This is a 1941 Buescher “Big B” Alto Sax which some consider to be a tremendous playing instrument. As I got into disassembling it, cleaning it, repadding it, etc., I ran into more problems than I initially saw during my estimate. A couple of the pivot screws, they hold the keys onto the horn, were rusted into the posts. Not only that but, someone had tried to get the rusted screws out and proceeded to gnarl up the head of the screw. Now, no kind of screw driver would fit the screw slot. Hell, the screw slot was gone. Luckily, after I extracted the stuck screws I did have replacement screws for this 77 year old horn.
Next, this sax originally had pads that were held into the keys using a domed metal snap. The snaps double as a device not only to hold the pad in place but also as a resonator. A resonator is on most all pads, these days, and is used to reflect the sound out of the horn. Many years ago sax pads did not have resonators. Pads were basically a piece of round, flat felt that were wrapped with leather. The leather soaked up a majority of the sound so, the horns sounded more muffled. The resonators helped give the instrument more volume and more clarity. The reason I mention the domed metal snaps (resonators) is because they held the pads in by snapping to a spud that was soldered inside the pad cup (key). Whoever did the last work on this horn attempted to cut out or grind out the spuds so they could use conventional, current day pads that don’t use snaps. Unfortunately, they did not completely grind out the spuds in any of the keys. This is a problem because the pads that you are now putting into the horn will not lay perfectly flat inside the pad cup (key). If it doesn’t lay flat in the key then it won’t evenly cover the tone hole…….this is bad. Consequently, I had to regrind the spuds out of every key with a pad in it. That’s 24 keys.
My next hurdle was I also had to fabricate a piece, that had been broken off, for the octave mechanism. Fortunately I keep pieces of brass rod in stock and with the assistance of my metal lathe I was able to make a suitable replacement part.
I would venture to say that this complete repad adventure took about 20 hours. That’s quite a bit longer than most repads take. In the final analysis the horn did play well. It has a big, fat ol’ sound for an alto sax.