Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 67 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,018 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
That's easy. Go out and buy the cheapest vintage sax in the worst condition and start there. :) NOT

All too often I read posts asking for advice on how to fix, overhaul, restore a vintage "beater" where it is the members first attempt at repair. Been there---done that. I was a high school sophomore and my band teacher gave me an old Conn C melody that had been on the shelf for who knows how long and asked me if I wanted it. Boy I sure did. I was going to take it apart polish it, put new pads in, fix everything that was broken and have a great sax when I was finished. You can guess the rest of the story. I ordered a set of Micro Pads (you have to be really old to remember these), most of them were the wrong size and all were too thick and it went downhill from there. Eventually I gave up and sent the sax to Chesbro Music in Idaho, and for $100 they did a complete overhaul including straightening bent keys and leveling toneholes. That was a lot of money in 1962---especially for a high school kid. The moral of the story is don't start with the worst of the worst. Begin at the top and work your way down.

You are probably thinking, I don't want to mess up my expensive Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, Keilwerth, (fill in the blank). Follow these instructions and I promise you won't mess it up, at least not to a degree that your local tech can't sort it out.

I want to take you through a service I do a lot on high end saxes that are (mostly) well cared for. That is a C.O.A. or Clean, Oil, and Adjust. The beauty of starting with this type of "repair" is that it doesn't involve special skills or tools, but you reap the benefits of learning the mechanics of your saxophone in a way that will help you with more involved repair work later on. Let me start by saying this is the method that works for me and it is not the only method. Other techs may like to use a different sequence and/or different products, but we all get to the same destination. Let's begin:

List of tools:
1. Quality screwdrivers in 2 sizes. I recommend the JL Smith Gold #254083 and #254090 You may want to skimp on this. Please don't. You will use these the rest of your life. Why not get the best and then you will have them?
2. Flat nose smooth jaw pliers. Music Medic ok, I prefer the Ferree's
3. Leak light. Music Medic LED is good, Votaw Fluorescent is better IMO
4. Single edge razor blades
5. Spring hook. Music Medic or equivalent.
6. Regular med small phillips screwdriver for guard screws.

List of Supplies
1. Music Medic Ultimax needle oiler medium viscostiy
2. Music Medic Ultimax Pivot and Roller Lubricant .50 oz syringe
3. Package of Dills cotton pipe cleaners-non bristle!
4. Small bottle of cheap valve oil-local music store
5. BS Industries gap filling super glue (opt.)
6. Roll of paper towels
7. Music Medic natural cork 3.5" x 1" assortment (opt.)
8. Small bottle of contact cement Music Medic or DAP Weldwood (opt.)
9. Lemon Pledge spray polish (opt.)
10. Section of cotton flannel cloth, or cotton "assembly gloves"

You may also want to get a piece of styrofoam to insert the rods into as they come off the sax to keep them in order. I like to use "rod boards" that I make using a template and my drill press. shown below
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,018 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
A workbench with a smooth surface, or a sturdy table or card table will do to work on. Good lighting is also important. Keep "like" keys/parts together: palm, side, high E, high F#---octave mechanism, thumb key---upper stack. front F. G#---lower stack, fork F#---low Eb, C, C#, B, Bb---keyguards, clothes guard. On overhauls I use plastic bins that are marked. On a C.O.A. piles are fine unless the sax is apart a long time, then bins are best so parts don't get scattered.

Disassembly Order It is a good idea to unhook springs before removing keys.
1. Palm keys D, F, Eb, high E, F#
2. Octave mechanism, thumb key
3. Side C, Bb, and levers
4. Upper stack, front F "rocker"
5. Low Bb, B, Low C#, G# touch
6. Low Eb, Low C, Low C# key
7. Lower stack, G# key, Fork F#
8. Key guards, clothes guard

As each hinge rod is removed, put it in your styrofoam board or rod board and figure out a method to know which are which.
As each key on pivot screws is removed: DO NOT REMOVE PIVOT SCREWS FROM POSTS, RE-TIGHTEN AFTER KEY IS REMOVED.

