Note: as of 2021/2022, I am not currently accepting new clients. I will post a news item if this changes.
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.
What I Do
My specialty is overhauls. When you have me overhaul your saxophone, absolutely everything that needs done will be done- nothing leaves this shop that I am not happy with. This means that I will diagnose your horn upon receipt and provide a minimum prescription for what goes into its overhaul. Once this requirement is satisfied, there may be work that can be done outside of strictly practical requirements- usually having to do with varying degrees of mechanical perfection of the keywork (which can be improved, even from factory fresh, but if this is your hard-gigging horn with expectations of beer getting poured down the bell your decision about how far to go with that may be different from someone who has their grandfather’s Conn 30M with original warranty card in the case they plan on keeping for the next 50 years).
So while there is a certain amount of flexibility once the baseline is met, I will not go below it, and if we disagree on what needs done (which has not happened yet) I will return your saxophone rather than try to make it work for less. The reason is time: I’ve got a waitlist, and if I want to be worth the wait I’ve got to only do work that is worth the wait, and that means doing only my best at what I do best, taking responsibility for the whole sax and its history and leaving no mysteries or darkness anywhere. I choose to do my work this way because this is why you came here. I’d rather find another job than rush at this one.
To read more about why often makes sense to do an overhaul rather than piecemeal repairs, please read my article “Why Overhaul a Saxophone”
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 (non rolled toneholes only)
carefully leveling toneholes to be perfectly flat with smooth and chamfered inner edges free of burrs, thus ensuring a long-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. To learn more about toneholes, watch a three-part video series I made, starting with part one here.
–ALIGNMENT AND FITTING OF POSTS
every post is aligned straight and true, and posts are fit down around the rod. 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.
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 let the horn sit for a week, while I think about something else. Then I come back to it and see it with a fresh perspective, typically spending several hours going back over work I did, sometimes redoing a pad or two, as I spend a week 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 make 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.
–MECHANICAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE KEYWORK
This is the a restoration of the keywork to better-than-new mechanical condition. Sometimes this work is an absolute necessity- for instance on a horn that has been extremely heavily played for decades, or a horn that has been relacquered several times or had sustained some other sort of major wear or damage in the past. This work can also be done at your request, even if not strictly necessary, but be warned that it is extremely time consuming (25+ hours) and therefore expensive. But then again, there is nothing quite like a horn that is mechanically perfect.
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- in other words, this can only be done as part of an overhaul. 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.
Not all saxophones need this service, but many do, and almost all would benefit.
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.
Parts such as pads/corks/felts/standard resonators are included in the price. Other parts that may be needed such as non-stocked 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.
I offer repair lessons on a very limited basis, for my normal hourly rate. Please contact me for details.
All repairs come with a one year warranty on pads and materials and a five year warranty on mechanical work.