Friday, March 15, 2013

Week 23- Neck Corks and Tool Bits


When installing/replacing neck corks, I was surprised to see that a template needs to be made.  While I could understand that taper on the neck leads to a necessary angle when cutting cork to size, it was still interesting to see the additional work needed for the neck cork.  I was fortunate to have a neck without a support ring.  However, I still created a template for my sax neck to ensure I was using the least amount of sheet cork as possible.  I did forget to bevel the end of the cork before I put the first layer of contact cement on.  That was a tricky mistake which I'll be sure to avoid in the future.  The cork is cut to 1 1/2" and is a #4 cork.  I did have to sand the cork to be cylindrical front top to bottom, but was pleased with the result.  The cork looked clean and fit well!

One of our purchases at the beginning of the year was High Speed Steel (HSS) stock.  We are now using the stock to create our own tool bit.  HSS tool bits are much easier to shape, as it is the softest of tool bits we use at Red Wing.  The class went over other tool bits, such as brazed carbide and carbide inserts.  Our bit has a 55 degree angle so it can tuck into a 60 degree live center.  The other end of the bit is our "UberBit", which can be used to face, turn, plunge, and cut grooves.

I had to hone the tool bit by using a sharpening stone.  I used a diamond grit stone with a 300 grit.  The tip of the cutting face needs a slightly rounded radius so that the tip won't shatter when being used.  I used water as the lubrication for the stone, however oil may have been a better choice for clean up's sake.  

This week I finished corking my saxophone and added all necessary felts, bumpers, articulations corks, et cetera.  The process is timely, as there are many keys on the saxophone and points of contact with the body of the instrument that should be padded.  However, it was fun to go through all of the necessary materials for the instrument and really see the end result coming together.

Here is a picture of what I ended up with.  I was relatively happy with the play testing of the saxophone.  While I spent a large amount of time seating pads and leveling tone holes, I was still worried there would be issues when play testing the saxophone.  It seemed to go well, and it feels great to have the first saxophone repad of my career complete!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 22- NAPBIRT Regional Clinics

This week, Red Wing held a regional clinic for NAPIRT.  It was a really exciting time for me to meet face to face some of the names referenced throughout the course thus far.  Bill Matthews was present, whom our class had met last semester.  Many other technicians showed up for the clinics as well.  As a perk, the class was given the lectures in advance, along with other inserts from various technicians who were visiting.

Curt Altarac, of gave a lecture on being an expert.  His main points were believing in yourself and doing anything and everything to reach your goals.  He stressed that you work from the ground up to reach your goals, just like in saxophone work.  You have body work, key fitting, tone hole leveling and pad cup leveling, Corking and felting, fitting, padding, regulation, and tuning.  None of it is easy, but there is a specific way in which you get the best results in the most efficient way.  That's what we are focusing on in school.  We are giving ourselves the best opportunities to success.  Hopefully that will help us get to our goals that much quicker so we can enjoy success that much longer!

Jon Mills, of Music & Arts gave two lectures.  His first was on the company he has worked for.  Music & Arts has four repair hubs for their business currently.  Within these four shops there were about 200,000 repairs completed this year.  With such a large industry, it was extremely interesting to see how Music & Arts continues to find expedient ways to do things.  The assembly line process is something that is being implemented in pieces at Music & Arts.  People are trained to assess the instruments.  Others clean and prep the instruments for repairs.  By the time the instrument gets to the bench, the repair tech only focuses on the work that he is paid the most for: the hands on repair.  This way, the company puts its resources in the most equitable opportunities, and the techs are able to maximize their output as well.  Jon talked about their training programs, where employees can take a voluntary paid course to learn the standards that M&A expects on the main five instruments they service- clarinet, flute, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone.  The data collection and tech expectations are intriguing and I was very interested in how the company keeps expanded despite recessions and cuts in funding for the arts.

Jon offered a lecture the following day on alternate methods for flute shimming.  He uses glue shims to fill the back of the key cup.  Because flute key cups are not uniformly round, the glue conforms to these inconsistencies and creates a flat surface for additional shims to ride on top of.  While there is still a need for partial shimming, Jon has used this method to cut his repad time by a significant amount.  The glue shims need to be a very thin layer, so some of the thicker glue pad options are not recommended.  However, the time saved is generous.  The idea is that if you get a flute in to be serviced after it has a glue repad, you should be able to put a flat pad in the key and not have to adjust the shims at all.  Of course, no two pads are exactly alike, so there is some additional work that goes into replacing a pad.  Overall, I think it may be something worth trying in the future on student line flutes.  The reaction that players feel with glue shims is not positive enough for many pro players.  Additionally, the keycups are so thin on professional models that using glue shims would not leave room for paper shimming.

