How it started
Steve Collins began repairing band instruments in Atlanta as an apprentice, and instantly loved the work. After working on all wind instruments for 3 years, he began to specialize in woodwinds and then mostly saxophones. By repairing saxophones 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week for 5 years, he learned a lot about the unique problems of the saxophone and how to make the horn play well. Actually, what he discovered is that most people are playing on saxophones that don't really play very well. Even a new one may not be set up to play well. He had students, band directors, and pro players bring him a saxophone they thought was in good playing condition. After he'd worked on it, the reaction was always the same... " I didn't know it could play like this!" As more people brought their saxophones to Steve, he realized that he was the only one in the area who was able to really make a saxophone play well. He decided to set up his own shop, Birmingham's own saxophone shop, Collins Hornworks. Our specialty is complete repads, since it allows us to set up the horn in every detail. We also do small repairs, and we work on other woodwinds, too.
Why is Collins Hornworks the best place for saxophone repair?
The bottom line is that we know how to finish a saxophone. We do all the necessary set up work. We use the most appropriate materials for corks, felts, and pads. We adjust every key to the proper height and action. And finally, we play test it like you would play it. We'll play scales, patterns, alternate fingerings, subtones, overtones, altissimo, low notes, palm keys and side keys. When it plays well, it's finished. Not, "I guess that's good enough."
There are very few people who do this kind of work. We love working on horns and Steve's a good enough player to know when a saxophone plays well. A saxophone plays well when all the pads completely cover the tone holes, all the keys function and fit properly, and all connections fit and seal properly. A qualified repairman must be able to accurately diagnose the problem. Then, he must have the proper tools, materials, and skills to make the repair. After the repairs are made, the instrument must be play-tested. The repairman must be a competent saxophone player to know if the horn plays well!
We set up the shop because it allows us to speak freely about everything that we've seen in the music world. We're not tied to any manufacturers and we don't work for anybody that tells us what we should do or say. The advice and recommendations we make are in your best interest. Also, it may seem odd that such a high-level repair shop is in Birmingham, AL instead of a higher profile city. Well, the Birmingham market has supported us for ten years. Also, players ship horns to work on from across the country, and travel from across the state or from out of state to get their horns to us. Some of our work has even gone out of the country. We mention this because we want you to know that what we're doing here is very special, and you or your child deserve the best you can get.
Who is Steve Collins?
Steve has been a band instrument repairman in the Birmingham area for 18 years. He worked in a local music store repairing all brass and woodwind instruments, then specializing in woodwinds, and for the last 17 years specializing in saxophones. He has a unique combination of being a skilled repairman and a competent musician. Most important is his passion for his profession to make sure every student or pro player receives a horn that works well and is fun to play.
As a musician, Steve has played baritone sax for 44 years, and marched in the Alabama Million Dollar Band with an alto sax. He played in the Alabama Jazz Ensemble, is a member of the Tuscaloosa Horn Section, and currently plays in several bands including the Night Flight Big Band, Horndogs, Power and Glory Big Band, and the “ Class of ’65.”