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stuck rods.

peterpick

Member
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562
hello all. i just got a nice pierret super artiste alto, it's lovely but i cannot remove the main lower stack rod, it's jammed. i'm frightened of snapping the end off and i've tried 'penetrating oil' such as plusgas without benefit. do any of you actual people out there have advice about it? i don't want to wreck the sax, it must be even older than i am.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,277
Patience is often the key.
Apply the freeing agent at regular intervals over a few days.

You can speed the process up with a cycle of heating/freezing.
It goes like this:
Apply freeing agent (WD40 is a surprisingly good bet).
Apply heat with a gas torch...not so much that you scorch the lacquer or melt any solder.
Apply a thicker oil (gear oil).
Leave to semi-cool, reheat - then apply a freezing agent. Cans of computer air duster are ideal....just invert and spray over the keys. Avoid nearby naked flames as this stuff is usually butane.
Leave for a while...then repeat...etc.

There's more you can do, but this is a good start...
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,277
Couple of other things to think about...

Do any of the keys move? If they do, do any of them bind on the rod screw (watch the slot of the screw as you move the keys).
If a key moves up and down but doesn't move the screw, you can pretty much ignore it.
If it moves the screw, this tells you that this particular key is binding - and this is the one you should focus the heat/oil/cooling on. It also tells you that the screw isn't binding in any of the pillars (this is good news).

For a binding key a useful trick is to place a screwdriver in the screw slot and hold it in position while you try (gently) to move the stuck key up and down. It gives you a bit more leverage....but if you go at it too hard or too often, you'll chew up the screw slot. So go very carefully.
If you have two binding screws you can use their leverage against each other - which'll save wear and tear on the screw slot.

If all the keys move and none move the rod it probably means that the thread is rusted into its pillar...and it could also mean that other pillars are similarly bound up. Again, you can concentrate your efforts on the most appropriate spots.

If the worst comes to the worst you may end up having to cut a key out. It's not such a terrible thing to do and there are some nifty tricks that will help to minimise any damage to the keys - but which key you cut out will depend on what's stuck where.

Assuming you get the rod screw out you may well find that it'll need replacing.
 

just saxes

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283
There's a very hazardous (based on how my lungs feel after using it, if I smelled it at all during the process) product called "Aerokroil" as well. From how it smells, it seems to be something similar to what Ferree's Tools sells as "corrosion cracker."

It was introduced to me by an oil rig worker from Houma, LA. It's used to unstick undersea "stuck screws." A detailed research of health hazards and protocols is in order if you're going to explore it.

I've only encountered one horn in ~20 years whose screws I could not unstick with it. I'll see if I can find a pic of it....

This is not it, but its condition was visually similar: http://www.justsaxes.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/100_2548-Copy-768x1024.jpg
 

just saxes

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283
Found a pic of that 1 exception: http://www.justsaxes.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/rescuedSBA-252x300.jpg

I replaced the keywork because the original keywork was a near total loss (you could rescue keys by drilling out the screwrods). It was like a metal glue made of nearly friable rust powder, wedded to the brass. I soaked that for over 1 1/2 years with WD-40, Aerokroil, 3-in-1, vegetable oil, you name it, one try/experiment after another. No dice. Up til then, I would have said nothing resists Aerokroil in the end. No longer.
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
562
thanks steven, that's really helpful, at least in that it enables me to identify the problem accurately. i had thought that the rod is bound at the post it screws into, but all the keys move, it's just one of them moves very slowly. that's about in the middle of the stack. when i turn the screwdriver in the rod's slot all the keys move with it. but when i move this particular key it turns the rod. so that's the one. i'm worried that i will chew up the rod's slot so much that i can never get it out, but at least i have a better idea of what's going on.
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
562
hello just saxes, that sounds terrifying, and the illustrations LOOK terrifying. i have as yet not been able to release the bound key and i'm pretty sure i will destroy the end of the rod. i'm ordering something that i hope will act as a 'freezing agent' and i will persist for a bit with heating and oiling and cooling and so-on, but the product you describe sounds like something i will have to try to get. failing all this, or perhaps i mean if all this fails i shall have to try to cut the rod, but i wonder how i can do that without damaging the rod-end of the keys. thanks for your help, everyone.
 

just saxes

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Messages
283
I don't have time to do it right now (appointment upcoming) but I'll post a step-by-step DIY solution, when I can. You should not need to cut the tube (meaning chances are you can unstick without doing that). When it comes to applying heat, that has a few simultaneous purposes, as already touched-on. It may help by causing metal to expand/contract (at different rates, encouraging the bond to break), it may help the "corrosion cracker" of whatever type to flow or penetrate better, and...I can't think of another one right now, but I had a third a second ago. It's probably hiding in my next cup of coffee.

I have only had to do what was done to the horn in the last post once, and really have only had to give up on a key once. There have been times, though, now that I think on it better, where I did have to unsolder/resolder posts to unstick screws.
 

just saxes

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283
Oh: one quick tip if not already mentioned above: when you apply heat, if you use a flame, apply the heat to the area where you want the lubricant to go, sort of in the way you would when encouraging solder to flow into a particular spot.
 

jbtsax

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8,267
My mentor taught me: Heat, Tapping (with a plastic hammer), Penetrating oil. It is critical to use a good quality screwdriver that is the exact size for the rod or pivot screw.
 

just saxes

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283
OK, have a sec now. Enjoying a tumbler of wine, so if I get dopey, that's why.

I want to discourage you from cutting into your posts. I think I did this a few times many, many years ago, but not for about 15 years. That is mainly because I got so much better at soldering/unsoldering, thanks to some of the crazy custom work I was doing back then.

