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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:26 pm

Okay, stop freaking out about the silver plate, folks. I have received over a dozen PMs here and on Facebook asking why I would do this? I thought I explained this pretty clearly in earlier posts in both places, but I guess not. (Or people just look at pics and don't read what I took so much of my time writing.)

The silver on this horn was in a fairly bad state in several places, the top bow being the worst. The top bow and inner branches all had factory silver from 1964. Mr. Rusk (according to some people familiar with how he made these and then had them plated) used Mark Metzler to plate the parts that needed to be done, then they were assembled and spot plating was done as needed. (At least in the case of this particular tuba. I found a lot of physical evidence to show that this horn has plating done by three different people at different times.) The bell and bottom bow required a lot of work to fix up, and they received new plating on top of the remaining (and very patchy) factory stuff. This does not always adhere properly, and true to form, my bell is peeling in lots of small spots. I think the bottom bow got buffed off when these parts were plated. And they were plated while soldered together. The valve section was plated at the factory in Germany in 1990 and was very thin but in good overall shape. The 5th valve assembly was put together poorly with parts that did not fit at all and had huge gaps. It was plated as an assembly. All these sections were assembled into the tuba and then the plating was touched up, so there were "seams" in the plating and the top bow and inner branches had worn down to bare brass by the time I got the horn.

This comes down to my pie-in-the-sky wishes to have this horn plated at Anderson's once I am done with it. The truth is that I simply cannot afford to do this. However, I have the ability (and experience) to lacquer this tuba well with a fairly decent buff despite not having a buffing machine or a lacquer room. This would cost me next to nothing.

Next step in my jangled mind: nickel silver.

I hate raw brass horns that are 100% brass. I like nickel silver as a bearing material AND as high quality bling. I don't like plating because it come off or is damaged so easily, and when that happens it just looks like dookie to me. Nickel silver is the shiznit because it is hard, light and beautiful when polished up. I have seen a number of these big 345 tubas in raw brass and they just end up looking "dirty" when the patina takes hold. My Alexander was always beautiful because I allowed the brass to get that reddish-brown patina but kept all the nickel silver (which was all over the horn) shined up. This was the best looking tuba I have ever owned, IMHO.

This tuba, being plated at the factory, had zero nickel silver. None. My Kurath F is raw brass and has no nickel silver to offset this look, so it too now looks "dirty" (versus tarnished). The Alex looked like a beautiful museum piece and the Kurath looks like a band room storage closet queen. The Kurath is arguably the better tuba, too.

So with this in my head I decided that if I could not re-plate my now-scarred up tuba I would strip it down to raw brass (as much as possible) and buff and lacquer parts of it, maybe polishing some stuff as needed. Then I realized the complete lack of nickel silver to offset this massive half-acre of brown, splotchy-looking brass. None.

I spent a long time sourcing the right sized nickel silver outside slide tubes. End result after a year: nada. So at the last minute I did some careful work with my calipers and decided to bump my bore up a tiny bit and use Miraphone slide tubing and some crooks.

That is where I am now.

So I have to strip off the silver from the valves to allow them to be buffed up and lacquered with all the slide tubes and such. Now the horn will have a nice amount of the silver stuff (that I can buff, scrape, sand, whatever, without much damage to it, aesthetically) and then lacquered inner branches and top bow. And then... I don't know what. I have to see. Sanding the silver off the bell is a Herculean task I would not pay someone to do, much less accept payment to do myself. But me doing the work, for me, for no money and with no deadlines? Maybe. Not now, but that can be done while the horn is assembled and playable. So maybe later. The bottom bow will eventually get this done to it, but sooner or later, I can't say. Once the valve section has been assembled to the state that it can be mounted to the horn I can look at that.

So *that* is why I stripped all that nice silver off my piston casing set today and watched it go down my kitchen sink drain in swirls of black crud. Sorry for you silver lovers. I am one of you, but this will not work with this horn and my pocketbook/work schedule.

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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby bloke » Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:16 am

no big deal... :P :lol:

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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:18 pm

HA! Don't I wish!!!

