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A New Type of Saxophone Pad


Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
A fellow who I've been corresponding with over the past year, has been developing a new type of saxophone pad. The pad is made of MDF & silicone, rather than traditional leather. Theo wrote an article for my site, which I published yesterday. It includes a link to the remainder of the prototype pads that he is selling on eBay.

This is a very interesting idea, and one I thought I would bring to everyone's attention here. Theo is an engineer from Holland. He and I have the same tastes in vintage Max Keilwerth horns, which is how we originally got to writing each other.

What do you guys think? I thought it was a very interesting concept. He has been using these pads on his M.K. President (pre-Hohner), and apparently they work really well.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Interesting. Not just the concept per se, but that someone else is open-minded enought to at least try some unthought-of material combinations.

(I've been using EVA foam on clarinets with really, uhm, rustic tone holes, and the results are very good, even after five years. Yeah, why not try the same with silicone? My immediate thought associated with silicone is "sticky", but hey, apparently it works)

The only drawback I can think of is the look you're getting when you bring your thusly padded instrument to an old school repair person...


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I've always been kind of "pad agnostic." I generally have used whatever the tech has slapped on the horn.

32 Euros is a rather competitive price, I think.


Old King Log
Staff member
I might be missing something, but perhaps it is just too obvious. By "MDF", I assume that it is meant some sort of random direction wood fiber material, glued together and compressed. (It sounds like a very thin version of the stuff that they use over here in lieu of Plywood for roof sheathing and the like.)

If it is, why does it specifically have to be used for the foundation? Wood, even glued up and fabricated wood, "moves" when it gets moisture on it, at least with the sheet of Plywood sized pieces of it used in construction.

Of course, I might be missing the boat here, and would welcome a more detailed description of the reasoning behind the MDF stuff. Please don't take this as a critical comment.
Maybe this material experimentation with Sax pads could lead some companies to expand their products to other instrument families. I use Valentino Synthetic Master pads on my Clarinets, and LOVE THEM. They're water-proof (great for the wet player), insect-proof (keep those bugs OUTTA THERE), create a much better and consistent seal, and improves tone. I'm not sure what these pads are made out of, but if the same company was able to create an equivalent with reasonable resonators they might have the best Sax pads on the market.
I'd be really interested to try these pads out. But to really "test" pads, they'd have to stay on the horn for an extended period of time. However, the stress of worrying about pads is also something I try to avoid whenever possible. So I'd probably never wander too far off from the land of consistent and generic pads.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
As Steevihn mentioned the Valentino Master pads are awesome http://clarinetperfection.com/work/ValentinoMasterPads.pdf
The problem with the regular Valentinos is that the pad material is very thick and with continuous usage pressure one can get a deep seat and then it starts sticking. Plus it feels mushy. http://www.votawtool.com/zcom.asp?pg=products&specific=jorpimn8
The Master pad thins the primary material and puts a hard backing on it.

Those pads look interesting. Though most shop repair people look at several factors. Simplicity, Speed being the two critical ones. These pads sound like they take some time to install, set, and install in the pad cup. Time-wise, and simplicity-wise it might not be the best alternative for general use.

Terry brought up an interesting point. In a high moisture environment, would the wood expand at all? As as know any material expansion can of course in the end cause leaks.

I'm curious though ... if he attempted to put a thin flat piece of material over the silicone. In theory, this thin (say waterproof, tear proof "paper") would conform to the tonehole as the silicone behind it would conform, and prevent any stickiness alltogether, and decrease total installation time.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
MDF or "medium density fiberboard" is less susceptible to expansion and/or warping than plywood when exposed to moisture. Still you would not immerse it in water for any length of time.

Being a "traditionalist" who is somewhat skilled at pad installation and seating, I am not sold on the concepts behind this pad design. Both the materials involved and the fabrication/installation process tend to raise some red flags. MDF is a heavy material that is extremely rigid. It would certainly add more weight to the keys than traditional cardboard backed felt and leather pads. Silicone would have a tendency to give a "spongy" feel that most player would not like, in addition to the tendency to become sticky after a period of time.

It is interesting that in this era of "space age materials" that cardboard, felt, animal hide, and insect glue is still very hard to beat when it comes to padding saxophones---Jim Schmidt notwithstanding.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
...... and insect glue ...
I call it Bug Poop .. has a better "ring" to it when talking about it.

Shop Talk:
hey Bob, do you have a stick of Bug Poop ... I ran out.

Or even to the Customer
Do you want us to use Black, white, dark amber or light amber Bug Poop ?
Hi, as the inventor of the MDF pads I thank you for your interest and take the opportunity to give some answers to your questions.
As an introduction, the invention started with some unlevel roled toneholes. Instead of a file I used silicone to mold the pad in the saxophone.

How water sensitive is this pad ? (SteveSklar, jbtsax and SOTSDO)
When I put these MDF pads in water for 24 hours I can not measure a size difference with a calipher.
The MDF is selected for this property. There is a wide range of MDF and silicone available and narrowing this selection took some time.

Is this pad softer (mushy, spongy) ore more sticky than a standard pad ? (jbtsax, tictactus and SteveSklar)
A 4,6 mm thick silicone pad is softer than a standard leather pad. With 4 mm of MDF the remaining silicone layer of circa 0,3-0,6 mm gives roughly the same softness as a standard pad. This is a bit dependant of the type of silicone and the distance between cup and tonehole.
A combination of felt and silicone was also too soft. Therefore a rigid material was choosen to carry the silicone.

The stickiness of the pad to the tonehole is complex.
A type of silicone with a black pigment made sticky pads.
Pads from grey and white pigmented silicone where not sticky.
Pigment and silicone type affect stickiness, you have to pre-test the silicone before you use it.
Also when a deap seat is formed by pressure in an all silicone pad the pad will feel sticky to the tonehole (see SteveSklar).
However, in a small layer of silicone there is too litlte space to form such a seat.

Does it add weight?(jbtsax)
Yes, I measured that 1 gram was added to the 50 gram weight of the low C-key compared to a standard pad.

If he attempted to put a thin flat piece of material over the silicone. In theory, this thin (say waterproof, tear proof "paper") would conform to the tonehole as the silicone behind it would conform, and prevent any stickiness alltogether.(SteveSklar)

I tried a layer on top of the silicone, but the rigidity of the "paper" material prevented a good fitt.
Then I figured that when you only use silicone you can stick the pad to the tonehole, which gives a perfect alignment to glue the key to the pad.
Then you have to separate the pad from the tonehole without separating the silicone from the pad or seoarating the pad from the key.
This requires a material that sticks better to silicone than metal.

How about time and money ? (SteveSklar and Pete)
The pads are made out of low cost materials, the carving of the MDF and the time needed for installation determine the costs.
When used as a DIY method the carving of the MDF is most of the price. It is not recomended for people who are in a hurry.
As MDF and silicone age slower than leather, the time invested in the pads will pay off in the long run.

The only drawback I can think of is the look you're getting when you bring your thusly padded instrument to an old school repair person...(tictactus)

Well when he thinks that the instrument should be repadded with leather pads tell him that he is wrong,......a saxophone is a woodwind.
Do not forget to make a picture of his face.


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