Repair Services

 

*NOTE: As of late April 2014, I am temporarily not accepting any new work.  The reason is that my overhaul waitlist has gone out past the date I must move from my current house in spring 2015, and we don’t know exactly how that will shake out yet.  I am uncomfortable with the waitlist being longer than my planning horizon for the move, and I want to get things firmed up on my end before taking any more reservations.   I will be continuing to work my way down my overhaul waitlist in the meantime as usual, and I am still (as always) available for advice and calls and check-up work for horns I have previously overhauled.   I will also continue to have horns for sale here from time to time as usual- really, the only change is that my waitlist is closed temporarily.   I apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding! *

 

I am a saxophone repairman.

I specialize in making your horn right.  When I work on a saxophone, each and every time I want to make it a saxophone that the father of the saxophone Adolphe Sax could pick up and be proud of, something that would give him peace of mind that his legacy is being looked after by people who love the instrument. I care about doing things the right way, and fixing things so they do not need to be fixed again. When I overhaul your saxophone, your horn will be as Mr. Sax intended it to be, and you will experience what it is like to have a horn that wants to make music.

I do not compete on price.  I compete with the longevity of my padwork, on the depth of my understanding of the mechanics and acoustics of the instrument.  I compete with my honesty and openness, with the knowledge I freely share with you throughout the process of overhauling your horn.   I compete with the fact that I take however much time it needs and expend however much effort it takes to make your horn the best it has ever been.  I compete on the fact that I do everything myself, and that my hands are the only hands on your horn from start to finish.

My overhauls typically represent 40 hours of labor- not including many hours of playtesting.  There are no shortcuts when you want it done right, when you want things fixed that have been overlooked not only from previous repairmen but from the factory itself.   It is not easy to do this type of work, and not everybody wants this type of work done- but it is the only kind of work I do, and it is what makes me a saxophone specialist.

 

What To Expect

When you have your horn overhauled at Stohrer Music, you can expect every problem on your saxophone fixed the right way, at the foundation, for good.  Nothing will remain that needs work, and you will not need to spend money on repairs again for a long time.  Given conscientious care, you will not need mechanical work for decades, possibly 50 years or more.  Depending on how much you play, you can expect your pads to seal and feel well for 5-10 years.  The low end of the estimate is for those who play 5+ hours a day.  If you only play an hour a day, you will probably get 10+ years out of the pad job.

You will (possibly for the first time) understand what a saxophone can feel like when it is done right.  Low Bb is just as easy as any other note, altissimo pops out because even your secondary adjustments actually work and seal properly, you can play as loud or as soft or as hard or as easy as you want and you no longer think about the saxophone as something you have to wrestle to get your way- you just listen to the music you are making.  Your standards will go up, you will start to see how much unrealized potential lays inside most saxophones, and you will never be able to go back to playing a saxophone that isn’t the way it is supposed to be.

 

To Have Me Repair Your Horn

Get in touch with me through email, through the contact form here, or better yet give me a phone call and we can get the process started.  I accept local and mail-in repairs from all over the world.  I have shipped horns to over 30 different countries, and I can help you throughout the process from start to finish to make sure you are comfortable and informed at every step.

I have a wait list for overhauls.  To get on this list, I require a $100 non-refundable deposit.  When your slot approaches I will contact you and we will arrange either shipping or make an appointment.  You will be without your horn for 3-4 weeks unless there is custom work being done that adds to the turnaround time.

 

 

Repair Procedures – The Overhaul

In the repair world today, the same words can have different meanings (and different pricings!) in different places. I employ MANY different procedures under the umbrella term of the OVERHAUL. Each overhaul is different, and tailored specifically to the needs of your particular saxophone. I have listed some of the more common procedures I employ below.

My overhaul will ALWAYS include the following:

-DISASSEMBLY AND CLEANING
a complete disassembly of the instrument followed by a thorough degreasing of the body and keys, with a gentle handwashing of the instrument. If the horn has excessive corrosion, this can be followed by a special chemical dip designed specifically for instrument work to remove corrosion without affecting lacquer or plating. After being dipped, the instrument is rinsed and carefully handwashed again, followed by a hand-drying followed by pressurized air to remove any leftover liquids from the nooks and crannies. Any key rods/pivot screws are carefully degreased and scotchbrite is used to remove any corrosion from the steel. Hinge tubes, pivot receivers, and all posts are hand cleaned to remove years of grease. grime and dried oil buildup.

-DENTWORK AND STRAIGHTENING OF BODY
the saxophone is checked for straightness, correct alignment of the neck and bell relative to the body, dents or malformations affecting the levelness of toneholes, and dents and dings and past dentwork that could be improved. Minor dents and straightening of the body (which is more common than you would expect) are included in the overhaul. Major dentwork will be estimated on a case-by-case basis.

