Services  |  Repair (prices current for 2023)

Repair (and Pricing)

Drop off and “while you wait” service are available by appointment.  It’s easy to make appointments 1-3 days in advance, and harder on short notice.  Emergency appointments are available, especially for working professional players.  Please do let me know when it’s an emergency, as I won’t automatically assume a last minute request is one.

Afternoon appointments and evening appointments are easiest during the week — the shop is in a commercial location where it’s OK to playtest deep into the night, so late evening appointments can be scheduled in advance. Weekend appointments are also available.

The more advance notice you can request, the easier it is to make an appointment.

Repair by mail is also available, but this is usually best reserved for overhauls, as with the cost of shipping to Santa Cruz and back to you, for spot repair this drives the hourly rate for spot repair up quite a bit.

As far as my own repair and repair service philosophy, there is a right way & a wrong way (which is anything other than the most ideal way) to do most anything.  Often, though, there is more than one way to approach spot repair, and the cost savings of doing it a less perfect sometimes counterbalances the cost of doing it a more perfect way.  My job is to help you understand & make clear the technical and cost choices, and then to honor your request according to both your & my own expectations.

As you will surmise, as you look around the site, there is nothing that’s broken on a saxophone that I can’t fix, and almost no type of repair or customization that I haven’t done.  The only work I do not do here on saxophones is fabricate necks and bodies from scratch.  There is work that I prefer to farm out — for example plating — but part of my job is to make you aware of choices where that makes sense, hire the work for you, and to not hide from you areas of specialization where “farming out” work in someone else’s area of specialization may save you some cost, without sacrificing quality.

Repair rate for 2023 is $85/hr plus materials.  I can do a lot in an hour; this is low, in practice, compared to peers of mine.   To keep things simple, I charge service strictly on the clock, and when drop-off service is hired you will have a clear idea of exactly what repair was performed when you pick up.  Examples of normal billing rates for typical job types (just examples, as billing is strictly on the clock, by the hour):

  • Existing customer coming in for minor play degradation after 3-6 months of play (no accidents or mishaps) – less than 1 hour, ~$70
  • Existing customer coming in for post-accident repair (horn knocked off stand type of damage, or case dropped and horn damaged, no DIY repair before bringing the horn to me, no soldering required): – more than 1 hour, less than 3 hours, usually somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, ~$175
  • Bought a horn off eBay from someone who was actually playing it previously (this varies widely, because repair histories vary widely, and the causes of poor performance vary widely in how complicated they are, separate from heavy or light the effects of poor regulation):  average range:  $60-$250, with most of these instances needing under $225 labor to play well.  Most often the range for previously playable but mystery repair history web buys is between $125-$225.
  • Previously unplayable web buys that do not need an overhaul generally finish up at between $175-$335.  If it costs more than $335 to get it playing, it’s probably a better idea to consider an overhaul (full mechanical restoration) because the horn will need one soon anyway, and the work will completely overlap the repair cost and the repair will be less durable than the overhaul (the techniques used for spot repair vs overhaul often differ as disassembly/reassembly cost is always in the mix with spot repair).

Drop off turnaround time is usually 5-10 business days.

Overhauls (and Pricing)*

I take between 1 and 3 overhauls for hire, monthly (and not more than this). While the best situation is always to work with a trusted and competent repair technician locally, if you can’t find a repairperson in your area, or can’t find one with whom you feel comfortable, please feel welcome to email me (link below) and we can discuss work by mail. Generally, at present, my overhaul wait list is too long for me too take much, if any, spot repair by mail.

Every horn is met according to its own needs, in the end, and final overhaul cost depends on the instrument’s past history. Base price is decided by pitching, overall condition and make/model (different makes and models have different inherent labor-time advantages and disadvantages).

So, while work is performed on a sliding scale according to each specific horn’s needs, the base price for a full overhaul for soprano, without custom additions, is usually between $950-$1165.  Altos and Tenors between $1000-$1225.  Baritones are hired on a separate pay scale, $1265-$1495, due to the greater labor time required for their larger pads and larger mechanical systems.  Basses and contrabasses are higher with higher pad prices and labor times.

While the work techniques are the same for all pitchings, for the larger scale pitchings the actual work requirements are the same (just as fine) as for smaller pitchings, there is just a great deal more of it.

Pricing by Make & Model

Conn and modern saxes (from a mechanical viewpoint, those based on the Mark VI or SA80 designs) take a bit more time than Martin, Buescher and King, although Martins sometimes require some extra expense if the tone holes are not level or otherwise damaged. Larger pitchings require larger (and more expensive) pads and considerably greater time in regulating tone holes and key cups, as well as seating pads.  Base price is simply a reflection of the general difference in work times that various designs usually require. Base price does not include extra costs for special or custom materials (for example, Just Saxes-custom, screw-in, reusable resonators), or for work related to mechanical damage beyond normal, minor wear & tear.  For base price coverage:  overhaul details page.