Dan King, former marine, talked to our class about some tools he has made himself from Harbor Freight tools.  He talked to us about the difference between Spiral Development and Incremental Development.  Spiral Development is buying tools as you go for the repairs you need to complete.  While this is the way most shops work, it is better to set up your shop under the idea of Incremental Development.  When working incrementally, a business buys a set of tools and from that set, they can offer specific repairs.  This bulk buying is how we start off our careers at Red Wing with multiple tool kits.  However, the money involved in buying multiple start up tools at once can be difficult.  

He showed some of the tools he has been able to create on a limited budget to offer the same quality repairs, and also spoke briefly about taking on contracts with local schools through one's repair shop.  Contracting regulations differ from state to state.  You can purchase a state's regulation book to be aware of the laws associated with contracts.  He spoke about repairs falling under two categories for a bidding process.  It goes to the lowest price or the best value for a price.  To win directors' trust there is a certain amount of Pro Bono work that a technician must do.  Additionally, we looked at the possible bidding outcomes of Lowest Price Technically Acceptable, Best Value, and Multiple Award.  If you have a rental line, or are looking to begin a rental line, Dan King strongly suggested being able to go to the factory to test out a fleet of instruments.  You can build the rapport there, as well as be sure what you see is what you get.  Additionally, annual visits should be mandated so you can be sure the products being produced remain constant.

Mark Sorlie, Yamaha's National Warranty Manager, gave a lecture on building Trombone slides.  He impressed upon us that knowing how to build or rebuild a trombone slide would definitely save your customers money as well as increase the custom work you can offer through your shop.  His big mantra is MINIMALISM.  You touch the metal as few times as possible, you consider cleaning one of the most important tenants of repair, and you make sure your instruments are straight, dent free, and stress free.  He mentioned that in repair you inherit everything that has come before you in the instrument's life, be that poor or high quality repair or no repair at all.  In order to build and refurbish slides there was a hefty list of supplies, however the end result is extremely rewarding.  

Finally, a panel of repair technicians answered our questions about embarrassing stories, memorable repairs, tips and tricks, as well as explaining why repair is still "the thing" for them.  Hearing success stories and constant support is a great thing as I begin to take bench tests and interviews.  

Week 21- Body Work and Leveling Tone Holes

Dent removal is a very important part of bringing a saxophone into great condition!  The first step is to ensure that the body is straight.  Inspect braces to see if they are dented in.  Sighting the body, look for a bend in any direction (sight on both planes!).  If the body is bent, using a straightening tool is necessary.  Leaving a bend in the body could lead to binding keys, unlevel pad cups and pads that aren't sealing tone holes.  The list of potentials is nearly endless, so fixing the root of the problem is imperative.  To straighten the body a socket plug can be used.  Finding the apex of the bend, brace the fulcrum and hit against the socket plug to straighten.

Body dent work is very similar to brasswind dent work.  After all, a saxophone is made of brass.  Dents are best taken out of the bow using a curved dent rod with a round dent ball.  Starting in the center of the bow limits the amount of blow outs in one's dent removal.  Rebounding is usually necessary on the brass guard found on the bottom of the bow.  From the bow to the bell, a pear shaped dent ball is very effective.  The bell flare is treated exactly as a bell flare in the brasswind family.  It is important to keep the flare round.

Body work is mostly completely by drawing out dents.  Some rebounds on posts are necessary.  The barrel shaped dent balls are used in the body, and some have slots that allow for easy movement beyond the octave pip.  After taking out all dents, restraighten the body.  Sight the inside of the tube, with a leak light in the bell to aid the sighting process.
My instrument had previous dent work on the upper post of the High E key and the octave pip.  While working on post alignment on my instrument, the High E upper post came unsoldered and it was then visible that the octave pip had been corroded around the solder joint.  Using lead free solder, I resoldered the octave pip and the post in place after removing dents that still remained in the area.  I had to clean the excess tinning and spot lacquer the area.  I also resoldered the Side F# key guard and spot lacquered there as well.

As the week came to a close I began leveling the tone holes on my project horn.  I used a variable speed hand drill with a diamond grit abrasive to level.  Using oil is useful here, as a cleaning agent and a lubricant.  Removing burrs lightly with a scraper or tin foil is very important.  The process will leak into next week's to-do list, but the end result will make seating pads much easier.