I am a silver-loving mo to be sure, so removing this stuff is killing my soul, heh, heh, heh...
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:49 pm

So now I am back on the bugle. I removed the plating from the top bow with only a bit more work than Sisyphus and his boulder... :roll: :roll: :roll:

I got the top bow pretty clean, but now you can see a lot of junk that was hidden by the beautiful glare of that sexy silver plate. There are long valleys from dent ball work. They are everywhere. I don't know why you couldn't see them before, and you can't now, but in the process of sanding they appeared all over - low spots the paper could not get into. Everywhere. It was actually somewhat alarming.

All the dents you could not see before, and are mostly very shallow depressions from brace feet that you cannot even feel, but that appear as you sand off the silver and you have basically a two-toned horn. ALL FLAWS SHOW UP in such a situation. Again, alarming, because you *thought* you had a nice horn, but this stuff does not lie. Ugh...

Once you get it all off, though, those flaws once again disappear into the overall field of gold or silver or whatever. I guess these are flaws that are 4 microns or less in depth. Hmm...

FREE TIP: Do not, under any circumstances, use any wet/dry sandpaper other than that made by 3M. It is important for you to know (if you think you might one day decide to do this to an instrument) that all brands sold at auto parts stores now in lieu of the 3M stuff they sold up to about two years ago are complete and utterly useless crap. I am NOT kidding. Do not waste your time or money. If you need wet/dry and it is important that it work perfectly every time just buy the real stuff. If you are in a locale where it is not available, take the time and get it from Amazon. You will thank me in the end.

The stuff sold by all the local stores is Gator, made in Canada, and it *only* says this on the paper itself. Every store sells its own line of this crap, and the packaging looks like a knock-off of the real 3M paper, but each store carries it under a different name.

No matter, it is all the same junk, and junk it is.

The paper comes apart when wet. The grit *feels* accurate to the finger but grinds down to twice that (or more) after only two or three rubs across the metal surface.

Seriously, I got my top bow done with the 3M wet/dry paper and decided to go onto the bottom bow as a quick test showed that it came off really easily. Then I ran out of paper and mrs. elephant had to run to AutoZone and O'Reilly's to get me two packs. (AZ only had one, so she headed across the road to the other shop to get their brand, which, when examined side-by-side prove to be the same junk from the same maker despite the different packaging artwork.) I used one 3M strip to do one third of the bottom bow. I used four strips of the new stuff and removed exactly zero additional silver. I simply scored up the silver so it is nice and dull, but no additional brass became visible. Four sheets did nothing. One partially used strip of the 3M stuff of the same grit (400) did fully one third of the bow.

There is no comparison. After using up a complete pack of the new stuff with nothing to show for it I packed it in for today. Had I had more of the 3M wet/dry 400 grit sandpaper I could have completed this step fully and still had time to go out for a late lunch with the mrs.

Lesson learned. Fully. Just before posting this I went on Amazon and reordered ten 400 grit packs. Never again will I trust the crap at our local auto parts stores. That is the last fiasco like this.

Now, here are some pics of WHY I am doing all this. You cannot lacquer silver plate; in every case I have ever seen within a few years it turns black under the lacquer, the lacquer looses adhesion, and it all comes flaking off so that you horn looks like it has mange. So if I decide to buff and lacquer parts of my horn ALL of the silver must be removed.

With the cost of plating (and the time needed to prep such a big tuba for the process) I have given up my wish for a beautiful, silver BAT. So off the silver comes, no matter how hard it is to butcher it so. :mrgreen:

The pics first show the ugliness on the bell, then the top bow right after being cleaned off and brought inside, and finally the inner branches that I first stripped back about two months ago. They have tarnished sufficiently to see the same "valleys" and low spots where the silver will not easily come off. (The top bow was much worse than this, but I had good light, lots of time and good sandpaper, so it came off fairly well.) The inner branches all need to be gone over out in the daylight where I can see much better.

Anyway, I am done for today and my butt is out of here to go to Jackson. Adios, y'all!

