Saturday, January 12, 2019

Modifying Feeler Gauges for Accuracy

Here is a simple method for making your feeler gauges more accurate.  Feeler gauges are already incredibly accurate, if you use them as they were intended.  Unfortunately, when facing a woodwind mouthpiece we not using them in the traditional way.  If you have ever adjusted valve lifters or gapped a spark plug, you know the traditional use.  Feeler gauges are used to measure something based on the thickness of the gauge.  They measure gaps and clearances.  But that isn't exactly what we are doing.  

The strips in a feeler gauge are made of steel or stainless steel.  Most of us will be using just steel and will need to keep them from getting wet. They can rust and throw off the thickness of the gauge.  But the more important issue is that we are using just the edge of the strip.  The strips are very exact.  If you put your digital calipers on a strip and it is off by .0002, it is just as likely that it is your caliper that is off.  

But there is somewhere on the strip that is likely to be inaccurate.  Unfortunately, it is right where we need it to be accurate.  The little strips are "punched" out of a larger sheet that is accurate as to thickness.  The punching process tends to deform the very edge of the strip.  Think of the process like a cookie cutter.  Let's say that we have a sheet of cookie dough that is exactly 1/4 inch thick.  As the cookie cutter passes through the cookie dough and cuts out the shape, it deforms the edge of the dough by rounding it off.  The perfect thickness is retained on the entire surface, except at the edge where it is no longer 1/4 inch thick.  And that edge is exactly what we are using when we measure with our feeler gauges.

The amount of deformation on the feeler gauge edges varies with the brand of gauges and the thickness of the gauge.  I haven't found any that are perfect right out of the box.  Fortunately, it is something that is easy to fix.  And it is one of those things that is so easy to fix that there isn't much point in trying to determine which or how much a feeler gauge edge is deformed.  It will drive you crazy trying to look at the edges under high magnification, which would be required (at least for my eyes).  Some of these pictures are through my bench magnifying glass, and even still it is easier to describe than it is to see. 


In the above picture, I ran a black Sharpie down the edge of a .016 inch feeler strip.  I was then going to run then run the edge over sandpaper to show that there was a little strip of Sharpie not removed.  That would indicate the "rounded off" edge of the feeler gauge that we are going to fix.  Unfortunately, getting a good photograph was impossible and I was spending way more time trying to get a picture than it would take me to just finish the edge to 90 degrees and make it accurate for mouthpiece refacing.  Think of this process as "sharpening' your feeler gauges, although the sharp edge that we are looking for is 90 degrees.



This is basically all you have to do (to both sides on the various gauge thicknesses).  I'm using 320 grit, which is aggressive enough to cut through the steel without leaving any burrs.  I'm only sliding the gauge along its length, not crosswise.  That ensures that there will be no burrs.  This paper is on top of a piece of glass, just like I was putting a facing on a mouthpiece.



The above picture, believe it or not, is showing the "rounded edge" of a gauge that I am going to remove.  I am holding the gauge under my lighted bench magnifier and rotating it so that first the flat surface reflects the light and then the thin edge reflects the light.  If the edge were a sharp 90 degrees, the reflection would change abruptly from flat to edge.  But in the picture, the flat surface is beginning to not reflect (except for some scratches), and the thin edge is not yet showing.  What I have is a bright reflection line running right along the transition from flat to edge.  That shows me that I have a rounded surface there.  On the bottom is a dark line.  That is the shadow caused by that edge being rounded off.


The above picture is what I'm going for.  After "sharpening," I have a sharp, crisp transition from shadow to shine.  It isn't really necessary to get carried away with magnification.  You can feel the difference on the gauges, especially on the thicker ones. 



Run your thumb over the edges.  Before you start the sharpening process you will notice that on one side of the feeler gauge both edges don't feel as sharp as the other side.  (The rounded edge has always been on the etched side on the ones that I have.)  That is because of the punching.  You want both edges to feel sharp.  On a gauge like the .010 inch, that takes about 10 swipes back and forth on 320 grit.  If you have some of the larger thicknesses, like .050, it will take longer.  Also, if you have the longer gauges (I have some 1 foot long ones), it can take considerable time.  

If you can remove the individual feeler strips from a bundled set, that makes it easier, but this can be done on the mechanic's sets that are permanently bound.  Be careful on the really thin ones, as you can put a kink in the steel.  Also use something like 600 grit and a light touch.  And you don't have to do the entire set, of course.  Do the ones that you use individually and in a stack.  Even in the stacked blades, you don't have to do the one(s) that are always in the middle.  For instance, your .021 blade is only used as the center blade when stacking .020, .021, and .023 in order to measure .063.

If you are concerned that you might have put a burr on the edge, run your fingernail down it.  Or pinch a piece of bronze wool over the edge and draw the strip through.  Be careful not to go over the chemical etching on the blade, as it is easily removed.