Once the sax is disassembled you can choose from the following to clean the body only depending upon the finish and how dirty it is:

- Lacquered finish---give the body a bath in lukewarm soapy water using Dawn Liguid Detergent, and soft bristle brushes. Rinse, and immediately dry using pressurized air then go over it with Pledge (see below)
- Lacquered finish---if it is not extremely dirty/oily lightly spray small sections at a time with Lemon Pledge. Wipe and polish immediately with flannel cloth, cotton assembly glove, and Q-tips
- If it is a silver plate---I recommend using Haggerty's Spray polish. It dries to a pink haze and then you can wipe/hand rag it off. You can also use JL Smith Tarnish Ragging Cloth 2" x 4 yds. Wash after polishing (see above).

To clean the keys and guards choose from the following:

- Lacquered finish---spray Lemon Pledge lightly on a flannel cloth, wipe the key being careful not to touch the pad, then "buff" with a dry cloth. Cotton gloves work great, spray one hand to apply and polish with other (wax on...wax off :mrgreen:)
- Silver plate---USE ONLY A SILVER POLISH CLOTH, NEVER PASTE OR SPRAY to avoid getting polish onto the pads, corks, felts, etc.

Cleaning hinge rods can be done using a paper towel first with a few drops of valve oil, then dry. Cleaning the inside of hinge tubes---put a few drops of valve oil on one end of your Dills cotton pipe cleaner, run it through the hinge tube. When everything is clean to your satisfaction, the fun begins---putting it all back together again. I am not going to address pad seating or regulation here. That would take another longer set of instructions. Just know that when your professional tech does this process, as each key is installed, the pad is checked and re-seated if needed with regulating screws backed out (or keys bent to un-regulate). Only when every stack key is perfectly seated independently, are the keys regulated to close together. (isolate---then regulate)

I like to assemble the saxophone in the reverse order it was disassembled starting with the lower stack (see above).

Step 1 - run your Dill's cotton pipe cleaner through the posts to make sure they are clean.
Step 2 - insert the rod through each key separately to check for friction, if found take to your tech to straighten hinge tube and/or rod.
Step 3 - insert the rod through the posts without the keys to make sure they line up perfectly, if not take to your tech to straighten.
Step 4 - Install the keys in a "dry" practice run first without oiling---F#, E, D.
Step 5 - If the practice went well, put 1 or 2 drops in the "entry side" of the hinge tube of the first key and insert the rod (have a Q-tip handy to remove excess oil). Repeat for the remaining keys.
Step 6 - Reattach the springs and the lower stack is finished except for checking key height and regulation.

Repeat steps 1 through 6 with the upper stack. On most saxes it is helpful to install the Bis key first. For keys that operate on pivot screws, put a small dab of Ultimax Grease on each end before installing. Wipe any excess with Q-tip.
The order that follows is typically Front F, C, B, A for the upper stack. Next install the G key and reattach the springs.

I always like to install the upper stack before any side keys or palm keys since those keys can get in the way of seeing the seating and regulation of the upper stack with a leak light. Installing the lower stack before the bell keys are put on gives the same advantage. The assembly order of the "independent keys" is not critical, but it helps one's efficiency to develop a pattern and stay with it. Anytime any key with a hinge tube is removed, it is a good practice to clean the rod and tube and check for friction before putting a drop or two of oil in the tube and re-installing the key.

Tech Tip 1: On keys with flat springs I like to gently heat the end of the spring and touch it with a bar of paraffin wax. This helps to lubricate the spring in its track and is less messy and lasts longer than grease.
Tech Tip 2: If you really want to be OCD about your COA remove the rollers one at a time, clean with your pipe cleaner, and put a dab of Ultimax Grease inside before putting it back on.
Tech Tip 3: In order to save the forests, etc. get a few squares of paper towel, fold and cut several times to make a stack of 2" x 2" tissues that are the perfect size to wipe old grease and oil off keys.

