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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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Discussion Starter #1
So, here is the saga followed by a question.

A good friend and customer had me repad his re-lacquered 180xxx Mark VI alto about a year ago. I did it up with black Saxgourmet pads and it came out real nice. I always tell my customers if anything isn't the way they like it to bring it back and I will make it as they want it.

So..... I kinda knew that he wasn't happy about the way the lower notes responded. Several other guys played the horn and said it was fine, but I know he is a VERY sensitive player and it always bothered me that he wasn't happy even if he thought it might just be him. Basically the issue was that when you breath attacked the low B and Bb softly, there was a slight - (and I mean slight) hesitation before the note spoke.

So..... we talked the other day and I encouraged him to bring it in again and today he did. Bottom line to this story is that I removed the bottom bow, cleaned it up, soldered it on this time and put it all back together.

AMAZING RESULTS. As I thought it was leaking through the seam.

There was no damage, nor other tell tale signs that it was leaking. This was a stab in the dark and it was dead on.

I have seen many VI's with the bells soldered on by a repair tech in the past. I have done it before upon request for several players. My personal VI has the bell soldiered on but it was done well before I owned the horn.

Now the questions...

#1 - Repair techs - how often do you find yourself addressing the issue of a leaking removable bow?

#2 - Players - how many of you have specifically asked for your removable bottom bow to be more permanently attached?

Charlie
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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My answer is to #1-

Addressing it? Every time. It amazes me how many of those horns don't have any sort of adhesive, epoxy or solder or even hot glue holding it together. I always check it. How I repair it if needed is up to the customer.
 

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I was wondering, and I'm not a tech, so just thinking out loud, if one is suspicious that the bow is leaking, could you, or perhaps a better question on my part, do you techs first try to wrap the bow joints with something like teflon tape to provide a sure seal and then blow to see if the horn responds better for the customer?
 

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1. We remove the band and inspect the connection on the outside then look inside. If necessary we disassemble the parts and repair. If it all looks OK, we just seal the joint from the inside (going in through mostly through the Eb tone hole) with 5 minute epoxy. We seal every one that comes into the shop for an overhaul.

But, to answer your question, when speaking of MKVI removable bells, maybe 1 in 5 need to be taken apart because something about the connection looks suspect.
 

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1. We remove the band and inspect the connection on the outside then look inside. If necessary we disassemble the parts and repair. If it all looks OK, we just seal the joint from the inside (going in through mostly through the Eb tone hole) with 5 minute epoxy. We seal every one that comes into the shop for an overhaul.

But, to answer your question, when speaking of MKVI removable bells, maybe 1 in 5 need to be taken apart because something about the connection looks suspect.
Thanks Curt. Given that we're talking Mark VI's here I suspect that something loosened the bow up over time? Just so many years of constant use or perhaps a drop or something? Guess those joints can only take so many thermal expansions and contractions before some small little leak shows up.

I don't have a Mark VI but I find it interesting that this topic seems to come up every now and then with them.
 

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Based on my experience, most of these horns I see with problems had the joint worked on previously- either as part of a disassembly for relacquering or for past dentwork.
 

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I always disassemble the bow/body connection on removable bell horns, unless the customer specifically tells me to leave that alone (in wich case, either I don't cover the bow /bell notes on my guarantee or in some cases I refuse to work on the horn)

Also I'm strongly inclined to solder the connection as neatly as possible (solder without the trim ring, then install the trim ring over the already soldered joint, undetectable repair) as in opposed to glue it. On some Yamaha student horns wich have no "hideout" tri ring there (just gooped together) I may go with a hard polyurethane adehesive but all and all I prefer leadfree solder there.

I've had more than just one horn wich bell vibrates spontaneously on some notes, on an all wrong frequency that's not even remotely related to the note you're playing. It sort of "buzzs" any note creating a leak feeling or hurting the horn resonance in that problematic notes. You solder that seam and voilá, the horn just sings coherently top to bottom.

I remember this particular MK VII plated/engraved tenor that buzzed so bad you'd think a big insect had got into the horn when playing certain notes. The bell buzzing was stronger than the note played mf. It took a while for me to realize it was the bell, we checked rollers (sometimes they buzz) and seeked for play in keys all over, until I just grabed the bell with my (big) hand while he was playing the notes and effectively dampened the vibration. Soldered the bow to the body and the horn speaks soooo much better now.
 

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I also use 5 minute epoxy on all of the bells that I remove, clean, and reattach. I know that there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that soldering the bell adds something to the performance of the instrument, but from an acoustical standpoint a good mechanical and airtight connection should do the same thing. The vibrations of the body (walls) of the instrument have been proven to be insignificant in numerous scientific studies. We don't solder the neck to the body and it seems to do just fine.

