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Thread: Sometimes-sticky rotary valves

  1. #1

    Sometimes-sticky rotary valves

    Hi --

    After thinking about it for a long time, I bought a "Wagner tuba" recently. (Aside: a Wagner tuba is a Baritone/Euph that is distinctively oval-shaped, with a lot of flare (in both senses) with an easy sound that has a lot of French Horn feeling to it.) It's a Cerveny, about 30 years old, coming to me from a small village in France.

    Anyhow, I played an Octoberfest gig with it yesterday and it was excellent -- except that one of the (rotary) valves doesn't work reliably, and one doesn't work at all. I have cleaned it to within an inch of its life, except that I have not taken apart the valve-stem area, or taken off the upper caps.. I have attempted to take it to our local repair person/people, but for a valve tune-up he requires leaving it in his possession until mid-November. And, even without the wait, he/they are unpleasant to do business with. So I'm on my own.

    I noticed an interesting symptom yesterday: when I hold the horn so the valves point straight up, they all work quite well. When I hold it so that they point straight down, the two valves in question work not at all. In playing position, they work "sometimes".

    What does it mean?

    thanks.
    Garry

    PS - I have researched the internet, but everybody so far says "take it to your local repair person."
    Last edited by garryw; 09-21-2015 at 11:13 AM.

  2. #2
    First, if possible try to find another repair person near you. That is a very valuable connection!

    A good experiment would be to do the point-up / point-down thing while you hold the horn only by the largest tubes. Then see how the valves work (you may need a helper for this maneuver). It's possible that your grip is bending the tubing just enough to cause valve sticking. If so, the horn is not braced properly and you should either return it or learn to hold it differently.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  3. #3
    Could be worn bearings. I would start by taking the valves apart and de-scaling them and cleaning them very well. Then you should be able to inspect them and see what's going on.

    If you don't know how to take apart a rotary valve, I suggest heading over to youtube where there are some good videos on the process. You could damage things if you don't understand how it all fits together.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    1,989
    I'm quite skeptical that you have a Wagner tuba. A Wagner tuba does in fact bear a (sonic) resemblance to a French horn, and it would be odd to use it in most ensembles (excepting orchestras playing Wagner operas). You play a Wagner tuba with the left hand on the valve paddles and the bell points off past your right shoulder. More likely (and I certainly hope), you have an oval euphonium where the right hand is used on the valves and the bell points off past your left shoulder. The likelihood of finding a Wagner tuba in a small village in France seems low to me. However, whichever is the case ...

    Bob probably has the problem nailed. It's not uncommon to get these horns used (particularly if from Europe) in a condition where the previous owner either hasn't oiled the valves regularly or has abused them in some way. I got mine via Ebay from Bulgaria and the second valve was a little wonky in much the way you describe. Mine is an Amati from the 60s, and so probably virtually identical to yours. Taking the valves apart isn't necessarily the best way to diagnose this -- at least initially.

    As a first step, you should detach the linkage at the problematic valve(s) so that you can turn the valve directly by hand. That should tell you if that valve has a problem turning in its bushings (I find the term "bearing" in this case to be a bit inaccurate since you just have a shaft turning in a hole ).

    Also, see if by pushing down and pulling up on the top valve lever you can move the valve up and down a bit in the casing. If you can, then that's a problem. If the valve doesn't move up and down in the casing and otherwise moves absolutely freely, then the problem isn't in the valve. If it does wiggle up and down a bit or you feel it being rough or binding when working the valve alone (without the linkage), then the problem is in the valve. Your last paragraph makes me suspect that there is at least vertical play in the valve and bushings.

    Another thing you should try is a leak test on the instrument. Put a roll of paper towels in a plastic bag and stuff it firmly into the bell. Then blow through the mouthpipe hard. You should hear where any leaks are. If you have a bad bushing, you will often hear air coming out of it or you may see oil coming out of it (assuming you've oiled the instrument ).

    If you want to disassemble and clean the valves, go on Youtube and look for Jeff Funderbunk's series of very good videos on how to do this. And be careful.

