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DIY (partial?) repad on cheap but useful alto

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My alto is a late '70s or early '80s Corton-branded Amati that I've had since the mid '80s.
It's a perfectly good horn for my purposes and I don't really have any reason to replace it with a posher one, but it's starting to suffer from difficulty to play the bell notes. I suspect a slight leak (or leaks) somewhere, and a few of the pads have gone hard, so I reckon at least a few of them are going to need replacing to improve things.

Obviously the thing is worth sod all, so I'm tempted to buy a cheap set of pads and replace them where needed - I don't really want to throw much money at it by having it repadded professionally.

Are the cheap pad sets any good (and how many would be likely to fit the Amati?), or would I better off buying individual ones to fit the dead ones?

I remember repadding (with my mum) a cheap clarinet I had in the '70s using a generic pad set and evostick and it played really well afterwards, but obviously a lot of the pads on the alto are bigger than clarinet ones, so presumably more sensitive to alignment.

So, realistically, what are the chances of a DIY replacement of a few pads being a good idea? Or would I just be opening a can of worms?
 

Pete Thomas

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So, realistically, what are the chances of a DIY replacement of a few pads being a good idea? Or would I just be opening a can of worms?
I've had variable results. If the horn is in decent mechanical shape apart from the pads (keycups align to toneholes, rods don't have excess play) then theoretically if you are OK at DIY generally you should be OK. Put it this way, it might be a bit of trial and error but you can't fatally break anything. (Well you may burn some lacquer off fatally of course)

I'd get the Haynes manual though, well worth it.

I remember there were some Chinese pads that we saw at Frankfurt when I was there with @Stephen Howard and I think he rated them as OK. But whether they still are, or you can just buy a few and have them arrive the same size as you ordered I can't say.

I think he or one of our other techs will probably advise.

But yes, I think if your horn has not enough value tom warrant a proper overhaul, then replacing a few pads is the way to go and you get to learn how to set a pad. Also how not to set a pad.
 
OP
DartmoorHedgehog
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255
Thanks @Pete Thomas - I'd say this sax is in very good mechanical condition, and generally plays really well apart from the bottom notes being quite a challenge, which is why I'm wondering if I can improve it myself without too much expense.

The bell notes have been a bit reluctant to sound for a long time, but it's only been played at home for years so I just worked round it. But it looks like it's going to see more use in the rock band I'm playing (mostly guitar) in, hence the interest in trying to sort it out.

But even in its good condition it's probably only worth £150 or so, so it's a bit of a dilemma - don't want to throw too much money at a cheap, albeit not bad, alto when a tenor would probably be more appropriate for the rock n roll stuff anyway. But I have far too many instruments already, so if I can get the alto working better for reasonable outlay it would at least score me some wife points :) And I've had it so long it would be a shame to get rid of it now.

I do have Stephen Howard's book, and I would say I'm usually quite good with mechanical stuff, but I've never fiddled with saxophone pads before...
 

Stephen Howard

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It'll be a can of worms - but it's doable.

First up, forget about Evosticking the pads in. You might have got away with it on that clarinet, but it's unlikely to work on a sax.
The sax manual has a lengthy section on padding, which details all the things you're likely to need - but at the very minimum you're going to need some heat-soluble glue for the pads (shellac or hot melt glue) and a means of heating the key cups (a gas torch). And some pads, of course.

You can pick up a gas gun quite cheaply, and you can get by with hot melt glue sticks from any DIY store. The Chinese pads I saw (and used) were very good for the money, but I can't speak to the quality and price these days - but a few others here have used them, and you can search the forum for their comments. You'll likely be best off just buying the pads you need rather than a set.
 

Clivey

Senior Member
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969
Ok. I have found that using the search for sheep leather saxophone pads gives the best results on eBay re bang for buck, this also extends to sets without resonators for real vintage vibes, but I also reckon once they catch on to this that they will start sell the psudo leather under this description, so basically @ around 6 quid a set it's the deal of the year but don't blame me when they ship you plastic.
 
OP
DartmoorHedgehog
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255
Get a leak light first. You may get away with just some adjustments and no need to replace pads, depending on what you find.
Yes I should have mentioned that - I'll check for leaks first, but noticing the few pads that have gone hard prompted posting this thread to see if it was something worth getting into or whether to leave alone. If I find a leak or two and can fix them without replacing pads then that's a bonus, but I suspect sooner or later one of those pads is going to cause trouble even if they aren't yet.

First up, forget about Evosticking the pads in. You might have got away with it on that clarinet, but it's unlikely to work on a sax.
No, I won't do that I promise! I mentioned that mainly to illustrate the fact that I didn't think I'd get away with that on the sax... I've got your book, so I've seen how it's supposed to be done :) (That £25 clarinet, hard rubber, faded to green all over, evosticked pads, lasted me until grade 4 as far as I remember)

I have found that using the search for sheep leather saxophone pads gives the best results on eBay re bang for buck
Thanks for the tip
 

jbtsax

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Please be aware that you can't buy a "generic set of pads" Chinese or other wise for an alto sax and expect them to fit. All makes and models have different size key cups. An exception would be if you purchase a set from Music Medic for a specific instrument since they have a good reputation and will replace any pads that don't fit free of charge. [Edit I just checked their website and they don't show that make on their list.]

To save money, the best thing to do would be to determine which pads need replacing, remove those keys and their pads and measure the inside diameter of the keycups to the nearest 1/2 millimeter. Also measure the thickness of the original pads to match as closely as possible. The most common sizes are .160" and .185". Good luck with your project.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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My 2 cents, after doing it a few times...

First, to avoid messing with overheating lacquer or other adjacent pieces, use an air torch. I can provide details of affordable models like the one MM sells.