NOTE: NO MATTER HOW CAREFUL YOU ARE AT DISASSEMBLING AND PUTTING YOUR SAXOPHONE BACK TOGETHER, THINGS WILL MOVE A BIT. iT IS THE NATURE OF THE BEAST. PAD SEATING CAN CHANGE, REGULATION CAN CHANGE, SPRING TENSION CAN CHANGE. WE ARE TALKING SMALL INCREMENTS HERE, BUT CHANGE IS CHANGE.

If you want to practice seating pads, read Curt Altarac's excellent articles on the subject and give it a go. I suggest checking and adjusting (seating) each pad as you put it back on the saxophone. If you want to become more skilled at regulation remember the basics which are to use the lightest possible touch and to "isolate" (remove the contact with other keys) and seat the pad independently and then "regulate" with other perfectly seated pads. Most modern saxes have the luxury of regulating screws on the upper and lower stacks. If your sax doesn't have these, I suggest you pay your local tech you trust his hourly bench rate to teach you how to bend (yes bend) the key feet and/or back bar to regulate without screws. Putting thicker or thinner material between the contact areas to regulate is not the way to go---trust me. You are just inviting the thicker material to compress causing it to go out of regulation more frequently. Using a different thickness between the tops of the key feet and the back bar is just inviting "lost motion" and adjustments that will not be consistent and reliable over time.

The reason for single edge razor blades, cork, BS Cyanoacrylate (I can never remember the word "superglue"), and contact cement is to be able to re-glue corks, felts, etc. that may fall off during the C.O.A. Anything else I have forgotten/overlooked will be added later.

I am happy to answer questions, either in this thread or through a private message. If you have a different/better way that's great. I do not wish to argue with anyone. This is what works for me at the present time and it has continued to change over the years as I discover new techniques and materials.

One more thing: I like to plan on 4 hours from start to finish including cleaning, replacing materials when needed, seating pads and regulating, play testing and readjusting. On a C.O.A. or play condition, I also clean the neck tenon and vacuum the case. My customers won't be able to see 90% of the work I did on the saxophone, but a clean neck tenon and clean case lining will stand out and give them the impression of how much detail went into the work and the false impression that I really care about their saxophone. :) [old joke about putting carpet on the top of your bench]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,796 Posts
This is fascinating, but makes me never ever want to try to repair my own horns. The craft and skill that you folk practice is just phenomenal, not to mention the patience.

I'm going to have to reconsider my retirement plans.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,756 Posts
After reading this I'm thinking the $900 I paid to have my 10M refurbished 10 years ago was a good deal. It's getting a little long in the tooth since the last service. I'd be happy to pay a couple hundred to have it gone through, lubed and adjusted; especially after reading this. Thanks for the perspective.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
Joined
·
4,901 Posts
Fantastic advice all around.

+1 on the JL Smith Gold screwdrivers. The only thing you forgot to mention, other than the fact that you WILL eventually break them, is the fact that you'll be replacing these, and many other tools. It's par for the course.

And my goodness, seating pads. If one thinks that a metronome is scary, just wait... :twisted:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
143 Posts
Since older saxes have blued steel springs, what is done, when chem bathing, or even rinsing, to make sure water doesn't become trapped in the space where the spring goes through the post? It seems to me this could be a problem, no?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,018 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Since older saxes have blued steel springs, what is done, when chem bathing, or even rinsing, to make sure water doesn't become trapped in the space where the spring goes through the post? It seems to me this could be a problem, no?
I have not seen a problem with the portion of the spring that is inside the post. I believe it to be too tight a fit to allow any water into the gap, but I may be wrong. In any event it is important to make sure the springs are in contact with water the shortest possible time when washing a sax body, and dried immediately when finished. On vintage saxes the springs are already beginning to rust in many cases anyway. I remove the rust using 0000 steel wool followed by rubbing on gun bluing liquid using a Q-tip to restore the color. When that dries it is given a coat of Renaissance Wax which restores the shine and adds a bit of protection against future rusting. Of course on overhauls the springs are removed as part of the process so they are handled a bit differently when off the saxophone. I always try to preserve springs on quality vintage saxes over putting in new ones even though it is more work because I have found the older springs generally to be better quality.
 

