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Discussion Starter #1
So, one of my tenors has, since I bought it a few years ago, always really had trouble with anything lower than a E. I could get notes out, but had to really be careful and thoughtful about voicing them otherwise they would crack or just not come out.

I sent this horn to a very respected tech, and it came back playing amazing - EXCEPT - it still had the low-note problems. Slightly better, but certainly still noticeable. Now don't get me wrong, otherwise the quality of this tech's work was great, but I was frustrated by the less-than-perfect results. So much, that I went through the trouble of sending the horn back to him for further tweaking. He was very amicable and helpful, but I still had problems when the horn was returned.

I didn't want to pay another round-trip of shipping to what I was beginning to think was no avail, so I took it to a local tech that was recommended to me. He found a few leaks, and adjusted the horn, and again it was a bit better, but still the problem.

I had pretty much shelved the horn at this point since I had other options, but it really nagged at me as this was otherwise a great sax.

I'd since switched local techs to another fellow that I will name, Scott Manderville, who I'd had do a few adjustments to my other horns and found him to be meticulous, knowledgable, and a great guy to boot. So, on a whim, I took this troubled horn to Scott to have him take a look at. Sure enough, the next day Scott calls me up and tells me that the neck tenon wasn't fitting right, and was leaking like a seive. He described some measurement system for this which I've since forgotten, but described my neck as pretty bad on the scale. He fixed it, and guess what? The problem is gone! It speaks down low like Barry White after a candle-light dinner and some wine.

So, what's the point of this rant? I guess there's a few options depending on how cynical you are, but you could choose from one or more on this list:

- Good techs are hard to find, great ones are even tougher
- Even good, reputable techs miss stuff sometimes
- Sometimes, just like going to the doctor, getting a second or third opinion might be a good idea
- Sometimes it really IS the horn, not you!
- Don't give up on an otherwise good sax that has a couple of quirks

Ah, I feel better now.

Pete
 

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So, in 20-20 hindsight, did the neck seem a little loose to you?
 

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Scott Mandeville is indeed an excellent repair tech. He is also a great teacher and clinician as well. He just concluded a term as president of NAPBIRT (National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians) and did an excellent job.

I had an experience similar to yours several years ago before becoming a full time repair tech. None of my reeds played well, and my sax although leak free according to the leak light was just unresponsive especially in the low register. I finally took it to a good tech who immediately knew what to do by my description. He spent about 15 minutes fitting the neck and said "try it now". It blew me away how great the sax played.

The neck leak isolator sold by J.L. Smith is an essential tool for any repair tech who works on saxophones in my opinion. A neck that is slightly out of round can feel very tight but still be leaking like a sieve, and there is no way to determine that without the isolator. Scott probably used the isolator with a Magnehelic to diagnose your problem. Glad you got your sax to play its best.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hi George - I think John has it spot on. When I originally sent it out for a rebuild, the neck was loose, but when it came back it felt nice and snug. But it's interesting, at one point, not sure why, I thought maybe, just maybe there might be a bit of play in the neck-to-tenon joint, like it would rock in there a bit, even though it was snug from a rotation standpoint. But that was only after I was in the horn-hypochondriac phase, so I assumed I was imagining it (and still perhaps I was).
 

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I had a tech replace the neck receiver of my 10M as the original was hopelessly out of round and it improved low end response as well. Still have the original receiver, which at least one tech since has claimed can be fixed (though he found the replacement to be top notch).

Hey John, can you tell me how that neck leak thing works? Is it expensive?
 

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The leak islolator tool can be found on page 29 of Smith's Catalog. The alto costs $28 the tenor $30. It is an adjustable rubber plug that you insert snugly just below where the end of the neck hits in the receiver. By inserting the neck with the neck tightening screw NOT tightened and sucking on the end of the neck with the plug in place you can immediately tell if a perfect vacuum is created indicating a perfect seal around the neck tenon. Saxes with a high F# are a bit more tricky because there is such a small distance to the top of the F# tone hole and the plug has to be positioned just right in order to work.

Of course if a leak is detected, the solution is to expand the tenon and true the receiver which requires more skill and much more expensive tools. The diagnosing is the easy part which anyone can do with the adjustable plug. (If you really "suck" as a sax player, that's an added bonus to using the tool effectively.) :D

The trick is getting the plug in the right place and snug enough to give a good seal. I have found that some saliva on the rubber part helps to get it in the neck snugly. (It also discourages others from borrowing your tool.) :)
 

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I made my own from scratch, cementing a ring of antifatigue mat material to a delrin core with a string loop attached for easy removal. Cost: about 10 cents, maybe. Time required to make: about 10 minutes (have to wait for the glue to dry). Works great, needs a lubricant to slip into/out of the receiver smoothly and ensure an airtight seal.
 

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SactoPete said:
Hi George - I think John has it spot on. When I originally sent it out for a rebuild, the neck was loose, but when it came back it felt nice and snug. But it's interesting, at one point, not sure why, I thought maybe, just maybe there might be a bit of play in the neck-to-tenon joint, like it would rock in there a bit, even though it was snug from a rotation standpoint.
Sounds like the first attempt at adjusting the tenon didn't dial it in along the entire length of the tenon. I've seen "techs" do that before - they take a tenon expander to one place on the tenon only and either put in a taper or a bulge. It needs to fit well along its entire length. I'm glad to hear that you found someone that knows his craft.
 

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whaler said:
Add a little key oil to the screw on the receiver. The 2 second cure for most problems with the neck leaking.
I know this is sounds counterintuitive, but on some saxes the neck tenon actually leaks more when the screw is tightened. It has to do with a small air pocket that forms right below the slot in the receiver when the two sides of the slot are pulled closer together. There is just no easy substitute for making both the neck tenon and receiver perfectly round and snug.

John
 
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