-LEVELING TONEHOLES
carefully leveling toneholes to be perfectly flat, thus ensuring a lost-lasting pad seal. Saxophones never come out of the factory with truly level toneholes, and if they have been relacquered or otherwise damaged in the past, it is highly likely that the toneholes are quite unlevel. This work is done by hand with specially designed tonehole files (although they might more accurately be called burnishers for how slowly they work) and is never done without careful consideration of how best to preserve the instrument for its future. Barring any future damage, this should not need done again. This can only be done if all pads are being replaced.

-ALIGNMENT OF POSTS
every post is aligned straight and true. Depending on initial build quality and past damage (or repair work) this can include bushing and/or carefully resoldering the post in the correct location.

-STRAIGHTENING OF ALL RODS
every rod is made straight and true, cleaned and polished smooth. If necessary the rod is replaced.

-PIVOT SCREWS AND PIVOT RECEIVERS
screws and receivers will be cleaned and checked for symmetry and perfect fit. Necessary adjustments will be made to correct misshapen screws (OEM replacements if available, repair or fabrication otherwise) and pivot receivers are remade and reamed with a specialized exact-shape reamer.

-ALIGNMENT AND LEVELING OF KEYCUPS
all keycups are aligned perfectly with their respective toneholes and each keycup is leveled and reformed as necessary for perfect pad fit.

-ADJUSTMENT OF ALL SPRINGS
all springs are checked and tensioned in the correct alignment and attitude for snappy feel under the fingers. Worn or damaged springs are replaced.

-REPLACING ALL PADS
replacing all pads with your choice of resonators (including resonators original and integral to the instrument such as found on some Bueschers, Selmers, Buffets, etc.). Pads are seated with the spring engaged and pressure applied as it will be during usage- with each pad tested for absolute perfection of seal in all possible playing conditions. The pad seat is as shallow as is possible, with the pad sealing firmly and evenly all around at the same exact moment for that satisfying drumlike pop. No clamps are EVER used in seating. With such a shallow seat, as you play the pad will conform itself to your personal playing pressure, and with good care you can expect your pads to last for 5-10 years before leaks appear, even playing for hours a day.

-OILING
all hinge tubes are assembled with super high-quality key oil with the excess wiped off so as not to attract dust. Pivot screws and rollers are assembled with special high-quality grease designed specifically for saxophone pivot screws. The synthetically based oil and grease I use is especially designed to not break down or thicken over time.

-REPLACING ALL FELTS/CORKS/TEFLONS
replacing every single adjustment and silencing material on the instrument. I use a combination of many different synthetic materials in addition to natural cork and felt, and how I set up each instrument is determined by what I believe will work best for that particular horn. Extreme attention is given to longevity of the adjustment, quietness of the action, and slick movement of parts.

-NECK TENON FIT
neck tenon and receiver are made to fit perfectly smooth and airtight. Usually this involves correcting asymmetry, gently enlarging the tenon, and then lapping the tenon and receiver for perfect fit. The neck tenon leak is unfortunately an extremely common problem, and the whole horn will suffer. When you play a “dead” horn, often correcting a leak at the neck tenon joint will bring it back to life.

-THE LITTLE THINGS
each horn is unique, and if I were to list all of the things I check and correct if necessary, this section would be a novel. I check every little thing on your horn- from the spring receivers being the right shape for correct function to the threads in the posts being absolutely clean, from the roller rods being free of corrosion to the keyguards being straight. Old resolder job done sloppily? I will redo it to be correct. If its not right, its not done. “Good enough never is.”

-INTENSIVE PLAYTESTING AND ADJUSTMENT
once the work is complete, I spend a few days playing, tweaking, and adjusting the horn as it settles in. This is where I will notice the tiny things that one can only notice by living with an instrument, and makes sure that each and every job I do is personalized and made the best it can be. This work is essential, cannot be rushed, and makes the difference between an average repair and a horn that you never argue with.

The following procedures may or may not be needed to varying degrees on your horn:

-DENTWORK, SOLDERING, AND FABRICATION
is done in a bespoke fashion- that is, it is different and unique to each instrument that needs it. This work is priced, discussed, and decided upon ONLY by having the instrument in-hand.

- HAND POLISHING OF PLATED FINISH
A careful, painstaking and conscientious cleaning and hand-polishing of plated finishes that removes all tarnish and scale and brings however much plating remains on the horn to near-new condition.  My process is described in great detail with photographic examples here.

-MECHANICAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE KEYWORK 
a restoration of the keywork to better-than-new mechanical condition. When this work is completed, your keywork is as smooth and as silent as it can possibly be, and the mechanism is working so perfectly even Adolphe Sax would approve. ALL play is removed from the hinge tubes and pivot rods. Hinge tubes are gently swedged tight using collets, with regard to the integrity of the finish, and then made square and true with hinge tube facers so that the bearing surfaces of the ends of the hinge tubes are perfectly flat, thus ensuring a long-lasting and smooth fit. All posts are faced flat and swedged tight around the rod. The pivot screw bearing surfaces are checked and if the screw is uneven, it is replaced with an original replacement part. The pivot receivers on the pivot rods are thoroughly cleaned out, checked, and perfected to match the pivot screw exactly. Then the pivot screw post is counterbored until the pivot screw and pivot rod fit perfectly, being absolutely free with no play. This can only be done if the related pads and adjustment materials are being replaced, and should be done in conjunction with a chemical cleaning, tonehole leveling, and pad/felt/cork/teflon replacement. This is the service to get if you want your horn to be as perfect as I can possibly make it and better than it was when it left the factory. This work is priced, discussed, and decided upon ONLY by having the instrument in-hand.

