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My first overhaul

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
One of these days I decided I'd give my alto, a Vito YAS21 (Yamaha stencil from the 70's) an overhaul. It was bought from a forum member quite recently. It wasn't that it was absolutely needed, as the sax was in pretty OK playing condition, I just thought that if I screwed it up it would not be a terrible loss, but if I did a good job the reward would be a pretty nice sax.

The patient relaxing on our sofa:



The old pads were pretty grimy, but still functional. I removed all of them anyway, except for the low D# and neck octave pad, which looked like they were replaced very recently, and the LH palm D and D#, which looked very uninteresting to replace and still felt quite supple.

I removed pretty much all of the corks and felts. Not because they needed to be replaced, but because I wanted the challenge of setting up the action and key heights from scratch, no clues from the previous setup.

I started by disassembling all the keywork (except for the LH palm keys), a couple of times bumping into the issue of having to remove something else before I could get to the keys I wanted. I removed the pads, then cleaned up everything with acetone and naphtha. Boy, there sure was a lot of old oil in the mechanism.

Here are some of the bits I removed:



After I had gone through the keys, I started cleaning the body, which was quite a bit easier with everything (except for the springs) out of the way.

Then I started fitting back the keys one at a time and dry fitting the pads (checking they align with the tone hole before applying shellac). Cut a couple of cardboard shims here and there, had to bend the small left hand Bb key because it was so far off. Did not bend anything else, compensated with shims and trimming the back of the pads everywhere I could.

Blowtorch time. I have a big bag of natural coloured flake shellac for gluing accordion and concertina reeds, and the small crumbs of shellac on the bottom of the bag worked perfectly here. Melts down evenly very quickly.

To my surprise, most of the pads seated very nicely with very little effort. The big pads were by far the most difficult ones; and the A pad, but I'll get back to that later. Now I understand why a baritone repad costs so much. The low B and Bb pads were a pain on the alto - setting the lower stack and bell pads on a baritone must be a real tough one.

I double-checked all pads with a leak light after getting them right, then let it stand for a night.

That was Friday evening, so I went right back to work when I woke up on Saturday. I was so anxious to get to setting up the action I did not bother to check the pads were still seating perfectly, and started putting the keys back on the instrument. I'm sure the real technicians reading this are chuckling right now. I thought that if one or two of them had started leaking overnight I could adjust them easily even with the keys fitted.

So I started with the top stack, getting the A and Bb pads to close at the same time. I removed the front F mechanism at this stage, since it was in the way. I didn't bother with the Bb link to the lower stack yet.

Then to the lower stack. With pure fool's luck I had managed quite a perfect seat on the G# pad - at this point I realized how critical it was since it was connected to pretty much everything - C#, B, Bb, Aux F (which in turn is connected to F, E/F# and D). I spent quite a bit of time setting the links between Aux F and the lower stack keys - I can only imagine how painful this would be without the adjustment screws on the other side of the sax. A word of thanks to whoever put these these little screws here, I appreciate it:



Then I set the LH table keys. I guess this should have been done before the lower stack, but I didn't have any problems doing it this way either.

Then back to the bathroom with the leak light to make sure everything was fine. Nope. Two pads leaking, and they really just had to be the Aux F and A. Perhaps the G# pad would have been even worse, but apart from that this was more or less the two worst places to have leaks. Not only that, the leak in the Aux F pad was on the backside, absolutely impossible to reach with the keywork in place. Because it was so obscured by the keywork, I did not even notice it at first. Somehow, after a lot of trial and error, I managed to get it right however. But the Aux F and A pads easily took as much time as the rest of the pads on the entire instrument. Lesson learned: check and double-check and triple-check for leaks BEFORE setting the action.

Curse you, Aux F.



But yeah, I finally got it right. And it does play rather nicely. Cannot say for sure yet, because I've only played the alto for a couple of hours in my life. The intonation is VERY good. Better than in my tenor. I suppose with a Yamaha it ought to be.

A picture of the A pad, finally set right (plus the sax looks a lot cleaner now):




Even with the frustration with the two pads I did not check properly when I should have, this was very relaxing; addictive, even. The workbench and tools are calling, feels like I have to get another sax to work on!