I suppose in a way the main thing I have to offer is based on that, and to interject a couple of warnings:

The main thing: vise grips are your friend.

In an example where you cannot budge the screw after exhausting soaking/lubrication techniques -- or where I can't -- vise grips will probably come into play. So it's a nice thing, if you ever go this direction, to have a nice supply of effective vise grips. One solution that happens often -- I'm sure on that VI that I first linked with a photo, I did this many times, because I was able to save that horn's screws, believe it or not: 1) unsolder the entire key by the posts. If the horn has not been resoldered by a modern tech, soft solder will be a tin/lead mix or, in the case of an abortionist, something from the hardware store that melts at a low temperature. If you use a small torch, you may be able to do all this without burning the lacquer. If you have limited soldering skill, you will burn the lacquer absolutely for sure, no doubt whatsoever. Oh, well. 2) on the slotted side of the screw, rotate the post off the screw if you can, without bending the screw. If you can't, you will have to go back to the heating/lubricating process as before, but it will be a lot more effective now, most likely, now that you can access everything better and more fully. 3) with the screw head's post off, now wrap the head with something to avoid mangling it (unused heat shrink tubing, paper-board/cardboard, you name it) and bring the vise grips into play with the jaw lines perpendicular to the screw head. If you do the 90 degrees displace version of that, you will crush the slot, and there's no need to do that if you can avoid it. 4) the rest should be obvious. The main thing is it's better (imo) to avoid damage that you'll have to re-correct, than to make it and have to correct it (2 steps forward, 3 steps back).

OK.

So, then, warnings:

- don't use screwdrivers whose heads don't fit the slot well. You will end up stripping the head, and then you'll have to apply the "jeweler's saw" or slotted-post solutions. IMO that is why you see so many mangled, slotted-post solutions.

- have an extra long length screwdriver for saxwork, like 20 inches or longer, because that will have greatly enhanced torque, but it will still be important to have one with a head that passes the post's plane, and fits the slot well.

I dunno. I think the wine is starting to make its intentions known ("I grow old, I grow old...."). Any questions at all, happy to address when possible.
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
562
hello david, i have plusgas and applied it in such abundance that it affected my wife's lungs and she has been ill for 3 days. it did not release the key, however. i also have some stuff called 'stuk' which it is, and i am. i now have to do the thing outdoors, which helps not at all.
justsaxes -thanks again. i shall try to get such a screwdriver, i'm current using my longest one but it's only about 8 inches. i'm sure to need it again, but not soon, i hope. the main problem with your other advice which sounds very sensible is that the key in question is right in the middle of the rod, i think 3 posts are involved - i can't currently see the sax because i had to put it in the garage (see above) but i'll let you know. i shall continue for a bit with oiling and heating, but i'm tempted to remove the whole thing and put it in a vice. i fear that if i did remove it all and all its little pillars i would still not be able to turn or remove the rod - the same applies to cutting it out, i expect, and then i might have to drill it out which would be really a problem, especially as the rod is harder than the brass. one day, if i survive, i shall look back on this as good experience.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,277
Don't be too perturbed about having to cut a key off - it's actually not that difficult, and neither does it have to be very damaging. Here's my go-to method:

The tool to use is called a jeweller's piercing saw. It uses a very fine blade - typically around 0.33mm thick. The big problem tends to be getting access to the key/rod, and you get around this by buying a 'tall' saw handle...otherwise known as a fret saw. Throw away the blade that comes with it and fit a piercing saw blade in its place (such saws usually have simple clamps for mounting the blade). The extended height of the saw will allow you place the body of the horn inside the saw. Gets a bit fiddly fitting the blade, but it's cheap entertainment.
If you're feeling particularly tight you can even use a piercing saw blade like a rope saw betwixt your fingers (been there, done that).
You could also use a razor saw (typically with blades of 0.2mm thickness) but finding one that can handle steel might be tricky. They're relatively cheap though, so it might be worth ruining a couple just to get the job done.

Now, with a width of 0.33mm there's a very good chance that the key has that much axial movement in it due to wear and tear. If so, it's just a case of pushing the key to one side and cutting through the rod.
However, if you need a bit more room the easiest way to get it is to knock the pillars back a little.
Sounds dramatic, but they can take it.
All you need is a piece of thick plastic (hardwood will do) and a mallet. Just pop the plastic against the head of a pillar and give it a light but smart tap along the axis of the key stack.
You may have to tap two or three pillars...or you may get away with just one, but you'll only be moving them a fraction of a millimetre - and putting them back in place is just a reversal of the same process.

Once you've sliced through the rod screw you can remove the saw (more entertainment) - at which point you should be able to bend the key/rod enough to clear the pillars...at which point the key can be worked loose.

The whole job is all about strategy though; picking where to cut the rod. It's not always the case that cutting the stuck key off is the best bet...so if it comes to that point you'll have to upload a shot of the stack so I can tell you exactly what pillars to tap and where to cut.
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
562
thanks stephen, this is splendid information, if complicated. i can see that no saw i currently have would fit down the gap between keys on the rod, so i will look into the necessary tools.... i'm fairly sure i will need them again if i cannot be cured of this habit. do you have any supplier you know of? i would go to dawkes, but i suppose i could just search for jewellers' tools on the net.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,277
No need to go to Dawkes - such saws aren't used only by repairers
I find Cooksongold are a reputable place to buy tools from - and I've just spotted this handy little saw:


If your horn has 45mm clearance between the stack key barrels and the bell, this is the saw to get!
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
562
thanks steve, i have placed my order with them and i look forward to many hours of entertainment. i also noticed a thing up there called 'ring cutting pliers' which i imagine could be used too. rather alarmingly it suggests that you can cut a ring off someone's finger with it. but i expect they would notice, so it's of limited use....
 
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