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Saxophone falling out of adjustment... is this the right time to get an overhaul?

AZMay

Member
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32
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United Kingdom
Hello all,

A couple of years ago I bought a 1978 Buffet S1 Alto and thus far I'm absolutely loving it. The sound is fantastic, the ergonomics are very comfortable but I have a minor problem. It is has a habit of falling out of adjustment.

So for background, I bought it in October 2019 and it was in decent enough nick despite being on all original pads. I continued to play it for nearly a year (including for my Guildhall audition) and it served me pretty well. I then decided in the summer of 2019 (about late august, early sept) to get a decent service. This cost me about £300 but wasn't a full overhaul, just a few pads replaced, a couple of pads refloated, a small dent pushed out, a few tone holes gently levelled, keywork refitted (which I think involved one or two pivot rods being straightened but not all of them fully straightened/swedged) and re-oiled and all buffers replaced and re-regulated. Plus a well needed clean. And the horn played wonderfully afterwards.
Fast forward a year to this summer (June); I then just had a decent check up service, mainly regulation and pad fitting at the bottom of the horn along with a general clean/re-oiling job. Probably a few other bits and bobs but the main problem was the bottom of the horn not sealing. I think this service was only about £60-£70.

Now my low C, B and Bb aren't sealing again!
I've double checked the C#/B regulation screw and the balance is right but the appears to be some pad warping or a new curve in the tone hole rim of the C#,B and Bb pads/toneholes because all three now have visible leaks with a light shining down the bell. The saxophone hasn't received any wacks and there aren't any new dents, it just gets played a lot...

Is now a good time for a full overhaul/repad and get the keys fully fitted tight? I know this will probably cost a small fortune (I envisage between £400-£600) but would it be worth the investment?
In terms of the amount of use the horn gets, I'm on a saxophone course at conservatoire so the horn usually sees a minimum of three hours of pretty heavy use daily (with the occasional mental 6-7 hours of playing days).
With this much use, should I expect it to need a small service every 5 or 6 months or would an overhaul put it back into "one decent service a year" territory?

Hopefully some of you kind souls (and experienced techs if you're around!) might be able to share some insight...

Cheers
Aidan
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
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The S1 is a pro-spec horn and will be built to take to kind of work your doing. Once it's been properly set up it ought to stay that way for a good length of time, with only minor tweaks needed annually. It certainly shouldn't need regular servicing on any shorter timescale.

As for the bell key pads. When you shine the light down the bell, do the leaks show up at the front of the pad (directly opposite where the key arm attaches to the cup)? If so it more than likely suggests (as Pete said) that the bell has had a knock.
The bell brace on the S1 isn't particularly sturdy. In fact it's not really sturdy at all - and while you may not have consciously knocked the bell, it's possible for damage to occur is the horn takes a bit of a knock while it's in the case. It's called case shock - where the force of an impact get transmitted through the shell of the case to the body of the horn. It doesn't take much of a knock to throw the bell offline.

Alternatively it could be that the bell keys pads were not set properly during the past service. There are a number of techniques people use to set pads - the worst of which is compression seating...whereby the pads are heated and then clamped against the toneholes. This makes for an excellent pad seat....for a while. Over time the felt core of the pad relaxes and expands - and there goes the seat.

As to the tightness of the bell keys - just grab the key barrels and give them a wiggle. Axially (along the length of the key) and radially (across the width). If there's any more than a fraction of movement, they probably need tightening up.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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New Mexico, US
Yes it's a little odd that all three would be out...unless those 3 happen to be old pads ?

In any case, IMHO...you have lucked out getting by on a horn with pads from 1978 for so long. BUT this doesn't mean you need to spring for a full overhaul.

You could just keep going with spot-work....so now, attend to the top priority items which are preventing the horn from speaking cleanly, put in maybe 200-250 quid or so to get that done....then keep going until a problem arises again.

As you have already has some substantial work done on it, this scope of work improves the situation even more.

No it doesn't give you a full overhaul (but if you have some new pads already you don't need those re-replaced anyways)...but it would likely significantly improve things and get the horn back to reliable.

(For example, if I found that 4-5 pads were really getting iffy, I'd replace those 4-5 pads, which would include hole leveling at those holes, and do subsequent regulation, and check if there's any key play to those keys and correct. Then I might check for key play on some of the 'easy' keys as well...like the bell keys or bow keys, and correct that as well.
Check for leaks elsewhere and try to correct or minimize those via key-bending and refloating).

That would be far fewer hours than an overhaul, and it'd likely alleviate the priority issues.

This stage-by-stage sort of servicing....most techs prefer selling the full repad, but in the economic realities of today, if one doesn't have or would prefer not to spend that wad all at once, a horn can be kept up pretty well by a few 200-300 quid servicings within a 12-36 month period, usually.

On the other hand...it all comes out to about the same in the end....600 quiid sprung at once, or 600 quid spread out in 2-3 trips over a couple of years or so...
 
Last edited:

jbtsax

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There is another less common issue that may be contributing to the low B and Bb pads not closing and that is the adjustment of the G#. Because of the "articulated G#" on modern saxophones where pressing the low Bb, B, and C# also moves the G# touch, if the foot of the G# touch contacts the body before the low Bb or B completely closes that can also produce a "leak".

I have also come across cases of the bell easily going out of alignment where a cause of the problem is a loose bell to bow connection. That in addition to a loose body to bell brace are things that should be checked.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
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I have also come across cases of the bell easily going out of alignment where a cause of the problem is a loose bell to bow connection. That in addition to a loose body to bell brace are things that should be checked.

The S1 has a soldered bottom bow joint (non-detachable bell).
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
2,472
Locality
New Mexico, US
There is another less common issue that may be contributing to the low B and Bb pads not closing and that is the adjustment of the G#. Because of the "articulated G#" on modern saxophones where pressing the low Bb, B, and C# also moves the G# touch, if the foot of the G# touch contacts the body before the low Bb or B completely closes that can also produce a "leak".
Good point...
 

AZMay

Member
Messages
32
Locality
United Kingdom
Many thanks for all the responses.

The odd thing is that the Bb is leaking at the top of the pad (the side nearest the bell) and the B pad is leaking more towards the bottom front (Think directly opposite the key arm and down towards the bow a bit). That indicates to me that it probably isn't the whole bell out of whack (as surely the leaks would be the same side of the pad?) but possibly a very subtle dent/bend that may have occured at some point or pads warping... I don't believe my repairman uses compression seating but will double check next time I visit... If he does, I may need to find a new repairman! Either way, I'll bring it to my tech and get this particular issue sorted but I think I will hold off on the overhaul for possibly another year, thanks all for the feedback though, it has been mighty helpful!
 

Stephen Howard

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Locality
UK
Many thanks for all the responses.

The odd thing is that the Bb is leaking at the top of the pad (the side nearest the bell) and the B pad is leaking more towards the bottom front (Think directly opposite the key arm and down towards the bow a bit).

That's kinda good news - and yeah, it's less likely that the bell's been knocked out of whack.
The leak on the low B is a classic low B leak (lower outside quadrant - it's just where all the flex/movement in the key tends to show up.
So it sounds like it's just the pads going out of seat. Still not great, but not as bad as it might have been.
 

Phil

Senior Member
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1,235
Locality
France
I remember when I got my Selmer the low notes didnt seal well. The tech put the horn between her knees up on a chair and gave it a firm twist. Problem solved.
 
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