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Thread: Valve guides and piston felts

  1. Valve guides and piston felts

    I am a newbie to this excellent website and forum. I have a Besson 1966 (purchase year) Model 181 silver 4-valve compensating euphonium with the originally supplied Besson 10 mouthpiece. It has never had valve guides. It has been largely unused since 1975, but I have begun practicing again. I have 2 questions.

    1) In reviewing this site, Mr. Werden (“All About Valve Maintenance”) indicates that the vent hole at the top of the piston must be kept clear, and states that if the wrong pad is put on top of the piston, it might cover the hole. At the recommendation of a member of this site, whose advice and input is greatly appreciated, I purchased new valve stem felts ( that are intended for this instrument. However, these felts do cover this hole, and my first question is if this is truly a problem, and if so, how would I recognize it, and then what can be done to remedy it?

    2) There are a number of posts on this site discussing the value, installation, etc., of valve guides. As far as I can tell, my horn appears to be operating without issue, and as stated, has never had valve guides. Question 2 is if valve guides are necessary or helpful when all seems to operating correctly, assuming that I would even be able to recognize a problem if it were present, and what those problems might be? Thank you.

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    First, you DO have valve guides. Otherwise the pistons would rotate at random and the ports (holes) would not line up. You probably have small metal guides at the top of the piston. They would be a vertical rectangle and would be very thin. The metal ones can clatter a bit as the pistons move up and down, although if there are newly replaced/refitted there is less slack and less noise. Newer horns have plastic (usually white) guides, which are more quiet.

    If you cover the vent hole, the valve action will be sluggish because of air resistance. If it is partly covered, it may be a bit sluggish and can make whistling noises.

    Hope that helps!
    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. Thank you for your expeditious response.

    Re valve guides, you provided several "aha" moments! Indeed, there are attached metal guides on the piston as you describe. You also indicated that there are plastic guides on newer horns, providing further clarity to what I have been seeing on this site and the internet.

    I remain a bit unsettled regarding the vent hole issue. The two sets of valve stem felts I have (1 set brand new, 1 set just a few years old), both cover the vent hole; ones that would not would of necessity, given the size and location of the hole, be quite small in diameter. Although my technique is decidedly not Werdenesque, I am not perceiving sluggish valve action or whistling noises, and frankly am not convinced there is at present a problem, but of course would like to optimize instrument function. I am reluctant to cut pieces out of the felts so that the hole is uncovered, but don't know how to proceed, or if there is a need to do so. Any suggestions are welcome! Thank you.


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