So how much does this increase the accuracy?  By less than a whole Brand number (.5 mm) at the most on any that I have sharpened.  But it makes enough difference that you will notice.  I have measured, set that feeler down and measured with another strip, gone back to the first one and, wait a minute, it measures different now!!  That's because I inadvertently flipped the strip over.  When the rounded edge is on top it measures different than when the flat edge is on top.  Sharpening the edges on the feeler strips gets rid of that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Building a Custom Thumb Rest

This project came after a full rebuild of a Beaugnier/Vito tenor.  As I was playing it daily to see if it would become my true love, I kept thinking that I wasn't completely happy with the thumb rest.  It looked like Beaugnier had modified and "updated" the standard vintage type of thumb button.  Here is my alto from the 1930's that has a pearl button for the thumb rest.  


30's era Conn upside down.  Click to enlarge.

This was a standard feature on horns of the era.  In practice, it places quite a bit of pressure on a limited area of the thumb, depending on how you hold your horn.  And how you hold your horn is probably the determinative factor in whether or not you are bothered by this style of thumb rest.  If you play seated with the horn between your legs, then the horn is in an upright position and the full sectional area of the button might be used.  In this position, a player could find this button style of thumb rest perfectly acceptable.  

But if you play seated with the horn to the outside of your leg, or standing with the horn off center, you may find that the thumb pressure is on the edge of the button.  That can become irritating after a while.  I always play standing, if possible, with the bow of the horn either on one leg or to my right side.  And I tend to not keep the horn at a constant angle.  As such, the later Beaugnier flat style wasn't particularly comfortable.  Here it is.


  Beaugnier/Vito tenor, again upside down.  Plenty of surface area, but it felt like it was at the wrong angle and provided less surface area than one would think based on the shape.  
White plastic piece held in place with a tiny set screw.

Thumb rest removed, showing what looks like the traditional thumb rest minus the pearl.

You can see that the white plastic "slab" is probably a modification of the older pearl button.  The same brass cylinder is soldered to the body tube, but instead of a pearl button, the cylinder is tapped to accept a set screw that hold a plastic thumb rest.  The plastic rest is completely flat and, if the horn is held at much of an angle, doesn't feel right (to me).

Below is a picture of my other vintage alto with the thumb button modified.  I also found the original thumb rest uncomfortable, although the prior owner(s) had the same issue and didn't modify the rest.  This is a 1957 Kohlert with a brass thumb button.  You can see on the left side of the brass (where the shiny spot is) that the lacquer is worn off, showing that the "edge" of the button was the major point of contact over the decades.  I added Sugru to that edge so that my thumb contact area was larger and wasn't concentrated on the uncomfortable edge.  



Sugru works great for this purpose, and even for building key risers, but I was not sure that it would work well on the Beaugnier.  I would have to stick it down inside the button cylinder, and I know from experience, if I didn't get it right or wanted to remove it should I sell the horn, it would be difficult to get out.  

What I wanted was an ergonomic thumb button more like that on my old Martin tenor.  



I looked around at the hardware store for something that I might modify, but ultimately came up with the idea of fashioning one out of moldable plastic.  You can find videos and information about this stuff on the internet, so I won't go into much detail here.  Basically, you melt the white beads under fairly low temperature (140F), which causes the beads to bind together into a single pliable gob of clear plastic that you can mold by hand.  




There were only a couple of things to note on this project.  The first is that as the plastic cools, it hardens.  Since I was pushing the warm plastic up against brass, and the brass, even though at room temperature, would cause the plastic to become stiff faster than I could mold the shape that I wanted.  The second issue was that, unlike Sugru, moldable plastic would not "stick" in place.  It cools into a plastic that feels much like Delrin.  I would need to mold a piece that used the original set screw to hold it in place.  Neither of these issues proved to be a problem.  

I used a hair dryer to get the surrounding area warm (not hot).  



The picture above shows the moldable plastic starting to cool.  It is still translucent and you can see the thumb cylinder over which I am putting the thumb rest.  



I used a pencil to poke a hole in through the soft plastic for the set screw.  The plastic has now cooled and turned white.  It is now hard enough to accept the set screw.



Here is the final thumb rest.  It is contoured to my thumb.  It even includes my thumb print.  Although not easy to see in the picture, it is raised on the right side and lowered on the left compared to the original flat plate.  More comfortable and it gives me greater control of the sax if I move it around.

I overestimated the amount of beads that I needed for this project.  It turned out that I melted down about 3 times too much.  That's not a problem because the excess can be put back in the pouch and used for another project.  Like with Sugru, once you use it, you will start looking around for other possible uses.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Making your own vintage M.C. Gregory 4A 18 mouthpiece

I've got my carcass or blank for this project, but I haven't gotten around to finishing this blog.  The project is to make a Rico "M.C. Gregory" brand mouthpiece just like our favorite player supposedly played during part of his or her career.  That's the one that demands the high prices.  It might play okay for us, but more importantly, it will impress some players when we tell them that we have one.

As I said in another blog, these particular blanks are hard to come by.  Rico apparently kept tight control of the molds and didn't seem to sell many blanks to third parties.  But the blanks are out there.  So are the molds.  The unrelated Gale molds recently sold at auction, but the Gregory molds have never been located (only the chamber plugs).


Vintage Rico Gregory blanks.

No tip and lay number.

No "Rico," "Master" or "Model A" designation.

No chamber number.

The chamber.

The shank band and chamber.  The mold lines between the shank and the chamber don't appear to have been polished.