Custom Additions

Custom mechanical additions or modifications are charged at $79/hr with overhauls (plus materials at cost — the shop rate for all non-overhaul-included repair), and the best time to perform them is at the time of a complete restoration (with hand refinish) because that allows for the best clean-up and best cosmetic end result.

Overhauls are performed to the customer’s personal taste and the horn’s needs, with choice of pad and resonator, as well as other custom installation materials. Some of these materials when desired can be quite expensive, but they will be made available at my dealer cost on overhauls (I do not sell overhaul or repair materials separate from overhauls).

Tournaround Time

Turnaround time on overhauls during periods of normal work volume is 2-4 months by mail, shorter locally (mostly because shipping and unpacking, etc., takes extra time, but also because overhauls by mail require extra time in playing and testing, to assure stability of the work prior to completion), with extra time sometimes required for certain kinds of work (e.g. reconditioning jobs requiring resealing lacquer coating, which sometimes has to wait for conducive climatic conditions, & other types of work that have to “cure” before further work resumes).

Turnaround time depends primarily on the amount of work on my bench at the time the horn arrives, and will be clearly estimated at the time of the work order’s scheduling. I normally work on several horns at once – this helps me keep a fresh attention span for each horn, and the day’s work as it moves – and this is one of the reasons I have a longer turnaround time than some may expect. I can usually lower price a little for customers who do not mind longer waits, because to work with greater peace of mind is literally worth its weight in gold, both to me and in terms of results.

(*click here or on the “OVERHAULS” tab above for more info on overhauls)

A few illustrations of past work:

Replacement snap-in mounting for Buescher 400 TH&C high E-key — click to enlarge

(F-to-F# linkage addition/modification — solidifies and helps stabilize F# key.)

(F-to-F# linkage addition/modification — solidifies and helps stabilize F# key.)

Replace alternate Bb key (also known as “Side Bb” key):

On older American saxophones, and some other vintage makes, the side Bb key is a very long, single key, vertically mounted, with both a very long key cup arm and a long lever arm. Because both the key arm on both side of the hinge tube is so long, this key can be a common site of inconsistent seating, even when the hinge tube is tight and properly fitted, thanks to flexion in the key arm itself. This key can be nearly a foot long, for example, on a Conn “Chu” tenor:

A combination of the metal’s inherent flexion, long leverages, and player force can cause this key to seat inconsistently when the saxophone is played. The leverage from the flat spring on this type of key is also very inefficient, and often a site of various problems. The key, even as designed, is not a problem on all saxophones, but tends to be more of a problem with student model saxes from the heyday of American saxophone manufacturing. A dependable solution is to convert the side Bb key, as was done for a local client below, to a modern configuration (which also appears on some vintage American saxes beginning in the 1930s):

The saxophone pictured above is a King Cleveland, and the original side Bb key has been replaced with Selmer keywork. This particular custom addition was done for a client who was completely happy with the horn, except for some inconsistent response, caused by an air leak sometimes produced by the side Bb key’s flexion and inconsistent seating. The modern replacement eliminates that problem.

A few items are worth noting on this particular photo (and job). Done for hire, this work was done according to a budget. While I left the mounting area of the original side Bb as it was (to facilitate reversing the modification, should the owner ever choose to reverse the custom change), clean-up would normally be more thorough, for example at “A” (above) where the key cup posts mount to the body. When making the key itself, all fabricated parts are silver-soldered, except when there is a good reason to opt for soft solder (as in the F# helper modification, described earlier on this page). When fabricating a key, I am always most concerned with the silver solder being dependable; a silver soldered joint is rarely as stable as a brazed joint, other things being equal, so I will usually opt to intentionally allow some overflow, to strengthen the joint (as at “C,” above). I also, whenever possible, will fabricate any pivot points and mountings to match original equipment, and as you can see the key touch pivot and mounting was made for original King pivot screws and locking nuts. This particular Cleveland tenor does exhibit some bent rods — notably the G and Bis rods — but the past repair to this saxophone was done by someone who either bent them as they are or worked with past injuries to the horn so that pads were seated to accommodate the bent arms. Normally, I would correct this, but the pads were seating flat and the action was OK — and the customer was satisfied with those aspects of the horn as is — so they were not corrected as part of this work.

While this particular job was done less expensively, to fit the client’s budget, and according to the client’s and horn’s immediate needs, normally the work to both perform a modification like this and the clean-up for it would cost between $225-$245 total.

There really are no mechanical problems that cannot be solved. The question is always of how far the player wants to go in getting me to solve them. The cost is always just the labor and parts. The labor for keywork modifications is usually more involved than most would guess, but the results are usually worth it, if the player wants the improvement badly enough to pay to have the work done.

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