The first six photos are of the damage to the plating on the bell stack ONLY. Again, I am removing all this mess, which destroys the plating, sad to say. The sixth one is an example of the peeling happening to my bell, both inside and out. That will continue forever unless i fix it, so off it comes...
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The hardest part to sand clean was the small end of the top bow, which was still full thickness as no one ever handles the horn at the point. The large side that runs to the bottom bow was about half bare brass when I started for the exact opposite reason. Yeah, I seen the ding. I will get that next time.
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Here is the top bow. You can see that part of the bottom bow got cleaned up, but then the paper stopped working, so I gave up for the day.
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Here is where the craptacular sandpaper came into play. It did nothing but scuff up the silver, exposing zero brass. The package had five strips; I used four. I tossed the last one in the trash unused. ~~ omg ~~
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5th branch solder pads that have to be removed. There are many on the various bugle branches, but many have been cleaned up. This is much worse than removing silver plate and will require buffing...
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Whoops. It was sort of dark in the room where I did this initial stripping, and this was the first branch I tried this on. Obviously I missed a lot of plating...
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Here is the 4th branch. It looks exactly like how top bow looked while I was sanding today. The troughs were wider and longer on the top bow, but it was essentially the same problem. I will go over this branch after Wednesday when the good 3M 400 grit paper is delivered.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby KiltieTuba » Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:29 am

When I sanded a finish off I used the sanded sponges, felt like I could get a better angle than with a paper.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:43 am

KiltieTuba wrote:When I sanded a finish off I used the sanded sponges, felt like I could get a better angle than with a paper.


Thanks. I'll consider that. :-)
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Wed Sep 27, 2017 12:00 am

This afternoon I worked on crooks. It seemed like I wasted four hours on those. Where did the time go?

This evening I worked on assembling my 2nd slide, not with the goal of perfection, but simply to get the initial tube on the valves aligned *just so* and then correctly align the other tube to that one and get the brace fitted. Then I would build the slide and get things pretty close. At that point I can do a final lapping job and then get really picky with alignment.

Once 2nd is completed I can start to do 1st and then 3rd.

I ended up with a slide that is stiffer than I want, but better than I had expected for today. Getting the first slide aligned with no reference points is a bear for me. And my crook was 1mm too wide and had to be altered. This took a long time that was nothing but frustration. In the end it is pretty damned close, but it is not there, yet. It will be, but not tonight. I am done.

I had a small solder glob cause a small misalignment so that the ferrule of one slide leg cannot go all the way in. It is off by about 1mm and you can easily see it.

The initial solder work was pretty clean. I need to buff a small amount off in some spots, and the original silver is still on the brace. How did I forget to take care of that??? Getting that sanded off will now be lots of needless "fun" but it is on and the soldering is pretty neat. The photos are of raw, uncompleted work, so be nice. I will clean up everything as I go. But as I said, for today there is no more go.

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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:28 am

I have to add the cap for the pull ring, which is still silver, and has a tiny ring. I am thinking of putting a rod with a ring like some horns have, to make it easier to reach this slide. Are these useful enough to bother with? I do not move my 2nd slide much, and it seems like it would end up being something that can break or bend. I will probably add a larger ring without the rod. I can't really say, yet. I will have to have the valve section completed first, so I can look at the various slide crooks and where this one sits. I have wanted an extended pull ring a few times in the past, but it was never a priority.

Hmm... post-insomnia-sleepless-night-post-wake-the-hell-up-coffee-pre-dawn-musings...
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby Casca Grossa » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:15 am

Watching this thread has been so educational. I had mentioned to Wade via messages that one of my bucket list items in life was to build some sort of frankentuba. I had no time frame on it and figured even if it took me ten years to gather parts and get the work done, it wouldn't bother me. After seeing all that goes into it, I realize how completely inept I would really be at this. The frankentuba dream still exists but I am thinking maybe I take the time to get all of the parts then just box them up and ship them to Wade when the time comes. I am thoroughly enjoying this thread though. Keep these posts coming Wade.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby roughrider » Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:02 pm

Amen! Keep it coming!
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:11 pm

How anal can I be? I can be *this* anal...

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This is my storage box for all my slide tubing (except for the long one for 4th (which is in a bubblewrap bag to prevent dings). This is every inner or outer slide tube or ferrule for the piston set that I have cut except for the parts needed for 2nd, which is already on the valves, as shown earlier.

Welcome to Tuba Building Group Therapy, kids...
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:32 pm

I needed to do some *fun* work to unclog my brain and de-stress. I decided to start tearing down my two 24J tubas. I have to rescue the two valve sets, both of which have slightly bent pistons, and one of them has a slightly damaged casing, with the end result being two tubas that cannot be assembled to even play test. (I played them both for a previous band director at this same school, probably in 2006, and both played *very* if you used the single Conn tuning bit. Both have leadpipes that were in great shape when I played them back at that time. (I installed them after hunting down two really good ones off eBay.) Both now need replacements, one having been cut and ferruled back together in THREE places and one being very badly crushed. So that is something to consider...

