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Discussion Starter #1
This topic has been discussed in other threads about sax repair and there are many different conclusions drawn. A common one is the tech is just trying to "rip you off". Another is the tech doesn't know what he is talking about. I am writing this to give the "other side" of the conversation.

A good analogy is going into a garage to have your car checked, and the mechanic saying your car needs a new set of tires. The old tires are doing their job and getting you from point A to point B so why would you need to invest in new ones? Tires like saxophone pads wear out. When they reach a certain point they are no longer dependable. In the case of the tires on your car they get to a point where they are no longer safe. Worn out pads don't make your saxophone "unsafe" to play, but they do have negative effects the longer you play on them. When the leather becomes "dry and crusty" as I like to call it, the pad no longer makes an airtight seal over the tonehole, and it becomes next to impossible to "regulate" with other pads in the same condition. The player sensing this unconsciously uses more finger pressure to get the low notes to "speak" which in turn bends the keycups causing even bigger leaks, which makes the player squeeze even harder, and the cycle continues.

This is not an uncommon situation. Techs see it all the time in their shops. Pads that still look ok to the player or customer can be in the condition mentioned above. An experienced tech can spot pads that are way past their "sell by date" by just inserting a leak light and closing a few keys on the stack watching how the surface of the pad responds to the pressure. Rather than trying to rip customers off recommending new pads, I believe the majority of experienced techs want to make your instrument as dependable as possible practice after practice and gig after gig. They want it to play at the level it is capable of---especially if they are a player themselves. The best makes and models of saxophones in the world if they are not in dependable and reliable condition, how good are they really to the working musician? In my mind that is what customers are buying when they go to a repair shop. Every instrument that goes out the door takes that tech's professional reputation with it which is why most want to turn out the best work possible.

I can't tell anyone that charlatans who just want to make a quick buck aren't out there. Of course there are, but there are also experienced techs who chose their profession because they love music and working on the instruments that make it possible, and they really care about your instrument as much as you do, and in some cases even more (seeing how some players take care of them).
 

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I guess we never stop learning... That was a brilliant explanation, thank you for that !

Hopefully, the good word will spread and all the techs will take 2 minutes to explain (some of) the reasons of what they recommend to do... ;)
I know mine does, and I really appreciate it ! (but I have kind of a curious mind, so I don't leave him much choice either as I ask all sorts of questions...) :D
 

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As I technician I would like to add to this discussion. While a repad, or mechanical overhaul is one of the more expensive jobs a tech does, they are also one of the least profitable from an hourly point of view. The smaller jobs pay much better for the time involved. So don't always think that someone is trying to rip you off. That doesn't mean that there are some out there that do just that, but for the most part its not the case. We can usually make our stated hourly rates off of the small jobs, but that is rarely the case with repads. Repads done right are very time consuming.
 

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I trust the tech I use, and if he told me that my sax needed a complete repad then I would ask him to do it. But he never has said that, and I doubt if he ever will. When I take my sax for a service, he simply replaces any pads that he thinks need replacing. I don't see why it would ever be necessary to replace all of the pads at the same time.

I understand the reason for doing a full repad on a recently-acquired second hand sax that hasn't had any attention for the last 30 years, but I don't get the point of a full repad for a sax that is in reasonable condition. Can someone explain why one would do this?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I trust the tech I use, and if he told me that my sax needed a complete repad then I would ask him to do it. But he never has said that, and I doubt if he ever will. When I take my sax for a service, he simply replaces any pads that he thinks need replacing. I don't see why it would ever be necessary to replace all of the pads at the same time.

I understand the reason for doing a full repad on a recently-acquired second hand sax that hasn't had any attention for the last 30 years, but I don't get the point of a full repad for a sax that is in reasonable condition. Can someone explain why one would do this?
In order to answer that question, it helps to categorize the pads on a saxophone into groups: The stack pads: C, B, Bis, A, G, G#, F#, F, E, D. The "independent key pads" High E, high F# (if it has one), F palm, Eb palm, D palm, side C, side Bb, Fork F#, Low Eb. The large "Safe Independent Key Pads": Low C, low C#, low B, low Bb.

