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Rolled tone holes?

arock

Member
Messages
110
There seems to be a big emphisist on rolled tone holes as being a quality feature. I see so many remarks about the student horns not having rolled holes and the proffesional horns having them. It appears to me that all the newer quality horns do not have rolled tone hole. It appears to be an old fasioned feature. Am I correct?
 

What

Member
Messages
314
From what I understand and I am no expert, the rolled tone holes are supposed to help prevent the tone holes from becoming uneven over time. They however can be hard on the pads instead. So it's a damned if ya do damned if ya don't sort of deal. I see a mix and even some that have rolled bell holes only. I am sure there are people with more info then I have, but that what a little bird told me once.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Rolled tone holes - another of those never ending discussions - like sax metal affects the sound.

If anything they're better on pads as they don't have sharp edges. Some say they seal better, others not. Some say the radiused edge affects/improves the sound...

Big thing with rolled tone holes is that if they're not flat/level, they shouldn't be filed flat, but some people do cos it's very difficult to get them flat any other way.

Sellers here make a big thing of them. I prefer them, but I'm sure it's got nothing to do with anything rational...
 

clarnibass

New Member
Messages
20
Rolled tone holes have advantages and disadvantages.

Some advantages include:


  • Make the tone holes somewhat stronger and also make the body a little stronger.
  • Not as sharp so take longer to tear pads.
  • Supposedly can seal "better" because the very top of the pad is like a tangent to the rim.
  • Don't have a sharp edge which some claim helps the sound/response.
  • Mostly resistant to the "wavy" type of non-level tone holes and usually just have the more gradual non-levelness that is less of an issue.

But all those advantages are not so important any more IMO.


  • Some of the old models with rolled tone holes had particularly soft metal (e.g. some Conns), so this strength advantage is not significant for instruments with stronger bodies and tone holes.
  • Pads are much better quality these days and if a regular tone hole is not overly sharp (without bur, etc.) then the pad will likely need to be replaced from hardening before it is torn by the tone hole anyway.
  • In reality a pad (even a firm one) is still a soft material and also requires more pressure than "just touching" to seal, which makes this tangent point irrelevant and the pad sealing against a wider surface.
  • IMO if a regular tone hole is deburred properly and in some cases bevelled there is no issue in sound/response in comparison with a rolled tone holes.
  • The "wavy" tone hole (which is an issue of the factory not finishing the tone holes in most cases) is relatively easy to deal with by filing, which is problematic with rolled tone holes.

IMO with current materials and methods the advantages of regular tone holes far outweigh the ones of the rolled tone holes. The main disadvantages of rolled tone holes are the wider rim, causing more sticking and more pressure to seal, plus being much harder to level sometimes. These are still significant problems.
 
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tzadik

Member
Messages
356
Different material for the body makes a perceptible difference (not better or worse... just different).

Rolled tone holes in modern JK/Taiwanese horns? Just marketing.
 

AndyWhiteford

Senior Member
Messages
454
  • Some of the old models with rolled tone holes had particularly soft metal (e.g. some Conns), so this strength advantage is not significant for instruments with stronger bodies and tone holes..

I disagree that the old Conns have "softer metal"
(& i've owned maybe 6 or 7 RTH Conns in the past, currenty have two tenors with RTH)
-A-
 

clarnibass

New Member
Messages
20
I disagree that the old Conns have "softer metal"
(& i've owned maybe 6 or 7 RTH Conns in the past, currenty have two tenors with RTH)
I wrote "soft" and "some Conns"... but I'd say overall, Conns with rolled tone holes that I've had the chance to check the softness/hardness of the metal had relatively soft metal in comparison with most saxophones.

How did you check how soft (or hard) the metal of the Conn saxophones you mentioned is and what saxophones you compared them with when you say "softer"?
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,355
In my experience, rolled tone holes just make the pads more likely to stick due to the increased contact area. It'd be difficult to make any argument for any difference in sound quality because they're specific to only a few manufacturers - I've yet to see a Selmer, Buescher, Martin, Yanagisawa or Yamaha with rolled tone holes and there's plenty of happy users of those instruments. While it's true that vintage Conn's with rolled tone holes are particularly fine instruments, it's not down to the tone holes - a lot of those Conn's have microtuners on the neck and no one makes any claim that that thing improves the tone. Conn stopped using rolled tone holes in the early 1950's and I've encountered a few happy owners of the non rolled tone hole models. It's purely coincidental that some of the finest instruments Conn ever made had rolled tone holes - they'd still be good without this feature.
I seem to recall reading some critical comments about rolled tone holes and the Keilwerth soldered on tone hole rings on Stephen Howard's website and he knows a thing or two about saxes..

Anyone who claims that Conn's were made of soft/softer metal had better publish their metallurgical data and explain what on earth possessed them to put saxophones under a Vickers hardness testing machine instead of just playing them like any normal person..:shocked:
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,011
Anyone who claims that Conn's were made of soft/softer metal had better publish their metallurgical data and explain what on earth possessed them to put saxophones under a Vickers hardness testing machine instead of just playing them like any normal person..:shocked:
I have to agree with Clarnibass that the vintage Conns were constructed of softer brass that most modern instruments. My first hand observation from mechanically overhauling and restoring several of these instruments showed that the keys and posts were softer and more malleable than other makes. One example that comes to mind was a C Melody in which several of the steel rods had been over tightened stripping the threads inside the posts. This is not possible on a sax with harder brass since the screw slot in the rod will fail before the threads inside the post. The ease at which keys can be bent while straightening keycups and regulating keys is a good indicator of the tensile strength of the brass, not to mention how the body responds to dent removal techniques.

