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Bench Notes #23



Wild Pad R&D, custom pad making, new products, ProShop courses, UberU, Adolphe's 200th, another SMACKDOWN, TheoWanne's horns... uhh yeah, it's been more than busy here at! I can't tell you all the ways, it's too much, but I can share with you some of the cool ways the boys and girls at have been spending their days working hard to improve the world of Band instrument Repair!

The folks in the ProShop started offering courses and have had their first round of participants come through. ProShop courses are suddenly in demand and time slots are filling up. Technicians, eager to expand their knowledge and improve their skills are flocking to the ProShop from the far corners including Eduardo from Columbia, Sylvia from the Netherlands, as well as Go and Daniel from South Korea. Each participant spent a week and a half with the ProShop, and each left with a fully UberHauled horn. The program allows full access into our shop, teaching our methods, techniques and materials, while bringing participants into our culture of learning and growing as a team and as individuals. If you think you want to come study with us, or learn more about these programs we are now offering, visit the Sax ProShop Course section of our website.

Can you imagine the honor of restoring a vintage Adolphe Sax and having it on Adolphe Sax’s 200th birthday? To add cool to the cool pot, we started this project a few years ago on Gus Bueschers 150th Birthday. In this picture, I'm holding the horn that was the Prototype for Buescher Saxophones, made by Adolphe Sax, bought by Gus Buescher and given to Sigurd Rascher. All on this, the 200th birthday of Adolphe Sax. Happy Birthday Mr. Sax.

Are you ready for something great? Are you ready to be great? I am excited to announce our third Smackdown! Smackdown III: Hell Week will take place here at, in Wilmington NC, March 8th-14th. It's all inclusive, includes special guests such as Steve Goodson and Theo Wanne, and it is, most importantly, going to be a blast! Get more information on the event, including how to sign up, further on in this issue of Bench Notes.


Tuning A Saxophone: Part 2

Once you have read the Tuning A Saxophone: Part 1 article, and tested your intonation with a tuner in addition to experimenting with tone hole location using the string and the theoretical neck, this article will explain how you can experiment with bore liners to assess and correct octave intonation problems.

Using Liners for Spread Octaves

For some octaves, as detailed by the prior article, the fundamental note and its corresponding note (one octave higher) create more than an octave. Because the fundamental note is very often in tune with the notes around it, this problem is often seen as sharpness in the second octave. When this common problem exists, the saxophone bore at the tuning region is too large.

As the saxophone is a tapered instrument and the taper, although possibly wrong, is usually consistent, the problem of a bore that is too large will show over several notes. This problem can be corrected by reducing the bore diameter in the tuning region for those notes.

The first step in decreasing the bore diameter is done by testing. Before installing a more permanent bore liner, you will want to play the instrument, to test for the location and size of bore liner you will need to correct the intonation. There are many kinds of temporary liners that you can use, my favorite being nylon cord, because it is easy to use and quick to install.

Let's say you want to place a temporary liner in the bore of an alto to decrease the volume at the tuning region for the second octave D-E, because D1-E1 is in tune and D2-E2 are sharp. Get a 2” piece of nylon cord and some tape. Swab the bore so that it is dry and the tape will stick. Place the nylon cord in the body at the location you determined earlier with the string, and tape it in place.


Now play the instrument and see if the second octave D-E is better in tune with D1-E1. Check the notes above such as F and F#. If D2 is in tune but F and F# are now flat in the second octave, your liner may be too long or it is too high in the bore.  Adjust location, size or both and test again.

This same technique will work for your second octave A (A2) and above. You can tape a liner in the bore (neck bore) to decrease the volume at the region for A2. Now play the instrument and see how the tuning of that note is. If it's in tune and the notes around it are also in tune, you got lucky and you know the size and location for your permanent liner (based on the size of your nylon cord). If A2 is still sharp, maybe your liner needs to be larger in diameter or longer. If the notes around it are flat, maybe your liner is in the wrong place or it is too long. Very often I can find the correct location of a liner simply by playing the instrument and being perceptive about the changes that take place.

Note that the liner to correct sharpness in A2 and above is the most common one that I make. This liner extends out the small end of the neck and reduces the pitch of the notes A2 and above.

Other types of temporary liners:

Sometimes, it's necessary to move a liner when it's in the bore. Or, you may want to quickly remove a liner from the bore to compare how the instrument plays with and without the liner. An instance that a liner other than a cord may be advantageous is when the cord simply will not stay put, either because of the location or moisture in the bore of the instrument. In these instances, I like to use a temporary metal liner with a magnet.


Temporary metal liners are usually simply a piece of steel rod stock with a cover (to protect the instrument) of various diameters and lengths. Normal alto and tenor liners range from 2” to 6” long and 0.1-0.3” in diameter. We often start with the same rod that we use for repair and if we need something bigger we hunt around for a piece of a screw. To protect the instrument we cover the metal piece with shrink tubing.


