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Obtaining Replacement Pads For Do-It-Yourself Projects
Q.  Dear Sirs, I can see where you get your love of the C-Melody saxophone from. I currently have access to two of these magnificent instruments. There is just one problem. I can’t seem to find replacement pads for either of those instruments. Can you still get them? How can I get them? What are they made of so that I may perhaps fabricate a set for these two instruments. Thanks for your help. Mark …

A. C-Melodies use the same pads as other saxes. You choose the type you need (Conn Reso-Pads, Buescher Snap-Ins, plain rivet, etc.), then measure the cups for the size. You can order sets from Ferree’s Tools (link from our site) or singles by the dozen (one size). If you buy sets be sure to measure EVERY cup. Ferree’s will pick sizes as best they can if you don’t know, but there’s no such thing as a standard pad set — and loose pads sold as sets are NEVER guaranteed to fit. Order the exact sizes you need. A good dial caliper is an excellent investment if you’re going to be doing a lot of sax pad work — will save you many pad sizing headaches.
Additional Comments
If you know your pad sizes ordering from Ferree’s is your best bet. The ladies on the phone order desk there are absolute angels to work with. If you need a higher level of support we may be able to help. We offer two levels of service, but only on the three types of pads we stock in the full size array. We cannot stock all types, of course, so we have selected the following: 1) OEM Conn Reso-Pads; 2) OEM Buescher Snap-In pads; 3) Ferree’s cat item B44, which is a high quality flat metal resonator pad. The first level of service is that you send us your pad cups and we fit & install your pads ready to float in (floating in doesn’t apply to the Buescher Snap-Ins). The second level of service is we supply you with a set of pads in your choice of style, from your measurements. This sounds like the Ferree’s service, but we will work with you to help you measure correctly and can even rent you a pro quality digital dial caliper to properly measure your cups. Two notes: 1) Service level two is NOT available on Conn Reso-Pads because they do not size to the cup in the same way as other pads; 2) On service level two we will help you get the best measurements possible, but we DO NOT guarantee pads to fit unless we have the cups in our hands. You will find that our level 1 service is the best way to assure your new pads fit your cups correctly. If you decide to measure for either us or Ferree’s you will need a caliper or other measuring device that can measure to 0.5 millimeter tolerance. A digital dial caliper is the best way to measure, but they are also too expensive to buy for a one time project (unless you’re a tool geek, like me). Ours rents for $1 per day, USPS Priority Mail postage. There is a minimum rental of $10 (not including the postage). The rent starts the day we mail the package to you and ends the day we get it back. There is an $85 deposit (can be paid through PayPal for speed & convenience). Rental will be deducted from the deposit and the balance returned to you. We can return the deposit by PayPal (they will deduct their usual fee) or snail mail. If you want to keep the tool just tell us. The deposit is a fair price for it. 

Choosing Replacement Pads For Your Vintage Sax
Q.  I have a Gretsch C melody, serial 9469 (appears to be a Martin from the tapered tone holes) that I am repadding.  Because the neck cork was all but gone and the pads were all dry rotted, I have never heard this horn play.  The horn is raw brass and appears to have never been lacquered.  Do I go with a Selmer-type plastic conical resonator or stick with flat metal?  Do you have any suggestions?  Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Russ …

A. Lacquer wasn’t adapted for saxophone finishes until the early 1930s, so an original finish for brass saxes prior to that time is bare, or as you say ‘raw’. Actually, raw brass connotes an unpolished state, such as results from simply bright dipping a brass sax body. That’s not to be picky – just to make you aware the term ‘raw brass’ means something specific in saxospeak.

We do not recommend the nylon button resos on vintage saxes other than the Mark VI. We put the horns we restore back as original as possible, with the exception that we don’t use the plain rivet pads as would have come on your sax originally. Instead, we substitute a good quality, flat metal reso pad, with moderately sized metal reso disks. The Ferree’s cat item B44 fits the bill perfectly.