Please realize that while the names of the services and pricing may be similar or different between different shops, comparing repair work can only be done based on the QUALITY and COMPLETENESS of the work done! Comparing on price alone is a flawed premise- you must account for the actual procedures included, quality of materials used, time spent, skill of the repairman, warranties offered and numerous intangibles.

-ALL FINAL PRICING is done by in-hand estimate ONLY as each instrument has had a different life and as such needs different care. This price list is to be used as a guide only. Much as a strange sound in your car engine can mean different things for different reasons that need to be fixed in different ways, a problem with your musical instrument must be properly diagnosed in order to be properly fixed.

Every repair completed includes explanation of the problem and the work done to correct it, as well as advice on how to best care for your particular instrument and what to expect in the future.

 

ESTIMATES AND ADVICE: FREE!

 

ALL partial/play condition work (a couple of pads, an unsoldered brace, a bell dent, etc.), soldering, dentwork, key repair and fabrication is done by in-hand estimate only.

The average cost of overhauling a saxophone with a full mechanical rebuild of the keywork at my shop is $1500.  Instruments in exceptionally good condition and instruments that have been well overhauled previously can be less- some much less.  Instruments that need fabrication and instruments in rough condition such as a heavily relacquered horn or a formerly school-owned baritone can be more- some much more.  Options such as custom resonators or roopads can add to the cost and will be quoted prior to the job.

Please call with questions about pricing- through talking I may be able to give you a slightly more accurate ballpark about what your horn might need, but for a good estimate I simply have to have the horn in-hand.

 

Parts

Parts such as pads/corks/felts/standard resonators are included in the price.  Other parts that may be needed such as replacement screws or keys (not typically necessary) are charged at actual cost. Parts will be sold at full retail for home installation (if applicable).

If you are interested in learning about repair on your own, some of the parts, materials and tools I use may be ordered by the layman. Contact me for a list of applicable parts suppliers for your needs.

 

Repair Lessons

I offer repair lessons on a very limited basis. Please contact me for details.

 

Repair Procedures- New Saxophone Setup

(Note: When I briefly sold new saxophones, this was standard for every new saxophone I sold and was included in the price, but if you have a new saxophone you have bought elsewhere you can have me perform this service on your horn.  Contact me for a rough estimate based on make/model.)

My procedure for setting up new saxophones is extremely thorough and makes a huge difference in how the horn feels and plays. This is the setup procedure that I would give my own saxophone.

I start by completely disassembling the saxophone- every key comes off the instrument.  All rods, hinge tubes, pivot screws, and pivot receivers are carefully and painstakingly hand-cleaned, removing the oil and pivot grease from the factory.  Rods are checked and straightened if necessary, and all posts are checked and aligned straight and true.  Fit and finish is checked on all keys, and every key is made to be absolutely free in its movement with no slop, binding, or sponginess.

Next, all springs are retensioned to your specifications.  Not only resistance but directional precision is required- and while it seems like a trifle, there is much to be done here.  The difference between a decent spring job and a good one is the finesse that comes with care and experience, and it is a difference you will feel.  Your saxophone will feel smoother, and the springs will exert a more constant pressure on your fingers, removing the gummy feel so often felt when springs are sub-par.

After the saxophone is completely clean and all moving parts are functioning within exacting tolerances, the saxophone is re-assembled stepwise in the same manner as in one of my overhauls.   As each key goes on, superior quality synthetic oil is added, ensuring a long-lasting layer to protect the bearing surfaces and provide years of whisper-smooth action.   Each key is checked for leaks, and every leak is individually corrected.  All adjustment materials are checked, sliding linkages are laminated with teflon, key bounce is corrected, noisy materials are replaced, and all upper and lower stack adjustment corks are replaced with a long-wearing and stable synthetic material, improving not only the firmess and snappyness of the action but the longevity of the adjustment.

Then, when the instrument is assembled, the neck tenon is carefully checked for leaks and fit to perfection.   Adjustments are checked for lost motion or sponginess and corrected.

Finally, the horn is exhaustively playtested while making any necessary final adjustments.  Only when I am satisfied that I have made major improvements to your top-flight professional instrument and have carefully adjusted it to your personal specifications will it be carefully packed and sent fully insured to you, where you can rest assured that the horn will be ready to take gigging the night you receive it.  Your saxophone will stand head and shoulders above other new saxophones of the same make and model and will feel and play the best it possibly can.

 

WARRANTY

All repairs come with a one year warranty on pads and materials and a five year warranty on mechanical work.