Don't attempt to make a Rico Gregory from an old Gale mouthpiece.  They are not related.  The mistaken claim that the mouthpieces are from "the same company" was asserted years ago by a single person and, despite it's inaccuracy, the myth continues (using a Gale mold to create a Rico M.C. Gregory mouthpiece).  

The Rico "Gregory" alto blank that I will use has sort of a "preliminary" or maybe a "student" facing on it. The tip opening measures .064 inches.  That was the smallest opening available on the Rico Gregory (a #3).  There was a tiny amount of tip work done in the chamber of the blank I will be using.  Just enough to clean up the tip.  

On of my Rico blanks.

A vintage 4A 18 from the website saxophone.org.  It also has a minimal amount of tip work with the chamber interior still showing the "frosted" look of an unpolished ebonite casting.

My blank looks like the perfect candidate to use for a new vintage original genuine M.C. Gregory 4A 20, just like this kid is playing.  


Or maybe he is playing a 5A 18.  Oh no, we don't really know!  Maybe somebody can tell me or, better yet, I could start a poll to find out which one I should make, i.e., which one is the most desirable.  Or I can do the common modification of putting on a facing that works best for me (called re-facing) but make sure the embossing on the mouthpiece is the "famous" combination.  I will need to find out what the best numbers are.

As we learned in a prior blog, nobody really has any definite idea as to what the old Rico lay numbers were.  Mr. Eric Brand published some numbers in the late 1930's, but they are thin on detail and bit lumpy when graphed.  The lay numbers for Rico's mouthpieces (then the M.C. Gregory brand) are not exactly what we would expect.  For instance, the difference between a vintage Rico 4A 16 and a 4A 18 is generally considered to be only a difference in the chamber size.  16 is small, 18 is medium, and 20 is a large chamber.  But Eric Brand's old numbers have a difference in both tip opening and lay numbers for the Rico 16 and 18 alto.  Nobody knows what the old numbers for a Rico 20 chamber might have been (or if they also differed).

Click to enlarge or visit saxophone.org at the 1938 Selmer publication How to Reface Reed Instrument Mouthpieces (page 25) written by Eric Brand for more detail.  The final number in each column (the tip opening) is based on a tip gauge available in the old Selmer refacing kit (see page 10 of the publication) that is no longer available.  Mouthpiece tip openings are now commonly given in inches or millimeters.

I could just use the numbers that I used when making the new old vintage official Meyer Brothers alto piece what worked well for me.  I'm going to have to think about this a bit before creating a new old vintage official M.C. Gregory "Master" or "Model A" alto facing curve.   Measuring the lay on my un-embossed Rico blank would not be much help.  Still, it was interesting to see how accurate the "take off" point was for the .0015" feeler gauge.  This measurement is commonly used to see if the lay leaves the table accurately.  

The .0015 feeler gauge slid between the mechanic's ruler and the mouthpiece (hidden by the ruler).

This is not good.  The right-hand side is about 23.5 mm (a Brand number of 47).  The left-hand side is way off.  Of course, both are really long for a .065" tip opening (which should be about 20.5 mm or a Brand number of 41).  Maybe that explains why nobody put a name on this blank.

I have played this blank and, on a scale of bad to good, it rates an okay.  It doesn't inspire the awe one would expect for a Rico Gregory blank, but it does play.  I tried my hardest reed, a NOS #3 Olivieri (a vintage reed for a vintage mouthpiece) and it still wasn't impressive.  Maybe if the mouthpiece had the Rico "Diamond" logo used on several models and chamber stamp, especially something like 5A-18, it might convince some players that it has a cool West Coast sound.  To me, it plays surprisingly well considering the lay, but the notes don't pop out, especially the bell notes.

Based on what I am hearing and seeing, I can do no harm in altering the facing.  It looks like I will have to start with the straightening out the table.  Or, I could just start with another blank.  That's what I decided to do.  

(To be continued.)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

1965 Beaugnier/Vito tenor rebuild

This tenor saxophone came up on Ebay and, for some reason, Ebay notified me of it.  They have my number.  They showed it to me in a little sidebar when I was looking for something else.  I don't need another tenor, but this one was really clean.  

As with all of my blogs, I'm going to wander far and wide from just the mechanics of rebuilding a saxophone, specifically a Beaugnier made saxophone.  For the most part, rebuilding a Beaugnier is the same as a Dolnet, which is the same as a Selmer, the same as a Holton, the same as a Kohlert, etc.  Whatever applies to one saxophone applies to most.  If your only interest is the mechanics of fixing up an old sax, you can probably skip to where saxophone pictures start appearing in any of my blogs.

I had a Beaugnier tenor in the past that was a Revere stencil for Sorkin Music.  This one was made for Leblanc U.S.A. and labelled Vito.  It doesn't say "Made In France" or "Made in U.S.A.," so I don't know where it was assembled.  Because there is no "COOL designation," I would guess it was assembled in the U.S. from imported parts.

