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Thread: Freezing Valves: what can we do?

  1. #1

    Freezing Valves: what can we do?

    So, here in Michigan its getting to be that time of year where the valves and slides are all seizing up in the cold at marching band...anyone have experience with this and how to fix it?
    Keera Allen
    Senior, Central Michigan University
    Music Education: Euphonium, specializing in baritone
    Willson 2950TA Euphonium
    Yamaha YBH 621 Baritone
    Nirschl I-400SP Baritone

  2. We mixed in various sorts of alcohols or stp motor oil. We made sure to clean out everything afterwards, but it seemed to do the trick. I dont know how much valve oil we mixed in with it though.

  3. #3
    The Coast Guard Band used to keep a supply of 50/50 valve oil and alcohol for cold-weather use. I never tried it myself because my valves didn't freeze (well, except for once on the deck of a ship, mid-Winter, in Boston Harbor). But I was using a well-broken-King bell-front horn, which probably had more valve clearance than a typical compensating horn today.

    MEMBERS: has anyone tried synthetic oil in super-cold conditions? In cars, synthetic motor oil is much more fluid at very cold temps, but I'm not sure if that would be the same for valve oils.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    2,051
    Total speculation since I have NO experience, but ...

    I doubt that the valves are actually freezing if they are oiled. Not entirely sure of this since it's possible water in them might freeze. But I'm skeptical since most of the water would be mixed with oil. However, not letting water accumulate would be important.

    I'd suspect, as Dave has suggested, that the issue is really the viscosity of the lubricant as the temperature declines. It thickens to the point where, effectively, you lose valve clearance and the valves "freeze" (or perhaps better, "seize"). If that's true, then the way to go would probably be a very light synthetic valve oil (like Yamaha light synthetic). Or perhaps even lighter, go with ultra-pure lamp oil (available in decent hardware stores). This is just super-refined kerosene, very thin, and it has very little odor. I don't like it as a regular valve lubricant because I still smell it a bit, but it has a big following in the part of the tuba community that prefers "traditional" lubricants and ones that are cheap. They often mix another oil with it to thicken it a bit, but for cold weather use, I'd try it by itself.

    As for slides, I personally would stay away from mixing various concocotions. A trombone slide cream might work well. But what I'd try first is a silicone "grease". I use Dow High Vacuum grease, which is expensive. But if you go to somewhere like Lowes, you can get a tiny container of silicone gasket sealant in the plumbing section. It's used on gaskets for faucets, water filters, etc. Then I'd try just enough of that to work, with no residue.

    Also, in order to prevent any water from actually freezing in the horn, I'd put some oil (the thin stuff) into the slides themselves.

    Just some thoughts.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Schilke 66
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  5. #5
    Gary, I'm pretty sure that my valves froze that time. They did not slow down; they went from working to stuck tight really quickly. It was very cold and there was considerable wind. I've also had valves freeze when I leave the horn in a parked car during Winter.

    During playing I know I tend to produce a lot of moisture for whatever reason (I know, I know - full of hot air). For me to successfully play in freezing weather (which I do NOT plan on ever doing again), I would probably need to use an alcohol/oil mix and dump some in the leadpipe frequently during the gig so that the oil mix overwhelms whatever moisture I've contributed.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
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  6. #6
    Some interesting ideas haha! our band director keeps saying no to any alcohol mix, but I have heard it works from many people. It is just so crazy to walk outside and have the valves freeze completely...we have had this issue for years up here near the end of every season, but usually we just don't play, I want us to be able to play this year! =]
    Keera Allen
    Senior, Central Michigan University
    Music Education: Euphonium, specializing in baritone
    Willson 2950TA Euphonium
    Yamaha YBH 621 Baritone
    Nirschl I-400SP Baritone

  7. #7
    I understand his point. So just try liberal amounts of regular oil, and keep putting more in during the session. It might just do the trick.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
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    3,449
    I remember reading somewhere that some brass players attached hand warmers to their valve block somehow. It was a long time ago and I don't remember where I read it.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by RickF View Post
    I remember reading somewhere that some brass players attached hand warmers to their valve block somehow. It was a long time ago and I don't remember where I read it.
    We did this back in the late '90's at the then Navy Cinclantflt Band. My method for doing it was to use a dark washcloth, placing the hand warmer in it, and then taping it to the back section of the horn. For those ship arrivals, the band was lucky to be in a tent with a heater. We just brought blankets to wrap the tubas and euphs, until the ships made the turn in.

    For the freezing valves, we tried a mix of standard Al cass, with a little bit of additional kerosene, and a very small amount of transmission fluid. That's not something you want all over your hands, and it stinks worse than a pig farm in Kokomo, Indiana..... I seem to remember a few threads about home brewed valve oil on tubenet back in 2010.

  10. Quote Originally Posted by EuphGirl05 View Post
    our band director keeps saying no to any alcohol mix, but I have heard it works from many people. =]
    Maybe he just doesn't want you to be DRINKING the alcohol.

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