On The Bench

I think I finally figured out a way to do this that is relatively easy for me to do from my phone at my bench while I am working- in other words, somewhat naturally throughout the workweek rather than just another gallery.

Look for this page to finally get updated!

This is a real-time gallery of what is on my bench.  I try to update it at least once per work day with something interesting, unique, educational, beautiful, funny… sometimes with a nice descriptive caption, sometimes without.   Photos are added at the top, and they descend in chronological order.  Enjoy!

 
 

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Next up! 1967 Mark VI that has a custom finish. Plays well even though it's leaky. I look forward to seeing how it plays when its right!

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Conn 6M transitional, original silver plate with overslung "New York" neck. Freshly overhauled and will be for sale here soon.

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Final rinse of polished silver keys.

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My padwork on a Powell Silver Eagle alto. I A/B'd it against a King Zephyr Special alto and a full pearls Super 20 Silver Sonic alto when I first got it in, and have obviously played it a good bit since putting new pads in it (and tweaking/changing a bit of the keywork relationships, springs, adjustment materials and other misc. stuff here and there). It plays very, very much like a good Silver Sonic. I think they got what they were going for with the bore- its a very good horn. The keywork still looks and feels a little bit "prototypical" (for example, some of the spring locations are pretty odd- some really short, some really long, some have to be bent in strange ways to get them to their assigned spring cradle- nothing you can't work around) but I imagine if they had made more than a few they would have eventually designed keywork especially for the Silver Eagle rather than adapting B&S Medusa keywork to it. But like I said, they got the hard part- the bore- just right. Nice horn, and a damn shame only a few were built.

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Easing back into work a few hours a day after the birth of our second child in May. First up: Powell Silver Eagle.

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Selmer octave mechanisms are nearly foolproof, but take a lot of time and attention to set up perfectly without any lost motion.

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Minor PC on this Couesnon. I'd like to own one of these someday.

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Just finished this repad on an exceptionally clean early Mark VI alto.

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One of the reasons I prefer Tenor Madness reusable brass resonators when working with such resonators is their oversized and countersunk backing washer, which firmly seats the resonator and prevents the pad from being deformed by the curvature of backside the resonator when mounted.

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Conn 30M complete!

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While waiting on resonators to arrive for the 30M pictured below, I finished up a mini-overhaul on this Reference 54 I had started earlier. When set up well, these horns play very well with excellent intonation.

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All the fiddly bits of a Conn 30M.

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Selmer Reference 54 on top, Selmer Mark VI on bottom.

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In for a very in-depth new horn setup.

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Up next: Conn 30M in incredible condition with original pads.

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Finishing this Joe Lovano model Borgani tenor today.

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Hand polishing.

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Polished and fit gold plated keys.

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Background project I finished over the weekend, a 1941 King Zephyr Special tenor. These are my favorite King saxophones. This one goes to its new owner next week.

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Working on another Borgani, and I never thought I'd say it but I'm happy to see they've upgraded to spring loaded pivot receivers (like on modern Selmers). Still not as mechanically sound as regular old fashioned shaped and reamed solid metal receivers, but definitely better than a hole stuff with cork!

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Even an original lacquer, original pads Selmer Mark VI can have leftover buffing compound from the manufacturing process inside the hinge tubes. Time to clean this old beauty up.

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Conn 6M VIII overhaul complete! These are such good horns. This one started off rather green and corroded, but came out beautiful and plays even nicer. You'd be hard pressed to find a much better horn than a good 1930s Conn alto.

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Just rebuilt this old milling attachment for my lathe. Looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish with it.

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Making replacement Conn rollers. The originals were (I believe) cellulose, and the closest modern raw material I have found so far is marbled acrylic pen blanks.

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Polishing time

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Key fitting on a pre-war Conn 6M VII alto.

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Cleaning the tiny bits.

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Good lord, finally done this Borgani! Plays extremely well, with a tone that is just huge, lush, and powerful. Now I'll playtest and adjust for a few days, polish it back up again, and send it back to its owner. These horns are such a joy to play, but the complete opposite experience to work on. In fact, I'd say the Italian horns seem to me to have the widest gap between playability and repairability of any professional saxophone. They make a Conn New Wonder I look like a Yamaha in comparison! Good thing I don't have to do another one until... Oh. A week from now. Time for a stiff drink.

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Closing in this Borgani rebuild. One of the most difficult I've done so I am looking very much forward to playing it.

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Pads going in key cups.

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Leftover pivot receiver inserts and a pivot reamer I made to retrofit the Borgani pivot receivers to be more like other professional saxophones and have metal to metal key fit. They are of various lengths because the holes in the keys were of various depths. I would find one that was a close fit, solder it in place, then ream it to fit.

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Made my wife a ring out of a sax pearl from a junk MexiConn I have hanging in my garage.

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New pivot receiver.

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Hinge keys fitting tools

 

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Original (L) vs. cleaned up original rod (R). Notice the grinding near the tip of the original on the left? That is to compensate for threaded receivers that are not totally correctly aligned. Another part of mechanical rebuilds is aligning posts- usually misaligned due to damage, sometimes due to loose tolerances at the time of manufacture. If you see a rod like that, chances are the threaded post is off axis.

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Squaring the shoulder of a hinge rod. If your posts and keys are properly fit, a lumpy or uneven shoulder on the threads of a hinge rod will torque and twist the rod enough when it is screwed in to cause binding.

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Key fitting, Italian style. These are chunks of cork I have removed from pivot screw receivers that were being used to take up lost motion between the pivot screw and the key, which rather than having a matching shape receiver to the tapered pivot screw is simply a drilled-out void. Works decent for what it is and how much effort it takes (very little), but not a very reliable long term solution. Improving this to provide metal-to-metal contact for a long lasting mechanical fit will be interesting.

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Long day ends with a playtest on a big project that plays great on the first blow. Always great when that happens. Tomorrow is a new project!

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SBA baritone coming together. Should be playing it today.

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Former marching band Selmer SBA baritone is finally straight and clean!

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Lapped and fit and finally airtight! This made a big difference to how the horn played.

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Working out a low spot (dark portion) through lapping on a flawed Yamaha tenon receiver.

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