·
Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
Joined
·
17,204 Posts
If I am washing a sax with steel springs on it I don't take the risk... I wick a drop of oil or other mosture-hater into the spring holes of posts.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
Joined
·
3,314 Posts

·
Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
Joined
·
3,314 Posts
If I am washing a sax with steel springs on it I don't take the risk... I wick a drop of oil or other mosture-hater into the spring holes of posts.
same. definitely can hold water in there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,018 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
If I am washing a sax with steel springs on it I don't take the risk... I wick a drop of oil or other mosture-hater into the spring holes of posts.
After I wrote that post I realized that the entry side is snug where the spring has been "dovetailed" to fit but the opposite side can still have some "wiggle room" around the spring. Good suggestion Gordon.

also a good resource for the same question:

http://opensourcesaxophoneproject.com/

tools lists, horns on which to learn, a few guides to specific repairs, lots of links
This might make a good topic for a new thread.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,471 Posts
Hey, instead of oil, what about a drop of clear nail polish where the spring exits the post? I don't think it would keep the spring from being removed when (if) that's ever needed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,471 Posts
Oddly enough, I recently encountered a spring that was broken IN the post!

This was a horn I had just bought. It was working fine. I removed all the keys and I was gently cleaning things, when the spring just fell off into my hand. Refitting it, it would go less than a millimeter into the post, just enough to hold and operate, but if you turned the horn upside down it would fall right out.

Of course I replaced it easily and without any problem, but that was an odd place to break. I have seen them break at the surface of the post, but not down inside. I don't recall it being particularly rusty, but I wonder if that could have been a contributing factor.
 

·
Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
Joined
·
17,204 Posts
After I wrote that post I realized that the entry side is snug where the spring has been "dovetailed" to fit...
IMO the dovetail, flattened to thinner than the diameter of the round, then jammed into it is likely to have small spaces around it too.

Hey, instead of oil, what about a drop of clear nail polish where the spring exits the post? I don't think it would keep the spring from being removed when (if) that's ever needed.
Or I was thinking maybe a tiny bit of melted bees wax?
It's a pretty small gap. IMO the viscosity of both is likely to be too great for it to wick in by capillary force.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
143 Posts
My concern about oil comes from my experience with cars. Water is heavier than oil, so I'm thinking water would displace oil given the circumstance, especially in the presence of detergents. As far as "wicking" for either nail polish or wax, does that really matter as long as the exterior surface around both sides of the post where the spring is located is completely coated as long as it doesn't come off in the washing process?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,018 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Stainless steel springs such as those used on YAS-23's that don't rust are starting to look better all the time. :) In fact I have found the stainless steel springs supplied by Kraus to be superior to the blued steel "needle" springs supplied by a couple of suppliers I won't name. It is unfortunate it is so imprinted in the saxophone community that blued steel springs are for pro saxes and stainless steel ones are for student saxes. That said stainless springs which do not come to a point often don't work as a substitute for the needle springs without modifying the spring cradle.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
143 Posts
Now that you mention needle springs, can somebody explain to me WHY they must be sharpened at the tip? Whenever I see a picture of a sax with everything removed but the keys, it always makes me think of some medieval weapon or torture device. I had someone try to explain to me their understanding of the physics of the particular geometry of a pointy end, but I'm not buying it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,471 Posts
I don't think there's any geometric need. In the past I did a quick model of force vs. displacement for a needle shaped spring vs. a plain cylindrical one and there was no significant difference.

I suspect that when the saxophone was developed (and Boehm flute, and all the other keyed instruments that today use this type of spring), the most readily available source of small diameter high strength steel wire in a wide variety of diameters and lengths was needles.

Of course once a particular instrument is designed to use springs that come to a point, you may have problems using springs that don't come to a point. Personally, I would rather grind a point on the spring than modify the key, but I only install one at a time and very rarely at that, so the time to do so is irrelevant to me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
143 Posts
"I suspect that when the saxophone was developed (and Boehm flute, and all the other keyed instruments that today use this type of spring), the most readily available source of small diameter high strength steel wire in a wide variety of diameters and lengths was needles."

That makes sense.
 
1 - 20 of 67 Posts
Top