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using a leak light for the first time

C_Claudemonster

C_Claudemonster

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Hi All,

I've never done any extensive repair on a sax before and thought it's about time I learnt some fundamental basics! I have some leaks on the low Bb, C, C# keys of my B&H Powertone alto. Given that I didn't pay a great deal for the sax I'm not too fussed about being heavy handed with it for my own purpose of learning how to fix things.
My question is, when I put a leak light down & I identify where the leak is what happens next?! Sorry if that sounds completely stupid but I've never adjusted a pad/keycup before so some helpful advice would be much appreciated so I don't unnecessarily harm the sax because I do want to sell it on but only in working order. There is nothing worse than a non working saxophone bought or sold IMO :)

Thanks in advance
 
MandyH

MandyH

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Do you have Stephen Howard's book - The Haynes Saxophone Manual.
I think it will lead you step by step through a service.
 
jbtsax

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I feel like the mosquito at the nudist camp. I don't know where to start. :w00t:

Let's try this first. Go to Music Medic Articles and read all of those that you think might apply. I'm going to start with the low bell keys. Check low B first:

- Darken the room and insert your leak light in the bell. Lightly close the B key using the finger touchpiece (very important). Do not close the keycup using your finger.. Make sure its spring is attached. To get a lighter feel I like to disengage the G# spring when I do this.

- Check all 360º for any light showing through.

- Let's call the pointy part on top of the keycup its spine. The point of the spine is 12 o'clock and where the key cup is attached to the key arm is 6 o'clock. Directly on the right looking down is 3 o'clock, and directly on the left is 9 o'clock.

- Determine what part of the clock face touches the tonehole first when you lightly close the key. This is the part of the key cup that needs to be rotated up.

- Next determine what part of the clock faces does not touch the tonehole at all letting light (and air) through causing a leak. This is the part of the keycup that needs to be rotated down. Note: I am using the word rotate rather than bend, because you are not going to bend the keycup itself. You are going to turn, tip, lift, or twist the keycup as a whole on its key arm to change its orientation to the tonehole.

- Using a popsicle, craft stick, or tongue depressor place your wooden tool between the resonator and the tonehole in the quadrant of the pad that touched first. Then press down using 2 or 3 fingers on the side of the key cup opposite the wooden tool you are using as a fulcrum.

- Remove the stick, gently close the pad and check the result. If it is better but still leaking in the same spot, repeat the process. If it is now leaking where it formerly touched first, you have gone too far. In that case reverse what you did before. It often takes some back and forth and moving the stick about to get it perfect.

- In the cases where the front of the pad (12 o'clock) touches first and the back of the pad does not close or the back of the pad (6 o'clock) touches first and the front of the pad (12 o'clock), before you do anything else check the other bell key if its on the same side of the bell---in this case low Bb. If both keys exhibit the same leak jump down to *

- When the back hits first and the front is leaking, set your stick across the back at 6 o'clock and press down on the front of the keycup.

- When the front hits first and the back is leaking you need to find a small hammer and a small wooden dowel. Place your stick under the front of the pad. Hold the dowel over the spine at the back of the key just in front of the key arm and give it a smart tap with the hammer. This area takes more force because you are bending right at the key arm itself.

- In most cases, it is easier to work with the bell keys with the key guard removed.

- After low B is seated, put a rubber band around the key and attach it in a place that keeps the key closed and out of the way. You can also release its spring. Next, using a pair of smooth flat nose pliers bend the tab down slightly that extends from the low B touchpiece to the key arm below the low Bb touchpiece in order to free the connection as you work on the low Bb keycup.

- Repeat the above process with the low Bb keycup until you are satisfied with its closing.

- The last step is to bend the tab back so that pressing the Bb key also closes the low B key at the same time. If they both have been seated perfectly independently, this this should be easy. That's all. Good luck.


* Warning, this is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. If the bell keys are on the left side looking directly at the front of the bell and both are leaking in the back (touching first in front) the bell has been tilted to your right. The solution is to yell "bad saxophone" and give it a smart slap on the right side of the bell. If both pads are leaking in front (touching first in back) the bell has been tilted to your left. Give the saxophone a smart slap on the left side of the bell. Check again with your leak light. If it is better but needs a bit more, slap again. If that doesn't work use a karate chop. If you went too far, slap yourself, vow not to hit so hard and do a reverse, more gentile blow.
 
