Saxophones Case refurbishment

I did this case renovation a while back. A few pictures posted here and there but nothing of the complete build.
Sometimes there are no options for a aftermarket replacement case. So this is what happens when you try to restore what you have. It’s very time consuming but in this case (pun intended )worth it.

This is a case to a 1933-ish H. Bettoney metal clarinet. Initial inspection it looked like it just needed a few spots of glue.


I’ve never done a complete overhaul of a case before. Previously I’ve had some success relining the interior of a flute case.




I’ve had extensive formal training in cabinet furniture/Millworks. Originally the trade I planned my future for. Things change. This project is well within my comfort zone. I actually started to giggle because this was just stupid. I’m only doing this because I can and need the case. I already know this is going to be 50 hours of work.
pushing the parts together or holding them by hand everything fits nicely. Yep I’ll just take a little bit apart and glue it back together. I’ll just peel back the tolex, glue and re-cover the area with the same paper


I have found it hard to get a case refurbishment that doesn't cost more than the vintage instrument in it. I'll be interested to understand how you do it.
I have found it hard to get a case refurbishment that doesn't cost more than the vintage instrument in it. I'll be interested to understand how you do it.
Very true and the reason it’s difficult to find anyone who will touch one at this level. Just think 50 hours at $10 an hour(£8.31) minimum wage here in Los Angeles is something like $15 an hour. $500/£415 is a tad much for most common folks. And that would be taking a loss on my end.
Stay tuned until the end;)
This kind of project makes more sense as hobby entertainment. I’m well stocked with tools so that wasn’t an expense. I think I spent less than $40 on materials. Realistically this was done over a two month period. A little bit at a time. Starting with well photographing all of it and researching the materials. This tired old case was beyond a couple squirts of glue. Thought I could make it look original.







while taking pictures I take stupid notes. Where something has cracked or where something is glued. Often indicators of failure or an indicator of where you don’t want glue and a hard spot rubbing on your instrument.

Anyone notice in the post #5 above the picture of fabric bunched in the end of the case. That little bit is the cushion for the end of the bell. Things that appear meaningless later play a big part. The lack of or the excess of interior materials can make or break the fit. Especially on a small case.

I ended up doing the interior of the flute case twice. The first material I used was nice fluffy and cushy. That little bit of extra bulk killed the fit. It looked beautiful but I couldn’t get the lid closed with the flute inside.
Doh ! 4mm extra thickness x 4 . That’s for the top bottom right left not including the ends. So the interior got 8mm shorter each direction. That was enough not to make it fit :doh:
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I hope you retained the vintage smell ;)
I actually did and you’ll hear about that towards the end:confused:
I also keep a case full of smell and inventory should you need any.
Although I am having a special closeout sale on some of my 1940 aromas. This weeks special is essence of green.

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I've just put a vintage Weltklang alto case in the "off to the tip" pile. Not worth saving... the Yany Super Pennsylvania came in it... undamaged.
Removing the interior tray started to paint a different picture. Just a few places the glued fabric was the only thing holding the case together.





every time I touch something more falls apart…..
Pay attention to how things are fabricated. This one nail and the two spikes in the side of tin part is all that holds it on. The nail is pushed through and then bent over to secure. Pulling the tin off from the outside would have split the wood even worse.


Photographing and take notes each step of the way. This helps on projects that you may have to come back three months later. This thing stinks like the bog of eternal stench. Every scrap goes into a bag and stays outside.
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I got to the point where I could go shop materials and start putting it back together. The original tolex covering was not available at the time in a alligator/crocodile/lizard finish. I did find some crocodile vinyl. At more than triple the thickness but I think it can work. It was also on sale for $13 a yard (36”x48”) I bought 2 yards. I wanted a little extra if I made a mistake.
The gold velvet I came close with a crush pattern and color. This was purchased at a material store for $6 a yard (36”x48”) Bought 1 yard.




With the material selected comes the next task. Prepping the surface. My thoughts were to peel off the old material and glue the new materials back on. Easy enough.

