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Thread: Sticky first valve on new euphonium

  1. #1

    Sticky first valve on new euphonium

    Dear all, I'm messaging from the UK on behalf of my 14 yo son, who is an enthusiastic euphonium player! We have recently bought him a new instrument ( Arnold and Sons, AEP-1150). The instrument played well for the first month, but then the first valve began to get 'sticky', and required lubricating with Blue Juice at least every 10 mins of playing time. I've helped my son to meticulously clean the valve pistons and casings (with lint-free cloths). We also checked that the valve guide had not rotated. None of these have helped remedy the situation. It's such a shame, as I really wanted him to enjoy his new instrument! The instrument is under warranty, and I intend to go back to the shop from which we bought it. His teacher thinks that we should give the euphonium a bath, and that the problem is probably some dust getting between valve and casing. However, I'm not so sure that this is the case, as on detailed visual examination I can see no dust. I wonder whether anyone on the forum has any ideas on this? Is it possible that the distance between the edge of the piston and the valve casing wall is too small, and therefore hard to maintain lubrication? I really would appreciate any insight - thank you! (If this post would be better placed somewhere else on the forum, then please let me know)

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    Usually dirt/grease/grease would affect more than just a single valve. But let's not rule it out yet. There could be gunk in the leadpipe (the pipe from the mouthpiece to the first valve casing) or in one of the slide loops attached to the first valve. Cleaning the horn can be complex, especially when chasing certain kinds of gunk, but there are things to try.

    First, swab about what you can of the tunes attached to the first valve, using Dawn dish soap and water. As part of this, remove the piston, bottom cap, and spring, and swab the casing with a lint-free cloth or micro-fiber cloth. It all needs to be free of any debris or residue. Then reassemble, oil, and see what happens.

    In fitting the pistons to the casings, a honing compound is used. Some of those compounds can leave a greasy residue hiding in some of the crooks, and it can work its way into the pistons and cause trouble. An amateur cleaning at home may not get rid of it. But you might be able to narrow the cause to this with an experiment. Take out the piston and wipe it down. Then take some Ivory hand soap, work it into a lather, and rub it around the piston, leaving a generous bit of the lather on the piston. Put it back together and have him play for a while. If the valve behaves for a few hours, that would indicate the residue issue is present and a shop can probably give it a good power wash or chemical cleaning to take care of it.

    If the pistons have plastic guides (the little piece at the top of the piston that fits into a slot in the casing), those can be deformed if they are "bounced" on the casing during reassembly after oiling. This happens to young and old players alike. Examine it carefully for any sign of mushrooming or warpage. A student of mine who was in the Air Force Band had this experience just before a performance I was attending. She asked me if I could find the problem, and I did. The bottom of that plastic guide was deformed. I took out my little Swiss Army Knife and carefully trimmed off the excess. Then it was fine.

    The final possibility is a warped casing. This could be cause by a hard bump, even if there is no visible dent. And sometimes it is due to a horn that is made too weakly and is subject to warping during normal handling. The most common cause is from the first valve's tuning slide loop on the front of the horn. One way to test that is to push on this loop during a time when the valve is sticking. Work the piston up and down, or leave it "stuck" in a partway-down position, and press inward on the end of the slide loop, then pull it outward (using just a light pressure each way). If the piston suddenly frees up, you may have found the issue and the shop will have to take care of it for you.

    Good luck!
    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

  3. #3
    The problem I always have with the first valve is mineral scale from my saliva. It won't come off with normal cleaning and it tends to make valve oil dry up really quickly. You could have a professional chemical cleaning done or if you wanted to try something yourself, soak the piston in distilled vinegar for 10 minutes and then gently scrub it with a toothbrush.

  4. #4
    Adding to Dave's and Barry's responses, pay extra close attention to the groove in the valve casing in which the valve guide moves. It is easy to get some gunk in the groove. Also, try cleaning out the lead pipe. Anything in there can move into the valve.


  5. #5
    I once had an intermittently sticky first valve that defied cleaning and oiling. After going nuts for weeks, I finally inspected the casing under high intensity light and magnification, and found a cat hair just sticking out of the lead pipe entry into the first valve casing. I removed the cat hair, and then got in the habit of closing the case to keep the cat out, and the problem never recurred.

    one other occasion I discovered that the plastic valve guide was slightly mushroomed at the bottom from impact with the casing on valve insertion. I shaved the guide with a razor blade, and made sure the guide was aligned with the slot when inserting into the casing.

    Don Winston

  6. #6
    If under warrantee, I might err on the side of caution and have qualified brass repair person at shop where purchased inspect it. Sure any of us can clean a valve (I also like vinegar for the valves themselves). But a repair person has the light magnifier,, nylon brushes and the experience to touch up a valve guide if needed. And if a bad honing job they might be able to do that, or recommend return for warrantee work.

    I’d hope to not have to pay for the examination, but money well spent if needed, especially if there is a manufacture error. As a pro I thoroughly clean all new and used instruments and especially on some imports. But even on a less expensive or student model, a pro repair person can really get the best out of a horn.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay Area, CA, USA
    I use lots of valve oil on new horns & wash them thoroughly and repeatedly to flush vestiges of the mfg & wear-in process (pitch, lapping compounds, cutting oil, metal dust, or what-have-you). Assuming that's been done, I'd recommend a quick check to narrow possibilities: swap 1st valve into 2nd casing and 2nd valve into 1st casing. Whether the stickiness problem follows the valve or the casing, you've focused your scrutiny a bit; might save some time and frustration.

  8. #8
    Thanks very much to everyone for your responses - I've been busy out of town, otherwise I would have responded more quickly. Plenty for us to try!


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