The old technician's trick to tell how soft the brass in the keys is on an unfamiliar instrument is to grip the side Bb lever and bend it slightly outward. It can then be "straightened" by reversing the motion and the player/owner is none the wiser. :) My point is that repair techs get the opportunity every day to "feel" the hardness of the material of the instruments they work on. Those who specialize in brass repair get especially good at reading the resistance of the metal because using too much force removing a dent can put a bulge in the area that is even harder to remove and restore cosmetically.

My only comment about rolled toneholes is that they are a PITA to level. >:)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Just to add some background - both Clarnibass and Jbtsax are professional level technicians who's experience and expertise I respect.
 

arock

Member
Messages
110
It is incredable the amount of information that is available on this Forum. And to be able to talk to experts in their field.
Thanks to all for sharing their opinions.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
+ 1 on rolled tone holes being more prone to cause sticky pads...
I spent £££ to repad a Martin Handcraft "searchlight" with roo pads; these started to get sticky after a few months - very disappointing indeed...
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
Messages
3,312
Most top horns dont have them.Selmer,yama,yani,borgani,R&C,inderbiden the list goes on.I've owned about 4 or 5 horns with rolled tone holes.They feel different.Less pop.If you think they help use 1 with or if you like the feel more.For sound i'm not going there.Sitting thinking alot about this subject is only a waste of your playing time i think.As is no lacquer vs lacquer sound difference.If you think it does or dont is all what matters and not some joe blogs.Lifes rather quick so get more playing time in playing i say.Sorry i'm so doom and gloom but thats my take.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,807
+ 1 on rolled tone holes being more prone to cause sticky pads...
I spent £££ to repad a Martin Handcraft "searchlight" with roo pads; these started to get sticky after a few months - very disappointing indeed...
I guess you know .. but Martin don't have rolled toneholes. All pads are more or less sticky. After you play your sax you should dry/clean the pad/tonehole rim with a padpaper (no powder) or a pad swab.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,807
Most top horns dont have them.Selmer,yama,yani,borgani,R&C,inderbiden the list goes on.I've owned about 4 or 5 horns with rolled tone holes.They feel different.Less pop.If you think they help use 1 with or if you like the feel more.For sound i'm not going there.Sitting thinking alot about this subject is only a waste of your playing time i think.As is no lacquer vs lacquer sound difference.If you think it does or dont is all what matters and not some joe blogs.Lifes rather quick so get more playing time in playing i say.Sorry i'm so doom and gloom but thats my take.
I had two Conn 10M 1946-1947 one w rolled toneholes and one w straight toneholes. Both goldlaquered. I couldn't hear and feel any difference between the two saxes. They had the same type of pads an were setup in the same way. Maybe there were some differences both it was not notable for me. Maybe for a better player ...
 

arock

Member
Messages
110
Good to here the pros and cons from everyone.
It appears the quality of a horn is not dependant on rolled tone holes.
 

picconose

Member
Messages
75
The old technician's trick to tell how soft the brass in the keys is on an unfamiliar instrument is to grip the side Bb lever and bend it slightly outward. It can then be "straightened" by reversing the motion and the player/owner is none the wiser. :) My point is that repair techs get the opportunity every day to "feel" the hardness of the material of the instruments they work on. Those who specialize in brass repair get especially good at reading the resistance of the metal because using too much force removing a dent can put a bulge in the area that is even harder to remove and restore cosmetically.
Actually, as a professional clock repairer, who deals with varying kinds of brass on a daily basis, I beg o differ with you. When you check the quality of brass by bending it, you are testing malleability, not hardness. Hardness is tested by using a standard penetrometer or ball guage, which applies a known pressure on the brass, and measures the deflection. Brasses of the same chemical composition can be altered both in hardness and malleability by planishing, and by heat treatment. Flexibility of metal has little relationship to its hardness. Piano strings are extremely flexible, but are hard enough that they cannot be cut with standard high speed steel tools. (I use them for making small clock pivots, springs and arbors, so know whereof I speak.)
 
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clarnibass

New Member
Messages
20
Picconose, I know you quoted jbtsax but I also used these words. Just to add, English is not my first language and I don't know many of the "professional" terms so I might get some of the terms wrong.

Re current top makers not using rolled tone holes, there is something I forgot to add. The pad at the time when rolled tone holes used to be more common were a lot softer and likely to wear faster. Pads are now more resistant to this. Pads back then were also much softer and accomodating the often non-level rolled tone holes. IMO there is no real justification for the few companies which still make rolled (or ringed) tone holes.

Re testing for the metal hardness (or malleability to be more accurate I guess), we don't need to make nay tests. It is just experience of having to remove dents, align posts, etc. on many different saxophones. The keys are a slightly different matter because the shape of the keys have a lot to do with this too and they can be "soft" in many different ways.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
+ 1 on rolled tone holes being more prone to cause sticky pads...
I spent £££ to repad a Martin Handcraft "searchlight" with roo pads; these started to get sticky after a few months - very disappointing indeed...
Roo pads get a bit sticky on normal tone holes as well.
 

picconose

Member
Messages
75
I have been asking myself why manufacturers would go to the trouble of making instruments with rolled tone holes. My suspicion is they are more often found on instruments in which the holes are drawn, rather than soldered on. It suddenly occurred to me that it would make sense to roll the edge of a drawn hole, because that could be done as part of the drawing process, and would make the hole level without a lot of hand finishing.
 
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