The Tolex is applied with a water soluble paste similar to wallpaper paste. Easy enough to remove with a little steam. My wife gave me the blessing to use her steam iron. Worst case scenario she gets a new one.
So there I was with the steam iron peeling the covering off.….. The more I peeled the more this thing fell apart. Stupidity overcomes reasoning. ( I’ve already invested in the materials too !)

So after a couple of hours of steaming and then washing the parts (Hot water in the kitchen sink) this is what I ended up with.


Noticed that the hardware has been removed. Before taking the picture above I had to remove the split rivets holding the hardware in. It’s difficult to get these little buggers out. After all they are made to be permanent and sturdy.


In the picture below I’m using a awl to lift the piece out of the wood. I’m trying to prevent cutting too deep with the Dremel cutoff tool.

With a flat blade I gently lift up on the piece just enough to gain access to the head.
Gently work the piece out. Not all of the peened over heads cut off cleanly.




Hot water from the kettle and a scouring pad was next.

I wasn’t concerned about the wood getting wet and warping. I can deal with that later.


With all the parts cleaned and dried this is what I ended up with.

The wood used throughout the case is common. likely Basswood. It’s very soft. It’s a wood commonly used for carving arts such as cuckoo clocks. I’ve selected an every day generic white glue(used Elmers) for reassembly.
I chose this over a resin carpenters glue for its flexibility. I don’t want the joints to be brittle. I can also dilute it a little bit with water for better flow.

Starting with the instrument tray as a test. I repaired a few basic splits.
**In the future I will thin the glue a little. This will make it easier to penetrate cracks by blowing the glue in with an air hose. Also the glue is easy to clean up with a wet cloth. It’s not uncommon for other adhesives not to stick to it….. Thinking down the road !
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of testing adhesive and material compatibility or performance !!!


For the full first full-size part I’ve selected the section on the right.. One split and the right angle part has become partially detached

I applied the glue from the bottle tip (versus brushing)and used an air hose to blow it from the inside out. Full penetration.

Using a wet paper towel I wiped off the excess. Work quickly!
Prior to gluing. I inspected each component for being square or flat. This part I’m working on was slightly warped. I worked out each step of the process plan prior to any gluing. I set my portable work stand up with a flat board on top clamped to the work surface. Covered the board with cooking parchment paper. I don’t want parts to stick to the work surface. don’t use wax paper. Any residual will prevent all adhesive from bonding. Extremely difficult if not impossible to remove. Parchment paper can be removed with a wet sponge gently rubbing.
The wood pieces are very thin so clamping is out of the question. I only needed to hold in position with a little pressure. Brick and tape make great fabricating choices.

After wiping off the excess glue. I sprayed the part overall with a water bottle. Quickly placing it on my work surface to let dry.

The table clamp is holding the part long direction to correct a warp. The deadweight is holding the joint together. The tape is pulling one section that was a little warped and needed more joint pressure sideways. I let this sit for a day.

A little glue oozing out of the joint is a good sign. A quick wipe with the wet cloth cleans that off.
A little bit at a time I glued together each loose section. The goal was to make the biggest pieces as solid as possible. Then attach the ends & sides. Squaring as a final component.
The excess glue was wiped off. Joints clamped /held using masking tape.




not everything needs to be held with a vise clamp. Pressure is pressure. String, rubber bands, clothes pins, tape or deadweight works well.
Here’s the custom clamps I made for the upcoming final gluing
rubber band
twist tie
Popsicle stick
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The next steps of assembly are a tad more risky. The perimeter of the top and bottom edges is very thin. Just enough clamping pressure to hold it together and not break it. At the same time it needs to be square. My 1 inch clamps are just enough to hold blocks On the inside. A thick shim of cardboard on the outside reduces the chance of impression from the clamps. With the clamps is it just right I put a rubber band around the lever. Each clamp has its position and indexed.

This assembly needs to be done in one swing. Top two sides in the front. The back was still attached. Once again I used parchment paper to prevent the support/squaring blocks from sticking.

The orange band clamp pulls in on all four corners. The bridge piece midway keeps the top flat and bridges the front and back to prevent warping or a bow.


The chopsticks with rubber bands provide downward force or squeeze from the top to the bottom areas. The twist tie/popsicle sticks give me a little pressure on the radius. That top edge is only 1.5 mm thick ! Lots of clamps with little pressure.
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