U.S. trade law at the time was controlled by complex tariff laws or "schedules."  For instance, a imported rubber ball that was solid rubber paid a different tariff rate than a hollow rubber ball. How your imported item was classified or "scheduled" made a huge difference in your profit margin.  The first Toyota 4-Runner was essentially a pickup truck with a fiberglass cap and rear seats added after importation (turning it into an SUV, which had a higher import tariff rate).  The U.S. modification after importation allowed a lower tariff on the major value of the vehicle, as pickups were taxed much lower than SUVs.  Competitors, notably British Leyland, maker of the Land Rover, brought suit claiming Toyota was bending the tariff schedules which, of course, they were.  The claim took more than a year to resolve, by which time Toyota had earned an SUV reputation (and gained a share) in the market.

The same hanky-panky went on with other imports, including saxophones and accessories.  Rico Products found that if it claimed that reeds were made of wood there was one tariff rate.  If it claimed that reeds were made of grass (arundo donax is a giant grass), there was another rate.  If reeds are cane, they have still another rate (the same rate as rattan furniture).  Finally, there would be a significantly different tariff if the imported raw material was classified as "sticks" rather than "fiberous vegetable matter."  There are at least four federal cases of Rico Products vs. United States that argue about the proper tariff rate for the material used to make saxophone reeds.  A lot of this costly legal wrangling was eliminated by subsequent "free trade" agreements, but those agreements create their own problems.

The old tariff schedules for musical instruments were also a convoluted mess.  It appears that if you had a Congressman who liked accordion music, that instrument would have a lower import tariff.  Or maybe it was because there were no U.S. accordion manufacturers to lobby Congress for higher U.S. accordion tariffs.  It was often the case that U.S. instrument manufacturers would be behind the request for a higher tariff on imported competing instruments.  And tariff schedules created a "disharmony" where a U.S. manufacturer both made instruments domestically and also imported a second line of instruments.

Vito Pascucci, the CEO of Leblanc U.S.A., began by importing and selling Leblanc instruments made in France.  In France, G. Leblanc et Cie made their clarinets in a facility in La Couture-Boussey (30 km southwest of Mantes).  Their saxophones were made in Mantes (50 km west of Paris) by Maurice Beaugnier at E. Beaugnier et Cie, a company later purchased in part or in whole by Leblanc et Cie.  Beaugnier made saxophones for Leblanc et Cie (France), Leblanc (U.S.A) as well as stencil horns for several U.S. wholesalers (as we saw for Sorkin N.Y. in another blog).  

Either because Beaugnier didn't have sufficient manufacturing output or, more likely, because of the U.S. tariff schedules, Mr. Pascucci realized that he could have the saxophones delivered un-assembled.  At the time, the tariff on "parts, musical instruments" was way less than for completed "musical instruments."  Further, if greater than 50% of the instrument's value was added by completing assembly in the U.S., that had additional tax, tariff, and even future export advantages.  That is likely what happened with my Beaugnier/Vito tenor.  Parts from France and final assembly in the U.S.

Depending on the cost of production in each country, the degree of assembly could be complex.  If you are thinking of a body tube and a box of keys being imported, that probably isn't what happened.  Key posts may have been soldered on in France and the keys attached here.  Necks, including cork and octave key, may have been completed in France and shipped separately from a particular horn, meaning that even the completed necks could be shipped as "parts."  Determining whether a sax without a neck is "parts" and what constitutes 50% of a saxophone's value would be complex and so the constant arguing over trade tariffs.

The "simple" engraving on some Vitos may have been done in the U.S.  The elaborate engraving on other Vitos may be old world craftsmanship.  And just how much value does engraving add to a saxophone?  All of that could be the the source of another tariff schedule dispute.  One of the most famous was over the importation of women's fancy dresses.  Made in Asia, the importer stopped at a U.S. Territory in the Pacific and had the dresses quickly sprayed with a flame retardant, claiming that the process added more than 50% of the value and therefore the dresses were "made in the U.S.A." and not subject to import tariffs. The importer cited to the incidents where women literally went up in flames at social events from wearing ball gowns.  In the mid-1800's, annual death by "dress fire" had approached that of women murdered.  U.S. Customs was not impressed with the argument and denied the claim.  Now, back to saxophones.

You can find internet references to the Leblanc and Beaugnier factories being located in Paris.  I don't think that this is accurate, even if Leblanc and Beaugnier had "Paris" stamped on some items.  More accurately, they were near Paris.  Many French woodwind manufacturers claimed Paris as their headquarters even though they were located 80 km west.  Some even had Paris mailing addresses (usually a music store who sold their goods), but not really an office.  It is sort of like Italian clothing designers and manufacturers claiming that they are in Milan.  Or the French saxophone maker Dolnet listing an office in New York (it was the residential apartment of an import agent).  Stamping your instruments with "Paris, Milan, and New York" looks and sounds good to the consumer.

The woodwind company G. Leblanc et Cie became famous in part because George Leblanc employed a well know acoustician, Mr. Charles Houvenaghel.  Houvenaghel is credited with designing the Leblanc Rationale system (a Boehm system saxophone) that had innovative alternative fingerings and incredibly accurate intonation.  I have owned one and it had all the indications of being a Beaugnier built saxophone.

Houvenaghel also designed the famous Leblanc "paperclip" contrabass clarinet.  Here he is with a BBb octocontrabass paperclip, which apparently never went into full production.  In 1960, the year of this picture, the paperclip contrabass was in full production.  Mine is #441 of over 2,000, and is silver plated rather than the nickel plating used on the later paperclips.