Too much is made of resonators, IMHO. The mouthpiece/reed/lig combination has much more influence on tonal characteristics, response and projection. You can actually create a monster that you can’t tame with the huge, wild resos that some people propound as the holly grail. As one pro player client recently exclaimed, “The only people pushing the fancy pads and resonators are the ones who make a living doing repads.” That’s a rather telling statement to my mind. I’ve played saxes with these wild resos that actually vibrate annoyingly in your hands as you play. That sort of thing belongs between the sheets – not in one’s musical performances … :-)

Your sax came with a flat-surfaced pad, so a flat metal reso pad fits the bill as your replacements. If you use a domed pad you have to increase key heights to compensate for the added volume ‘under the dome’ that these resos take up. If you don’t, as a setup issue, you are inviting response and intonation implications. There’s nothing to be gained as an offset, so why bother with something that might do as much harm as good?

Additional Comments
We have seen the nylon domed button pads created by Selmer for the Mark VI on every type of vintage saxophone you can imagine. I suppose the logic is that by adapting the only thing possible from a Mark VI to another sax it will somehow become imparted with a bit of the Mark VI mystique. Assuming the premise that the Mark VI mystique is even justified for a moment, it’s the size and shape of the brass body that makes a VI sound like it does. The pads are only an incidental factor. I have a 58k VI alto with flat metal rsonators that will cement the point for doubters. 

Too often we are tempted by what we CAN do to a vintage sax instead of focusing on what is the RIGHT thing to do. As we said in our answer to Russ, the player’s choice of mouthpiece, reed and ligature have more influence on sound, projection and response than anything (positive) a tech can do to the saxophone. If you want your sax to respond and sound as the designers comtemplated — and you want your collectible vintage sax to be worth the most to collectors — then put it back as original as possible. That means real Conn Reso-Pads on rolled tone hole Conns, snap ins on Bueschers that were so equipped, nylon buttons on Mark VIs, Metal domes on SBA Selmers and a good flat metal reso pad on almost all the rest. To do otherwise is to invite setup issues, in addition to valuation reductions.

Conn Res-O-Pads
Q.  I have asked you for advice in the past on an old Conn that I’m restoring, and I’m to the point now where I need to put pads in it. I’m apprehensive about what kind of resonators I should use.  My first instinct is to put Conn Res-O-Pads in it, but I don’t know if they will give me the sound I want. I’m looking for more of a Cannonball, Phil Woods type sound.  I have Noyeks on my tenor and they sound wonderful, but my tenor is a Super 20 SS and I think might respond better to that type of resonator.  What might work well for a Chu alto with a brighter bop sound? Thanks much. Aaron …

A. Good to hear from you again. My advice is simple: Conn designed the rolled tone hole & Res-O-Pad to work together, both in terms of response during play & ease of set up & maintenance. The two together form a system that should not be separated.

Your mouthpiece has a lot more to do with the sound that comes out of your horn than the pads & resonators. The reasonably sized flat metal resonators on Conn Res-O-Pads add all the brightness that is advisable to seek from that source. They leave the player with a supremely responsive horn that’s capable of going smooth or bright, according to performance requirements & mpc choice. Pad life is greatly increased, as well.

I would wager you that your SS tenor would not sound that much different without the Noyeks – and that the SS Cannonball played on those great early recordings we all love had flat metal reso pads. Like a pro friend told me once, the only people pushing the wild pads & resos are the ones that make a living doing repads … :-)

Conn Res-O-Pads can be a bit challenging to fit if you don’t have the full array of sizes in front of you. We can help you with that issue if you decide to go that way – and I hope you will …

follow up question from Aaron …
Q.  Thanks for the response. I have done some thinking about it, and have come to the conclusion that you are right, the Conn Res-O-Pads would be what I would go with.  I don’t think I quite understand how they are different to fit to the cups though.  Could you explain that to me, and how to best go about obtaining a set that would fit properly?  Thanks for all of your advice :) Regards, Aaron …

A. Good question. Most saxophone pads have flat sides – at least in a practical sense, so if you grip one inside a dial caliper you will get a dependable reading of the overall diameter. Think of normal pads as a little section taken by making two parallel slices through a cylinder. Conn Res-O-Pads have a metal rim around the outside perimeter & that rim bevels to the outside such that the leather surface has a larger diameter than the bottom, or cup side. Think of Conn Res-O-Pads as a little section taken by making two parallel slices from a cone.