Cheers,
Jori
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,999
Congratulations. It appears you are off to a good start learning saxophone repair. In the states we would call your project a "repad" rather than an "overhaul" which includes things such as key fitting and body work. You are right about it being addictive. I took apart my first project sax, an old C-Melody in 1962 and I'm still working on saxes 50 years later. My first repad was a total disaster, I ordered a pad set that turned out to have pads that were too thick with many wrong sizes. Rather than be discouraged, I sent the sax away to be repadded properly, and became determined to learn what I discovered I didn't know about repadding saxophones.
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
Congratulations. It appears you are off to a good start learning saxophone repair. In the states we would call your project a "repad" rather than an "overhaul" which includes things such as key fitting and body work. You are right about it being addictive. I took apart my first project sax, an old C-Melody in 1962 and I'm still working on saxes 50 years later. My first repad was a total disaster, I ordered a pad set that turned out to have pads that were too thick with many wrong sizes. Rather than be discouraged, I sent the sax away to be repadded properly, and became determined to learn what I discovered I didn't know about repadding saxophones.
Thanks for the words of encouragement. Next in line, I think, would be removing a few dents in the neck and a dent in the bell key guard. I actually already have a couple of very strong rare earth magnets, but I haven't found suitable steel balls to use with them. Loose ball bearings would otherwise be OK, but they tend to be very expensive when the diameter goes upwards of an inch or so, and the extremely tight manufacturing tolerances would go to waste in dent removal.

Incidentally, how do you remove play between two sections of key tubing next to each other on a rod? (That is, there is no point screw in either end which could be used to tighten the pieces of key tubing, since the two pieces sit between two support pillars and the rod extends from there to pillars, which have point screws. Difficult to explain.) Would a suitably sized disc of teflon last long enough to warrant cutting one? I don't have suitably small punches, but could get a few if I needed to.

Cheers,
Jori
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Well done. Glad it's worked out well for you! I hope this encourages others to have a go!
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,999
Incidentally, how do you remove play between two sections of key tubing next to each other on a rod? (That is, there is no point screw in either end which could be used to tighten the pieces of key tubing, since the two pieces sit between two support pillars and the rod extends from there to pillars, which have point screws. Difficult to explain.) Would a suitably sized disc of teflon last long enough to warrant cutting one? I don't have suitably small punches, but could get a few if I needed to.
The process you are inquiring about is called "swedging". It basically involves using force to constrict the brass tubing at the ends of the key with the steel rod inside. The result is the lengthening of the brass tube at the end. I prefer to use Ferree's collet swedging tool mounted to the workbench (pictured below) whenever possible as it leaves very few marks on the keys when used with a lubricant.

Along with the swedging tool it is important to have a hinge tube shortener to square off the ends after swedging, and a reamer with a .001" larger diameter than the hinge rod in case the swedging causes the hinge rod to bind inside the key. Hope this information helps.

Swedging pliers
are another commonly used tool. It is important to use pliers with the correct width and opening and to use lubrication as well. No matter how careful you are, you should expect marks on the hinge tube that will need to be sanded and/or polished out to do a perfect job. There are some techs who swedge the keys on the saxophone until they feel snug. I prefer to "over-swedge" off the saxophone and then trim to a perfect fit using a hinge tube shortener. It takes a lot more time but gives a better, longer lasting result IMO. The last photo shows the lubricant that I like to use while swedging a key.





 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
jbtsax, thanks for the detailed information! I really like your DIY mount for the swedging tool!

Now that you mentioned the word, there was something about swedging in Stephen Howard's manual, which I've read a month or two ago. I'd forgotten about it by the time I started working on my sax though. I didn't read the manual while I was repadding and cleaning my sax, as I thought I'd try to figure out everything by myself, and keep the manual as a backup of sorts if I got into trouble. I learn better that way.

Couldn't keep my hands off the workbench, I started going through a Yamaha clarinet I bought from my neighbor. No wonder he didn't like playing it much, as nearly all of the bigger pads were leaking. The pads were off by almost a millimeter in the worst places - it's a miracle the clarinet plays at all. The pads themselves did not look very nice either, cardboard-backed pieces of felt lined with a thin plastic foil. I'm replacing them with fish skin pads. Strange place to save a few euros - the set of fish skin pads cost only something like 20-25 euros.

