Recorking a saxophone crook/neck
A common question asked on the various
saxophone related web forums is "Why is my mouthpiece loose?"
The answer is that the cork on the crook (or neck) is too thin - to
which the common response is "How do I replace the cork then?".
Well, here's how.
Before we start, it's worth running through the economics.
You will need the following:
- One sheet of cork (1.6mm thick, high quality)
- Tube of contact adhesive (I use Evo-Stik). Do not use superglue, woodglue
- A sheet of sandpaper - medium fine grade, say 140 grit
- A sharp blade, such as a scalpel or a razor
- A rule
A sheet of good quality cork will cost about £8, glue about £1.50
- so straightaway you're past a fiver in materials alone. I charge a tenner
to replace a crook cork...so this is very much a page for the enthusiast.
One other point is worth raising. At some point in the procedure you
will need something to support the crook on. I use a peg fitted to the
workbench - you can knock up something similar by whittling down a piece
of wood and holding in it a vice or clamp...or find someone to hold the
crook for you at the appropriate time.
The first thing to do is to remove the octave key.
Now, I can get away with leaving it on - because I know what I'm doing,
but for the amateur it's best to avoid the risk of inadvertently bending
this key during the job by taking it off and putting it to one side. Don't
lose the screw.
Remove the old cork. Get as much of it off as possible (a few small crumbs
left behind won't hurt) and be careful not to scratch the finish beyond
the cork area. If your old cork fell off there's a chance that the cork
area is too smooth...a few light rubs with the sandpaper
will provide a 'key' for the glue...mind that lacquer again.
Whilst you've got the octave key off - why not wash the crook out, and
check that the octave key nipple is clear of gunk.
Cut the cork. Choose a nice bit of cork with no cracks or
knotty bits. A standard sheet of cork is about 6 inches long by 4 inches
wide - you'll be cutting the cork across its width. You need to cut the
cork with a bit of overlap - you can see here that the end of the cork
lies about a quarter of an inch beyond where the old cork ended, and I'm
making the cut about another quarter inch beyond the tip of the crook.
You may find you get better results by making a mark where you need to
cut and then using the rule to help slice the cork squarely.
Why the overlap? Here's why...
Because the crook is tapered you can't simply wrap the cork
round, it would end up all skewed.
Look carefully at the picture above, you can see the cork is laid on the
crook at a slight angle - again overlapping the cork area by a quarter
of an inch at both ends. When the cork is glued on like this it will wrap
round the crook and end up pretty much square. The overlap you cut in
the cork will allow for a bit of error.
A variation on the technique is to place the cork on the crook about an
inch in from the chamfered end. Once the glue has been applied, this area
will stick down first, after which you can stick down that inch of cork
towards the chamfer...before wrapping the rest of the cork around the
crook. Using this method means you can effectively do away with placing
the cork at an angle, though you might need to gently tug the cork into
line as you stick it down.
Note also that I have sanded a chamfer on end of the cork - this is so
that when the cork wraps round on itself it will do so neatly. This chamfered
side of the cork is now considered to be the top of the
cork. Give both sides of the cork a very quick rub with the sandpaper
- this helps to break the grain and makes it slightly more flexible (and
less prone to cracking when you wrap it). Try a dry run without any glue,
make sure the corks wraps nicely.
When you're happy with the setup it's time to apply the glue.
Coat the cork area of the crook with glue, then coat the entire underside
of the cork with glue, then coat the chamfered area on the top of the
cork. It doesn't matter if the glue goes past the chamfer... a little
bit of overlap sometimes makes for a neater join.
Allow the glue to go tacky (a couple of minutes) and then
apply the cork to the crook (don't forget it goes on at an angle). You
can see how I'm wrapping the cork round the crook - ensuring a good, firm
contact as I go. For crooks with an end-ring you may need to just crimp
the cork down with your fingernail to ensure a good join.
Wrap the cork right over the chamfer, making sure it bonds securely.
You now need to cut off the excess cork past the chamfer.
Slice it off at an angle (as shown) right at the point where the underside
of the wrapped portion breaks away from the chamfer.
Now you need to trim up the tip of the crook cork. If your crook doesn't
have a ring on its tip then it's a simple matter to just cut the cork
off square with the end of the crook. If it has a ring you'll have to
give it your best guess. It often helps to cut the cork square with the
tip of the crook first.
Don't worry about the other end just yet.
You'll now need your benchpeg, or the help of an assistant...
Slice off a strip of sandpaper and use it as above, pulling
it across the cork from left to right to sand the cork down to approximate
size. Start on the chamfered portion and sand it down to match the rest
of the cork.
Now, just lightly sand down the cork at the very tip of the crook - all
the way round.
Try your mouthpiece on it - it's highly unlikely that it will fit (but
if it does then you've saved yourself having to recork the crook all over
again), but it will at least give you a rough idea of how much you have
Continue sanding the whole cork down turning the crook from
time to time as you go. Try to sand evenly so that you don't create any
flat spots or troughs.
Try your mouthpiece on the cork from time to time - when the cork is right
it should fit firmly on about a third of the way up the cork. Remember,
you'll be greasing the cork - and you have to allow for compression. If
you oversand the cork the mouthpiece will become loose in a very short
space of time.
Once you're happy with the fit you can trim up the back
end of the cork. I like to use the back of a wad punch to ensure a nice
square edge - but you can do it by eye with a bit of care, or you might
find something knocking around the house that will fit lightly over the
cork to give you an edge to cut to.
Don't ram the mouthpiece on to use as an edge... you'll
over-compress the cork.
Give the cork a really good application of cork grease. If at all possible,
allow the cork to rest for a few hours before using the horn....just in
case your glueing is iffy. Finally, refit the octave key - making sure
you position the foot of the flat spring in its little channel. A drop
of oil on the rod screw wouldn't hurt - and check that the screw that
holds the spring is nice and snug.
And that's all there is to it. It looks easy, but there's
a knack to recorking a crook - even I still get it wrong occasionally
- and there are few things more frustrating than making a cock-up of a
new crook cork and having to start over - so here's a few things that
can go wrong, and how to fix them.
The cork won't stick:- You've left the glue too long
and it's dried out. You might get away with another coat.
The cork sticks, but not on the chamfered bit:- Dried out glue
again...or maybe not enough on the chamfer. Apply more glue to the chamfer
and the underside of the cork above it...allow to go tacky before closing
The cork hasn't stuck around the tip of the crook:- This can be
difficult, it's often due to faulty wrapping. You can try poking some
glue in the gap and letting it dry before pushing the cork down - or you
can slit the cork down the bump and glue the halves down separately, cutting
off any small excess as necessary. (Sneaky tip; A drop of superglue works
wonders for this problem).
I was sanding, and a big lump of cork came away:- This usually
happens if you're too heavy-handed with the sanding...or your cork is
less than top-notch. If a section of cork has come away with a clean break
it can often be glued right back in. For rougher areas make patches out
of the cork trimmings.
The cork is breaking up over the chamfer:- Again, probably too
heavy with the sanding. You can reglue odd bits, and try sanding in one
direction following the wrap of the cork
If all else fails call it a trial run, strip the cork off
and start again.