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The Saxophone




The saxophone was invented by a musical instrument maker named Adolphe Sax in the 1800s. Adolphe Sax was born on 1814 in Belgium and his ability to make instrument was credited to his father, who was also a musical instrument maker. Sax became a well accomplished maker by the age of 16. He was known to have made high quality instruments and was able to improve the instrumentation of several instruments including the clarinet and cornet. Sax wanted to make an instrument that could combine the power of brass instruments with the orchestral sounds and tone of woodwind instruments. Thus, he made the first saxophone in 1840 in Paris and branded it on March 20, 1846.2



With Adophe’s first saxophone- -the bass saxophone, he made it out of brass as it was easier to shape into a conical shape compared to wood. He then continued to make the alto and tenor saxophones. In total, he made 14 saxophones with different keys and sizes as well as other instrument families consisting of saxhorns, saxtrombas, and saxtubas.4
At the present, the saxophone is still a single-reed instrument mainly consisting of brass. Yellow Brass is most often used. Other materials that make up the body of the instrument include stainless steel screws, cork that is used to line water keys and joints and wool felt, leather or cork as padding for the buttons. Moreover, plastic resonators are produced and the saxophone is usually coated with lacquer while nickel plating is used to toughen them and make it more appealing.
Instead of having the 14 different types of saxophone, there are 6 modern saxophones available at the moment. They are the sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones. They all vary in pitch, the sopranino is the smallest and has the highest pitch while the bass is the biggest and has the lowest pitch5.

Manufacture Processes

Manufacture of Brass




Copper is a metal found in the periodic table as Cu and has been used for different applications for the past 10000 years. Ores, mainly containing sulfides, are extracted from copper reserves. Each ore contains an average of 0.6% of copper. The sulfide minerals are then concentrated from crushed ores by froth flotation or bioleaching and 10-15% of it contains copper.

The copper sulfides are then heated with silicon to remove iron as slag via flash smelting. Flash smelting makes it easier for the iron sulphides to be converted to its oxides. The iron oxide will react with the silica to form silicate slag that floats up and copper metallurgy that remains is roasted to convert all sulfides into oxides.

2 Cu2S(s) + 3 O2(g) → 2 Cu2O (s)+ 2 SO2(g)

The copper oxide and copper sulfide will then react together.

2Cu2O(s) + Cu2S (s) → 6Cu + SO2 (g)

This forms "blister copper" which is molten copper poured into slabs. They have the purity of 98.5% to 99.5%.7

Next, it is electrolytically refined. Natural gas is blown across the blister copper to remove majority of the oxygen and then electrorefining is carried out on the resulting material to produce pure copper.

Cu2+ + 2 e- → Cu8



Zinc is another metal found in the periodic table as Zn. Zinc is first found in a zinc ore, containing 5 to 15% of zinc. The ore is then crushed and grounded to make it concentrated and allow zinc to be separated from other minerals more efficiently.

Majority of the zinc is produced from zinc sulfide. Before pure zinc can be extracted, the zinc sulfide has to go through roasting and sintering to remove the sulfur in it. Zinc oxide is then heated at 900ᵒC to convert zinc sulfide into zinc oxide. In this reaction, sulfur reacts with oxygen to produce sulfur dioxide and it is then converted to sulfuric acid.

2 ZnS + 3O2-> 2ZnO + 2 SO2

Sulfuric acid is then used to separate the zinc from other calcines in the leaching stage. This makes the zinc content dissolve, leaving the rest undissolved. The zinc contents contain impurities and these impurities are removed via adding zinc dust into the solution. The impurities are precipitated by cementation as they all lie below the zinc in the electrochemical series. The purified solution is then electrolyzed between aluminium cathodes and lead anodes. An electrical difference of 3.3-3.5 volts is applied to the cathodes and anodes to produce an electrical current through the electrolyte, which causes the zinc to deposit on the cathodes in high purity. Finally, this zinc is stripped off, dried, melted and cast into ingots. This whole process is known as the Hydrometallurgical process.10



Alloys are the solid solution created by dissolving metals in another metal. Preparation of alloys are done by melting the metals together and then letting the mixture cool. The metal with the higher melting point is melted first and the other metal is added to it. Both metals are then mixed thoroughly together and allowed to melt further. Subsitutional alloys form when atoms of the metals are approximately the same size and are able to replace each other in the metal crystals. Brass is a substitutional alloy that contains both zinc and copper.12It has a bright yellow or gold-like appearance and can be used for many applications including making gears and door knobs.13

Manufacture of Leather

Tanning the skins and coats of animals, mainly cattlehide, produces leather. This process converts the putrescible hide into a hardy, long-lasting and multipurpose material that can be used for many applications.Tanned hides differ from raw hides as it can dry out into a flexible form without being putrid when rehydrated. There is a large variety of tanning methods and materials available. Trivalent Chromium Sulfate is the most used tanning material. This equation shows how it is synthesised.

