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Turning a Cheap imported instrument into a finely crafted machine.

You may know that we set up an entirely new shop at and it's completely different than anything you've seen. We've taken the idea of specialization to a huge new level. The new shop has material specialists, key fitting experts, body work gurus, tone hole finishers, padders, finishers, set-up experts and, my favorite tuning and toning specialists. This means that every step of our proSax overhauls are handled by a specialist who only does that one job. It's absolutely the coolest thing I've ever seen or done. It's working out great and I believe we are about to revolutionize the way saxophones are repaired! I'm going to tell you more about that later.... today I thought you might like to know what's happening at the Key Fitting bench....

It's becoming a tradition at that young apprentices have to survive some difficult tasks before they are able to touch a customers horn. Dan Bender is the latest and greatest tech here at Playing both Classical and Jazz Piano professionally Dan, is an aspiring saxophonist and our own Key Work Specialist in training. -I say training but he already has some super-powers....

Dan's project this week was to take a very nice and brand new, Chinese Made, Alto Saxophone and fit the keys. I mean, it's BRAND NEW horn it should be easy right? Dan's goal with this Alto was to make it a serviceable instrument with tolerances that we would accept here at the ProShop. Basically way better than new ever dreamed of. When the horn was all together the keys seemed to fit well and it played OK. When the horn came apart, the story changed.

It seems that the folks who put this Alto together (I know the factory where it was made but I'm not telling) did everything they could to make it work right given the constraints they had. The problem is really too much time spent in assembly and too little time spend in manufacture. To repair it and get it to a serviceable level Dan had to do a good deal of re-manufacturing.

Remember, this horn felt good from the factory. The keys fit well and it played OK. That's why I bought it. I never disassembled it when I bought it for $150.00 at a trade show. Mostly the horn was predictable. A copy of a MKVII, at least the keys were. But some things were changed.....

Note that there is no rib on the bottom stack. No big deal right? They just went old school 'ribless'....

Can you see that the entire other side of the horn is one HUGE rib. Biggest Rib I ever saw. It runs the entire length of that red line. Strange when you consider the lack of a rib on the bottom stack.

Upon taking the hinge rods out (many of which were stuck severely yet the keys still moved) we knew something bad was about to happen.... Note that one of those rods has only one thread! That's how they were we didn't cut them down. The problem was the posts they went into....

Here you see one reason why the dude (or gal) had to cut the threads off the rods. The threaded posts are that far out of alignment! Worse is that some of the posts are not threaded all the way through. Yeah, they only threaded half the hole in a post!

After straightening and threading all the posts, Dan went to the lathe and made a new set of rods. Sadly many of the rods were different diameters. As in, one palm key is one diameter rod and the other is a different diameter. They're all the same now!

Now the pivot keys. It's hard to tell in this picture but many of the pivot screws were slightly tapered. We measured them and they are almost exactly the a Morse Taper AKA,a "locking" taper. We put those in the trash and fit new pivot screws to all the posts.

The holes in the keys for the pivot screws were not round or centered. So, how did they get the play out of the keys?

That's how they got the keys to feel better. Someone stuffed leather in holes. That all got removed, the holes were filled as needed and re-tapered with custom reamer made by Matt in the shop.

When the pads came out, I was surprised to see the Name Pisoni on them. As a pad maker, I can tell you I know who makes what pads and these are not Pisoni pads. These are miss-labeled pads; knockoffs. At least they could have copied RooPads! -never mind, I take that back.

I didn't write this blog to tell you how Asian horns are not good. In fact, there is a lot more right about this horn than wrong and remember it played OK and it only cost $150!!!

Sometimes we don't know what were getting into. In this case, we knew but Dan didn't! The key work on this horn is now better than any top end modern horn I've seen from the factory. A brilliant transformation!

The keys from this horn are headed to the materials station and body is heading to the tone-hole station. After spending a solid 7 days doing just key work on this instrument, Dan is likely headed to the Pub.

Way to go Dan, welcome to the team.