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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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Discussion Starter #1
I have been experimenting lately with different ways to get a perfectly flat sax pad with a nice taut skin. I have been using the ferree's pad slicks, heating them until they are a little too hot to touch, and applying them gently to the pad after I have installed the resonator. This usually gives me a very flat pad and a shallow seat with less "fluff" in the pad, which I like. A nice flat pad with a good seat also gives a nice digital feel to the action, which is also a goal of mine.

In my quest for long lasting pad work, I see Emilio Lyons' work and while a lot of guys will knock this or that about his work, one thing is for sure: his padwork lasts a very long time, and I think if you want to do good work, that needs to be a goal. I am not to the point of treating my pad with colored deck sealer or whatever it is (yet), but I do notice that his pads are very flat, and I am thinking he must use some sort of process like the one I am describing, or perhaps he just throws out pads that aren't perfect. Not that I don't like my customers, but the less I see them, the better job I am doing!

Anybody have any ideas?
 

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Hi Matt,
I've gone through this many times in my shop with mixed results. For a while I was ironing pads with a pad iron, then I started using a regular steam iron. The steam iron worked better and more consistently. I tried steaming entire saxophones clamped shut with a steam cleaner. I did these things for quite a while before I quit doing any ironing. There are a bunch of reasons that I stopped ironing pads.

One reason is the reaction that the leather has. When I iron the leather, it gets more smooth and hard. This was adding a lot of pad noise to the new overhaul. The leather looked flat but was basically dead after the ironing. The leather would get more brittle and loose it's stretch. You can test this by ironing one piece of leather and leaving the other. The one that you do not iron will be soft and have some stretch the ironed leather will not stretch much at all except when it relaxes or gives out. Once it gives out a little and loosens from the ironing it will still not stretch. The result can be a wrinkly pad.

Also, when I iron a pad I don't think my ironing gets into the felt at all. That is, I'm only ironing the leather. We make a lot of pads, and have tried ironing the leather ahead of time to handle VERY slight inconsistencies in the thickness of the leather. These experiments proved to be ineffective. When we ironed the thicker parts of the leather the results were inconsistent. Also, with time and water, the leather came back about 50%. Those are the results when the leather was ironed on a flat surface in the shop. If you iron pad leather after it is assembled in a pad, you are not likely to even get this good a result.

I finally decided that what I was seeing was the leather pulling on the felt and rounding the edges of the felt a little. This caused the pad look a little domed but the contact surface (as long as it's not to close to the edges) was very flat. When I ironed the leather the edges would look more square and the pad would seem more flat with less grain. The leather was giving out and laying flat while pulling tighter. Although my pads were looking better, the felt under the leather was still exactly the same. My pad jobs were taking more time because the leather on the pad would not conform at all to the tone hole. Since the leather was loosing some resilience, over time I found the result to be less stability than without ironing.

All that said, I found that I could get similar results to ironing pads by placing a flat material under the leather, between the leather and the felt. This gives the pad a flat and firm feel but leaves the leather supple. Ultimately I decided that not putting any material (at least the ones I have tried thus far) under the leather adds too much pad noise. I do have some RooPads here with Clarinet bladder under the leather. These pads are very flat and air/water tight.

That's what I found but there are a lot of things I don't know and I have a lot to learn. Maybe your experiments will prove more fruitful. Keep me posted, if you find something that you think I can apply to the manufacture process please let me know!
 

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What about making pads with a harder material under the leather covering than felt (such as a tech cork disc), or with a thick hardboard backing disc and a thin amount of felt (or 1mm ultrasuede) under the leather?

Would these be too noisy?

One problem I can see with a firm, flat pad with little give would be the inability to seat on distorted toneholes.
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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Discussion Starter #4
Curt, excellent and informative reply as always, and definitely food for thought. I like the idea of the goldbeater's skin under the leather. What about something like Saran wrap?

Chris, the pad iron thing I have been doing lets you start with a level pad, but if you prick it or pull it or push it, the felt is still malleable (as Curt said) and you can still work it- although I level toneholes when I do a repad or an overhaul (taking into account the possible pitfalls that have been discussed elsewhere on the forum). Mostly it seems to help with the fluff that sometimes gets put in the leather from installing resonators, although there are caveats as Curt mentioned.
 

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Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
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What is important is that there are not ridges and dips around that line which actually seals against the tone hole.

Flatness over more of the surface is important only if the key cup is not close to concentric with the tone hole.
 

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Flat pads, 'Digital' feel.... sounds like Jim Schmidt's pads.
I love 'em.
He could probably get an endorsement from PETA too!
 
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