The metal rim on a Conn Res-O-Pad is designed to meet or slightly overlap the cup edge. That means there is no way you can measure the pad cups of a RTH Conn sax and get the same as any measurement you can reasonably make of the Conn Res-O-Pad size that fits it. The situation is exacerbated in that Conn Res-O-Pads only come in the sizes that Conn made in pad cups for their rolled tone holes saxes. It’s sort of like an array of shoe sizes for the Miami Dolphins. If no one wore a size 8 1/2 then that size would not be included in the array. Most other pads come in even increments of 0.5mm from the smallest imaginable (about 7mm) to things that look like pancakes (which is what the ladies on the order desk at Ferree’s call ‘em). Using the footbal team analogy, you can fit any team with shoes in the realm of regular pads, but only players with sizes found on the Miami Dolphins in the Conn Res-O-Pad scenario. If you want every one to wear shoes on the field (a good idea), occassionally sombody is not going to have their best size, but they will have something close that will work. If you’e dealing with a 300 pound tackle it’s best to ask him if he wants his shoe too snug or too big. If you’re dealing with saxophone pads & cups it’s best to try the over & under both to see what works best for that particular cup.

‘Fit’ probably isn’t the most precise term I could have chosen for the issue of selecting the Conn Res-O-Pad that fits a particular cup. ‘Match’ seems a much better term. ‘Match’ connotes a degree of examination and judgment in the process, which is exactly what we do when we fit (there I go again) Conn Res-O-Pads to a sax. It’s pretty easy when you have a tray with all the available sizes in front of you along with your cups, but go in the other room and measure the cups then come back & try to find the pad that fits best and you’re likely to be running back & forth a lot more times than you have cups to fill. Is that any clearer a picture? 

The way we sell Conn Res-O-Pads is to have the client send us their pad cups so we can make darned sure the pads fit right. We’ll either glue the pads in, or not, depending on how much fun you want to have yourself. It sounds a little scary at first, but you insure the cups for the value of your sax. The USPS hasn’t lost a set yet — knock-knock … :-)

Further Discussion of Conn Res-O-Pads
Q.  Do you have or know of anyone that has some NOS Res-O-Pads, the real ones? I am looking for a set for a Conn New Wonder series II C-melody to be the most specific. Keith …

A. No, Keith. The leather would be rotten, anyway. I’ve seen thousands of the original pads & dissected dozens. I can assure you the reproductions we have are equal in every way. In fact, the only difference I know of is that the Conn pads from post war have the Conn logo on the back cardboard (with the marching men). I have no idea what you mean by ‘wonder series II’. Conn tinkered with their designs continually, so any attempt to classify them by specific models is someone’s simplistic fantasy. The serial number is the only way to intelligently communicate what Conn sax you have – and then only to someone that knows the extent of the variations. If you want to share your s/n I can give you a reasonable guess about what original pads came on the horn. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that they were NOT like the post war Conn Res-O-Pads that you might have a shot at finding. Pre war Conn pads exist only on a few old horns that have never been tampered with. Even the pads on our recently acquired closet mint 10M (344xxx) had some dry rot damage. I’m afraid that’s the reality of your quest …
follow up
Q.  Too bad. I thought the reproductions had thicker leather and lacked the metal ring. New wonder series II = Chu Berry. I do not like to call it a Chu Berry because Chu didn’t even play on a New Wonder, but one of the M series. [please see our CS 'additional comments' below]  My Cmel has 3 or 4 of the original pads on it. I accidentally punctured one trying to scrape some crud off the reso and put in a some cheap pad with an aluminum resonator. I would like to totally repad it, but if I do that I want to redo the gold wash and have it washed thoroughly — which right now is more than I want to spend on it. My sax is a 158xxx range, even if reso pads did not originally come on it, I would like to put some in there anyway, I just cannot believe how tough those things are, my teacher has a 1943 alto that has all original stuff on it — been passed down through his family. I think the reason why the pads have lasted so long is that they appear to have been treated liberally with neatsfoot oil. they look terrible. Many thanks. Keith …