For pads, if you aren't in a hurry and tight on budget you may go the Chinese route and order the specific sizes. They have kangaroo pads too now. I'll order some soon to try them out on my next project.

I'm not sure what's the best source for shellac. I'm going to try some I found on Amazon since the Chinese supplier's shipping fees for that item is ridiculous!

A leak light is a must have, obviously. Another thing you must have us patience. Don't rush it. Be prepared to adjust the result a few times.

It's not an exact science. But you can't do it without aiming at perfection. IMHO.

So if you feel like a leak buster, go for it!
 

Pete Thomas

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I would argue that leak lights may not be absolutely necessary. Using a Rizla paper may in some circumstances actually yield better results.
 

Stephen Howard

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1,855
To save money, the best thing to do would be to determine which pads need replacing, remove those keys and their pads and measure the inside diameter of the keycups to the nearest 1/2 millimeter. Also measure the thickness of the original pads to match as closely as possible. The most common sizes are .160" and .185". Good luck with your project.
If memory serves - and I'm sure it does* - the Amati horns take a nominal 4mm pad...which is as near to .160 as makes very little difference.
The .185 (4.5mm) pad will lead to no end of problems in no short order.

*Or it could just be that I have a sodding great bag full of Amati pads under the workbench.
 
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Stephen Howard

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1,855
I would argue that leak lights may not be absolutely necessary. Using a Rizla paper may in some circumstances actually yield better results.
You'll want a leaklight on a Czech-built horn - a Rizla will be of little use...and you'd probably have better luck with an old Christmas card.
They made them ol' toneholes wavy back in the day...
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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3,891
If memory serves - and I'm sure it does* - the Amati horns take a nominal 4mm pad...which is as near to .160 as makes very little difference.
The .185 (4.5mm) pad will lead to no end of problems in no short order.
Would 4.2mm be too thick for the job then?

Or it could just be that I have a sodding great bag full of Amati pads under the workbench.
Does it sound like an offer, or is my English rusty?

I would argue that leak lights may not be absolutely necessary. Using a Rizla paper may in some circumstances actually yield better results.
Yeah, sure, but get a leak light! :rolleyes: Seeing is believing. I thing it's quicker to do the initial adjustment. Afterwards, paper might be better... If you have the patience to go round the toneholes feeling the resistance.
 

Stephen Howard

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1,855
Would 4.2mm be too thick for the job then?
Possibly. Better to go thin than thick. You can adjust for a thinner pad far more easily than a thick one.
To be perfectly honest I've never bothered with pad thicknesses - I just fit what fits. That's the advantage of having a stock from which to draw upon. You'd probably get away with 4,2...but much more than that and you'd be chancing your luck. And you don't wanna have to bend any keys on an Amati 'cos they're as stiff as hell.

Does it sound like an offer, or is my English rusty?
I couldn't, in all conscience, sell such pads as a going concern - but hey, if someone wants a set and bungs me the sizes they can have a set for the price of my time in sorting through them and posting them. Probably £15. Come in and sort them yerself and it's the price of a couple of bottles of beer (£5).
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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3,891
Possibly. Better to go thin than thick. You can adjust for a thinner pad far more easily than a thick one.
To be perfectly honest I've never bothered with pad thicknesses - I just fit what fits. That's the advantage of having a stock from which to draw upon. You'd probably get away with 4,2...but much more than that and you'd be chancing your luck. And you don't wanna have to bend any keys on an Amati 'cos they're as stiff as hell.
Between this and your offer, Chinese pads are probably not an option. Their thickness is theoretically 4.2, BUT I wouldn't trust them to be that or less... Quite the contrary, in my experience.

So @DartmoorHedgehog , I think a (short) trip east appears to be in order to collect a few pads and meet one of our café pillars!*

* I would have never dared saying the same if instead of café, the forum was "Bar Saxophone". I don't know if it translate, but in french a 'Pilier de bar' is more than just a 'bar pillar'... It is someone who spends so much time in a bar that he looks like he's holding the bar.
 
OP
DartmoorHedgehog
Messages
255
Thanks for all the replies folks.

I've got an LED strip that I can use as a leak light but (sod's law) no time to look at it at the moment. When I get a chance to look at it in the next few days then if it turns out to be the dried-up pads that are leaking I'll take one out and look for suitable replacements - hopefully it won't be many because most of the pads are still feeling nice and supple.

@griff136 - It plays perfectly easily down to C# (I think - although I may have just got used to working round any slight problems I suppose), then C and below are very difficult. I probably should just get over the low value and give it to you for a service (after all, you worked wonders on my baritone) but as long as I don't do anything destructive I don't think I've got anything to lose by having a look myself.
 

Pete Thomas

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@griff136 - It plays perfectly easily down to C# (I think - although I may have just got used to working round any slight problems I suppose), then C and below are very difficult. I probably should just get over the low value and give it to you for a service (after all, you worked wonders on my baritone) but as long as I don't do anything destructive I don't think I've got anything to lose by having a look myself.
Have you checked the G#/C# linkage mechanism adjustment?
 
OP
DartmoorHedgehog
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255
Have you checked the G#/C# linkage mechanism adjustment?
I don't think it's got that link - pretty sure I've looked before after I read something about that being a potential problem and neither of my saxes had it. But I'll have another check when I have time (and get Stephen Howard's book out again - it's been some time since I read it)

Anyway, all suggestions are welcome :)
 

griff136

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're checking the G# regulation the easiest way I find to determine if it is working correctly is to play a sustained low D. And whilst playing, operate the G# key to see if there is a difference in sound, or resistance. If there is then you'll need to adjust the regulating screw on the arm above the G# key cup
 
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