Anybody who has ever visited my repair shop knows that I’m a sucker for tools…..if there’s a saxophone repair tool that exists on this planet that I don’t have, it’s most likely because I didn’t know it existed. Seriously, boys and girls….you can’t do a world class job of repairing saxophones if you don’t have the proper tools to work with. As I talk to technicians around the world, they often ask me for tool suggestions, so here are a few. If you don’t have ‘em, get ‘em!
NOVA LEAK LIGHT
This will change your life. It’s small, very light in weight, and it will singe your retinas at 30 paces. Throw away all your other leak lights. This is the most essential tool for a saxophone repair technician, and this version is simply the best available. Get the shorter length version so you can feed it into the top end of baritones and basses. From MusicMedic
PAD IRONS WITH OPEN CENTERS
What? You don’t iron pads and you call yourself a repair technician? If you’ll use these, which have the centers cut out to clear oversized resonators, you’ll get all the wrinkles out of the leather and leave it tight as a drum. Seriously, it’s a most important step in the process, and a lot of people ignore it. From Ferree Tool
VORTEX AIR TORCH
Get rid of all those burners. This is an adjustable hot air gun (up to 400 degrees F) that is great for padding. It’s light weight and you can put the hot air right where you want it. Won’t burn lacquer, either. From MusicMedic
MAGNETIC DENT REMOVAL SYSTEM
This makes most dent removal (not all, but most) so easy it’s like cheatin’…..I paid for mine in the first week. The technique is very easy to learn, and the results are excellent and quick. Buy all the different optional attachments and gizmos…..From MDRS (Eric Satterlee)
THAT MASSIVE MANDREL
It is much easier to handle this monster if two men do it……it looks like the lance of a medieval jouster……but when it comes to straightening a bent saxophone body, all the way up top a baritone, there is just no substitute………it is also most effective in getting body tube dents out…..from Ferree Tool
As a matter of full disclosure, I have a custom made saxophone specific dent machine custom made for me (along with a wide variety of custom made attachments just for saxophones) which enables our shop to do some really amazing dent work. The frame even has the world famous Saxgourmet logo and is painted in a spectacular purple metalflake. I would tell you where to get one made, but I have not seen or heard from the guy who built it for me for years. The Ferree dent machine is quite good, and readily available, along with a wide assortment of accouterments…..
KEY BENDING LEVERS
Most people are surprised to learn that leaks are not removed during the initial manufacturing process by floating. The keys are carefully aligned with the tone holes, and then slightly bent as necessary. I think floating pads is a fool’s game for any but the smallest leaks. Ferree Tool makes some dandy little gizmos for de-leaking: brass wedges (with stick handles) in various shapes and configurations and levers which fit over the hinge tube and are slotted to allow moving the key cup by the rib. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the feel of the system you can make the horn very tight very easily.
NECK TENON SHRINKER
True, you rarely need to actually shrink a neck tenon unless you foolishly overexpanded it (now I’ve never done that, no not once…….well, maybe occasionally), BUT if you will carefully check the relationship of the tenon to the receiver, you will more often than not find that the tenon is out of round. Don’t waste your time, get a real tenon shrinker with an assortment of collets, and make sure every neck tenon is perfectly round before you lap it into the receiver. From Ferree Tool
It never ceases to amaze me that the vast majority of technicians choose to ignore the mouthpiece as a potential source of problems. Are you kidding? You think the horn will play correctly with uneven rails and a table that is not? Grow up, learn the necessary skills, and get all the tools you need from MusicMedic.
Obviously, this is an incomplete list……BUT it’s a start! I’ll cover more must-have saxophone tools in a future edition.