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So my friend was planning on making an all wooden saxophone. I thought it was a pretty good idea but had some doubts in it like the piston valves and such. I saw this being a problem because of the springs. My friend suggested just making air-holes such as on a flute but I thought that it wouldn't make it as much as a regular saxophone. To add onto that, I'm worried that if we do the springs, it will dig into the wood and mess it up. I need some advice. (Note: We haven't started on the project yet, we are in the brainstorming stage at this moment.)

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    Entirely wooden? As in wooden springs? Wooden linkage and pads? Or just wooden body? How will you achieve the curved airway typical of the saxophone family? Compared with other woodwinds that have straight bore, or a series of connected straight bore sections, many saxophones have a curved and gradually flaring bore. You might be OK if you were to craft just the bell section in wood, but I think forming the entire body from wood would be problematic. Oct 26, 2021 at 17:00
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    The wooden (or plastic) instrument with tenor sax mouthpiece and recorder-like finger holes already exists. It's called Xaphoon and it sounds bigger than its size. I'd like to say that the cross fingerings take some getting used to to me they're more like impossible.
    – ojs
    Oct 26, 2021 at 18:25
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    I'll jump in with another non-answer: In Lithuanian folk music, a wooden, keyless saxophone is a Birbynė.
    – Theodore
    Oct 26, 2021 at 20:48
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    So piston valves (which I picture as being like a trumpet) are like a saxophone, but air holes (like a flute or clarinet) aren't?
    – Duston
    Oct 27, 2021 at 13:13
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    Saxophones do not have pistons. Why are you thinking of that? Oct 27, 2021 at 16:55

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Yes you could do it - tho' I would very VERY strongly recommend you use metal rods,keys, and pad-holders, just as is done for clarinets and flutes.

BTW, there are wooden flutes and piccolos, and there are metal clarinets (tho' these are mostly cheapos with limited sound quality). In fact, there are even some metal oboes and bassoons!

So, other than some rather large hunks of wood required to handle the bell-end of your saxophone, there's nothing fundamental stopping you from building one. Be prepared for it to sound ugly.

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  • "rather large hunks of wood" it occurred to me last night that it could (potentially) be made in sections out of steamed plywood, much like the famous Eames chairs. But I agree, it would sound awful.
    – Duston
    Oct 28, 2021 at 13:23
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I'll be "that guy" and ask, isn't a wooden sax just a clarinet? I know, obviously the bore and fingering are all different. But I mean something a bit serious by that: maybe you should just consider an instrument that is usually wooden.

This is a great project if you go into it with the right expectations. If the goal is "I'd like to have an innovative and great-sounding instrument, so I'll save money by making it myself," then there's a lot of frustration and disappointment ahead. If it is "I'd like to use trial-and-error to get a lived-experience personal understanding of the way wind instruments are put together," then it's a great goal. As such, you might have to get really flexible with your definition of "saxophone" (arguably you already are?).

I'd suggest that you start with much simpler wind instruments, which would still be plenty challenging as woodworking experiments. You might start with no moving parts: ocarina, recorder, maybe a wooden natural horn or cornett. Maybe the next step—if you dare—and if you don't want to be arrested for weapons of mass disturbance of the peace—would be to make the jump to reeds with a homemade crumhorn. (Or—really—just don't get into such degenerate and dangerous activities.)

If you're particularly interested in the engineering challenge of working with keys, you might try something like a baroque oboe, with mostly open holes but a mere 1 or 2 metal keys for the harder-to-reach holes.

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    No, a wooden sax is not a clarinet. The clarinet is cylindrical, and it doesn't have even harmonics, so it overblows the 12th. A saxophone is conical and overblows the octave, so its fingering is basically the same as the flute. Baroque flutes also typically have keys.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2021 at 18:14
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    @CarlWitthoft hence "it doesn't have even harmonics."
    – phoog
    Oct 27, 2021 at 20:33
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    @phoog I confess I read it at first as "doesn't even have harmonics." ("Do you even overtone, bro?") Let the record show that, yes, I understand the difference between a clarinet and a sax. My point was "as long as we're redefining the parameters, let's redefine them so hard that you're attempting a totally different instrument." I particularly heart the suggestion of the Birbyne from the comments. Oct 27, 2021 at 20:36
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    A wooden saxophone is a tárogató. Or better said: the tárogató is the only somewhat extant example of a wooden conical bore single reed instrument with keys (as far as I know). Oct 29, 2021 at 13:15
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    The bore profile determines sound much more than material. For example: There are metal clarinets. At first sight, they might look a lot like a soprano sax, but they sound... just like a clarinet. Aug 25, 2022 at 19:46

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