A. Credit pad life on the Conn classics primarily to rolled tone holes. I’ve played ‘em with 80 y.o. pads that responded & sounded just fine. It’s always a guess whether old horns have original pads, of course, but I’ve seen white kid pads with a metal rings on early 1920s Conns. These had the soft fillings and no resonator – just a stitch in the center to help keep the loose stuffing from shifting too much. Judging from the stuffing style I’m guessing these were original to the horn. You also see soft sided white kid pads on horns of the same era. The fillings can vary, with some having firmer felt inners. They never have resos, though – just a stitch, single rivet, or nothing at all in the center. I have a 245k tranny alto that I know has original Conn pads. They are tan leather with the metal ring, firm inners & plain centers. Likewise, I have a mint original 100k artist model Cmel with white kid, soft sides & inners, & single stitch centers. Conn experimented with everything else, so why not pads? You just never know what you’ll find on an old Conn.

The reason to go with Res-O-Pads on RTH Conns is the way they set up & wear (meaning how they relate to the horn’s mechanics). If you know what you’re doing you can set up Res-O-Pads on a RTH Conn with almost no rim impressions at all. What does that mean to you as a saxophonist? Faster action, greatly reduced chances of sticking pads, and extremely long pad life. At CS we put Res-O-Pads on any RTH Conn that we can. The issue with the pre 1934 horns is always does the available size array (which is based on the  naked lady cup sizes) cover every pad cup on an individual specimen instrument (there’s that Conn design tinkering issue again). Anybody that tells you they know the cup sizes on old Conns is just plain incompetent. The guys that peddle their pad sets on eBay come here begging for us to keep up with measurements on the horns we restore so they can use the info for their benefit. I tell ‘em all the same thing: The only way to size pads to a Conn is to have the cups & the entire array of available sizes in front of you. Even if there were standard sizes for Conn pad cups, neither pads nor cups are round – not from the factory, and especially NOT 50 to 80 years of usage hence.

Even with the full array in front of you sometimes a couple cups on these old Conns just won’t have a Res-O-Pad size that will work correctly. At that point you have to make a decision whether to substitute another type flat metal reso pad in that cup or to abort & go with another style in total. The decision has to be based both on how many pads must be substituted & where they are located in the mechanisms. If you start to mixing pad thicknesses in combination cups (the ones where two or more keys interact) you must account for the different thicknesses in your set up adjustments. Too many of these adjustments – or just one in a super critical spot – can throw a horn’s performance & feel off. I’ve found early Conn C-tuned saxes (tenors & sops) to be especially problematic in fitting Res-O-Pads. You just have to take it case-by-case.

Additional Comments
CS offers a custom hand fitting program on Conn Res-O-Pads because of all the fit issues discussed above. Our site visitors are welcome to send in their cups for the service. There’s simply no other way to get a set of Conn Res-O-Pads that fit right unless you buy the full size array yourself.

In general, be wary of what you read on the web unless you can trace it back to a competent source. There are idiots who may have taken one or two old horns apart & have projected those pitiful experiences onto the whole of vintage saxdom. Ditto lists that purport to tell you what your horn is worth or that attempt to reduce complex subjects like who made what stencil sax to a simple table where you can look up any sax that comes your way. There are no vintage saxophone cook books. The recipes are too fraught with substitutions and exceptions. If you look closely at who participates on the various message boards you’ll see conspicuously absent the guys that really know. That’s cuz they’re bizy working on horns and answering the questions of folks that come directly to them for one-on-one advice.

In the later years Chu Berry appears in photos with burnished gold plate Conn tenors bearing transitional engraving styles. I wouldn’t venture a guess what Choo (the way the name is spelled in old Conn promotional graphics) might have played over his entire 33 years. Chu is known to have played professionally as early as 1928, so to believe he never played a Conn tenor of under 240xxx is folly. Anyway, having taken the calipers to the trannys and late ‘Chu Berry’ Conn tenors I can tell you for fact that the body tubes are identical on the two models, and that besides the shape of a couple key touches and engraving patterns, the only other real difference is that SOME tranny tenors have the funnel style octave pips like a 10M. Some also have the old style teapot dome pips. The tranny altos & baris have significant differences from their earlier counterparts, but nothing was ‘standard’ on these horns. I have documented four variations in the tranny altos. This constant tinkering didn’t take place on the tranny tenors, but the results of the alto’s development were incorporated into the 10M when it was introduced in 1934.

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