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Another valve oil substitute

Postby Art Hovey » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:04 am

I stopped using valve oil over a year ago. I didn't like the gray sludge that it formed when I put a few drops down my leadpipe every day as someone suggested, and I did not like having to clean my pistons whenever they dried out in warm weather. I also did not like having the oil dissolve my slide grease and cause my silicone rubber "felts" to swell and soften.
I've been using ordinary liquid dishwashing detergent diluted with water since the spring of 2008 with no ill effects. Now when the valves dry out and stick I can tap them down and they start moving freely immediately. There is a very slight accumulation of soap scum in the bottom valve caps after a year, but it's much less than what used to accumulate there when I was using oil. There is absolutely no accumulation on the pistons; they stay really clean and shiny. (When I was using oil, there was a gradual buildup of "lime" on the pistons, which had to be removed periodically.)
Comments?

Note: I use only piston-valve tubas.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby TubaNerd88 » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:45 am

I might have to try this method sometime. My Thor has the good ol' sticky valve situation every now and then. Maybe this will fix it!

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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby imperialbari » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:50 am

How is the wear factor on the valves when lubricating with this dishwater solution?

How does the absence of oil influence inner bore corrosion? Corrosion inside the piston casings?

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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby bill » Tue Sep 01, 2009 11:07 am

My wife, the chemist, poses the question:
What brand of detergent?
She buys the cheapest one she can find but tells me some of the upper scale detergents have hand lotion in them.

My question: What ratio of detergent to water?

Interesting report, Art.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby iiipopes » Tue Sep 01, 2009 2:35 pm

Does it dissolve beer? If I can find something to keep the valves lightning fast and still drink beer during the "fun" gigs I do, I've got to consider that!
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Dan Schultz » Tue Sep 01, 2009 3:19 pm

One of the 'old timers' I used to play German and Dixieland music with used nothing but water and few drops of dishwashing liquid on his pistons. They always looks bright and clean and never seemed to cause him any problems. I never tried it, though. Thanks for refreshing my memory. Never hurts to try new things. One thing, though... poor old Bill died about a year ago. I hope it wasn't from ingesting soap! :lol:

Come to think of it... were the bubbles on the Lawrence Welk show coming out of the tuba?
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby RanmaSyaoran » Tue Sep 01, 2009 4:44 pm

iiipopes wrote:Does it dissolve beer? If I can find something to keep the valves lightning fast and still drink beer during the "fun" gigs I do, I've got to consider that!


Spoken like a true man.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Rivercity Tuba » Wed Sep 02, 2009 1:55 pm

I would like to hear what the repairmen that post on the site have to say.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Dan Schultz » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:29 pm

Rivercity Tuba wrote:I would like to hear what the repairmen that post on the site have to say.


I mentioned that "whatever works for you is OK".

That being said.... unless you bring your own valve oil and slide grease for me to use on your horn.... it leaves here with 'Superlube' on the slides and an appropriate blend of UltruPure lamp oil and motor oil on the pistons. In the case of rotors... there will be 30 weight on the spindles and linkage points and a dab of lamp oil in the rotors.

I've never received any negative feedback about the lubricants I use causing any problems mixing with whatever the horn gets once it leaves here.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby tubatom91 » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:48 pm

Question for the guys that use Motor Oil:

Do you use non-detergent motor oil or detergent motor oil?


-FWIW I only know of non-detergent oil because my '37 Buick can't use regular detergent oil (no oil filter to catch the crap it washes around).
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Rivercity Tuba » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:49 pm

I mentioned that "whatever works for you is OK


My point in asking is that I have never heard of using dish soap as a lubricant. I was hoping the repairmen that post on here would give their opinion on using dish soap (For an informational standpoint. (Pros vs Cons). I understand that whatever works for you is OK.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Ryan_Beucke » Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:51 am

I think that some trombone slide lubricants are soap based, like Slide O Mix.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby tofu » Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:43 pm

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Last edited by tofu on Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Art Hovey » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:09 am

Valve oil and water do not mix. Lots of water condenses inside a tuba when it is being played. The oil and water do not seem to get along well together in the pistons.

Right now I am using Dawn concentrated liquid dishwashing detergent because that is what I found in my kitchen. At first I tried Kirkland body wash that I found in my shower stall because I was amazed at how slimy it felt. I switched to the detergent because I remembered that it is supposed to work better than soap in water that has impurities, but both liquids seem to work equally well. I imagine that it would be best to avoid liquids that have hand lotions and perfumes added.

I don’t know about the optimum concentration; that may depend on how snugly the pistons fit. I just put a few drops into a clean and empty valve oil bottle (small) and fill the rest with tap water. I assume that liquid detergent in its concentrated form would be too thick and would cause the piston to be sluggish, but I did recently put a dab of the full-strength stuff on the third piston of a dried-out junk tuba that I was trying out, and it worked perfectly for the rest of the week.

I don't think a spray bottle is necessary. The soapy water flows quickly by capillary action into the very thin space between moving parts. Usually I just run a few drops down the valve stem with the piston half-down. Sometimes if it is initially stuck in that position it pops up all by itself as soon as the liquid gets in there.
Once in a while if I feel that a little dirt has found its way into the piston I take it out and wipe it off with a clean paper towel or cloth and then put some soapy water on it just as we do with regular oil.