Week 20- Saxophone Cleaning

Preparing my saxophone for cleaning was a bit more intricate than I had originally thought.  All adjustment screws need to be removed.  Additionally, the screws from bell braces are also removed.  Any acid from the pickle that could potentially get caught in the spaces between the threads needs to be removed or it will damage the instrument and potentially get transferred to the player.  While you clean and pickle all the parts in the same way, technicians must take care when dealing with real pearls.

But how do you know if a pearl is real?
  • Look for a purple-green iridescent color to the pearl.  This should be an inconsistent sheen, but definitive to a real pearl.
  • There should me wave-like patterns in the pearl.  This should look like the sand on the bottom of the ocean taking the impression of the tide.  The waves are not consistent and each pearl will be different.
  • Fake pearls are exact and have a "stock white color".  However, there are some pretty good imitations.  If it is a real pearl, be sure to tape it off before you put it in the pickle.  Phosphoric and muriatic acids eat away at pearls and leave a pitted and rough surface.

Looking at the inside of the bell, it was obvious my horn needed some cleaning.  The buildup of "gunk" and fluids had caused discoloration.
 It was also easy to spot previous repair work.  The grease left over from a dent ball was visible in the instrument, as well as burnishing marks.  However, the instrument needed to be cleaned regardless of past work.  The tone holes were corroded slightly, and the horn simply needed to be cleaned!
The end result was a step in the right direction.  The body was much cleaner and all corrosion was removed from the neck, body, and key cups!

Week 19- The Saxophone

We have finally begun our work on the saxophone!

As we start our initial process of learning the ins and outs of the saxophone, we are focusing on the amount of regulations on the instrument.  Eleven regulation points on pro horns! My Music & Arts saxophone only has ten regulations, but the amount of thought that has gone into the mechanics of this instrument are incredible!  It is so cool to begin to understand how the upper and lower stacks work together and all rely on the venting of the F key.  Who would have thought that the venting for the entire instrument is reliant on one key cup!

While our class has yet to dig into repair, we were able to get the feel of disassembly and reassembly.  The saxophone is very complex, but as I get used to the mechanisms, I'm sure it will get more and more exciting!

We were also prompted to make a few tools this week during class.  The first was a trombone inner slide tube end plug.  It was very important to turn the steps of the plug to specific diameters.  Using precise cut progressions, I was able to turn the steps to 0.524" and 0.499".  How cool is that?!  It was very refreshing to get back on the lathe to complete a new tool, and I'm excited to use it once I get back into the brass lab.

Later in the week, the class focussed on padding.  The saxophone pads require much more glue!  We are still use the Shur-Duz-Stik Hot melt glue, however some of my pads from the factory were glued in using shellac.  In Minnesota, the super cold and low humidity climate doesn't work well with shellac.  As a result, my student horn had many pads that were falling out of the instrument!  Lucas gave us a tutorial on seating pads.  I'm finding this to be difficult initially.  A lot of that has to do with unlevel tone hole coming from the factory.  While this is a fact of life for most mass produced instruments, it sure makes seating pads a task and a half!  We will eventually level our tone holes on the project horns which will surely help in the battle of fully sealing pads.

Finally, we made a pearl protector for our saxophones.  Because the pearls on the touchpieces can melt under high temperatures, technicians must take caution in heating pad cups.  The flame of a torch can easily melt plastic pearls or burn real pearls.  To get around this we silver soldered a brass rod to a flute keycup.  This rounded out key cup will act as a barrier and heat sink to place around pearls while I am heating and flexing keys!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week 18- Flute PC, Clarinet Post Replacement

With a four day week, I still got a huge amount of work done in a short amount of time.  While the class was finishing up our work on clarinet and flute play conditions, I was also working on the rosewood clarinet with my teacher, Lucas.  I want to do all the work necessary to make the clarinet a great show and tell piece.  This week we were completing the key fitting on the upper joint.  Two posts (the Side Bb/Eb and Register Key were stripped.  Because the instrument is not standard, we didn't have a nickel silver post without lacquer to replace the current posts with.

I began by drilling and tapping a nickel silver rod.  The original diameter of the rod was .157".  This rod was tapped to the measurements of the original post.  After checking to see if the original hinge rod fit in the new nickel silver rod, I moved on to the post work.

By hand, I drilled into the post face.  It was important to drill only 75-85% of the way through the post face. This was for two reasons: to protect the cosmetics of the visible post face and to act as a stop for the new nickel silver insert.  Here, I used a #42 drill bit which measure in at a diameter of .0927".