The octocontrabass compared to the paperclip contrabass.  There is a Leblanc octocontrabass and contrabass on display at the Musee des instrument a vent in La Couture-Boussey.

Since Beaugnier was responsible for Leblanc's brass wind production (they are also known to have produced trumpets), One wonders whether Beaugnier had anything to to with the fabrication of Leblanc metal clarinets.  Regardless, Leblanc and Beaugnier had a very close relationship for saxophone production and it is likely that Beaugnier's reputation for accurate intonation is related to Mr. Houvenaghel's long association with Leblanc et Cie.

The Beaugnier/Vito tenor that I am rebuilding was purchased in 1965 and played for three years in middle school, then put in the closet.  How do I know this?  When cleaning out an old case I always carefully slide my fingers into every nook and cranny.  Carefully.  Once I found a hypodermic needle.  Usually I will find missing screws.  This time I found a little luggage tag with the name of the Thompson - Kramer Music Company in Decatur, IL.  On the other side was the name of the original purchaser, written in a kid's handwriting.  I contacted the Ebay seller and learned that this is the seller's uncle and a little more about the history of the horn.  It had been played in middle school from 1965 to 1968.  

I could deduce some of the history just by looking at the sax.  It had been put back into the case wet a lot of times (a classic kid maneuver).  There wasn't a pull through swab in the case and putting it back wet is a killer on pads, especially the low Eb pad.

The Eb pad sitting on my list of replacement pad sizes to order.

The hairy looking stuff on the Eb resonator is from the fuzzy lining in the case.  The inside of the horn was covered with it, indicating that the sax probably hadn't been swabbed regularly.  The effect is not only to ruin the pads, but the moisture is also hard on the tone hole chimney rims.  This particular horn apparently had the tone holes leveled after being lacquered.  The effect is that the tone hole rim has raw brass exposed.  Combine that with wet leather on the normally closed pads and it produces a thick layer of verdigris gunk that makes pad sealing difficult.


Click to enlarge and you can see the green gunky tarnish on the upper tone holes.  The lowers were the same.  Every tone hole was cleaned and checked for level.  All were level, the sign of good build quality and no subsequent trauma.

There was sufficient moisture that it even affected the Eb key guard.  This corrosion cleaned up, but the lacquer is gone.

Other than a few issues, the horn was in great shape.  
Because the springs are gold plated, there was no rust on them.  After a thorough cleaning, even the inside of the sax is shiny.

Vito inside of an oval is the only engraving and it was apparently engraved prior to the application of lacquer.  This makes the engraving appear shallow.  When horns are engraved after the application of lacquer, it tends to break through the lacquer and cause corrosion to start at that point.  That would have been particularly bad on a saxophone that was often put back in the case before completely dry. 

As often happens when the horn is put in the case wet, the neck is put away with the mouthpiece still attached.  The mouthpiece soon fuses to the cork and the cork is ruined when the mouthpiece is finally yanked off.  Not a problem here because my plan was to rebuild everything anyway.  I started with the neck cork.


I taped the lacquer above the old cork and began removal.  What you can't see here is that the Vito mouthpiece (the original) had been pushed far on to the cork.  That combined with the extreme height of the pads made me think that there might be some tuning issues once I got the neck corked and the pads installed.  

The neck opening wasn't perfectly round (very common).  I rounded this out before starting but, as you will see, it ended up that this did not matter.

The neck was then cleaned off and a piece of cork was prepared.  It is possible to buy ready-made neck corks, but I'll show you the way to quickly make them out of 1/16" sheet cork.  

The initial cut.


When I purchase a few sheets of 16th inch cork, I always set aside the one that looks best for neck cork.  I cut a piece to the approximate width that I need.  Length is just a guess at this point.  I put it up to the edge of my glass desk top and use a razor knife to make the initial taper cut because it is faster than rasping all of that material off.


I then use a rasp to finish the taper, pulling it towards me.  When tapering the outside edges of the cork, I make sure and draw the rasp slightly towards the center of the cork as I pull.  That way I'm less likely to "chip" the edges.  As it tapers, I can hear the rasp grating on the glass when my taper is finished to a fine angle.  If there is a flaw in the cork and the edge tears, the piece is long enough so that I can start over.

The side view showing the taper.

Contact cement is applied to the back of the cork and to the neck.


The glue is almost dry with only a few shiny wet spots remaining.  


The masking tape shows me where the old cork was, it keeps me from getting glue too far onto the cork, and it prevents scratching the lacquer when I sand the cork down.

I apply the cork starting "in the middle" (see below). I actually try to keep the overlap seam at the bottom of the neck (not terribly important) and the cork wrapped around "clockwise" (also not terribly important).  The clockwise part is so that when I put the mouthpiece on initially I twist it on in a way that tends to "wind the cork on" instead of off (being as I'm right-handed).  Regardless of how you install the cork, the first couple of times you put the mouthpiece on and take it off it helps to only twist it in the direction of your wrap.

The cork is stuck on "in the middle" so that the tapered edge (to the left) will wrap halfway around and end up on the bottom side of the neck.  This neck cork is quite long (covering about 1.5" of the neck), but so was the original and I need to cover up the old glue area.

Starting the wrap.

