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A. Affirmative. All that’s needed is to establish the ground connection. We did the bell wash on your True Tone alto with the horn completely assembled. Of course you’ll be doing one key at a time while you have the horn apart for cleaning. Just be careful with the gator clip cuz it will scratch the plating. I have sometimes just held the edge of the ground clip against the horn metal. You have to clean & polish the area you want to plate or the plating won't stick. On silver the best product to use for that purpose (that I've found) is the Silversmith Polish Caswell sells (that’s the stuff with the cyanide, so be careful with it). Hagerty’s All-Metal Polish will work, too. Read up on the main spot plating Q&A b4 you proceed, and pick a small obscure spot to do your first operation. Keep a moist rag handy to wipe up any runs from the plating fluid. It's quite acid & will mar adjoining areas if allowed to stay there for long.
A. You're right in thinking that if your cups aren't level you won't get the pad surface in plane with the tone hole rim without a very deep & uneven rim impression. You're starting to visualize things now, which is good. To level cups place them rim down on your jewelers' anvil, making sure they are positioned so no part of the key is interfering with the rim laying level. Strike the cup in the very center (on the key arm ridge if it extends that far) with a very light wood or rawhide mallet. You can use a wooden extension to assure the strike is exactly where you want it. I cut a piece of dowel rod several inches long & use it like a centering tap. Anything softer than brass will work, but dowel rods are cheap & useful for lots of things when working on a sax. Get several different diameters so you can get into tight places and either pinpoint or spread out a blow, as needed. Light taps are always the order when working with brass because the metal is much more malleable (softer) than we tend to think. Don't over do it ...
A. Lock your expander (H60/61, etc.) in the vice and slip the neck over it. Tighten the expander inside the neck and pull the neck off with a twisting motion. Repeat until the brass has been expanded to the correct fit. Pull as straight as you can & don't put the neck on the expander past the solder joint. If you do it right you won't break the solder connection. If you break it you’ll have to re solder that joint. Check the neck fit between strokes on the expander. If you use a tool (large vice grips) to tighten the expander don't over do it or you will break the solder joint for certain. You can also work by pushing the neck onto the expander, but getting the expander set to the right tension is a little harder that way. Visualize what's going on both inside the neck & at the solder joint as you work. This process will both round your neck properly & stretch the brass. Go slow & check the effects of your work often until you have a good feel for what you're doing.
Another thing you can
do on neck fitting is examine the slot that the neck screw closes to see
if fatigue has caused that slot to narrow because the brass in the outer
neck tension ring has stretched. If so, the neck itself may not be the
total issue. You can take a piece of sandpaper folded so that the abrasive
is on the outside & run that through the slot to create a wider space
that will allow the neck screw to pull tighter. Easy does it, of course.
Between the two maneuvers you should be able to get a nice, snug fit on
your neck. The right approach is to do a little of both techniques cuz
that’s the way the fit issue was created in the real world. You probably
should check the slot first …
A. I am going to change your life, Ryan. Adjusting the A/bis Bb relationship can be a daunting task – if you don’t know a simple trick. I have several pieces of sheet cork in varying thicknesses & widths cut so that they can be placed between pads & tone hole rims. There are lots of reasons to place these cork buffers in between the pads & rims when working on setups, but the reason applicable to your plight is to allow minuscule bends to that A key arm that closes the bis Bb pad. If it’s the bis pad that isn’t closing, place the buffer under the A pad & then press down on the A key arm. If you go too far & have a leak at A (the bis Bb now seals) place the buffer under the bis pad and press on the A pad cup. When you get really close -- but there’s still a tiny leak at A -- you can lightly sand the underside of your A pearl felt. If you’re good at these pressure adjustments that sanding step won’t be necessary, though. If you don’t have access to cork sheets to make your buffers you can accomplish the same thing by folding some printer paper until you get a thickness that allows you to bend the A arm.