Na2Cr2O7 + 3SO2 + H2SO4→ Na2SO4 + H2O + Cr2(SO4)314



Next, the skins that have pickled are loaded into a large drum containing a float that holds tanning liquor. The drum slowly rotates to allow the tanning liquor to penetrate thoroughly into the hide. Once an agreeable level of penetration is reached, the hide goes through basification, a process whereby the pH of the float is slowly raised. This attaches the tanning substance to the leather, and the more tanning substance attached, the higher the shrinkage temperature resistance and the hydrothermal stability the leather will have.
The hide is then thinned, retanned and lubricated. This process is known as crusting. The sub-procedure of crusting often includes colouring processes. Chemicals used in crusting have to be fixed in place. Finally, crusting sub-procedure involves the drying and softening operations.
Some leathers usually require a finishing as the last step. Finishing processes include oiling, brushing, padding, impregnation, buffing, spraying, roller coating, curtain coating, polishing, plating, embossing, ironing, combing and glazing16.

Chemical composition




Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Copper mainly makes up brass. Brass contains about 55% to 95% by weight of copper while zinc makes up 5% to 45% by weight of it, depending on the type of brass. The yellow brass used to make saxophones contains 33% of zinc18.




Leather is derived from skin and fur of mostly cattle, which is a mammal. Mammalian skin is made up of 70% to 80% of water, proteins, intracellular lipids and carbohydrates such as glucose and glycogen. The proteins that make up the skin are bundles of interwoven protein fibres known as collagen, which function inter-dependently when the skin is alive. These fibres will tend to shrivel and stick together when the skin dies. Therefore, tanning helps to separate these fibres permanently and to lubricate them so that they can move in relation to one another.

Collagen comprise of twined triplet units of peptide which differ in length. Peptide links join the amino acid residues together. The chains of peptide within the triple coils are link together by hydrogen bonding. The diagram below shows the structure of a collagen peptide20


The table below shows the main components of amino acids that form proteins in the skin.21



Environmental effects

Mining and smelting of metal ores such as zinc and copper can produce vast amounts of waste as the ore is only a tiny fraction of the total amount of mined material. The waste rocks from mining can erode into drainage systems and may lead to concentrations of metals in sediments found in the stream, if not properly managed. This means they become 'mobilized' or 'bioavailable' in the environment. These bioavailable metals can be harmful if it were to be consumed by humans, animals or plants.Furthermore, abadoned mines can post as a danger to the public despite it being an interesting tourist site. There may be hidden pits or entrances to underground workings that people may fall into. Another danger is that the ground may sink in old mines, making it unstable for people to be in it.22

Moreover, production of leather involves the slaughtering of animals. The waste from these animals are usually dumped in open lagoons or diluted and sprayed into farmland. Run-off from the sprayed land or leakage from the lagoons can lead to water pollution, affecting our drinking water. Moreover, when this water is used to water crops, it causes the crops to be contaminated, affecting out food source as well.23

The production of both metals and leather requires energy which involves the burning of fossil fuels. This releases harmful gases into our atmosphere. Harmful gases include greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which when in high concentrations in the atmosphere, can lead to global warming, other disastrous environmental implications and health problems.24

Microscopic Properities of Materials

Part Material Properties Definiton Use
Body Brass Durability Durability refers to the length of time in which a substance last. Brass is durable and this allows the saxophone to be used multiple times without any damages or wears and tears.
Body Brass Malleability Malleability refers to the ability of a substance to be extended or shaped by hammering or rolling. Brass is Malleable at high temperatures to allow it to be easily moulded into the complex shapes. The saxophone has a complicated design so it requires a metal that is malleable to create it’s parts.
Body Brass High Melting Point Melting point refers to the temperature at which a solid changes into a liquid. It has a high melting point of 900-940 degrees celsius, which makes it rather resistant to heat. Yellow brasses have a melting point of 930 degrees celsius.
Body Brass Good Acoustic Acoustics refer to the qualities or characteristics of a place or object to determine the audibility or fidelity of sounds in it. Brass has good acoustics and this allows the saxophone to produce and project a good sound.
Body Brass Ductility Ductility refers to the ability of a substance to be drawn into a wire. Some parts of the saxophones are long, wire-like parts; therefore brass is ductile to be able to be drawn into long shapes to create these parts.
Body Brass Lustre Lustre refers to which light is surface of a material. Brass is lustrous and has a gold-like appearance which makes the saxophone appear more appealing and professional
Padding Leather Durability Durability refers to the length of time which a substance last. Leather is durable so that it does not need to be changed too frequently, does not change the sound of the saxophone easily and is not so prone to wear and tear.
Padding Leather Hardness Hardness is the ability of an object to resist denting and scratching. The padding must be hard to prevent it from denting or being out of alignment with the tone hole which causes the saxophone to squeak.
Padding Leather High tensile strength Tensile strength refers to a measure of force required to pull something to the point where it breaks. The leather has high tensile strength which allows the saxophone pads to maintain its texture and last longer.
Padding Leather Flexiblitity Flexibility refers to the ease at which an object can be bent. The leather used is flexible to allow it to be shaped and moulded into pads for the saxophone.
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