The tapered edge is laid down and glued tight against the neck.

Contact cement is then applied to the tapered area and a little more on the cork that will be glued down on top of it.  Another 10 minute wait.

Once glued, a wide shoe string or piece of ribbon is wrapped tightly around the cork, winding it in the same direction as the cork was glued down.

About 90 degrees of overlapping cork (from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock).  Better too much than not enough.  

The wrapping goes over the end of the mouthpiece to make sure that the end edge is glued tight.

Twenty minutes later it's time to unwrap and begin finishing the cork.
Being very careful, I cut away a lot of the overlap using a razor knife.  This saves a lot of time and usually 1/16th inch cork is plenty thick, allowing for some inexactitude.

A fine rasp, like was used to create the cork taper, is very helpful in speeding up the sanding.  Make sure and file the right direction on the overlapped area.

A strip of sandpaper is then used like a "shoe shine" to finish the surface.

I then use Doctor Slick to lubricate the cork.  If you use regular cork grease and then decide that you need to sand some more to make the cork thinner, the grease will load up the sand paper and make a difficult mess.  Doctor Slick can be washed off and doesn't gum up the sandpaper.

So, why all of this neck cork stuff when the blog is about the rebuild of a 1965 Beaugnier/Vito?  Because once I got the tenor rebuilt I had to do the neck cork all over again.  What?

First the pads had to be installed (a little on that later), and then I learned why the original Vito mouthpiece had always been pushed on almost to the end of the long original cork.


Above is where the Vito mouthpiece "almost" tuned on the new cork (which I put in exact position as the original cork).  Even though the cork was long, the mouthpiece still had to be pushed in so that the neck "bottomed out" in the mouthpiece chamber.  This was necessary to bring the pitch up.

This give you an idea of how far the original corked neck was inside the mouthpiece.

The new pads are now in, but I had used the original cork thickness on the key feet for the rebuild which, of course, resulted in reproducing the original pad heights.  These are gigantic pad heights, which would effectively bring the pitch up as high as possible.  Playing the horn felt kind of clunky with the pads that high.  I needed to use a thicker cork for the key feet in order to drop the key heights to where they felt right (to me). 



Above is a picture of some of my cork selection showing the thicknesses in millimeters.  Some suppliers I use list cork thicknesses in fractions of an inch and some in millimeters.  I generally use a caliper and then write on them.  The 1.88, 1.75, and 1.66 were all sold as 1/16th inch thickness (which is 1.58 mm).  Even an individual sheet can differ from one area to another.  I had used 1.66 mm, which appeared to be the same as on the original setup, but that clearly wasn't thick enough for my preference.  

All of the corks that I had put on the key feet during the repad were too thin, especially on the lower stack.  When the keys were off, it was easy to put on corks and make sure that the edges are nicely sanded so that there is nothing to catch when you are wiping down the horn.  Working on the corks with the keys off makes it easy to get the corks looking nice and professional.  I could take it all apart again and put on thicker corks.  

I had already had the horn completely apart and straightened rods, swedged, cleaned, lubricated, floated pads, adjusted spring tension, regulated, etc.  All of those things require the horn be stripped.  But now, it's just the little corks on the pad feet.  The only thing I would be doing if I stripped it down again would replacing the corks to adjust pad height (and I probably would have to redo some of the adjustments and regulating).  Instead, I replaced the corks with thicker cork without taking all of the keys off.  

The new cork foot thickness (right) compared to the original thickness.

First, I scrape off the old (actually new) corks.  I use them to see how wide my new corks have to be.  Then I cut my new thicker corks using a straight edge (the metal ruler).  I'm going to use my fancy whiz-bang cork installment tool.


My special tool is a champagne cork with a needle spring stuck in it.  I can then stick the little piece of cork on the edge, touch one side with contact cement, rub that on the key foot so that both the cork and the key foot have contact cement on them.  I let the cement on the cork dry by standing the champagne cork upright.  I use a rubber band or wedge to keep the glue-coated key foot from touching the body tube.  When the contact cement is dry, I can carefully position the cork, touch it to the key foot, and pull the pin.  Gently lifting up on the pad cup applies pressure to that key foot cork to make sure that the entire cork is glued.  With fresh contact cement, tiny adjustments (to adjust the cork's position) are possible for a short time.  Bingo, a new thicker cork foot.

I had to redo the lower stack key feet with 2.15 mm thick cork.  Although the new cork is only about .5 mm thicker, that brought every pad down about 2 mm.  The upper stack keys were redone with 1.88 mm cork and that seemed to do the trick.  All of the corks on the feet were then individually adjusted as part of the re-regulation, but these cork thicknesses (and further reducing all spring tensions), got me to a place where the horn felt great.

I don't measure individual pad heights because I don't have a height fetish.  I have a pitch fetish.  And even with pitch I am not looking for perfection.  I want each note to be within about 5 cents of perfect.  The rest is up to the player (me).

The felts on the bell notes were also adjusted to bring those key heights down uniformly.  With my new pad heights, I now checked the tuning again.  Lowering the key heights, which tends to make a horn play flatter (which is not what I needed) did not have very much effect. As you raise pad heights, you reach a point of diminishing returns.  This makes sense if you think about the extremes.  At a certain point, the pad is so far away from the tone hole that it might as well be completely removed.  It no longer effects tuning.  That was the case here.  The pads were so high that bringing them 2mm closer had very little effect on the pitch.  It improved the feel of the horn while hardly lowering pitch.