Anyway, these are/were very good examples that I cannot wait to get up and running, one for sale as a 24J and one for me for an as yet unknown fate. I got them both for under $300 total, so I won't be out much if I mess anything up, and the world supply of beat-t0-hell 2xJ tubas is huge, so that is not an issue, either.

Here is the first piston set. I removed the valve section and boxed up all the pieces. I did not clean up the bugle yet. I will do that on my next day of Inner Peace Through Acetylene.

This a preview of that future build thread...

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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:38 pm

I posted the above as a reference for those who keep wanting to use the same piston set to turn a top-facing horn into a front-facing one. You can clearly see that this would involve major surgery that would be cost-prohibitive, to say the least. SOME top-loader piston sets can have this done fairly easily, but it all depends on how far the knuckles come away from the piston casing: do they leave you enough straight tube to cut and then solder on ferrules so you can change the port directions? Most don't, some do, and the one in the photos above fall into the *maybe* category. Perhaps I will try this. But I won't do it until I spend some time really looking at these and doing more head scratching...
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:49 pm

I did this for free. Had I charged I would have made some money on it at this so-so detail level. Had I cranked on this for the time needed to make it "really good" the owner (a kid) would not have been able to even begin to pay me what I would have had to charge. Sometimes pretty good has to be good enough, especially when it is a mercy gig.

Note the witness mark (the inverted V) at the collar where the original brace foot lived prior to the bell having been cut. The photos show *exactly* the same spot on the bell. (Someone said I had done the work but took a pic of the "good" side, which sort of pissed me off. And yeah, the rim is straight and flat and beautiful. I just failed to capture that in the photo because I am a crap photographer. :mrgreen:
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:10 pm

Today I also worked on the K series 24J pistons.

#1 - bent at bottom and at one port (replacement - no SN)
#2 - perfect
#3 - bent badly (over 1mm out, which is huge) and unable to go into casing more than halfway
#4 - perfect

You can see the dent in the #1 piston (second from L) at 7:00 on the port. That took me two hours to sort properly. It ran in the casing more or less fine when dry, but if I moved it up and down very vigorously after about 15 seconds it would heat up and the small remaining flaws that I had so much trouble with would cause hangs. I kept at it. This was my first time using this tool. (They are Ferree's N28/N58 piston and casing mandrels, if you care.) I finally feel like I really know how to use this tool because I discovered several methods to use it AND several ways to F up the valve. <whoops>

The bent #3 piston actually was pretty easy once I had it in the mandrel/sleeve. I am not sure why this is yet. I need to work with this tool set more before I can figure that out. But once I managed to get it in there it only took me about 30 minutes to fix it so that it works well in its casing.

New tools learned, if not mastered quite yet, and I learned that Ferree's will make me whatever size I need for an upcharge that (to me) seems to be pretty fair. These were very well made and fit perfectly. So now I will get a set made for my Nirschl pistons on my Holton because I dislike lapping since it removes material, and in most cases it sidesteps a physical issue with the horn. And who wants thinner plating on their pistons, anyway?

So I will get a set for this horn to help me permanently fix the hangs in 1 and 4 due to the knuckles having been scrunched before I bought the horn. This will be a true fix.

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This is the sleeve that you wail on with a leather mallet. (Okay, so "strike firmly but not too hard" would be more accurate, I guess.)
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I am about to be able to get back on the Holton project soon. Tomorrow, I hope. Certainly by Sunday. I have too much playing to really get into anything drawn out and involved, and that is where I am both with the bugle and the valve section, so I am hoping after Saturday's program I will have several consecutive full days to devote to my Holton.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:27 pm

Received a foot of NS tubing that fits outside the outer slide tube for a Miraphone, so now I can make some very basic tube end rings. Here is the trial run. It fits very well, but it was a booger to clean up after having been cut. What a PITA, but I like it a lot. So now I need to make 13 more...

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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby KiltieTuba » Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:30 pm

How are you making those ends?

