What Is Involved in Saxophone Restoration?

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  • Written By: Jo Dunaway
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Saxophones from different makers tend to require somewhat different restoration work, although there are some common saxophone restoration tasks. Some of the areas that will most likely need some extensive work are the pads and corks. As a mechanical instrument, the woodwind may require regulation of the springs and keywork as well. Depending on how carefully the saxophone was stored, some bodywork may also be required, to rid the instrument of minor dents or dings. Saxophone restoration is a craftsperson’s job, best performed by someone with specialist skills and experience, and it doesn’t often come cheap.

Part of a saxophone’s occasional maintenance may include replacing pads and corks; in a vintage instrument, they typically need to be stripped down. As new pads need considerable regulation afterwards, it may make sense to redo all the corks at the time of restoration. It may be necessary as well to remove and replace all the springs and tighten up all the keywork. If a vintage horn was very well cared for and stored, however, the action work may not be necessary. Some minor bodywork may be needed if there are small dents, and worn out rod screws may need replacement.


Regular maintenance on a saxophone, regardless of age, includes oiling the action, so a saxophone restoration will most likely include oiling all of the action. Without oil, the pivots and screws will rub against the key barrels and this will cause wear over time. Then, too, without oil, the keywork will be very noisy and keywork maneuvering will be stiff. If there are areas where lack of oil caused wear on the rods they can be repaired, but the repair is time-intensive. If damages are too severe, it may be better to replace the rods.

Vintage saxophone restoration is not inexpensive as a rule, but neither is regular maintenance on a saxophone. The craftspeople with the expertise and knowledge of these instruments are rare, and their time and talents have premium value. A vintage instrument may have had a single, careful owner, or it may have passed through several owners of varying degrees of responsibility. Instruments from different makers age differently, and some have age-related issues distinctive to their brands. A saxophone restoration expert should not only be well-versed in the vagaries of restoring saxophones from different makers but should also have access to hard-to-find replacement parts.


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