Cheers,
Jori
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,999
You're welcome. Your venture into replacing clarinet pads reminded me of this post that I wrote a while back. With the smaller clarinet keys it is easy to burn the edge of the pad when using a flame to heat the keycup and float the pad. As I mention in the linked post, for clarinet I prefer to use a soldering gun with the tip cut off to heat the keycup using a low temp hot glue. The Blazer butane torch is my first choice for saxophones.

For clarinet I also recommend the Valentino Greenback pads from J.L. Smith. They are easy to install and are very durable. Do not get the adhesive back pads as they cannot be floated or adjusted in the keycup. If you do not yet have a "feeler gauge" you might be interested in this: Inexpensive Woodwind Repair Tools.
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
Thanks for the information - this is all very valuable for me. How much power do you think the soldering gun needs to have? A lot of the guns supplied locally seem to use 130W, which sounds like too much if it cannot be adjusted.

Can't seem to find Valentino pads from European suppliers. Thomann stocks some, but they have a very limited size selection. They don't have anything close to 10mm for example. Maybe they only stock the ones suitable for German clarinets?

I had a pretty difficult situation with a rod screw that had rusted into one of the key barrels (and of course it was one of those keys whose posts aren't screwed into the body - are they soldered or moulded into the ABS resin?). I was able to free it by dripping some CRC freeing agent / lubricant into the key barrel, then heating the barrel and boiling and reapplying the CRC a couple of times. Didn't even burn the body! Polishing the rod screw after removing the rust with only fine-grit sandpaper was quite a chore. Have to figure out a better way to do it, maybe use a mini-lathe or stick it on a drill and give it a spin against some sandpaper...

What do you use for cleaning the silver-plated keys? I found acetone worked slightly better than naphtha. I also tried my disappointingly small ultrasonic cleaner, which worked all right, but could not fit most of the keys inside.


Cheers,
Jori
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I've ordered direct from JLSmith a few times. Their mail order is as good as it gets. Only hassle was German customs doing their job as thoroughly as they usually do.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,999
You are certainly on the right track loosening frozen rod screws and pivot screws that have rusted in the posts. Penetrating oil, time, heat, and tapping are the techniques that work for me. The important thing is to have a good fitting screwdriver so that the slot of the screw head is not damaged. If that happens, all bets are off and you end up cutting with a jeweler's saw.

The Weller soldering gun with the cut off tip I use is 100 - 140 watts with a 2 stage trigger. Since the time the tip is in contact with the part being heated is only a few seconds, 140 watts is not too high. As far as polishing rods, most techs use a bench motor to spin the rod using fine grit sandpaper or "micromesh". Before I was able to buy a bench motor with a hollow shaft, I got by with a "poor man's" bench motor which consisted of a high speed electric drill held in a vice. A mini-lathe is a great substitute as well if use at a fast speed.

Polishing keys can be done by buffing or by rubbing by hand using a metal polish. Student clarinet keys are generally nickle plated. When this surface goes cloudy it is difficult to get the mirror like shine to return. For real silver plated keys I like Haggerty's Silversmith spray. For other metals I have found that "Simichrome" and MAAS polishes do an excellent job.
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
911
Thanks for the information - this is all very valuable for me. How much power do you think the soldering gun needs to have? A lot of the guns supplied locally seem to use 130W, which sounds like too much if it cannot be adjusted.

Can't seem to find Valentino pads from European suppliers. Thomann stocks some, but they have a very limited size selection. They don't have anything close to 10mm for example. Maybe they only stock the ones suitable for German clarinets?

I had a pretty difficult situation with a rod screw that had rusted into one of the key barrels (and of course it was one of those keys whose posts aren't screwed into the body - are they soldered or moulded into the ABS resin?). I was able to free it by dripping some CRC freeing agent / lubricant into the key barrel, then heating the barrel and boiling and reapplying the CRC a couple of times. Didn't even burn the body! Polishing the rod screw after removing the rust with only fine-grit sandpaper was quite a chore. Have to figure out a better way to do it, maybe use a mini-lathe or stick it on a drill and give it a spin against some sandpaper...

What do you use for cleaning the silver-plated keys? I found acetone worked slightly better than naphtha. I also tried my disappointingly small ultrasonic cleaner, which worked all right, but could not fit most of the keys inside.