Returning to the lathe, I turned the outer diameter of the nickel silver insert to a diameter as close to the drill bit used to drill the post.  After turning to .0930", I removed the rod and hand filed the insert to size on a bench motor.

After filing to size I double checked the fit in the newly drilled post.  There was a tight fit as well as excess rod to ensure some room for filing once the insert was set in place.

With a jeweler's saw, I cut the insert off of the nickel silver rod.  After this was complete, I created an oversized hinge rod with which to ensure a tight fit in the hinge tube opening post.  The diameter I chose for this was .081" as opposed to the original hinge rod's diameter of .077".  The reason we used the oversized hinge rod only for fitting purposes was because the original hinge rod fit well to the hinge tube of the key mechanism.

Threading the bushing onto the oversized hinge rod, I checked the fit of the insert in the drilled post.

Starting with the Side Bb/Eb post, I used Red LockTite to act as the fitting glue.  Lucas and I decided against epoxy because of the pressure that could potentially be placed on the bushing when threading and tightening the hinge rod into the insert.  I applied grease to the threads on the oversize hinge rod to ensure that any LockTite that touched the threads would not lock the threads in the bushing.  After waiting overnight, I released the oversize hinge rod.

After repeating the process with an additional insert on the Register Key, I was left with a bit of filing to ensure that the insert was flush with the post face.  Each key lost a considerable amount of lateral play as a result of the well fitted hinge rod.

After the key fitting was taken care of on the upper joint, I machine buffed the keys and hand buffed the posts on the body.  As seen in the picture below, the clarinet is becoming quite a work of art.  As the restoration takes place, I will be interested to see just how much work the clarinet needs.  I am not out of the woods yet.  There is considerable work to be done on the lower joint, including fabricating a grenadilla insert for the upper tenon of the lower joint.  MAKING part of a clarinet is too cool.  I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Week 17- Making Bearing Seaters and Set Screws

This week begins the spring semester.  I was so happy to get back into the repair shop.  My class is working in the woodwind repair shop for the next 8 weeks, and our first tasks this week were play conditions on clarinet and flute.  I have finished the play condition on my clarinet.  I needed to replace a pad, lower the ring keys, and reseat a few leaking pads.  All in all, the clarinet shaped up to be a reasonable task.

The flute play condition is still in the works, however.  There is a lot of work to be done on making pads seal.  While this may not seem daunting, being out of the woodwind lab for 11 weeks makes padding look like a big problem.  However, I am confident that I will be able to have the flute completed by the end of next week.

We had a lathe project this week to create a bearing seater.  This will be used when I return to the brass workshop.  Using a drill bit to create a half inch hole in one end and a drill bit, and tap to thread the other end, the project was done before I knew it!  See the picture below for the finished product.

Another project I worked on this week was specific to the rosewood clarinet I mentioned in an earlier posting.  I am returning to this instrument to finish the key fitting before I can move on to padding, corking, and tenon cork installation.  The interesting thing about this clarinet is that the pivot screws are Conn style pivot screws.  This means there is a tiny set screw that locks the pivot screw into place.  The rosewood clarinet had nine pivot screw points, but only two remaining set screws.  After realizing that there were no replacement parts that matched my set screws, I had to make the screws for the clarinet.

I began by finding a piece of steel rod that matched the outer diameter of the set screw I had to reference. The rod I chose was 0.072".  I used a 1-64 die on a bench motor to thread the steel rod.  The picture above is the portion of the rod that I threaded.

I then made a collett to hold the steel rod while chucked in the bench motor.  Because I was cutting the steel stock to about 1/32", there was little to no way to grip the new set screws to cut a slot in the face of the screw.  So I used a tap at 1-64 to create a holder for my steel rod.  I used a jeweler's saw to cut a slot in the collett to ensure that I could get a tight grip on the chuck when cutting the screws to size.

I used a portion of my threaded steel rod to act as a stopper in the brass collett.  This way, when I threaded the other portion of the steel rod into the opening, the screw length was determined by the stopping point in the collett.

 Following one 12 minute attempt at creating a set screw, I was able to produce one screw every three minutes.  By method was time effective and the rosewood clarinet is one step closer to have its key mechanisms fitting properly.  Below is a 0.072" diameter screw at a length of 1/32".  It's incredible to work with something so small and have such a form fitting and successful end result.  Next week I will be making oversized hinge roods for some of the keys with extreme lateral play... Until then!