Hello, and welcome back. Today I want to show you how to fix a broken
neck cork on your saxophone.
In this article, I will take you through the entire process of replacing
a saxophone cork with a self-adhesive cork and contact cement,
Even if your replacement cork is not self-adhesive, the only thing you
have to do is cut your cork to measure and use contact cement to
So let’s get this repair job started.
How to Fix a Broken Cork on a Saxophone: The Step-by-step DIY Guide
The procedure of replacing a broken saxophone cork is pretty much the
same for all brands of saxophones, so it really doesn’t matter which
particular brand you have.
What you’ll need:
- A heat source, such as a heat torch or a hot-air gun
- A razor blade
- A piece of cloth
- Adhesive remover or scraper and sandpaper strips
- Painter’s tape
- Self-adhesive corks
- Barge contact cement
Step #1 — Remove the Old Cork
The first step is to remove the old cork completely and to clean the
surface of the neck underneath.
There are several methods for doing this.
I prefer using a heat source to soften the glue and release the bond
of the old cork. In a professional shop, they’ll have a torch that
they can use.
You can also use a hot-air gun or an inexpensive mini-heat gun.
Another way to remove the cork is to just scrape it off. This method
works too, but it takes much longer because it doesn’t come off that
I only use the scraping method if I don’t have a heat source.
Use your heat source to heat the cork area from the inside of the neck
Always use your best judgment when using heat on an instrument.
Overheating will damage lacquered finishes, so only use as much heat as
necessary to loosen the cork.
Heat will soften most glues enabling you to pull the old cork off
without much trouble.
Even if you come across some adhesive that doesn’t loosen with heat,
most often the cork itself will bubble up letting you scrape it off more
While the neck is still hot and the glue is soft, use a cloth to wipe
off as much adhesive as possible.
Wipe away to the north of the neck so you don’t wipe adhesive on to the
lacquered area before letting the neck cool.
Once the neck has cooled, remove any remaining traces of adhesive and
cork with an adhesive remover.
If you are using abrasives or a scrapper, be sure to protect the
lacquer by taping the area past the cork. I recommend using painter’s
tape for this.
Step #2 — Apply the New Self-adhesive Cork
Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to have a clean
grease free surface on which to apply the cork.
There are two ways to apply self-adhesive corks:
Applying the Self-adhesive Cork with Barge Cement
For a more permanent and professional repair, you can strengthen the
bond of the self-adhesive with a coat of contact cement on the neck.
I use professional grade barge cement. I’ve used it for years and it’s
If you’ve chosen to use the contact cement, paint it from the tape to
the end of the tube with a thin even coat. To achieve a nice coat,
it’s important that the cement has a viscosity of a very thick oil but
So thin it as much as is needed to saturate the brush just enough to
paint a thin even coat.
If your neck has a reinforcing ring or a so-called tone ring, don’t
apply cement over the tone ring.
There is no need for a second coat. So don’t overpaint.
A second coat will only remove the first, making a mess.
After painting the cement, pull the tape off the neck pipe and set the
neck aside to dry for about 5 minutes.
Applying the Self-adhesive Cork Only
In an emergency, self-adhesive corks can be applied to a clean surface
using only the self-adhesive.
It is the nature of self-adhesives corks that they cannot be moved
later, so it’s very important to get the edge set properly in order to
get a professional looking result.
In either case, do a few test fittings of the corks alignment without
removing the peel off. Since we are wrapping the cork around a tube
that’s tapered, it’s a little tricky until you get the hang of it.
So do as many dry runs as you need to feel confident that you have it
Where we position the first edge of the cork sets the alignment for the
When the cork is wrapped well, the south end will form a straight
line. You need to make a mental note of the orientation of the start
that yields this result.
I always start my corks at the underside of the neck. I do this so that
the scene is not visible when the neck is resting in the case.
When it’s ready, pull the protective paper off the back of the cork
and press it into position.
Begin to wrap the cork the short ways, and then when you’re confident of
the alignment, return to the starting line and burnish it down with a
piece of polished metal to secure the area as you continue to wrap the
If you’re not happy with the alignment, stop and remove the cork,
remove the adhesive with adhesive remover and start over at the step of
applying the tape.
As you follow through wrapping the cork, you’ll get to the area where
the ends will meet and form the joint, stop short of the joint by about
¼ of an inch and use a sharp razor to trim the excess cork back to the
end of the neck.
You’ll use the end of the pipe as the guide for your razor.
Viewing the neck from the end of the tube, use the razor to mark the
overlap where the two ends will join. Now tip the neck so that you can
see the other end of the joint and make a similar mark.
