Saxophone Forum


by rfriedman
(2 posts)
9 years ago

Building A Key

I purchased an Orsi (Italy) tenor sax with the entire high E key nissing. That includes the top pivit post and all rods etc. I am tempted to build a new one. I am an engineer and machinist, so I stand a chance. Where can I purcase the materials to begin this project?

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  1. by SaxMan
    (559 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Building A Key

    you will spend A LOT fo money doing that. YOu will have to buy some good, probably 3/4 inch brass stock - probably at least 18 inches of it. some good, unannealed key stock, again, probably a right good chunk. (no one is going to sell you a little 1/4 inche pos.) You will need access to a fairly high tech lathe. You will need to know how to silver solder - acetylene and oxygen required - regulators alone are close to 200 dollars - silver solder flux and silver solder. Some 60/40 for the posts, you will have to know how to solder the posts without burning the lacquer IF you have all the machinery, you would probably spend close to 150 in supplies alone, then you might burn the crap out of the lacquer, or the key may just look bad. I would recomend taking it to a tech.

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    1. by rfriedman
      (2 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Building A Key

      Thanks for your advice. I have some brass stock, an oxy acccetene set up, and some jewler tourches, I have some silver solder and flux but my 9" lathe may be a bit clumsy for this work. I am not sure why you suggest 1/4 inch brass stock. I figgured that long rod is about 3 mm and I could silver solder all the attatchments to it. I would use the 3/4 inch to make the cup, but I have 3/4 inch anyway. You did intimidate me with the burning of the laquer, it has been a long time since I did fine work, and I was young and steady then. Anyway, thanks for your warning and advice. The sax in junk anyway, it has zero alternate keys, much simpler than the standard sax. I will probably do nothing. Its not worh the tech costs. Thanks again

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      1. by SaxMan
        (559 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Building A Key

        yeah, the 3/4" was for the cup - my comment about the 1/4" was that no one would sell you 1/4 inch of 3/4" stock. Actually, the lathe that is at the shop I work at, I believe is even bigger than 9", but it just has A LOT of fine precision instruments that some lathes don't. I don't have a clue exactly what all of them do, but I have watched a little bit, my boss fabricate a key and he used a bunch of those tools - enough to know what it takes. The hardest 2 parts of the process would be the ergonomics and NOT burning the lacquer. When you are fabricating a key - silver soldering is no big deal - it isn't finished or anything so you could do a HIDEOUS solder job, then just file it down - when you have to solder a key back together, you have to keep the finish in mind.

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        1. by chiamac
          (586 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Building A Key

          what is saxman talking about? it wouldn't be that hard at all... just depends on how well you want the thing to look. All a person would need is some small tubing (for the rod), some brass/copper rod stock, a small piece of flat 16-20g sheet stock, and some 26g bezel stock. you could easily fab something up that would work! now onto how I would do it... I would make a wood or wax mold of the new key, then cast it. I would fit the other pieces onto that, namely the key, and tube. Makeing the bezel for the pad shouldn't be too big of a deal... since you're not trying to set a stone or something critical with it.

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      2. by chiamac
        (586 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Building A Key

        " regulators alone are close to 200 dollars" what? I got my stuff for about 150, and that includes a small tank. I just have a presto acccetene torch though, which works great as long as I'm not casting anything over a oz of material. silver solder is pretty cheap... in fact silver is pretty cheap. The key in question would maybe run you $20 at the very most. (since around 20 inches of 4mm round stock is about $25 or so) as far as material... I could do this right now with my setup. And no I don't have any lathes or stuff, don't really need them. but yeah, if you need any help, or a place to go for silver tools let me know! I can't really help with soldering to a horn, but everything else...

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        1. by chiamac
          (586 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Building A Key

          speaking of making suff... I was just working on a necklace today, trying to rivit some silver together. remeber people... a bigger hammer dosn't mean faster! I blew out the round stock I was working with. Now I'll have to pull the rivit off and solder the round stock back together! grrrr, oh well, I won't do it again.

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          1. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            silver solder in instrumental cases that is

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          2. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            sure you could cast it...and use some generic tubing, and it would be a totally hideous piece of soft crap. the stock alone would cost 25 dollars like you said....though the wrong stock - so you figure ti would cost you 20 dollars. How does that work out? think you are going to sell the excess for what it is worth? dream on.

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          3. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            and you normally need oxygen to silver solder...somtimes you can get away with compressed air, but not often.

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          4. by chiamac
            (586 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            "and you normally need oxygen to silver solder...sometimes you can get away with compressed air, but not often." we do it at school with nat. gas and compressed air. I anneal silver/aluminum over my stove for god sake... and I use a presto-lite torch with just acetylene and air, which works great and can cast up to a few oz of material. in fact, my stove got that round stock glowing bright red... in a matter of a few min, which was a little hotter than what I want. (it's a dull red for silver) and I don't know how long it takes my aluminum, since that doesn’t show heat at all. silver solder is about $1-1.50 per foot, and in this case you wouldn't need more than that. In other words it's cheap. (and I think I'm really high with that quote) Flux is also very cheap, just a few dollars, or use some borax and water... Silver rod stock is about $1.75-2 per foot (of 4mm stock) which I know off the top of my head. - this is cheap Silver tube stock is that much at the most... maybe less, but I would have to check. - also not expensive I forget how much flat silver is, but it's not that much, and shouldn't be more than $7-10 for a few square inches of 20g... but I'd have to check on that to be sure. - again not expensive as for saxboys rant about the material I quoted before... it was just for an example and I knew that cost off the top of my head. If he wants I will get him a quote for how I would make the key. It wouldn't be very pretty, but it would work just fine. (the palm part would look normal, the length would be rod stock, and the pad part would be a bezel to size, I would guess $15 for materials maybe 20 at the most, not counting the posts and rods, which I would get from a sax shop, from any parts they may have laying around) as for the excess... if you order just WHAT YOU NEED there won't be too much! Also I would suggest AGENST oxy/acc torches when soldering silver - unless it's a small tip. Those can get very hot very fast, and will melt things before you know what's going on. (in fact my torch will do that if I don’t' pay attention) it just depends on what you're doing and how fast you want to do it. For example you're going to have a tough time with natgas/compressed air if you're working on bigger gold stuff or platinum. (and platinum is a whole can of worms on it's own)