I would suspect that in many cases where soldering made a difference, there were leaks and/or gaps in the connection to begin with. My reason for using epoxy is that in case the bow would ever need to come off in the future much less heat would be required to release the epoxy, than to unsolder a joint that large.
 

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IME removing an epoxied joint at the body bow requires more heat and is less of a neat job afterewards. And the epoxy, be as hard as it may, doesn not stops the bell/bow from vibrating in a different way (wich solder does) I also think that the vibration of the walls aren't a big deal for the most part, but if the bow and bell are vibrating in a different frequency (asin "singin another note) it turns into a big deal.
 

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As it happens, I'm doing just such a job today.

I don't seal these joints up as standard practice - though I certainly test the joint.
The horn that's on the bench today came in with a bell key note problem...fine one minute, gone the next...and no recollection of a knock or a drop.
A quick twist of the body showed the joint to be loose, allowing the bell to twist in relation to the body. Not by much, granted - but then it only needs a slight shift to throw the pads out.

I always offer to solder the joint up - along with the usual caveats about losing the finish. So far no-one's ever asked me to do so - preferring instead the epoxy fix.
For this I use Araldite Rapid. It's the only application I use the stuff for because it never seems to set entirely rock solid and is nowhere near as tenacious as the slow-drying mix.

I've never had any problems dismantling a joint that's been glued in this fashion. It requires a little heat to help it come apart, but only as much as you would get out of a hair dryer.

I'm entirely sceptical about the vibration issue - there's just too much physical coupling between the bottom bow and the body. If there was a rubber O-ring between the joint and no clamp/bell brace/keys that bridged the joint then maybe there'd be at least a fraction of chance that it might make a difference.

Regards,
 

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#1 - Repair techs - how often do you find yourself addressing the issue of a leaking removable bow?
This can mean two things.

If the question is how often I find a leaking removable bow connection, in comparison with all removable bows connections I see, then the answer is, not often at all. It's pretty rare actually.

If the question is, from the leaking removable bow connections I see, how often I deal with it, then the answer is always, unless there is an unusual reason not to deal with it.

I agree with Steve's post.

The 5-15 minutes epoxies I've used for this was always easier (less heat) to remove than solder (even low temp lead soft solder). I'm now trying many epoxies of several companies and hardening times. I found one 5-minute epoxy that hardens pretty fast, but takes a few more days to fully harden. I don't know about the Araldite but just ordered some to try. Another reason is that once you heat the glue to ruin its gluing, it's ruined. For solder you need to heat the entire area.

Question #2, I've never had any player ask me to solder this connection. I've never heard from any player, regardless of level, that the solder joint is better in any way (once it doesn't leak).
 

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Talking SBAs and MkVIs here - I always remove the bells during a service and a full overhaul to gain better access to the low C# lever point screw and to make removing the springs easier so I don't get my hands all cut to ribbons while cleaning or polishing up the body.

While the bell is off I can make sure both parts of the joint are cleaned thoroughly (as there is usually corrosion from water collecting in there on ones that aren't sealed) and also make sure it's a good fit and the bell will stay in place without the brace screw fitted.

Once it's a good fit and all the keywork is back on the body I then refit the bell and seal the joint with a coating of epoxy to both surfaces to make sure it's both air and watertight as a leaking joint will also cause water to get in and collect under the joint ring which will in turn rust the screws on the joint ring and can also cause the lacquer to flake off.

Long story short - best to seal this joint than to leave it dry, and best to use epoxy rather than soft solder so it can come apart easily without the danger of scorched lacquer or any other soft soldered parts coming undone if it has to be taken apart. It was meant to be detachable, so keep it that way.

Years back I used to use beewax to seal the joint once a good fit had been achieved, but have gone to using epoxy as it makes for a much stronger joint. On Yamahas and Yanagisawas I'd use epoxy as that's what they'd have had originally.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Interesting conversation so far. I am finding it interesting the conversation between the use of solder vs epoxy. With the current job on my bench, I used solder. I remember another job about a year or so ago where I had a customer insist that I remove the epoxy on the seam and use solder instead.

I think in the hands of a capable repairman, a soldered joint can be removed as easily and without damage as a joint with epoxy.

Your choice of what to use is base on how to remove it later. This is fine as long as YOU are the person removing it. Some other repairman, might not realize what exact type of epoxy was used. Most capable repairman seem to recognize and understand a soldered joint and what to do. I am not saying that they wouldn't know how to handle an epoxied joint - just that the solder is a daily experience.

Also, I tend to gravitate towards solder for this decision. If you pulled a bow off a vintage Conn or Buescher, would you use epoxy to reattach? I understand that the removable bell idea is much different, however it is just for my piece of mind to use solder, however I am by no means dismissing the use of epoxy here. I use it when the customer specifies to do so.

