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Cleaning Rotary Valves

Postby Tuba5547 » Tue Dec 26, 2017 9:19 pm

Tips on cleaning Rotary valves on my Cerveny CBB 686-4 Series 4-Valve 4/4 BBb Tuba My 2nd valve locks up once in while.

Thanks!!!!---Tom Barlow
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby tylerferris1213 » Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:05 pm

It's a little bit more involved than cleaning a piston valve, but not by much. YouTube has plenty of videos explaining how to do it. You'll need a soft hammer, preferably rawhide. I would also suggest using regular blue Dawn dish soap. It is gentle and a great degreaser.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby bloke » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:06 pm

If there are hard chunks of lime around the edges of the rotor bodies, they are likely what are causing the sticking.
They can be dissolved with a not-too-strong acid. As far as household products are concerned, white vinegar would probably work, but would take much longer than acidic specially-formulated cleaners used in repair shops. I would not recommend the over-the-counter product, "CLR", simply because I've never never messed with that stuff (but having seen "after" pictures of others' use, it seems to tend to deeply tarnish as it dissolves lime). Something relatively weak (again: white vinegar) is safe, and it's difficult to leave a rotor body in vinegar "too long".

Also, those chunks of lime can (simply) be chipped away with a fingernail. If lime chunks are also found around the edges inside the casings (likely, if also on the rotor bodies) you may (again a HOME-based cleaning job) need to (simply) use fingernails.

Taking a tuba to someone with a large tub of (repair shops buy it from Allied Supply Corp) "SlimeAway" is a way to (assuming competence) safely dissolve away lime in the entire valve section of a tuba. Un-lacquered tubas turn pink in SlimeAway. As this is an odd appearance, this defines exterior cleaning - which takes a considerable amount (hours) of time. A few shops own very large and very expensive ultrasonic cleaning tanks, but ultrasound can risk blowing holes in dezinctified spots in brass...and I've seen more than one ultrasonically cleaned instrument that (after cleaning) still sported a good bit of lime build-up in the interior.

If you are not comfortable removing/reinstalling rotors, forget everything above. It's pretty easy to f-up rotors via clumsy removal/reintallation, and - as amateurs don't have any clue how to remedy (even extremely minor) f-ups done to rotors, it's pretty easy to dig a "deep hole" which can result in epic frowns.

This probably seems stupid, but (though they stink and are nowhere near perfect ways to address a lime build-up problem) some of the better aerosol penetrating oils (not WD-40, which really doesn't do any good in any-application-in-particular, in my experience) can offer some relief to rotor sticking caused by lime build up. Spraying it down the valve tubing to the rotor bodies, spraying it (lightly or Q-tipping, as this stuff is messy and stinky) on the two spindle bearings, playing the tuba with that mess sloshing around in there for a couple of hours, and then draining it out and diluting/replacing it with lamp oil on the valve bodies and 30W oil on the spindle bearings (again) can offer some relief...if you want to attempt to approach the problem with a "potion" (rather than "hands-on") tack.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby Ken Herrick » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:55 am

I have often used CLR for cleaning valves - rotary and piston, including casings - with very good results. It can be diluted with water and gets quick results. Keep an eye on things and rinse well with water in the end. It works well as a mild bright dip for old badly tarnished parts. I have also used it for removing tarnish from silver plated instruments. I have never struck problems and it is much faster than vinegar. YMMV.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby DrewMa » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:48 am

If you Google “Jeff Funderburk tuba maintenance” you’ll find all the info you’ll need to maintain rotary valves. There are 14 videos he posted to YouTube and the information is solid. These were referenced in a thread a few years ago as well:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=44320

Thanks,
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby bloke » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:07 pm

Ken Herrick wrote:I have often used CLR for cleaning valves - rotary and piston, including casings - with very good results. It can be diluted with water and gets quick results. Keep an eye on things and rinse well with water in the end. It works well as a mild bright dip for old badly tarnished parts. I have also used it for removing tarnish from silver plated instruments. I have never struck problems and it is much faster than vinegar. YMMV.


good to hear. I suspect the "messes" that I've seen (in pictures online) resulted from NON-diluted uses.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby Ken Herrick » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:13 pm

I would suspect that using a reactive container such as an aluminum pan could cause problems with a galvanic reaction being set up. I have cleaned complete instruments in dilute solutions in bath tubs. Result, clean inside and de-tarnished on the outside. I always degreased things first. When you don't have a well equipped workshop it is handy to be able to do a reasonable "chem clean" with a relatively safe and inexpensive pruduct.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby bloke » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:56 pm

