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Let's face it ! Mouthpiece Facing Curve

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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I'm not sure where to start, but a few weeks ago I read something about clear plastic mouthpieces and remembered I had a couple in my collection that I had not played in years. Most likely because they were not convincing at the time. So I decided to give them another try and as they were really cheapy I could perhaps have a go at improving them!

How pretentious of me. :rolleyes: Well, again these were really cheap Gigliotti and they didn't convince me, although they were not as bad as I expected. They played but were a bit bland.

So I looked to my tools. I had done that kind of thing before, very carefully and respectfully. Using a flat piece of glass, 400 grit sandpaper and my Vandoren Glass Resurfacer that's rather good for finishing I think.

The result was rather nice. It didn't make these the mouthpieces of the century, or even the decade, but they improved.

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I even tried to thin the side rails but it's not easy to do as the side walls are both very thick and coming inwards.

The real question that keeps haunting me is what should that facing curve look like?

I mean it in mathematical terms. Is there a function that would describe it perfectly?

Many years ago, when I was in high school, I had an argument with one of my best friend who wanted to design sailing boats using math functions. "Nonsense", I replied then. But a few months later, the idea had worked its way into my tiny skull and I started to play with the concept. The following year I built a scheme using a combination of functions that enabled me to define a very convincing sailing boat hull all programmed into my HP41CV calculator. Later I reused the same scheme to write a VB program that draw and printed the hull in 2D and 3D.

There must be some very clever physics behind the reed vibrations and the influence of the facing curve to help it being the perfect tone generator that we expect it to be. So far, unless I'm wrong, this has been an empiric trial and error process. I would be curious to see if there are mathematical formulas describing these curves.

Trying to develop a system for sailing boat hulls for some time, I have been trying to get a feel for curves, that I have applied to other topics along the way ;), but it lead me to try and understand how the mouthpiece curves that produced good results looked like.

I found descriptions of short, medium and long facings, but that's far from enough. The question is how fast does the slope increases leaving the table and how it decreases reaching the tip. In other words, is it a continuous 'round/circle' like curve or a more complex one like the power of y, y being anything over 1. The larger the number, the longer it takes to leave the table...

So that was my initial step in my very early journey in the world of mouthpiece facing!
 

saxyjt

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Encouraged by this experience, I decided to treat another of my numerous cheap and unconvincing mouthpieces as a guinea pig for my experiments...

This time I took a metal tenor piece named Sound MAN T7. One I couldn't play when I started tenor and was very far from convincing as I tried it again a few days ago. It always looked to me as something was off on the facing curve anyways. The slope to the tip being to steep. Rather odd, but not right.

So I started to compare it with the other mouthpieces that I have and that work really well. My Brillart Tonalin refaced by @Phil , a PPT 7*, a Brancher J27, even a couple of Sharkbites that do play rather well. None of them are shaped that way. It's time to do something about it! :D

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It took me a few steps. Measuring, feeling, comparing visually. Feeling the curve rolling it on a flat surface. The steep curve until flattened caused the middle range to sound dull. Low notes sounded fine as well as high notes.

Again using a glass slate and 400 grit sandpaper, then my Vandoren Glass Resurfacer and finishing it with a small Dremel like rouge impregnated buffing wheel.

So that was another win even if it's not the best mouthpiece ever. I'll probably be tempted to open it a bit more as I'm not 100% happy with the tip rail.
 

John Setchell

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The 400 grit is for defacing, not for finishing. Theo Wanne mentions 400 to 320 grit for to flatten tables. It works well so far.
Hi Saxy. I recently trawled through some posts here and elsewhere on this subject, and came up with it being a Black Art! MP manufacturers are loath to give specific info on their curves, and if you can be bothered to measure-analyse sister MPs they have different curves and lengths!
One guy said his mouthpiece had a straight section on the rails curve but it played really well. He had it refaced and it was then rubbish!
All I’m prepared to do is keep the table clean & flat, and the rails same distance from the reed.
 

Colin the Bear

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I was told, or did I read that in days of old an american facing had straight rails and a french facing had curved.
 

saxyjt

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I agree about the Black Art. It's kinda like surfboard shapers... Another curvy artwork!

But in the end, it's about feeling. Once you get the idea... There's no truth. Just valid assumptions.
 

jbtsax

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In this video Theo Wanne at 1:22 shows a chart of facing curve numbers in his book taken from measurements of different makes and models of mouthpieces that play well. I don't want to come across like I am "hawking" Theo's products, I just think it is neat that he is sharing information that other mouthpiece makers and refacers keep close to their vests (or waist coats if they are British :)).

 

John Setchell

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In this video Theo Wanne at 1:22 shows a chart of facing curve numbers in his book taken from measurements of different makes and models of mouthpieces that play well. I don't want to come across like I am "hawking" Theo's products, I just think it is neat that he is sharing information that other mouthpiece makers and refacers keep close to their vests (or waist coats if they are British :)).

Yeah - Theo’s giving out curve parameters because he’s selling a DIY kit to produce them.
 

saxyjt

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Measuring is part of the difficulty. Theo's glass gauge appears to be a must have. Unless I can replicate something similar... I'm using feeler gauges to check the balance between sides. It's not 100% accurate but gives an indication.

The whole process is a bit hit and miss. But I'm enjoying it.
 

John Setchell

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Measuring is part of the difficulty. Theo's glass gauge appears to be a must have. Unless I can replicate something similar... I'm using feeler gauges to check the balance between sides. It's not 100% accurate but gives an indication.

The whole process is a bit hit and miss. But I'm enjoying it.
Microscope glass slides and a set of feeler gauges are a very cheap alternative!
 

saxyjt

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Here's another small project I started.

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A couple of very similar Selmer silver plated alto mouthpieces. One engraved Table B* and plays well. It is slightly shorter than the other one. But it is just the shank length that's different. It was not very nice when I baught it. The table was pitted with corrosion marks, so I cleaned it and gently remove those marks. That was years ago...

The other is a C*. I don't know why but it doesn't play as well as the B* no matter what reed I used. The facing looked shorter, more abrupt near the top. But on those fairly closed alto mouthpieces it's not so obvious as the variations are minimal compared with my previous tenor project that was a 7 tip.

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I'm not sure I'm done with that one. Then I have another couple of Selmer like these in tenor C* and D that also need some attention...
 

Phil

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If you have any real interest in making curves you can definitely use feeler gauges from the autoshop but keep in mind that the more you stack them the more variance you get. It very quickly becomes too ineffective. You need larger gauges for anything above .050.

Microscope slides are thin. They will flex. A good glass gauge is a must. There really are no cheap alternatives. You can do a DYI but it will likely cost more than a gauge and in the end lead to weak results and endless frustration. I think Theo sells them independent of the kit....I think, I dont know for sure.

Good tools are important. You can get away without a tip gauge before you can do without a glass gauge. I dont suggest you do that. I am just stressing the import of the basic tools.
 

Phil

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Bare brass is fine IMHO. The only way to repair plating is to replate using either dip method which is better or brush on method.
 

John Setchell

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No, the story of that is Giotto.
My sax teacher is also a killer jazz pianist. He can sign his name with a pen in both hands simultaneously - the left hand signature being mirror image. Says he doesn’t know how he does it, but it’s a great party piece and has earned him a few beers!
 
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