The stack pads (except G) require "regulation" to work properly. This simply means that when one pad closes it must also close one or more other pads. The B closes the small C. The A closes both the C and the Bis. The F, E, and D close the F# which in turn closes the G# and the Bis. It is less than optimal to put a new "fresh" pad that has not been "worn in" or "broken in" next to old pads in the stack keys if one is to have regulation that is stable and consistent. When at least half of the stack pads are old and hard, it makes sense to replace all 10 of them and start fresh.

The independent key pads can be swapped out as often as required---especially the D, Eb, and F palms, high F# and E, and the low Eb which get the most abuse. If one takes the time and expense to replace the 10 stack key pads, it also makes sense to put new pads in those 6 keys. That brings us to 16 or 70% - 73% of the 22 or 23 pads on a saxophone. A good argument can be made that if one is putting new fresh pads in 70 - 73% of the saxophone's keys it makes sense to also replace the remaining 6 or 7 so that they will all look and function the same. In addition, those remaining keys will come off the saxophone, the body will be cleaned inside and out, the tone holes will be checked, the hinge tubes and rods will be cleaned and oiled, and fresh grease put on the pivot screws. Hopefully the key work will also be tightened and key noise addressed as needed as part of the service.
 

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Often you can get by for a long time doing patchwork, and because it pays about 3x as much per hour, as a tech we love you for it. It is when it starts to become a regular thing, that you may consider a repad or mechanical overhaul. I have been playing on the same set of pads for about 10 years now(I did have to change the neck cork, and decided to replace my neck pad, but it was still good), and I play in a band and practice and gig regularly, but I did a mechanical overhaul on my sax before I started playing it, because I wanted to see what it was capable of. (love my Martin) When is the last time all of the hinge rods(steels), and hine tubes were cleaned and reoiled? After awhile dust sticks to the oil on you key mechanism and starts to work its way into the hinge tubes, just a very small amount over time, and that little bit slowly wears away the rods and tubes until they become loose or even oval. Part of a proper overhaul is getting that key mechanism as tight or usually tighter than it was when the instrument was new, and that makes a big difference in the way the instrument plays, because the tighter the key work, the more level and centered the key cups and the more level the tone holes are, the more precisely the entire mechanism can be adjusted. I'm sure your tech does the best he can with what is in front of him and trying to do what you as the customer wants, most of us do, but he may be able to do more if he was doing a overhaul.Maybe he just doesn't want to do one, or figures it's not what you want, who knows. I would suggest in the least making sure that you sax is taken apart, cleaned and all of the rods and tubes cleaned and lubricated from time to time in addition to the other repairs needed for a play condition. It is possible to do piece work and keep a instrument playing well for a very long time if its done right, but getting a quality overhaul done from time to time can make all the difference in the world.
 

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In other words, the economics is behind charging $50 for changing three pads in less than an hour vs $1000 for a 40 hour overhaul?

those numbers sound ballpark?
 

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Saxoclese, Thank you For your time making a Great post. Somewhere in another post I’ve mentioned serving an apprenticeship to a journeyman. Every process has reason. That’s what’s missing in the teachings on this form. Diagnostic, process, tools technique and approaches to repairs can be debated in many different ways. But reasoning,the power of observing to make an initial decision, the why, you stated well. Great post. Thank you
 

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I trust the tech I use, and if he told me that my sax needed a complete repad then I would ask him to do it. But he never has said that, and I doubt if he ever will. When I take my sax for a service, he simply replaces any pads that he thinks need replacing. I don't see why it would ever be necessary to replace all of the pads at the same time.
I have often had the same experience with a few different techs who replace or reseat a few pads that are questionable and leave everything that is working fine. There have been times that I have had a repad when it has reached a point where there are pads of varying age and rather than 2-3 pads every time I come in we have chosen to start from scratch and have everything at the same age and wear.
 

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In order to answer that question, it helps to categorize the pads on a saxophone into groups: The stack pads: C, B, Bis, A, G, G#, F#, F, E, D. The "independent key pads" High E, high F# (if it has one), F palm, Eb palm, D palm, side C, side Bb, Fork F#, Low Eb. The large "Safe Independent Key Pads": Low C, low C#, low B, low Bb.