    If the problem is with one or more of the bushings, you'll probably need to take it to a repair tech to get it fixed. Fixing this problem typically is easy, but you don't have the tools for it. Ferree's sells the tools, but they will likely cost you more than paying a tech to fix it -- and then you need to be able to use them and not screw up your horn beyond repair. The problem can be either with the shaft of the valve (out of round, for example), or with the bushing hole (worn or out of round). These problems CAN be fixed, but you need to have the tools and know what you're doing. Basically, you have to either use a tool to make the hole in the bushing smaller, or use a different tool/technique to make the valve shaft bigger -- but not too much in each case!! Then you have to lap the shaft/hole bushing (which may take disassembling/assembling the valve a couple of times), thoroughly clean off all the lapping compound, oil it all, and reassemble. If this doesn't sound like a lot of fun to you, then don't try it.
    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 Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    I'm quite skeptical that you have a Wagner tuba.
    Yes, excellent point. I don't think Cerveny has ever made a Wagner Tuba.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,989
    Plus, of course, the Wagner tuba is played with a French Horn mouthpiece (or a mouthpiece very closely approximating one), and generally is played by members of the horn section since (a) there aren't any euphonium players in the orchestras playing pieces that require Wagner tubas, and (b) no euphonium player would likely be caught dead playing a Wagner tuba.
    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 Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  7. #7
    Everyone that sees my alto horn calls it a Wagner. Doesn't help that it's in F and left handed

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,989
    Well, honestly, that's just too weird. You deserve what you get. I'm not sure that thing is even legal in the US.
    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 Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  9. #9
    half the size of a bass wagner tuba which is in low F.

  10. Hi. All right, so maybe it's not a Wagner tuba. But my understanding is that, at least in Germany, it is the horn currently colloquially called a "tuben", and that German tuben's are "probably" direct descendants of the Wagner tubas... yes?

    As to the French Horn influence -- my horn is pitched in Bb and, with the aid of a small adapter from Amazon, takes standard American baritone mouthpieces. Not French Horn. I don't have a photo of it at hand to show you, but the Jinbao horn discussed at http://www.dwerden.com/forum/showthr...nbao-JBEP-1170 appears to be the exact clone of my Cerveny. Every detail. Except that my horn is a little snazzier (rose gold, and a silver rim around the bell), has suffered about 30 years of wear-and-tear, and has valve levers that are, by comparison to the photo of the Jinbao, "nasty, brutish, and short". But I can live with them I guess.

    With delivery, the Jinbao horn was within $4 of the 30-year-old Cerveny ($550 each, delivered.) In the end, sentiment won me over to buying the old horn. Now I just have to make it function -- seller didn't mention that it didn't. So, my thanks to you guys for the Youtube pointers, and the other advice; they have helped.

    As for the fix -

    I had another 'go' at the horn last night. Slightly wiggling the tubing does not affect the valve problem. I noticed that a tiny bit more gunk had worked loose within the valves that could be cleaned out. I checked that the valve rotors, plates, and caps all had the proper valve-number indicators; they did. I lubricated the =linkages=, which I hadn't done before. Oooh. I used valve oil, I'm afraid, rather than whatever is proper, but hopefully the valve oil will evaporate away cleanly. I triple-checked the rotor-plate seating.

    And after all that: my first valve appears to have stopped sticking! WOo-hoO! Played for a half-hour this morning with no actual jam-ups. (The fourth valve, well, it was feeling kind of poorly today...)

    Question: what about the spring mechanisms, and their bearing surfaces? Can they stick? I tried getting a little oil in there at the ends of the supporting rod, but I'm not sure I succeeded.

    As for "giving up" and letting a professional have at it: I called "Hornucopia", a shop down south of San Francisco. A gentleman named "Lionel" there was very pleasant, with a good laugh. At first he thought he might be able to do things for me on a single visit, while-I-waited. But then he heard it was a Cerveny and suddenly decided it would need to be taken into the shop. But, when I do take it in, at least it'll be a two-week wait instead of six-to-eight at my local shop.

    PS - A "bushing" might be just a type of "bearing"...?
    Last edited by garryw; 09-23-2015 at 06:34 PM.

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