfectly flat by lifting low spots and tapping high spots down whether it is rolled or not. Anyone who has attempted to get a tonehole flat by "mechanical means" becomes quickly aware that the high areas around the circumference are bordered by areas that are the correct height. Likewise low areas are also connected with areas that need no lifting. This means that any movement of brass in one specific location also moves brass in neighboring area. This invites a pattern of "chasing your tail" going round and round and back and forth chasing "perfection".

The tools shown below are Ferree's tonehole protectors that my mentor called "tonehole jacks". They are placed on the opposite side of the tonehole one wants to raise and help distribute the force pressing down by the lever used to raise the low area. This works quite well if all goes as planned but there are instances especially on toneholes in areas with thin walls that the lever also pushes down the side the tool is on while raising the opposite side. Another option of course is to try to raise the low areas of the tonehole using a dent rod and ball inside the body, but this method has it's "ups and downs" as well. Tapping down high spots using a delrin or wooden dowel is also effective but also tends to lower more than the area intended.

If "almost flat" or as flat as you can get it is "good enough" is the goal then you are done. If "as flat as it can possibly be" is the goal, then a minute amount of filing using fine grit diamond rotary file to get that last 2% is necessary. Those who find any tonehole filing to be unacceptable need to understand that the entire surface of the tonehole is not sanded down. It is only those two or three high spots that are leveled off to match the height of the rest of the circumference to begin with---generally not more than about a thousandth of an inch (1/4 the thickness of a post-it-note). Once that is accomplished the filing stops.

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So here is a question, if there is a risk for damaging the RTH surface by filing them for the perfect level, why not add a thin coat of clear nail polish and then doing the leveling. I think the ladies at the nail salons would be thrilled to help and a lot of them are really good at what they are doing.
 

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So here is a question, if there is a risk for damaging the RTH surface by filing them for the perfect level, why not add a thin coat of clear nail polish and then doing the leveling.
Clear anything would make it very annoying to check with a leak light.
Non-transparent (how would you say that in English?) nail polish... I'm not an expert with nail polish, but unlike most lacquers and plating, it can dissolve by various cleaners that are commonly used on instruments. How sensitive is it to temperature? I couldn't really find that, but if it's anything like a lot of glues (most super glues or epoxies) it might move or distort from high temp when padding. Not so much an issue with something like a pearl held in place, but a huge problem if it's the actual tone hole.
Also it can have a bit of tacky feel, so might make sticky pads even worse.
 

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And yet last night...
Of course it can happen, but statistically it's pretty rare. Very rare really, trying to think of the % of saxophones which had something like this happen. It's worth considering when buying a saxophone. If you can find a similar sax without rolled tone holes but otherwise you like it the same, I would go for that one. In this case it's especially irrelevant since he already has it anyway.

Agree about filing rolled tone holes, though some of the most reputable repairers do file them...
 

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Several tone holes were filed to the point of cutting through the rolled brass, leaving a worthless horn.
Not worthless, but of course it's up to the owner to decide whether they want to have that repaired (unlike in your case where it sounds like returning it was the best option).
 
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