The stack pads (except G) require "regulation" to work properly. This simply means that when one pad closes it must also close one or more other pads. The B closes the small C. The A closes both the C and the Bis. The F, E, and D close the F# which in turn closes the G# and the Bis. It is less than optimal to put a new "fresh" pad that has not been "worn in" or "broken in" next to old pads in the stack keys if one is to have regulation that is stable and consistent. When at least half of the stack pads are old and hard, it makes sense to replace all 10 of them and start fresh.

The independent key pads can be swapped out as often as required---especially the D, Eb, and F palms, high F# and E, and the low Eb which get the most abuse. If one takes the time and expense to replace the 10 stack key pads, it also makes sense to put new pads in those 6 keys. That brings us to 16 or 70% - 73% of the 22 or 23 pads on a saxophone. A good argument can be made that if one is putting new fresh pads in 70 - 73% of the saxophone's keys it makes sense to also replace the remaining 6 or 7 so that they will all look and function the same. In addition, those remaining keys will come off the saxophone, the body will be cleaned inside and out, the tone holes will be checked, the hinge tubes and rods will be cleaned and oiled, and fresh grease put on the pivot screws. Hopefully the key work will also be tightened and key noise addressed as needed as part of the service.
Another point is that in order to get to the stack pads you've generally got to take the bell keys off; depending on the construction of the horn you may need to take off some of the side keys too. On some of my horns there are places where I really need to take off a palm key in order to be able to see all around a stack key when using a leak light, too. By the time you've taken the majority of the stuff off anyway, the additional time to replace those additional pads can't be very much - especially since palm keys require basically no regulation and bell keys are generally pretty easy to do.

All that said, I tend to be in the "fix one or two pads as we go along" group, but I certainly recognize the value of doing the whole thing in one fell swoop even if I don't do it.
 

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It's nice to have everything done at once if you can swing it in my opinion. That way most the pads and regulating materials wear together. I think when pads get replace one at a time over the years, what happens is pads get replaced to fit into a situation that is a little out of whack overall and it gets more out of whack the more time goes on. Nothing feels as great as a good pad job that has just settled in.
 

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In the worst case, it'll save you yet another trip to your tech who just happens to be overloaded because it is the pre-Christmas season - or he may have moved and the cost of pads has tripled in the last 3 years --- should have done it then, arghh..
 

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Such good posts that I have nothing more to add, or even argue with! :)
 

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Just for Devil's Advocate sake....I am gonna make a counter-argument, here:

If you sax is still 'playing fine' for you, the owner....besides whatever particular issue you have brought it in for.....it doesn't 'need' a repad.

Sorry...but....it doesn't.

While I understand there comes a point when a horn has so many small maladies that a full disassembly is required to get to everything.

There's a difference between making an owner happy that his/her horn is playing quite satisfactorily.....and a tech's opinion that " it is my job as a professional to get it to play at its maximum potential".

A horn can play quite reliably without it necessarily 'requiring' it be 'whole-hogged' to a level which makes the tech proud.

Just sayin'. A good tech knows his/her clients...knows what they want and need, and probably knows the financial situation and limitations each customer has. And will work with them accordingly.

Insisting a horn needs XXX work without taking into account these considerations does not, to me, reflect a tech who cares about their customer and their horn, as much as the customer does.

Like the auto mechanic analogy, at the end of the day the mechanic wants you to roll out of their shop with a vehicle that is functioning well,
and perhaps some information on what might need to be done a bit down the road.

So no, if a tech insists on a repad they aren't a charlatan...but IMHO they also may well not be showing selfless concern with what is the best for your given situation, either.

(*And that I have stated this does not make me a hack, a repairer who doesn't go the whole 9 yards, a repairer who cuts corners, a repairer who doesn't truly know how to assess and bring a horn up to 'fully dialed-in mode', or a repairer who doesn't truly have concern for their customers and is doing them no favors).
 

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Good points Jay. I do think it takes a better/more experienced tech to be able to take what's there and make it work, vs starting from scratch.
 