Once you’re done with the A/bis Bb interface you need to check the relationship of the bis linkage to your lower stack. When this interface is correct the bis Bb key height is set by its meeting with the A pearl felt – and the actuator arm on your lower stack combo pad has no discernible gap before it meets the bis actuator arm. This relationship between bis Bb and the lower stack is one of the most critical (AND overlooked) aspects of setting a saxophone up correctly. When this relationship is correct the key heights of the two stacks are coordinated to the designer’s specs*. What that means to a sax player is smooth action & the best intonation a given saxophone can deliver (all other factor also being properly adjusted). This inter-stack interface is your final play adjustment when setting up a saxophone’s upper & lower stacks. It can only be accomplished by manipulating the stack key heights. The pros will leave both their upper & lower stack heights a little low during the foregoing setup steps so they have room to coordinate the two stacks AND have the key heights they want when the setup work is all finished. What I have just told you is one of the secrets of the saxophone universe. Guard it with your life … :-)
Actually, having the bis not completely close is a condition that we sometimes intentionally create so that the A key’s relationship with the upper stack combo pad can be correctly adjusted. As you might realize, either the relationship to bis OR the relationship to the combo pad arm can cause a leak at your A pad – and sometimes it’s both relationships contribute to a compound leak at A. The way to recognize compound leaks is to stay alert when making all your adjustments. If one of your actions doesn’t seem to cause the expected reaction then there’s a darned good chance you have a problem with a compound cause. Learn the key relationships where maladies have more than one potential cause & you will avoid much saxual anguish. Of course you could also be totally wrong in your approach to a problem and get a non-responsive result, but recognizing the failure of your actions to produce an expected result will always lead you out of the wilderness.
Auto parts stores sell gasket material & craft stores sell sheet felt, both of which can be used to fashion your setup adjusting bumpers. Another use for these bumpers is for avoiding unintentional (and unwanted) rim impressions when leveling cups & floating pads into plane with your tone hole rims. Remember that deepening a rim impression can change all your setup relationships involving the affected pad. It’s just like putting in a another pad that’s thinner than all the others. Manage your rim impressions carefully because they can help or hurt your saxophone’s performance. These critical implications that your rim impressions have on your saxophone’s setup & performance are why I hate to see people use key clamps.
no keys have been bent out of original configuration. All bets are off
until you have returned the keys to their original shapes if you find that's
By the way,
thanks for the most intelligent and useful article on the general question
of relacquering saxes; it cut straight through to the real-life issues
at hand and has made me revisit many controversial repair topics in a similar
manner...with much benefit to my continuing education. [I don't have lacquering
equipment anyway, but at one point was considering the investment.] With
much thanks, Rufus.
Now for a final observation: If you bought that Beaugnier bass recently (9/04) on eBay from a gentleman in France, I've seen the horn. It looks complete, relatively clean & the visible damage isn't unreasonable. The thing the gentleman didn't know that scared me off was whether it's an A=440 horn. With a bass it's hard to say from looks or measurements cuz there are so darned many ways to wrap a pretzel -- and consequently, to fold up the tubing on a bass sax. Add to the confusing mix that the European sax builders always wrapped their large saxes (both bari & bass) tighter than their American counterparts, and you have a significant mystery surrounding that horn. My best advice is to try to get it playing at least enough to say if it's an A=440 horn before you sink a lot of labor into restoring it. There's not much you can do with a high pitch bass sax aside from making it into an umbrella stand...and it would be fine for that service exactly as it sits. I hope this message has helped, Rufus. I wish you the best on your project ...
A. That's great, Rufus. It's always better to be lucky than to be good. Feel free to contact me along the way as you work on the old honker. Send me some pix as you progress if you get the chance ...
Lighting a bari or bass sax for set up work needn't be a daunting task -- just resist the temptation of sticking a whole conventional light bulb down your bell. A large bulb creates way too much heat, plus the full house/shop electrical current is a huge hazard. A wiring short or broken bulb and you're an instant crispy critter. Not cool. Twelve volt automotive bulbs come in a variety of shapes & sizes. Some are small enough to go all the way into the upper reaches of a sopranino, C-Soprano or the small curved saxophones. Medium sized bulbs fit easily into most bari tone holes, and any you'll find on a bass sax. You can pop off a side Bb or C pad to reach every pad from high F down to low C. These small bulbs will provide a lot more light than the 'rope light' products (which can lull you into a false sense of security), plus go places the rope product can't reach. Besides, a rope light in the deep reaches of a bari or bass sax body is as futile as spitting in the river hoping to get your canoe over the sandbar. The one thing you need to watch is the heat these small, powerful bulbs generate. They can scorch pads or corks -- or heat up the sax body enough to give you a real thrill if you grab the brass sax body carelessly in the wrong place.
The problem of supplying 12 volt current to these small bulbs can be solved in several ways. You can operate them off an adjustable transformer, from an AC adapter of the right output, or even from a 6 volt lantern battery. The battery route is a temporary solution since these little power houses drain one rather quickly, and unless you hook up two 6 volt batteries in sequence your resulting light isn't as bright (but on the plus side, it's not as hot, either). If you're at all handy you can take these hints from here to make your own serviceable light. [additional hint: try to avoid using an automotive mounting socket for the widest access for your light.] I won't insult you if you read this light info & felt baffled, but if this flew right over your head you probably need to develop a broader general mechanical background before seriously attempting to work on your own saxophone.