Instrument Repairs

repair shop

As most of you know I owned the Sax Shop in North Hollywood for many years and made my living as a saxophone repairman. I still do overhauls on saxophones and clarinets in limited numbers as my time allows.  I will try to explain what takes place in a saxophone overhaul.  There are a few terms used when talking about an overhaul.  I call it a Complete Mechanical Overhaul & Repad when the instruments is taken completely apart and all the corks, felts and pads are changed and the instrument is cleaned inside and out. There are also Complete Overhauls that include re-lacquering the saxophone or Silver or Gold Plating. I no longer do these types of overhauls…   When I first started working as a repairman they had a thing called a Repad and that simple meant they changed the pads.  They did not change corks, remove lost motion for keys, clean the instrument or much of anything but change the pads. I do not do just the Repad of the saxophone.

What takes place in a Complete Mechanical Overhaul & Repad:

  1.   Talk to the client about the saxophone and what it needs to have done to it…. Ask if there are any special problems they want addressed.
  2. Inspect the saxophone while the client watches and show them things that need to be done.  If there are dents, bent keys, tone hole damage., bent bell section etc.  Also at this time the saxophone is inspected for lost motion in the keys or bent keys.  If there are keys out of position ask the client if they are placed there on purpose.  Many time players move keys and strap hook so they will fit either their hands or the way they play. If they say no then I make a note to straighten them.  If YES I make a note to leave them where they are.
  3. I also ask and have the client decide what tone booster they want in the pad. There several choices:  Selmer Style Plastic Round Boosters, Selmer Style Metal Round Boosters (Extra Charge) or Hollywood Boosters After all these things are decided the client can leave and the overhaul can be started.
  4. Another brief inspection and then start to take the instrument apart.  When talking an old instrument apart it is necessary to make sure that all the screws you take out are marked so they will go back in the post they came from.  If I am working on a saxophone from the fifties, it has likely been worked on by many other repairmen and I do not know what they did.  If they removed some threads from a post for the screw to travel in further to remove lost motion in a key… I do not know that..  So by keeping the right screw for the right post and key the saxophone will go back together better and I will not spend time guessing where the screws fit or trying to make the wrong screw go into the post.
  5. After the instrument is dissembled then the first thing is to check the tone holes for damage and ware.  Since most tone holes are drawn from the saxophone main body then there is usually a thin spot somewhere on the tone hole.  So now I make the decision on how to make the tone holes the best they can be and to insure the pads will seat properly. I do not just level the tone holes without inspecting them because sometimes their might be a low edge on the tone hole that might need to be raised so the tone hole will not need to be leveled down to the lowest point.  The decision on each tone hole is made on an individual basis.  It is my goal to make the tone hole level without making it much lower than it is when you start.  It is important to have a smooth and flat surface on the tone hole so the pad will seat properly.
  6.   Next I remove all the pads, corks, rollers and felts from the keys of the saxophone.
  7. Clean the inside of the rod receivers on all the keys by using alcohol and a pipe cleaner with bristles to knock out any hard gunk in the receiver. Then clean the inside of the rod receiver with a soft pipe cleaner and oil.  Oil will take out the rest of the dirt in the rod receiver.
  8. Now I hand wash each key with soap and cold water so the lacquer is not damaged.  It takes some time to do it this way but the lacquer is not damaged.
  9. I hand wash the main body of the saxophone the same way.  I have brushes designed to reach the complete inside of the body of the saxophone.  Keep in mind that the inside of the saxophone is not lacquered so it tends to get a lot of gunk on the inside and it is necessary to get it all out…  I also hand clean the inside of the tone holes. *I do not use an acid bath because on many of the older saxophones like Mark VI’s there is a lot of copper in the body and when it is put in the acid bath it tends to turn color.   Now it is easier and faster to use the acid bath and it gets it clean fast….  I just choose to do it by hand.
  10. Now I have a completely clean saxophone and am ready to start putting it back together.
  11.   I replace the corks, neck cork, felts and pads using the best possible products.  I use the same pads Selmer, Keilwerth, YAMAHA and most good manufactures use.
  12. Now I have new corks, felts and pads in all the keys.
  13. Having already inspected the saxophone for lost motion before taking it apart I know before I start putting it back together where I need to remove the lost motion.
  14. I have been using hot glue to hold the pads in recently and the things I like about the hot glue are:  It is hard to burn the lacquer or a pearl using the hot air torch.  With a flame it is always easy to burn a pearl or burn the lacquer. Not so with the hot air torch.
  15. I put each pad on the instrument one at a time and seat the pad using only the weight of the pad cup or key to make sure it is level. There are minor adjustments necessary when the spring is hooked up but if the pad seats with the weight of the key it is good.
  16. Now we will cut the completely assembled saxophone.  What makes the difference between a good repairman and a great repairman is the saxophones plays now…  I will spend another 1 to 2 hours making more adjustments.  After the saxophone is where I want it to be I will set in down and let it set overnight without any thing clamped down to see where the pads natural seat will be.  Then I will once again check it to make sure everything is good. After Overhaul is Complete: Let the instrument set overnight. Double-check the overhaul. Contact the client.  When the client comes in and tries the saxophone I make any minor adjustments they might like. *It is important to understand the saxophone will play differently than when it was last played by the saxophonist.  And that is the point.  So it will take the player a little time to get use to the instrument again.  After the instrument has been played for a week or more then it is returned and checked again to make sure things are still in good shape.  All players are different and no two things are the same for each player.  One player might have a heavy 3rd finger on the left hand and another a heavy 1st finger on the right hand.  So now adjustments can be made for these players.
Saxophones Complete Mechanical Overhaul Prices
with Selmer Style Plastic Dome Resonators:
  • Soprano Saxophone $ 895.00
  • Alto Saxophone $ 795.00
  • Tenor Saxophone $ 895.00
  • Low A Baritone Saxophones $ 1,295.00
  • Bass Saxophone $ 1,995.00
With Hollywood Metal Tone Boosters:
  • Soprano Saxophone $ 995.00
  • Alto Saxophone $ 895.00
  • Tenor Saxophone $ 995.00
  • Low A Baritone Saxophones $ 1,495.00
  • Bass Saxophone $ 2,095.00
Overhauls include Selmer Style Dome tone Boosters
  • Student Alto $ 495.00
  • Student Tenor $ 675.00

More Saxophone Repair Videos
*All repair work is by Appointment Only Please call 818-985-9846