One piston on one of my tubas tends to get sluggish when I practice a lot of fast chromatic stuff. When I pull it out I find that the liquid has become foamy. I am now experimenting with a weaker concentration to reduce that effect. There may also be another type of detergent (perhaps for dishwashers) that has an anti-foaming agent; eventually I will try to find it. Maybe someone here knows something about it?

As for the rate of wear, I have no idea. The stainless steel Bohm und Meinl pistons on my helicon have been in heavy use for about 20 years now, sometimes with oil, sometimes with saliva, more recently with soapy water, and often with no lubrication at all. Except for the valve guides, they show no wear yet that I can see. Valve guides are easy to replace.

As for corrosion, I don't see any green forming in my valve slides, and none of my solder joints have rotted out yet.

I don't know why manufacturers all use oil these days, but I do know that a century ago the lower valve caps on cornets always had nipples to facilitate the deposition of saliva as a lubricant. I also know that trombonists have been using water-based soap-like lubricants instead of oil for a long time, and some of them have tried everything. Manufacturers have been coming up with all kinds of trombone stuff since Pond's changed its cold cream formula, but they are all sort of like soaps.
Last edited by Art Hovey on Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby TubaBobH » Sat Sep 05, 2009 9:38 pm

This is a very interesting valve oil substitute that seems intuitively plausible. I have been using the Hetman Synthetic Classic Piston Lubricant 3 valve oil for the last few years on my King 1241, and I have been quite satisfied with my valve performance. However, that having been said, I will readily admit that I have always found somewhat disconcerting 1] the "yellow tinged" spit that emanates from the spit valves 2] the gray "gunk" that forms in the top and bottom valve caps and 3] the yellowish "film" that forms inside some of the piston tubing ports.

Therefore, last night I cleaned one of my empty 2 oz valve oil bottles, filled it with tab water and added six drops of Dawn detergent. I then thoroughly cleaned my pistons and piston casing interiors, and applied my new valve oil substitute to the pistons. The valves are currently working as silky smooth as ever. (Granted, it has only been 24 hours.) I will be very curious what the pistons and the inside of the valve casings look like when I give them their monthly cleaning. Since I use Dawn detergent when I give my entire tuba a thorough cleaning every six months, it stands to reason that, from this point forward, I should experience none of the above three symptoms. This valve oil substitute really sounds almost too good to be true, especially when you compare the cost of a bottle of this concoction (essentially cost free) with the cost of a bottle of Hetman (certainly not cost free).
Last edited by TubaBobH on Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby iiipopes » Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:32 pm

RanmaSyaoran wrote:
iiipopes wrote:Does it dissolve beer? If I can find something to keep the valves lightning fast and still drink beer during the "fun" gigs I do, I've got to consider that!


Spoken like a true man.


Thanks.

Oh, and BTW: no, the bubbles at Welk come out of conventional commercial bubble machines. One night in getting set up, I almost tripped over one backstage as I was stowing my gear getting ready for a show.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Art Hovey » Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:58 pm

Since my last post on this thread I have experimented with Kirkland detergent powder for dishwashers. It seems to have an anti-foaming agent, but it also tends to corrode brass about the way that salt water does. (NO GOOD!
I tried cleaning a piece of brass with steel wool, and then applying a drop of tap water, a drop of Dawn diluted with water, and a drop of the dishwasher solution to three spots on the clean brass. The dishwasher stuff left a salt-like residue, and the others did not.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby hald » Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:56 pm

I started using Superlube, per the suggestion by Tubatinker in another thread. I think it is a fantastic product.

I've considered synthetic motor oil on valves- but all the ones I've tried have an unacceptable smell. Does ultra pure lamp oil have a good smell? Scented? I just wondered; I may try it.

What brand of dish soap is recommended?

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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Dan Schultz » Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 pm

hald wrote:I started using Superlube, per the suggestion by Tubatinker in another thread. I think it is a fantastic product.

I've considered synthetic motor oil on valves- but all the ones I've tried have an unacceptable smell. Does ultra pure lamp oil have a good smell? Scented? I just wondered; I may try it.

What brand of dish soap is recommended?

-hald


You might qualify that 'SuperLube' is my choice for SLIDES. It's waaaay to heavy for valves.

Ultra-pure lamp oil has no smell. Some of the lamp oils are scented but I stay away from anything that is smelly or has color to it. A few drops of motor oil in several ounces of lamp oil will give it a little more body and 'staying power'. You'll want to experiment with the getting the right mix as too much motor oil will slow down the pistons. It is nice to be able to adjust the mix for worn pistons.
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Re: Another valve oil substitute

Postby Staravoski » Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:31 pm

In my short time playing a valved brass instrument I've bought four or five bottles of "valve oil", each a different brand but all seeming to work equally well. One of them smelled of wintergreen. They've all been water-white. My impression is that they're all pure or close-to-pure light liquid paraffin. This is a very inexpensive inert petroleum product like mineral oil or baby oil but with lower viscosity, mainly used for making medicines or cosmetics. It doesn't oxidize or turn to a sticky gum as vegetable oils tend to do.

You might find your local oil company depot can sell you a 20-litre drum; they'd most likely have to get it in for you. Ask for light liquid paraffin USP (in the US), BP (in Britain) or EP (in Europe). That much should last quite a while even on a piston-valved BAT.

I wouldn't use detergent because, as suggested already in this thread, it could promote corrosion.
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