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          5. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            silver is FAR too soft to use on instruments that way and any key made of silver would be a bent piece fo crap in a matter of months potentially, not to mention how bad the action would be. Chiamac, if you know what you are doing, you aren't going to melt anything with accetylene - you only would do that if you are a complete idiot - which sadly there are a lot of people like that. hell, you shoudln't even allow the plating to come off silver soldering. Borax and water? where are your acids man? you might be able to half ass it in your class, but you can't do that in repair. technically, you should even be able to tell a solder job was done, but that can be hard matching lacquers - and most people don't want to pay for you to mix up a batch of lacquer matching their horn's lacquer. Good luck trying to get your tech to sell you a part, it will be a cold day in hell before that happens unless you have very good relations with that tech. Even then, you probably won't get it. I am not saying I am a silver solder genius - i was curious one day about how hard it was so I tried it at my grandpas house who had all the stuff for it for some reason. The first thing I got a little bit hot and it looked kid of funny. the second one was much better - wasn't exactly on par with what a jeweler would do, but a few more and I think I wouldn have been there. There are too many repair experts out there that don't know anything about it. Yesterday someone told me that I needed to put a cork on the foot joint of a flute - in such a place that NEVER touches anything, when it isn't bent. The same person had pad crushers on it that had pushed the seats all the way back to the cardboard back of the pad. There you go.

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          6. by definition
            (963 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            A good tech is willing to sell a person parts, partially cause we know they will have the horn back in to clean up there mess. "There are too many repair experts out there that don't know anything about it." You come to mind on that one, minus the expert part. Dont be an idiot, you'll be caught on it everytime

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          7. by chiamac
            (586 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            "silver is FAR too soft to use on instruments that way and any key made of silver would be a bent piece fo crap in a matter of months potentially" silver would work just fine for that key. If it was "FAR too soft" you wouldn't see it on tea-pot handles or silverware, or anything. "Chiamac, if you know what you are doing, you aren't going to melt anything with accetylene - you only would do that if you are a complete idiot... " I can cast things with accetylene, right? "Borax and water? " for the silver solder flux, "Good luck trying to get your tech to sell you a part, it will be a cold day in hell before that happens unless you have very good relations with that tech. Even then, you probably won't get it." I know a few people that would do this kind of thing for me. "I am not saying I am a silver solder genius - " It's not hard. I never said I was a tech, or anything close to a tech... I just said I would be able to make a key (I could trust) for something around $20 in materials. You're the one going off the deep end here trying to prove me wrong. So far you haven't been able to do it. I haven't tried to solder anything on a horn yet, but I don't think it would be that big of a deal to learn... maybe it wouldn't look good right away, but it's not rocket science or anything. "The first thing I got a little bit hot and it looked kid of funny." what are you talking about? You really can't get silver solder too hot... Seriously, it's going to flow at a given temp and that's it. The joint just has to be clean, have flux, and the solder has to be clean. Besides you didn't get things too hot because remeber - "if you know what you are doing, you aren't going to melt anything with accetylene." Again, soldering isn't rocket science.

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          8. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            tea pot handles and silverware neither are items with any sort of precision. any sterling silver flute head joint will be tight when it is brand new - most likely, but after 2 weeks, it has worn down enough that it fits comfortably. not a whole lot of motion there. Sure you can cast stuff with accetylene, just don't heat something to the melting point. your key would have to be level with the tone hole, mostly flat, hard enough that it would move very little at all due to spring tension and so that it wouldn't deform after a bit. you aren't going to get that last one with silver. I don't know what happened to the first one - it didn't melt, but something weird happened with the metal. No, you are right, soldering isn't rocket science, but when you do it to an instrument, it is an art, any ass-crack plumber can solder, but not many can do it without spilling solder everywhere, or without badly burning the lacquer etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. unfortuneatley, most people on this planet are not artists. My god this place has become worse than sotw with all of its home grown "techs"

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          9. by definition
            (963 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            Oy sax man, being a tech myself, id like to point out that chiamac has WAAAY more of a clue than you do. Id sell him the materials he needs in a heart beat

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          10. by johnsonfromwisconsin
            (767 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            ----------------------------------------------------- My god this place has become worse than sotw with all of its home grown "techs" ---------------------------------------------------- Funny, SOTW has at least several guys with their own shops, who've had good reviews, and who answer repair questions with thoughtfull, intelligent, answers and no pure egotism

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          11. by SaxMan
            (559 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            if I am not mistaken, steve goodson goes there, and last I heard, "his"unison saxophones that all sorts of people prepaid for, did not exist when they should have, or even months later.

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          12. by definition
            (963 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Building A Key

            Goodsson has not been seen on SOTW in ages kid. he has his own forum these days

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