Carefully cut a straight line between the two marks and peel away the
Now press the loose end of the cork into place pushing towards the
This style of joint is called a butt joint. I find it superior to a
It takes a skilled hand to make a butt joint perfect but it has the
best bond and it is easier to keep round in sand, and it certainly
Step #3 — Burnish, Sand the Cork Down to Fit the Mouthpiece
Burnish the jointed edge down and the burnish the entire cork down.
IF there is a lip of cork sticking up, gently shave it off with a razor.
To further dress the cork, sand it with 220 grit sandpaper to blend
the seam and reduce the thickness to fit the mouthpiece.
Finish the cork with 320 grit sandpaper to give a truly fine appearance.
Sand a small radius on the mouthpiece end of the cork so that the
mouthpiece can get started easily without tugging or tearing the cork.
Again, if your neck has a reinforcing tone ring, don’t burnish the
cork in the area of the tone ring. Use a razor to trim the cork on the
south side of the ring, using the ring to guide your blade. Pull off the
excess cork, burnish and continue.
Step #4 — Heat the Cork to Fit the Mouthpiece
Finally, you can use a hot-air gun to soften the cork and get a final
fit with the mouthpiece.
Heat the cork and gently press the mouthpiece to its plain position.
This same trick can help with your cork if it gets old and compressed
and your mouthpiece doesn’t fit on it anymore and the mouthpiece slides
or has a bit of play.
You can use heat again to expand the cork to fit a larger
mouthpiece. The heat activated memory is another one of the great
advantages of self-adhesive corks.
So there you have it, a freshly recorked saxophone neck that will
perform reliably for years.
Top 3 Must-know Tips for Fixing Saxophone Corks
Tip #1 — Use Heat to Temporarily Fix an Old and Compressed Saxophone Neck Cork
This is for those times when you are in the middle of a tour, or you are
moving around, and it’s very hard to find an instrument shop.
Saxophone corks will lose stiffness after a few years.
Ideally, you would replace them, as I showed you above, and you probably
will have to eventually, but, if you are not in a position to, here’s
what you do.
You get a lighter and heat the cork from underneath—heat as we saw
earlier will expand the cork, making it fit again.
Obviously, you need to be careful not to burn the cork by lingering the
direct flame in one spot for too long. You want to keep rotating the
neck as you heat the cork, and you want to heat the entire cork somewhat
Although this is a temporary fix that can last a while, but not too
To be sure, it will stop your mouthpiece from moving without you wanting
it to, causing you to go out of tune.
The cork doesn’t need a lot of heat, and it’s easy to burn. But it’s not
such a big deal because you’ll eventually have to replace it anyway.
But it will serve you, quite well, in the short term.
Tip #2 — You Can Re-glue Broken Neck Corks if they’re Still in Good Condition
Even if you generally shouldn’t reglue things, neck corks can be quite
a bit expensive, and a saxophone neck takes more cork than clarinet
So if every other bit of the cork is okay, except where it’s broken or
come undone due to insufficient glue, for instance, I can see how you
might want to save it.
The first thing to keep in mind when re-gluing a broken saxophone cork
is that you have only one shot. You cannot mess it up and still get a
You need to make sure the contact surface is clean so that the bond
can hold. Use a q-tip to get the surface thoroughly clean before
applying contact cement.
You need to err on the side of letting the glue tactile dry so that
the bond can hold. After you apply the glue, give the glue enough time
to dry so that it is not sticky to touch but also not completely dry.
A re-glued neck cork should be good for a number of months before you
need to replace it.
Saxophone corks are typically held on with two different materials;
the contact cement that we’ve been talking about in this article and the
shellac that we talked about in how to replace saxophone
You might want to have a look at that guide if you are also looking to
do some pad work. The adhesive I recommended using for pad work there is
natural stick shellac.
I chose contact cement for this guide so that you have a feel of how
to use an alternate adhesive in case you can’t get your hands on some
shellac, for whatever reason, but you really can use either adhesive on
either saxophone repair work.
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. It is either process
and sold as dry flakes which are then dissolved in alcohol to make
liquid shellac or dried into stick shellac.
Shellac is used in a lot of different industries, but it’s used very
much in the musical instrument industry as an adhesive for corks, pads
and things like that.
The only disadvantages of using shellac over contact cement are that
shellac rather brittle, and the joint doesn’t withstand a lot of shock,
especially on the neck of the saxophone.
It is just more difficult to deal with for most people repairing corks.
I hope that helps.