Cheers,
Jori
Lucky you didn't have to deal with steel needle springs, that can really put you off a repad! I know a few repairers that remove all the springs as a matter of course, to avoid the stabbing under the fingernails!

Anyway, sounds like you're on a winner, so don't give up!
Cheers,
M.
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
911
What do you use for cleaning the silver-plated keys? I found acetone worked slightly better than naphtha. I also tried my disappointingly small ultrasonic cleaner, which worked all right, but could not fit most of the keys inside.

Cheers,
Jori
For nickel plate, get a buffing wheel and use light buffing compound (probably tripoli or rouge: for silver only use rouge) , they will come back as new. HOWEVER you should've done that before setting the pads, ideally all swedging, dent work, etc,etc, and polishing/lacquering is done before fitting pads otherwise you risk getting your new pads all mucked up!

Cheers,
M.
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
You are certainly on the right track loosening frozen rod screws and pivot screws that have rusted in the posts. Penetrating oil, time, heat, and tapping are the techniques that work for me. The important thing is to have a good fitting screwdriver so that the slot of the screw head is not damaged. If that happens, all bets are off and you end up cutting with a jeweler's saw.
It's odd how so many people seem to disregard the importance of a good fit with the screwdriver. I've got several precision screwdriver sets, so I usually always find the perfect bit for any screw. I did thicken a slotted screwdriver bit with epoxy once, because a concertina (which is over 100 years old) had sticky screws, and I just could not find a bit that would fit perfectly. I didn't want to take any chances; breaking a concertina screw is not something one wants to do, since most of the threads used are non-standard and to make a new screw you'd need a custom-made tap and die, or have someone who has them make you one... either way not easy or cheap to source.

Student clarinet keys are generally nickle plated. When this surface goes cloudy it is difficult to get the mirror like shine to return.
Now that I checked from Yamaha's site, they are indeed nickel plated. A friend has a similar clarinet, and the keys on his are really shiny, quite mirror-like, so I assumed it has to be silver, because I know polishing nickel is very difficult.

Thanks for all the advice once again.


Cheers,
Jori
 

jrintaha

Senior Member
Messages
283
For nickel plate, get a buffing wheel and use light buffing compound (probably tripoli or rouge: for silver only use rouge) , they will come back as new. HOWEVER you should've done that before setting the pads, ideally all swedging, dent work, etc,etc, and polishing/lacquering is done before fitting pads otherwise you risk getting your new pads all mucked up!

Cheers,
M.
Thanks, I'll look into getting a buffing wheel for my drill. (Is a high-power drill fast / stable enough for buffing?) Does the material of the wheel make a difference?

I did get the keys into pretty okay condition with just acetone, ultrasound and sweat. But for the next instrument I'll try to do better!
 

arock

Member
Messages
110
Congratulations. Good job.
I too just finished my first Sax re-pad. Now I am ready to do my old Clarinet. Sucker for punishment, but it makes you feel good to play your first song on it.
This is my first Sax and I have nothing to compare it to, but I love the sound. Just what I wanted. There are a few problem areas that I have, so this might be the time to head for a shop and see if it is me or the Sax. Got to be me.:)
Everyone here was a great help.
This is a wonderful forum.:thumb:
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
Subscriber
Messages
4,045
Hi @jrintaha !

I just found this now quite old thread and noticed that you're talking about using a torch for padding. Do you still use a torch? If you're still doing some re-pads of course... But I guess you do. ;)

I never liked the idea of a flame nearing my instruments, so I've used an Air Torch that I bought from Music Medic as I didn't realize that these were available almost anywhere as WEP 858D soldering station, like here on Amazon Uk. If you don't know them, they are great I think for padding work as you can safely use that with the keys in place. I often use it when I get my hands on a used sax that needs some pads adjustments/re-seating.

It did my first overhaul around the same time you did, like @jbtsax (except I was born in 62) on a 90 years old C-Melody! And I can't seem to stop, although I haven't done one in some time now, but I have a couple of pad sets that I need to install and a few more horns that I need to measure to order the right pads and get them back in playable condition.

I'm addicted and I see that I'm not alone! :thumb:
 
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