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Side C spring broken

1516 Views 7 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Stephen Howard
I've got a side C spring broken on my vintage Selmer Radio Improved tenor (© 1936). I've done quite a few routine repairs to this sax with the aid of Stephen Howard's superb Saxophone Manual including other spring replacements, pad replacements, leak repairs, new neck cork and such like, but this one's different.

This spring has snapped off just inside the pillar and there's none of the spring protruding. Stephen mentions this 'worst case' situation in his manual and explains how to use a spring punch to get the stub out but I've tried that with no joy, I just can't budge this stub and anyway I'm a bit scared of distorting the pillar. Stephen also mentions the use of spring stub extractor pliers, but they are a very expensive tool.

I'm secretly hoping that Stephen monitors this topic and can give me some advice. I wonder if a touch of heat would help, or would that melt the pillar solder?

OK, I can hear everyone screaming at me ..."Take it to a tech"...and yes I'll do that if I completely fail to budge this spring stub, but once the stub's out it's a piece of cake to replace the spring, and very cheap too since I've got a selection of blue steel springs in my repair kit ready to replace it with.
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It rather sounds like the nightmare scenario!

In such situations not even a spring punch will guarantee success, nor a pair of spring pliers. Such tools tend to rely on a more or less flat face to work against. In this case, where the spring has splintered, any sort of wedge will tend to jam the splinter against the wall of the spring hole.

What's likely to work best is a punch that's the same diameter as the hole, with perhaps the slightest chamfer on the tip. What this will do is catch on the splinter and, hopefully, break it down.
Thing is, without being able to push a spring through the hole you're going to have to take a best guess as to the right diameter.

As you don't have the proper pliers I'll detail the 'botch' method.
You'll need a small piece of wood - at least the width of the jaws of your plier...and about 5mm thick. You'll need a couple of small blobs of blu-tack.
Take a spring of the right size run a sharpening stone around the end (not the tip) of the spring, just to take the edge off. If the end isn't flat, dress that too.
Now cut the spring about 7mm down from the end. If you poke the end into a blob of blu-tack that's been pressed onto a table it will help prevent the stub from flying off.

Now place a small blob of blu tack on the pillar, just under the spring hole. You're going to use this blob to support and hold the small stub in place. Position the stub on the blu tack and adjust it so that it lines up with the spring hole.

Now place a small blob of blue tack on the other side of the pillar, over the spring wedge - then press your small piece of wood against it. This is going to be the spot at which one of the jaws of the pliers will rest. If the spring comes out it will have no trouble penetrating the wood.

So, place one jaw over the wood and place the other over the stub you made.
If you're using smooth jawed pliers it's going to be a bit tricky to keep the jaw on the it might be worth using serrated jawed pliers.
You now have the pliers securely in place - the rear of the pillar is protected and the stub is held in place by the blu tack and the other jaw of the pliers.
You may now squeeze the jaws together.

You're not aiming to push the stuck stub completely out, you only want to move it at this stage. Take care not to allow the jaw over the stub to touch the pillar...if it's serrated it will mark it.
If all goes well the stub should be driven in and should fold up the splinter before driving the spring out into the wood.

For best results you should use a pair of pliers with a parallel jaw action. If using ordinary pliers you'll have to be more diligent about where the force is going...otherwise the stub will fly off.

Heat will certainly help, as will oil. If you're worried about getting the pillar too hot use a cotton bud dipped in water to test against the base of the pillar as you heat it. As soon as it goes 'ttsshhh' when you touch the pillar you'll know you're about as hot as you need to go, and still some way off the temperature at which the solder will melt. Be careful though - the temperature will rise rapidly as you heat the pillar.

You should also keep in mind that the more attempts to make to force the spring out at this point, the more difficult you're going to make the job should you end up taking it to a repairer.

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Forgive me for jumping into something I know nothing about, but I'm wondering if maybe a VERY small drill bit or even another similarly sized spring (round, I assume) could be chucked into a hi-speed electric drill to either drill the broken end flat OR just drill through the hole. Let the yelling begin . . . DAVE
Very much a last resort.
If you've got a fine enough dental driver you could possibly grind the stub out - but spring steel is tough stuff and there will always be a tendency to slip off the job.

In such cases you're often better off drilling a new hole - though there's always the alum method.

Patience and careful persistance usually wins through.

Glad it worked out in the end!
I like the clingfilm and foam idea - that's a keeper!

The alum method was discussed on, I think, Curt's (Musicmedic) site - it's a chemical method of breaking down ferrous metal.

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