Of course, the horn still played flat overall and the mouthpiece had to be pushed in way too far, in my opinion.  What could be making the horn play flat top to bottom such that the mouthpiece had to be crammed on all the way?  Even pushing the mouthpiece to the max didn't completely solve the issue.  Time for some drastic surgery.

The removed neck section.

I cut 13 mm off the of the neck and recorked it so that the cork went 13mm further up the neck than it was originally.  Even though more neck cork is showing now in the picture below, the mouthpiece is actually on several millimeters further than it could go on the original neck.


After spending some time on the tuner, the photo shows where the mouthpiece now tunes.  Instead of right to the very end of the original cork (where the mouthpiece could go no further), I now have some additional tuning ability.  Tuning is as good as any sax I've ever tested with only one outlier.  2nd C# is still almost 10 cents flat, but can be easily lipped up.  Everything else is just fine.

So what's up with a neck that was too long?  If, as I hypothesized earlier, this saxophone was built in the U.S. from parts sourced from Beaugnier, is it possible that Beaugnier shipped a generic neck, i.e., a neck that was to be "cut to length" depending on the choice of mouthpiece later paired with the sax?  I don't know.  I did notice that the lacquer on the neck was slightly lighter than the body, but since I know the entire history of the sax, I know it is the original neck.  Pictures on the internet confirm that this style of neck came with this model of Vito.  The difference in lacquer seems to relate to the horn being assembled from parts.  It's just another sax mystery.

Now back to the rest of the rebuild.  Everything was stripped down.  Every cork and felt was replaced.  Every rod was removed and checked for straight.  One thing that I found (or didn't find) that was great was that, although the horn had been put away wet, it didn't look like it had been played in the rain.  Marching band horns can have lots of rust on the steel key hinge rods, making them rough, sticky, and hard to get working properly.  This horn had no mechanical problems, other than having been over oiled and the oil was now stiff and grimy.  If it had ever been played in the rain, over oiling could have been what saved the key rods.

 As each rod is removed, it is cleaned with bronze wool.  If there is a rusty or rough spot on the rod, you can feel it with the bronze wool and polish it smooth.
Instead of using oil, I'm using a dry lubricant.  The carrier is something like alcohol and dissolves the old grimy oil as it leaves a thin layer of Teflon.

I put a couple drops of the dry lubricant on a pipe cleaner and run it through the hinge tube, both cleaning and lubricating.
Running the pipe cleaner through often results in a really dirty cleaner.  

I probably use 5 pipe cleaners on a saxophone, often snipping off dirty ends with a wire cutter and using shorter and shorter pieces.  I also clean out the little sockets that receive hinge screws.  I want all of the old dirty oil out.


The dry lubricant is dribbled on the rod as it is rotated.  It quickly dries (the carrier is volatile and flammable), leaving a dull Teflon film.  

Be careful trying to apply the lubricant to hinges once the horn is reassembled.  You will dribble some and the lubricant is hard to remove from lacquer.

I'm going to describe using a Teflon shrink tube for various friction points.  Putting the tubing on the friction area and applying heat isn't the problem.  The problem is keeping the Teflon tube from falling off later.  The easiest place to show what I'm doing is on a Bb side key connector piece.  These are sometimes corked to make them quiet and sometimes for adjustment.  Often Teflon alone is enough.  

I cut the shrink tube and slip it over the friction point on the key.  Then I slice a little piece of hot glue and put in on the end.  As I slowly apply heat, the hot glue melts first and wicks down inside the tube.  When the tube shrinks, it squirts the melted glue back out and I then touch the glue end to a cold surface, like the glass desk top.  The glue sticks to the brass key much better than the smooth glass, and I can simply pull it away from the glass when cooled.  What I end up with is a Teflon shrink tube held in place by a hot glue plug.  Without the hot glue plug, the Teflon will fall off sooner or later.


Click to enlarge and you can see the "smashed glue" on the end.

Here is another example of Teflon tube use.  This is the little arm that closes the lower octave pip pad.  It has already corked so that it doesn't "click" when the octave key is pressed.  But this closing arm slides over the pad key and Telfon makes it smoother.  

A little tear-shaped piece of hot glue will be slid down inside the tube when placed over the corked arm.

The glue melted and the tubing starting to shrink.  Pressing the end down on the glass will push the tubing on a little and cool the glue to keep the tubing from falling off.

I'm still looking for the photos that I took of the repad.  I can't find them on my computer!  So I'll talk for a minute about the original Vito mouthpiece.  It is the "torpedo" shaped piece made by Riffault et Fils that was later the basis of their "Superfini" model.  This particular one does not have the interior polishing that was the distinguishing character of the Superfini, although I don't see (hear) that it makes much difference.  

The Vito torpedo with the original ligature and cap.

I would call this a small chamber, although I know that there are smaller.  Flat sidewalls and a higher chamber roof (compared to the Otto Link Slant Signatures that I normally play) made this piece seem bright, powerful, and a little abrasive to my ears.

