Saving a mouthpiece with a cracked shank.
Have you ever put a sax mouthpiece on your neck and cracked the shank end (the part that goes over the cork)?
This usually happens when either the cork is too thick for the mouthpiece and/or not enough cork grease is used. The outward pressure between the cork and the shank causes the mouthpiece material to expand and crack.
How do you prevent this from happening? Use cork grease regularly, for starters. And if you just had your neck recorked, the cork needs to be sanded to precisely fit the mouthpiece you’ll be using. Otherwise, the cork may be too thick and…crack!
So how do we fix this? First, the crack is sealed so there are no leaks. But this alone won’t hold when the pressure from the cork is applied. So we need to contain the outward pressure. Tape or glue won’t work – even crack pins won’t do the job right. When using a mouthpiece that has been “repaired” in such a makeshift fashion, the crack will re-open and expand either gradually or suddenly, possibly causing the entire mouthpiece to break in half. After that, you’ll need to glue, reface, and yes, repair the shank correctly to use the mouthpiece again.
The proper method is to apply a metal band to the outside of the shank to contain the pressure. The band won’t expand and crack, meaning the mouthpiece shank inside it can’t either. Instead, the cork will compress more to relieve the pressure. This type of repair is permanent and makes the shank as rigid as a metal mouthpiece.
In some rare cases you can find a piece of metal tubing at a hardware store that fits exactly over the shank. Unfortunately, this is not very common. The baritone Berg Larsen pictured in this article has an outside diameter of .997″ on the shank, and the band should be as close to that measurement as possible; even if a tube with exactly 1.000″ inner diameter were available, it would be too loose for our purposes.
Using a piece of aluminum stock, chucked securely in the lathe, a band is machined to the exact size required. Using this method, We can make bands to fit mouthpieces of literally any size – even if the shank is tapered (thicker on one end) like the Selmer and Vandoren mouthpieces. Aluminum has excellent properties for this project because it machines easily, is lightweight, is more than durable enough for this use, and won’t discolor the way brass or silver would.
After the machining has been completed, the finished end of the stock is cut off and pressed onto the shank of the mouthpiece, with the thinnest film of epoxy applied in between to give it extra strength.
Some rubber mouthpieces, like the vintage Gregory models, along with some newer mouthpieces from Morgan, Bari, and others, have these bands installed from the factory. Why? It’s durable and besides, it looks cool! Sometimes it’s desirable to have this procedure done on mouthpieces known to be susceptible to cracking before they crack (like Berg Larsens, anything made of wood, etc.)
Whether you’re considering this procedure for an undamaged mouthpiece or one that has already cracked, this repair is quick and inexpensive. You can mail the mouthpiece to us, and we will send it back to you, fixed, in a couple of days. Just contact us for more details.