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Storing low brass between uses

Postby DCottrell » Wed May 02, 2018 7:10 am

My shop services a local middle school with a large band program. The teacher has about 13 tubas and about as many euphs. (mostly Jupiters, Yamahas and Bach-ahas) I have noticed something interesting and am interested in others' experience.

The tubas and euphs are used by several different students every day. They are sent in every summer for chem clean and flush. The teacher does not oil the valves unless the student brings it to her with a problem.

During the school year, I am called in (mostly after January) to free sticking pistons before the big clean in the summer. I have noticed that the euphs last longer between cleanings than the tubas. I have also noticed that the tubas have lime buildup around the top of the piston inside the casing. On my last visit, I noticed that the tubas are all stored (in cases) standing on their bell, while the euphs are ( in cases) in Wenger-type cabinets, and standing on their side (so that the bell is horizontal)

I proposed to the teacher that she start to store the tubas on their side, basing this on the idea that, in a vertical position, all the crud inside the horn will gather around the top cap and the top of the piston. This buildup will make the piston sticky and the top cap hard to remove (another complaint). In the horizontal position, I am hoping there is a slight drip angle to the horn that will move the crud to the bottom of the casing.

Any opinion? Valid idea or snake oil?
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby opus37 » Wed May 02, 2018 7:27 am

Those students are lucky to have such a great opportunity to play. A lot of band programs don't have more than 2 practices a week. It would be nice if the students could be taught to oil their valves. Proper maintenance is a part of learning an instrument. I do suspect that storing their tubas in a similar fashion to the euphoniums would help, regular oiling would be an even better benefit.
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby Sousaswag » Wed May 02, 2018 7:42 am

I think part of the problem here is storing horizontally takes up more space. We all play pretty large instruments and know they take up quite a lot of our floors! Storing vertically will keep them closer to the wall, as well as leaving more room for people to walk. I do think that vertical storage could be the culprit here, but I see why it's like that. I agree that students should be taught proper instrument maintenance; it's part of playing a brass instrument after all. It helps with the longevity of the instrument. I would say store the horns like the euphoniums if possible (which you have), and teach these kids to oil valves! It builds character :mrgreen:
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby bloke » Wed May 02, 2018 10:00 am

During the school year, I am called in (mostly after January) to free sticking pistons before the big clean in the summer. I have noticed that the euphs last longer between cleanings than the tubas. I have also noticed that the tubas have lime buildup around the top of the piston inside the casing.


Smaller-surface-area euphonium pistons (close tolerances, such as Yamaha) are easier to break free and with still go up-and-down (marginally well) with more crap on their surfaces (again, because of there being less surface area) than will close-fitting-tolerance tuba pistons. The storage position is likely a mis-attributed cause/effect.

Trumpet pistons will function (somewhat) with even more lime build-up, because the feature even less (geometrically less) surface area.

Just fwiw, I encounter more euphonium (and fewer tuba) pistons which are "locked" into their casings - due to an epic buildup of lime in the tops of their casings.

You probably do the same...
When harmony brass - those with top-mounted nylon guides - arrive with pistons "locked" in their casings, I remove the pistons by first removing the stems and guides, and then send the pistons out the bottoms of the casings.

Finally, 4th valves (tuba/euphonium - piston/rotary) tend to seize the most often from lime, because they are the least (often: never) used.
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby Will Jones » Wed May 02, 2018 1:20 pm

My short and long term storage technique has two ingredients:
1. unscrew the valve caps just a bit: any mineral crud will stick to the valve wall ABOVE the normal piston travel.
2. pull the slides and leave them half open (probably a bad thing to do with a school horn). It expedites evaporation, which might reduce biological development.

Two bonus items.
1. When inserting the mouthpiece: put it in then turn it. It substantially reduces the likely hood of getting stuck.
2. Use slide-o-mix all-in-one for the valves. It's thicker than slide oil, but not so thick it actually slows down the valves. I put some down the leadpipe every day and it works it's way into the valves.
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby bloke » Wed May 02, 2018 1:46 pm

easiest solution:

Buy Jb from that place located near the shore of the Wisc. River, use two years, throw away, buy more.
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Re: Storing low brass between uses

Postby Ken Herrick » Wed May 02, 2018 7:30 pm

Maybe you could arrange a bit of a tutorial with the teacher and players to show them how to oil the valves, stressing that without lubrication the valves will, sooner or later jam up.
A bit of preventative maintenance will extend the life of the instruments and save money so that over time newer, better instruments can be obtained.
Free to tuba: good home
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