I hadn't thought of making those little rings, always looked complicated to me.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:43 am

I have a Proxxon mini miter saw that has a very rudimentary (and inaccurate) length setter that allows for very fast duplication of stuff like ferrules and such. I set the length of the cut to be about 2mm or so - just eyeballed what looked good to me. I set up the little arm and cut the first one, cleaned it up, and then chopped off a second one. They matched well enough. One was a bit wider on one end, though, so I need to see if I can make a better device for this task. This one is a bit too flexy for such fine work.

Anyway, you cut the rings, then you have to dress them and file them flat and so that the two ends are as close to parallel as you can get them. These are small, so no one will see them unless they are looking with some scrutiny. This means they have to be as exact as you can get them. This is a massive PITA, as you can guess. The final step of filing the ends can ruin a ring in about five seconds if you are not paying close attention to what you are doing.

Once it is cut, dressed (deburred and sanded to be very smooth) and filed to remove any flaws in the flatness you simply press it on. These are very tight by design, so you have to use a leather mallet to gently get them on flush with the tube end. I then use a short length of this tubing as a slide hammer. I put the outer slide tube with the end ring face down on a wide saxophone file that is very flat. I then use the length of "hammer" stock to tap the ring back flat against the file face so that it is flush with the tube end all the way around and zero tiny gaps are present. I then run a little flux over the thing and use some very fine solder (stretched out to be about twice the thickness of a hair, using real tin/lead solder because - for me - it buffs clean much easier than that lead-free crap and these joints must be perfect looking) and run in just enough to attach the already very tightly fitted ring. Buff to death like a redneck, et voilá! you have a sexy tube end ring. Just repeat the process like fifteen more times and you're golden. Yes, this sucks, but the end result makes me very happy, so that is why I am doing this needless step.

I don't know if any of that helps, but it was fun typing it up. ;-)
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby roweenie » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:16 am

Very useful information - thanks!

I find that making ferrules is one of the most difficult and time consuming things that I do, and that those fancy little tube ends were entirely out of the question.
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Re: Holton 345 Redux

Postby the elephant » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:46 am

Yeah, ferrules suck. It is not any different than other finished tubes; all they are is a very short tube, after all. For me it is the tedium of it: after all that work you have a 3/4" tube. How exciting. The part I actually dislike is the need for all of them to match. Most other tubes are singles or perhaps pairs. They need to be pretty close in length, but the stinking ferrules are in pairs, side by side, sometimes in groups that are close enough together to make it easy to see if they look like a factory part or some chunks of tube cut off for you by that nice man at Home Depot who has never heard of things like right angles.

I cut my ferrules and dress the ends as best I can. When I get a batch done I lay them in groups of six on my saxophone file (one of my most used tools, and the arbitrary number of six is because that is all that fit at one time). With them all lined up - touching edges - you can see if they are all the same height and whether one side or the other (after you flip them over) may have been cut a degree or so off of 90º from the sidewall of the tube. If they are touching and one is crooked it will be very apparent. I do not have many that come out slightly crooked, but when I do the crooked end goes to the crook with the side that is either too long or too short facing the back side (if I cannot correct it or am in a hurry). If both ends are off a bit I use the sax file to eyeball it until it matches the others. Occasionally I will get one that is a tiny bit too short, which cannot be corrected. I will file one to match and place them on a slide on the bottom end of the horn. All the best ones go on the top slides.

With my new system I have produced 16 ferrules so far, with one having one end being off by a quarter millimeter so that when resting on that end the sidewalls do not line up with the others. I managed to hand file it until it was straight and then file another one to match it. This was a PITA because nickel silver is harder than brass, so it is time consuming. I would not bother with this for a paying customer unless he wanted to pay for that sort of attention to detail. (I wouldn't pay for it, either, but I get a special deal on my labor charges to myself.) I am doing it for my horn because I will know everything that I had to bury or hide, and these things end up bugging me over time, usually during tacet sheets when I sit there staring at my tuba for long stretches of time. ;-)

My old method of tube cutting was very precise but painfully slow. It involved a Dremel, blue painter's tape, a Sharpie ultra fine point, a triangular scraper, my beloved sax tone hole file and some sandpaper. Now I use my tiny miter saw with a reinforced cutoff wheel, the file and the sandpaper. It is much faster and the results are very good. But I am still learning to use the tool and working on a system that is as fast as I can get it. (I am not very good at "fast" in most things in my life, unfortunately.)
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