The mouthpiece is a small chamber flat wall with a baffle that "drops off" a tiny bit at the shank bore.  That "drop off" was polished out on the later Riffault Superfini model.  It also varies a little from the mouthpieces pieces made for Leblanc, though the facings seem to be the same.  This #3 tip is stamped with an "N" facing designation.  I've also seen some torpedo pieces stamped with a "V" for Vito.  I've never measured the entire facings to see if there is a difference in the lay between N and V.  As to tip openings, the #3 seems to be the standard Riffault "new sax" or student opening.  A #3 Riffault tenor is listed as 1.65mm or .065 inch, as seen in a prior blog.  That is tight for a tenor piece even by 1965 standards.  

I opened up the piece a little to to 1.95mm (.077mm) or about a Riffault 5.  It is now even more powerful, but I've learned that some of that is the horn itself.  I'll probably write another blog about opening up these pieces because they are a little different than the Otto Link Tone Edge style of chamber. 

It seems that Beaugnier (like Conn) could put whatever options you wanted on a stencil saxophone.  Beaugnier could get really fancy (as was apparently the case with the Leblanc Rationale).  My Vito has a pant guard (left off on some Vitos), a G# connection switch (left off on some Vitos), screw-adjustable felts in the key guards (left off on some Vitos) and who knows what else.  

I found my repad pictures.  As I noted at the beginning, there wasn't really anything specific to a Beaugnier/Vito rebuild that was unusual.  One of the things that I've come across before is a pad or two that isn't centered over the tone hole.  I think that I've seen this on every saxophone that I have repadded.  Having a pad perfectly centered simply isn't required.  More importantly, most players don't notice an off-center pad and therefore haven't created a myth that centered pads make a sax sound more "centered" or something.  It is up to technicians to start that myth.

That's not to say that there aren't situations where a pad being off center isn't an issue.  That is especially true when the repad is going to include new larger resonators.  Here are two pads from the Beaugnier.


This is a situation where the pads might seal okay even though the resonator is close to the tone hole rim.  It's not really a problem caused by the pad cup being off center (although both of them are, which is common).  The problem is arguably the size of the resonator.  The pad on the left is the most troublesome to me.  


Above is the new pad ordered for that cup size with the standard size resonator for that pad size.  You can see that the resonator is even larger than the one that was possibly too large.  I knew before I ordered the pad that this would likely be a problem.  Fortunately, I have used the same pads (Saxgourmet black) and resonators (no rivet domed chrome) on all my rebuilds over the years.  I had ended up with extra pads because of ordering error (on my part).  So I swapped out the standard size resonator that came with my new pad order with a smaller resonator.  It is possible to order a pad or two with smaller resonators from some suppliers (I use Music Medic), but this was faster for me.

You can still see the outline of the original resonator.  That disappeared after a couple hours of playing.

I did the same thing on the pad where the old resonator was even closer to the chimney rim.

So that's about it for the rebuild.  You can see that I even replaced the original felts. 

I'm still playing around with regulation.  I can tell that I have a few things that aren't right.  I tend to play at home and my workshop is above the garage at my summer cabin.  That means that I find things that I'd like to check out and then have to wait until the weekend to get to the workbench.  

Playing with a tuner I've noticed that the horn is really sensitive to mouthpiece placement.  Not just pitch, but also some in-harmonics when pitch isn't quite right.  Commonly this is apparent in wobbly low notes.  If I pull the mouthpiece out too far, the wobbling starts at low E even though the pitch isn't off too far (slightly low).  As the mouthpiece is pressed on further, E gets stable and the wobbling starts at D.  If pushed on further, wobbling at D disappears.  If pushed on further, the pitch is too high.  It seems that I can tune the horn without a digital tuner just by listening to low D.  The wobbling is subtle and can be controlled even with the mouthpiece not in the most stable position, but there is no need to bother as the most stable position is also the most in tune.

Here is something about wobbly notes and stuffy notes that I have found.  Play slowly down to the first troublesome note.  Then, starting with upper stack B, press more firmly with that finger.  Increase the pressure finger by finger all the way down, making sure to keep increased pressure on the higher keys.  What you may find is a slight change in pitch or wobbliness as you go down the horn.  For instance, pressing harder with your third left finger (G) may alter the pitch on D.  That shouldn't happen.  It means that you have a leak on the G pad (or a pad connected to or regulated by) that fingering.

You can do something similar by just playing down the stacks.  For instance, play A using a light touch and alternate with soft and firm pressure with your index finger (the lowest key touch for A).  Do the same for G, F, E, etc.  You should not get any "trill" difference in the pitch.  If you do, then you know that that pad isn't seated properly.  It can seal when you use a gorilla grip, but that shouldn't be necessary.  Further, even if you initially use heavy pressure on the A key, for instance, as you move down to other fingerings you are likely to reduce the pressure on the A key.  A pad that seals with your initial pressure may not stay sealed as you move down the scale and involuntarily reduce the pressure on the upper keys. 

The reason that I mention this is that I just came across a variation of this on the Beaugnier.  A low E that "trills" a little when varying pressure is applied with my right index finger.  It means that I have to put it back on the bench and check my regulation.  So far, every intonation issue with the horn has been my fault, not the Vito.