I strive to recommend no chemicals for home use.
I try to only recommend (for lack of a better term) "analog" methods for carrying out repair/maintenance tasks at home on musical instruments.
It concerns me - just a bit - to even recommend the use of pressurized hot water (which can be a useful tool - using the CORRECT type of hose and PAYING ATTENTION...but otherwise... :roll: ).

bloke "I occasionally screw up. I can only imagine that someone who is doing something for the first time could as well. I really try to limit screw-ups, and - in particular - to not recommend things that could turn out badly...the operative word, I suppose, being 'actionable'...and yeah, I use gasoline, sometimes, as a solvent (after all, ~no~ other solvents are flammable or release toxic fumes) ...BUT DON'T ANY OF YOU DO IT !!! :shock: " :lol:
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby pjv » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:06 pm

Often, when cleaning my rotars, I see lime deposits exactly in the spindle area which I've been oiling all those months before cleaning.
And I am in no way too stingy to oil my axe.
Which leads me to wonder, why do I oil it at all if the oil isn't reaching the place I want the oil to reach?
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby bloke » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:21 pm

It's trouble, but you can drill a (say, size 70 wire gauge...??) horizontal hole towards the bottom of your valve stem that goes into the threaded center. In the bottom you could both have to drill a center hole and a horizontal hole. Very old tubas had quarter-dollar-size center screws (which could be removed without tools) for just such oiling (down the center hole to the horizontal hole, obviously).

Today, some rotors feature an exterior spiral cut on the rotor valve stems which can carry oil. As an example, I know of one not-the-cheapest Chinese maker that does this.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby Alex C » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:03 am

In the past, I have soaked old rotary valves in white vinegar and had them come out as shiny as new valves. I have, as some above described, degreased an horn and poured white vinegar in it to get rid of corrosion. Both have to be monitored, it is possible to damage a horn this way.

Your instrument will also smell like vinegar for several weeks. Makes you want to eat salad.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby TheGoyWonder » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:31 am

if you have hard water make sure you use water that has gone thru the softener...usually the shower, or fill a bucket at the laundry attachment if you have to.
I wonder if drinking hard water makes your spit more likely to form scale...probably.
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby doublebuzzing » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:23 pm

Will running soap and warm water through the lead pipe and wiggling the valves clean them very well?
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Re: Cleanig Rotary Valves

Postby bloke » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:41 pm

Running high-velocity hot water (difficult for most folks to do, as it requires somewhat of a "set-up") through a valveset will blow out most of the nasty loose slimy sludge, but will not dislodge hard lime.
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Re: Cleaning Rotary Valves

Postby Mike-Johnson-Custom » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:12 am

In the late 70s Ren. Schilke toured the UK with Yamaha. That's where I first heard about oiling through the receiver. so that you keep an oil layer through the instrument. I also heard Gerhard Meinl talk about doing the same with rotary valve tubas. This is a preventative that can slow the formation of lime. It also helps a little with stopping food from sticking!
I'd suggest take it to a good repair shop and get the lime removed properly. But then prevention being the way forward.
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Re: Cleaning Rotary Valves

Postby zmann67 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:13 pm

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Re: Cleaning Rotary Valves

Postby swillafew » Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:23 am

Running high-velocity hot water


Brings back a memory. I had the use of a school owned instrument for a summer long playing job when I was 21. The horn smelled really bad and I was playing it all day every day. It was back before I knew squat about cleaning a horn, and the budget was zero. There was a dormitory folklore about how to clean, and the idea was that shampoo was the thing you owned already that could cut grease in an emergency.

I loaded up a bucket with hot water and a good deal of Herbal Essence (very trendy at the time), and poured it into the bell. I turned the horn over and over until that water made it to the receiver. The stuff that came out of the receiver would have made Stephen Spielberg proud. The pressure is quite good doing it that way, and the smell was gone forever. The horn smelled sweet too, Herbal Essence all day long.
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Re: Cleaning Rotary Valves

Postby Slamson » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:53 pm

Miraphone used to recommend Ivory Snow detergent. It's the stuff they used to use for washing diapers.
Since nobody washes diapers any more, I thought the stuff had been discontinued, but I found some at a store last year.

It works great, but everything needs to soak for about an hour... then those nasty blobs start to appear.

The stuff is really soft, flakey, and smells good. It will not, however help you play soft or not stink when you play... that's what practice is for.
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