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It's always crucial to find a tech you trust. In high school, I had a great tech I'd still trust with my life--my neck strap broke my junior year and my alto hit the floor bell first, and she charged me $200 for all the work needed to get the work needed to get my horn in playing shape. Fast forward about 8 years: I'm in grad school, and I play the same alto--I wouldn't trade it for the world--and I haven't had any maintenance on it in 5 years. I take it in for an overhaul for my new tech to tell me "this doesn't need an overhaul; it'll cost maybe $400 to get everything in good adjustment for the next few years." Two weeks later, it's done and costs $200 less than estimated. In between, the tech who saw my first tenor when I was in my undergrad wasn't nearly so kind, so honest, or to be honest, as good as their job as the other two. Beacock's Music bought out their shop last year, and I have no doubt they're better for it. A couple of friends are the new techs there; I trust them far more than the last one.
 

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Another point is... By the time you've taken the majority of the stuff off anyway, the additional time to replace those additional pads can't be very much
I never really understood this approach and I guess it might be different for different repairers. The time to remove those keys is usually a drop in the ocean compared with the time of replacing the pads and the additional work that is (more often than not) required to do that. e.g. Removing a palm key takes literally seconds, but at least a few minutes to replace its pad. Same for the bell keys, though they can take quite a bit longer to regulate, not to mention the relatively high cost of large pads, which is significant but not even the main part of the cost of this.

Unless there are stuck screws or something unpredictable like that, disassembling a significant part of the instrument, or even all of it, is really not a big deal and rarely a major part of almost any repair. So much that I consider very few repairs as worth doing only because "I'm disassembling it anyway". Most of the time it's the opposite, if a repair is worth doing, disassembling a few more keys is no big deal, almost insignificant.
 

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Here is a story I heard from my tech. He once worked in a chain music store, a customer dropped a Yamaha top of the line soprano and the body is bent. His colleague, another tech quote the customer $2000 to fix the body bent, some dents, and change a few pads. The customer agrees. The tech spent a few minutes, bang the saxophone and viola, the bent is fixed and all keys are sealed. But the tech still charges the customer $2000 because the customer agrees to that amount, and the tech work with a commission.

My tech now worked for another chain music store and he got the same paid no matter how big or small of the job. That takes the conflict of interest out of the equation. Even I said those pads look old, he always say they don't need to be replaced as long as it seals. Almost all the saxophones I took to him has small jobs done and out the door for a couple hundred dollars. Versus I tried another small shop owned by the technician, almost every horn I took there, the answer is it needs full repad, and it will take $2000-$3000. Assuming $80 / hr, that is 30-40 hours of work. Man, does it really take 5 days, 8 hrs a day to do a repad?


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Here is a story I heard from my tech. He once worked in a chain music store, a customer dropped a Yamaha top of the line soprano and the body is bent. The tech quote the customer $2000 to fix the body bent, some dents, and change a few pads. The customer agrees. The tech spent a few minutes, bang the saxophone and viola, the bent is fixed and all keys are sealed. But the tech still charges the customer $2000 because the customer agrees to that amount, and the tech work with a commission.
Are you still using that tech? He sounds like a crook to me. The customer should have refused to pay. I doubt that he had agreed to anything making the initial estimate binding no matter how the job turned out. Let the store claim breach of contract -- one defense would be fraud (knowingly false estimate). In the end, the customer would pay based on quantum meruit, i.e., the true value of the work received.
 

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Here is a story I heard from my tech. He once worked in a chain music store, a customer dropped a Yamaha top of the line soprano and the body is bent. The tech quote the customer $2000 to fix the body bent, some dents, and change a few pads. The customer agrees. The tech spent a few minutes, bang the saxophone and viola, the bent is fixed and all keys are sealed. But the tech still charges the customer $2000 because the customer agrees to that amount, and the tech work with a commission.

My tech now worked for another chain music store and he got the same paid no matter how big or small of the job. That takes the conflict of interest out of the equation. Even I said those pads look old, he always say they don't need to be replaced as long as it seals. Almost all the saxophones I took to him has small jobs done and out the door for a couple hundred dollars. Versus I tried another small shop owned by the technician, almost every horn I took there, the answer is it needs full repad, and it will take $2000-$3000. Assuming $80 / hr, that is 30-40 hours of work. Man, does it really take 5 days, 8 hrs a day to do a repad?


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Did this really happen? A repair that was likely half the original price of the horn? Reading between the lines, it sounds like you are making the point that large music chains see this as a profit center. I guess I'm fortunate, I have 2-3 techs I can go to in my area...that is a ludicrous repair quote.
 
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