To finish up....
OK, everything closes, seals and is properly adjusted - you're done! Oh, wait a minute; there's the play test and final adjust....do all the notes speak clearly when I play a scale or arpeggio? Might need to open a couple side keys just a little for better venting. Is the lower joint stuffy or unplayable? Better check the adjustment on that bridge key...especially if you have an articulated C# or 7th ring Eb...they are pickier. Is the throat Bb stuffy vs. the side trill Bb? This is where the cork pad helps, as does running a small round file inside the register tube to make sure there's no gunk in there.
Is the springing even? There's nothing worse then light/heavy/light/heavy springing for throwing off your fingering. Time to get out small pliers and a spring hook to adjust the tension on a few keys. Now, do you have large or small hands/fingers? Might be a good time to think about the position of the Eb banana key on the upper stack, the C# spatula, the B alt on the lower stack, and the relative height of the LH pinky spatulas and Alt F...you shouldn't have to fumble for them or bump other keys by mistake...
I could go on, but I think you get the general idea why you might not want to 'Do It Yourself' on a vintage clarinet. There's an incredible amount of fine detail work, specialized tools and carefully honed skills....thanks for sticking it out!
Don't Do It Yourself Pt. 4
OK, everything is buffed, clean and corked: now, pads.
I like tan kidskin (with cork on the register key) instead of the traditional fish bladder: they last longer, seal better on older (uneven) tone holes, give a feel that is more similar to a fingertip and don't show dirt/wear as quickly. I separate out the pile of keys and start sizing new pads. Then, a dab of hot glue in the key-cup and the pad is pressed evenly into place. It takes practice to use just enough glue to get it far enough into the cup to close, but not so far that the back is open when you go to adjust! This will vary a lot from brand to brand, so make a note in your head when you tear down: what was in there, how thick, and was it a good fit...if so, go ye forth and do likewise...
A final check of bodies, posts, springs, etc. and then I start reassembling, generally doing both stacks at the same time, working on one while the other has a pad clamped and cooling. I put the key on the instrument, making sure that its a snug fit but not binding and that the rod/screws are clean and oiled. Also, make sure that the key-cup is centered over the tone-hole and isn't higher on one side than the other; you'd be amazed what these go through in half a century! Heat the pad cup for a couple seconds with the torch, use a pad slick to give the pad a twist and level it, check for even coverage with a feeler, then clamp lightly (I like flute pad clamps) for a minute and on to the next key.
Once all the keys are on and the pads are seated, I do simultaneous adjustments: upper A/Ab, (screw adjustment if you're lucky, otherwise find some sax pad leather), crows foot on the lower body. Removing lost motion while allowing pads to close at the same time with exactly the same amount of pressure is the trick. Sometimes more or less cork is called for...
To be continued....
Don't Do It Yourself Pt. 3
OK, the previous blog covered tear-down and preparation, now let's cover cleanup and rebuild:
I have a box full of body parts and keys in front of me; time to clean them! I use solvent to get the buffing compound residue off the keys, and give a final polish with a silver polish cloth. Strips of the same cloth are used to get in and around the posts and remove schmutz from the wooden pieces, as well. Don't forget to clean (and, if need be, polish) the bore and give it a light oiling!
Once all is clean, I go over the body to see if any tone-holes need attention: if they all look crisp, I'm good to go. If any show dings, nicks, or roughness from the original cutter being a little dull, I take out a special set of re-facing tools and take just a couple thousandths off the tone-hole, removing any damage and restoring the sharp, clean edge. This really helps with pad seat and seal, especially on older horns that've received a few (less than ideal) overhauls!
This is also a good time to check posts again for tightness, make sure all the springs are good, and re-gild the logos if they look worn - it really sharpens up the look of the finished job!
The next step is re-corking the keys and body: if you've buffed, those corks are toast! Sort those keys into piles for the right thickness of cork, clean off traces of old cork and adhesive and hit the appropriate spot with a coat of rubber cement. I use 4 or 5 different thicknesses of cork to get the keys to open and close to the proper degree - this is important! Not open enough and the note sounds stuffy and plays flat; too open, and the note sounds harsh and plays sharp. This is a critical part of assuring that the finished horn has good intonation and even tone, and every brand/model of horn is slightly different!
For corking the body tenons, I measure the inside diameter of the opposing socket and the outside diameter of the tenon slot with vernial calipers and figure what thickness of cork will provide a snug fit without being thick enough to risk cracking the body when I put it back together! Oh, did you remember to tighten those body rings if they were loose? They often are from wood shrinkage, and that's where many body cracks come from....
To Be Continued.....
Don't Do It Yourself Pt. 2
Well, here's where it gets interesting (if not long before). When I get it on the bench and start looking it over, here are some things that I'm looking for/thinking about:
"Man, does this case reek - did something die in here? Can't put a finished horn back in this cesspool - out goes the case..."
"Can I even get it this horn apart?" Are any rods or screws rusted in? Heat, oil, perfect screwdriver...heat oil, perfect screwdriver, pray....cut into post, remove damned rod surgically, replace post from junk box, maybe make new rod from scratch, if I don't have one that fits (with threads that match) in the junk box....
"Is the keywork tight or loose and rattly?" If the latter, it needs to be swedged and/or countersunk to tighten it up: more specialized tools, and some practice and instruction to avoid seriously botching the job. This needs to be done before you pad, as it will affect the final seat of the pad! This is almost always necessary on any horn more than about 30 years old, and yet I'm surprised how often I see full overhauls done with loose, rattly keywork!
"Are the keys dull, oxidized or worn?" Nickel silver (or nickel plating) is a wonderful but obdurate alloy - you can't polish it, you have to buff! Downstairs to that fast, powerful 2 wheel buffer - hope you have one (and the right wheels and compounds) and know how to use it without hurting yourself or wrapping that key around the shaft...ouch..
"Now, how does the wood look?" Any cracks or chips? Better fill those, file, sand... Any loose posts from dry wood shrinkage? Better tighten those so the keys don't bind when I reassemble... Any broken or worn out springs? Better replace those... Hope I have the right size or Ferree still carries them... Most instruments don't get enough bore oil and, if they've been in storage for 20 years, they REALLY don't get enough oil. Better coat all 4 pieces inside and out with a good grade of bore oil; and coat, and re-coat....sometimes for days.
Time to buff the body (avoiding those delicate logos, of course): back downstairs and try to get the posts and body nice and shiny without breaking any springs...whoops...
To Be Continued....
The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.