Charlie
 

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It wouldn't matter what exact type of epoxy had been previously used as that will all get cleaned off before applying more to seal it.

On old Conns/Bueschers/etc with a soldered joint, it is only right that solder is used to reattach it with if it has had to come off as epoxy won't offer the same degree of structural integrity. An old silver plated Selmer Adolphe came to me for a full overhaul and this solder joint hadn't been done too well when it was made (only the upper part of the joint ring was soldered but the solder hadn't flowed through the entire joint - or maybe they just forgot and then silver plated it all) so the bell was hanging by just the thin metal bell brace (and the Eb keyguard had come away as well). Fortunately the joint was already undone as I needed the bell off to take the dents out the bow and this made access easier. Once it was all cleaned up I resoldered the bell back on and the instrument was absolutely rock solid as it should have been.

Epoxy wouldn't be the right material for this application on saxes built like this, although saying that, Yamaha 23, 25 and 275 altos and tenors are glued together here with no external means of clamping the joint.
 

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IME removing an epoxied joint at the body bow requires more heat and is less of a neat job afterewards. And the epoxy, be as hard as it may, doesn not stops the bell/bow from vibrating in a different way (wich solder does) I also think that the vibration of the walls aren't a big deal for the most part, but if the bow and bell are vibrating in a different frequency (asin "singin another note) it turns into a big deal.
With my present understanding of acoustics I find it difficult to believe that the natural resonant frequency of the brass itself has any effect whatever on the resonant frequency of the closed tube which in cooperation with the reed produces the pitch of the standing wave.

I am also very skeptical that joining the two tubes ie. body and bell section with a thin layer of hardened epoxy would result in a different brass resonant frequency of the bell section than a thin layer of solder. That said, I have a totally disassembled Mark VI alto with the old lacquer removed that would be perfect to conduct some experiments on to try to discover which is true.
 

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I wouldn't believe until I actually saw (as in heard) the buzz coming from this MKVII bell.

And as far as epoxy goes, well, it's plastic, not metal. I'm sure, it's a thin layer and everything. but it's not providing anywhere near the coherent "bridge" that soft solder would provide. If the 2 components glue system used to hold this parts together is strong and hard enough it will be more difficult to remove than solder. If not, well, it would not provide the torsional stability it should. It will leak after a week of heavy bell keys action (they twist the bell away the instrument)
 

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When it came to removing the bell from a MkVI tenor I previously serviced which had the bell suck on with epoxy, it would only come undone once the joint had been heated up as there was no way I could get it apart safely while it was cold. But once heated up the epoxy gave up its bond and the joint could be separated. The epoxy peeled off the join easily enough so there was very little cleaning up left to do.
 

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I wouldn't believe until I actually saw (as in heard) the buzz coming from this MKVII bell.

And as far as epoxy goes, well, it's plastic, not metal. I'm sure, it's a thin layer and everything. but it's not providing anywhere near the coherent "bridge" that soft solder would provide. If the 2 components glue system used to hold this parts together is strong and hard enough it will be more difficult to remove than solder. If not, well, it would not provide the torsional stability it should. It will leak after a week of heavy bell keys action (they twist the bell away the instrument)
But a stiffer material is a better carrier of vibrations than a softer one.
If you made a large disc out of soft solder and another out of resin and then tapped each of them with a mallet, I think you'd find the resin disc would ring rather better than the solder one.
I have a large block of lead and an equally large block of acryllic - when I tap each of them I get a 'thunk' out of the lead and a 'bonk' out of the plastic.

Regards,
 

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But a stiffer material is a better carrier of vibrations than a softer one.
If you made a large disc out of soft solder and another out of resin and then tapped each of them with a mallet, I think you'd find the resin disc would ring rather better than the solder one.
I have a large block of lead and an equally large block of acryllic - when I tap each of them I get a 'thunk' out of the lead and a 'bonk' out of the plastic.

Regards,
Funny, I don't notice any difference in my sound when sitting with the bell damped against my leg, or standing with the horn out in front of me.
 

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so how come no manufacturer has replaced the soldering processes in the horns for epoxi? Lacquers are epoxi nowadays. Solder is more complex to apply, it requires heat, skill, scraping afterwards and repolishing prior to lacquering, etc. Epoxy is surely cheaper, not only cheaper, less risk for the health of the workers involved. Requires way less training for a worker to use. No carcinogenic fumes. I could go on an on with the advantages.

WHY IT IS that no saxophone manufacturer uses epoxy on posts, ribs, connections and joints?

Stephen, your block argument is fallacious. dead soft lead bench is waaaaay softer than solder. Plus I don't use lead based soft solder, I use Copper/Zinc/Tin tri eutectic solder.

Lance, are you serious? YOU don't notice a difference in tone when playing with the horn muffled against you or just in the air pushing it away from your body?
 
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