What does a permanent liner look like?

The 'permanent' liners that we install at the Sax ProShop are actually far from permanent. They are almost always a piece of TechCork cut to size and shape with some strategic slits in them. A liner is typically in the shape an oval with tapered pointed ends, like a two dimensional football, cut with small slits around the edge so that it can fit into place and conform itself to the rounded shape of the inside of the bore.  This liner is adhered with contact cement.


To make the decision about the liner size and length, you could precisely calculate the length and volume of the temporary liner and create a more permanent glued-in liner to match. The other option, and the one we have a lot of success with, is to just "eyeball" the shape of the liner. That is, once the temporary liner length and diameter are figured out and we have a working solution, meaning the instrument plays in tune, we look at the temporary liner's length and diameter, and cut a piece of tech cork that will give the same results.

Retapering the neck:

As you can imagine, having a piece of anything glued to the inside of a saxophone, or most often, a saxophone neck is less than ideal. It can be less than efficient, fall off, reduce air flow, absorb vibrations, etc. Although these issues seldom cause problems that are overwhelming, they do exist. Truly, the most effective way to reduce the bore of a saxophone and specifically increase the taper of the neck, is to retaper the neck.


Neck re-tapering involves cutting and soldering the neck followed by smoothing and lacquering. First all soldered on parts are removed. Then the neck is cut along the original seem in the bottom of the neck. The appropriate amount of material is removed from the now open seam, and the seam is soldered back together.

What if the octave note you are trying to tune is flat?

If the note you are trying to tune is flat, you will need to increase the bore volume in that area. To find out how much you may have to change the bore, you can do the opposite of what you want. For example, if A2 and above are 30-40 cents flat on your saxophone, and your mouthpiece is in the correct position, you may find that you need to increase the size of the bore in the area that corresponds to the flat octave tones (tuning region).  Or more simply, you need to make the small end of the neck bigger. This job, which is much more involved than its counterpart, will require cutting the neck open, adding material to widen the diameter of the neck in the appropriate octave locations, soldering, clean up, and lacquering/ plating.  This method is best accomplished after practicing on some spare necks before attempting on a customer's instrument.

To find out how much you may have to increase the bore volume of the neck in that area, first lower the intonation the amount you want to increase it. Let's say that A2 is already 30 cents flat. Place your nylon cord in the neck in the region you think is correct. Play the instrument and record how much flatter A2 is now. When you get a cord that lowers A2 until it is 30 cents more flat (the same amount that you want to raise it), you have a good idea of how much volume you have to add to the neck in that region to bring A2 into tune.  This method will work for other notes in the neck, and also for clusters of notes which are out of tune.

The cord, and the location of the cord, will inform you on where to cut the neck, and how much material to add so that the volume of the neck is increased the same amount as the cord.  Though it may seem as though flatness in the octave notes is nearly an insurmountable issue, this invasive method of cutting the neck is the only way to truly correct flatness which is the result of a too-narrow bore.

What other considerations should I factor in when experimenting with bore liners?

The method of creating bore liners to shrink octave spread by decreasing the pitch of the octave note will work from D2 on up through C#3.  An exceptionally large bore liner may affect the tone and playability of the instrument, and could be an indication that there are other issues which must be attended to.  Thankfully, since the bore liners are held in place with contact cement, they can be removed at any time should the player find that the bore liner inhibits any other facet of their playing.

Tuning has many factors. Remember that bore liners only have one job, to reduce the bore and decrease the width of an octave. A bore liner is the only way to reduce the distance a saxophone plays an octave. However, there are many factors of saxophone intonation. Key heights, tone hole location and mouthpiece placement have a huge effect on intonation. These factors must first be taken into account before considering a bore liner.

The semi-permanent bore liners are excellent for test drives. Often, a Tech Cork liner can be put into an instrument and sent home with the player. Over time the player is able to make a decision about the effectiveness of the liner in normal playing conditions.

The method's outline which involve cutting necks should be done only after much care and experimenting, with a nod to the old adage of “measure twice, cut once”.

 The Holiday Season is Upon Us!

Have you been good this year? Then treat yourself, or that special tech in your life, to our Holiday 2014 special!

For the low price of $180, you'll get:

This is only a seasonal offering, with limited quantities available! Don't wait too long...get your shopping done now with this great deal!




Join us for a week of immersion into Saxophone repair. The ProShop opens their doors to a maximum of 12 people for intense, all day sessions. With special guests Theo Wanne and Steve Goodson, it's an event the can't be missed.


Hotel, Transportation in Wilmington, Lunches, and of course, our epic parties!

Get all the details and make your reservation on the NAPBIRT website.





New Products

Saxophone Neck Swab

Sanding Sticks  Alto & Tenor Swabs
  Barge Cement Small Double Sided Mallet  Knipex Diagonal Cutters


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