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Excellent description JB, I`ve got the book on order but always ready to learn from those with experience here too :)
 
jbtsax

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Excellent description JB, I`ve got the book on order but always ready to learn from those with experience here too :)
Thanks. I forgot to add the most important part. Always have a plan B, which is to have the name and address of an experienced tech nearby to fix what you might screw up as you are learning.
 
Colin the Bear

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I was wondering if you slap a saxophone back into shape and it's brought back again with the same fault does it help to slap the player?
 
jbtsax

jbtsax

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I was wondering if you slap a saxophone back into shape and it's brought back again with the same fault does it help to slap the player?
You would like to sometimes. >:) I usually just thank them for the added business and charge a bit more the second time.
 
Targa

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Last three words of your highly detailed post.
Is it strictly necessary for it to be a 'more gentile blow'?
 
jbtsax

jbtsax

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Last three words of your highly detailed post.
Is it strictly necessary for it to be a 'more gentile blow'?

Well, the thinking is this. If you hit it so hard that it passed the mark, then hitting it back equally as hard will put you back where you started. If you don't hit it so hard on the "corrective" blow then there is a better chance of putting it where you want. This is the theory anyway. It is still common for me to go back and forth a lot. Every sax moves differently when you slap it "upside the bell". You think you have the "touch" and then the next sax behaves totally different.
 
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Ads

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Thanks. I forgot to add the most important part. Always have a plan B, which is to have the name and address of an experienced tech nearby to fix what you might screw up as you are learning.

I`ve Thought up a new one, thankfully just in time - get a half dead cheap horn to learn on first - which I will ..... puts book and hammer down and a worried looking MkVII back in its case :blush:
 
Saxless

Saxless

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New boy (sorry but hate the word newbie) question.....

I'm curious, how does the bell get misaligned in the first place, is this careless handling (no disrespect intended) or something that can happen legitimately. I ask because I was in John Packards on Saturday and I overheard a family discussing a very similar repair with the technician. BTW, I think the young lad with his parents had already been "slapped", he was looking decidedly sheepish.
 
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Careless handling, sax falling over, playing when blasted and falling over etc . the bigger the horn, the harder they fall so it can be quite common with gigging tenors, the bell brace tends to protect against frontal knocks messing things up (unless its a poor small area one where it then dents the body) but side knocks can still misalign the bell
 
jbtsax

jbtsax

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Ads is correct. In many cases just the act of laying the saxophone down on its side abruptly can tilt the bell. What happens is that the bell rim makes first contact with the surface you are laying it upon and takes most of the impact. It is surprising how little force it takes to move the bell a few thousandths of an inch which is all it takes.

The picture below shows the 3 point brace that Cannonball uses on their tenors and baris to give added support to the bell.

 
jbtsax

jbtsax

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I use a homemade version of the Votaw 120 volt fluorescent light which is the type I am used to. Someday I'll probably go to an LED version. If you are just doing occasional amateur work, a rope light set-up would work ok. They are not very bright, so you need to be in a pitch dark room. You can buy one from Music Medic, or possibly find one in a hardware store for less. If you can find one with LED instead of incandescent lights it is even better. Music Medic also has one of the best LED leak lights on the market at a reasonable price if you are more into doing your own repairs and adjustments.

If you are cheap, or just like to take on interesting projects or both (like me) you might get some ideas from one I made a while back. Warning: These Chinese LED strips are very cheap and quite fragile. Don't bend them too much or they will stop working. You may also want to reinforce the wires coming from the light as they are very thin.

DYI LED Leaklight
 
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gladsaxisme

gladsaxisme

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The LED one I bought on eBay £1:00 didn't work at all or maybe I used the wrong voltage either way I couldn't get it to light up so went to plan B and looked on eBay for complete unit there are quite a few some 240 volt some 12 volt LED they were about £15:00 each so bought one of each and found to my surprise the 240 volt one was no where near as bright as the 12 volt LED so obviously go for the LED ......John
 
DHM

DHM

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If you are cheap, or just like to take on interesting projects or both (like me) you might get some ideas from one I made a while back. Warning: These Chinese LED strips are very cheap and quite fragile. Don't bend them too much or they will stop working. You may also want to reinforce the wires coming from the light as they are very thin.

DYI LED Leaklight

Immensely helpful, thank you; that faint ticking sound is my soldering iron warming up.
 

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