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Besson New Standard: multiple lappings of valves?

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  • Sue T
    Junior Member
    • Nov 2023
    • 4

    Besson New Standard: multiple lappings of valves?

    I have a Besson New Standard euphonium purchased in 1977 when I was in high school (and made about then based on serial number). I've played it ever since and the valves have gotten very sticky. Last year the repair guy lapped the valves and said I'd probably get 6-12 months before needing that again, or perhaps a full valve replacement. The latter seems not a great idea since the horn has other wear as well. Any advice on having the valves lapped again? Thanks.
  • davewerden
    Administrator
    • Nov 2005
    • 11138

    #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    Something in your description does not make sense, based on my knowledge and experience (I'm not a repair tech).

    Some background:

    Lapping is a process where an abrasive is used as the piston is moved inside its cylinder. The process is normally used at the factory for new production, and it helps to get a good fit and good action between the piston and cylinder. This is needed because of microscopic variations in diameters and smoothness of the surfaces.

    After a horn is in use, in theory the only reason for lapping would be to refit the piston if damage has occurred or some modification has been done (like replating a worn piston, which would then HAVE to be re-lapped). IMO lapping should NOT be used to clean up a dirty valve because in addition to removing dirt/deposits it will also remove some of the metal.

    Sooooo, my mind is wondering if the tech actually lapped the pistons. If they were truly lapped for any "normal" reason, I can't think why they would need lapping again. If the pistons are nickel plated (which was once the most common production method), if the plating is worn off and bare brass shows through, the valves won't move smoothly (unless they are worn SO badly that they are loose within the cylinder).

    There are methods that techs can use to remove deposits on pistons or inside cylinders. If the tech used the term "lapped" to describe the work, it may have been lazy-speak for the work done. I hope that is what happened, because that would explain why it might need to be done in 6-12 months again.

    If they horn has suffered some damage, visible or not, it could have warped the tubes enough to stress the cylinders and cause them to go out of round. Then lapping might help restore action if the warpage can't be fixed any other way. My own horn took a fall early in its life, which bent the bell. The bell dent cause it to pull on an attached brace, and that brace pulled on tubing that entered the valve section. So one valve was nearly stuck. However, once the dent was removed, the valves worked fine and no lapping was done.

    If you browse around the forum you can find a lot of advice about cleaning and maintaining valves. It might be useful for you to look those threads over so you understand all the things that can cause valves to stick.

    Is there another repair shop handy in your area? A second opinion would be advised before going back for more lapping.

    Here are a few videos I have made that could be helpful:

    https://youtu.be/EuBFS_Ln8-E

    https://youtu.be/rFfZ5TIlizw

    https://youtu.be/AQXa_5-NKDI

    https://youtu.be/RuH9jEC4RKc

    https://youtu.be/B1444fJOvIk

    https://youtu.be/kVxSxMnV8i8
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece DC3, Wick 4AL, Wick 4ABL
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

    Comment

    • Sue T
      Junior Member
      • Nov 2023
      • 4

      #3
      Thank you for all the information and videos! I didn't ask what the technician meant by lapping (being not very mechanically-minded), but I thought he was referring to how he smoothed out a couple spots where the valve pistons are worn and the plating appears scraped off, although not to the point of seeing brass below. The scraped spots looked and felt smoother after the repair was done. That repair place is a 2.5 hour drive and the technician is recommended by the local school band directors. The only other shop is 2 hours and has had mixed to poor reviews for repairs. So not a lot of options but I will try a thorough cleaning first and see how it goes. I've been using Hetman 3 oil which seems to work well, better than Hetman 2 at least. I've been thinking about getting a new horn and maybe will look into that more. Thanks.

      Comment

      • ghmerrill
        Senior Member
        • Dec 2011
        • 2382

        #4
        Originally posted by Sue T View Post
        Thank you for all the information and videos! I didn't ask what the technician meant by lapping (being not very mechanically-minded), but I thought he was referring to how he smoothed out a couple spots where the valve pistons are worn and the plating appears scraped off, although not to the point of seeing brass below. The scraped spots looked and felt smoother after the repair was done. That repair place is a 2.5 hour drive and the technician is recommended by the local school band directors.
        This description is also scary. Dave's analysis is right on the mark. I'd be worried about any repair tech who used the term "lapping" as you have described. And talk about smoothing out worn spots and plating being scraped off is even more worrisome. I guess that I can just imagine that if you never cleaned the valves and pistons (but only kept oiling them) since 1977, then they may have acquired mineral deposits (and other abrasive deposits) that have both worn the pistons (in some places) and also adhered to the pistons and valves (in others), causing drag. So if the problem was with deposits (either on the valve cylinder walls or on the piston surfaces), then (pretty much as a last and temporary resort) lapping may have been appropriate.

        But if that's the case, then Dave's comment about wondering why they would need to be lapped again comes into play -- since it's hard to see how more deposits would appear in that time frame if you clean the valves now and then (and keep them oiled). Also, your remark about the pistons being worn and plating being scraped off points in the direction of your pistons (and quite possibly the entire valves) being degraded to the point that there may be no way to "bring them back" to a very good state. Even if it's just the pistons that are worn, it's almost impossible (and very expensive) to get those replated nowadays since very few people do that work any longer.

        Still, you may be able to use the instrument successfully for some time -- as long as the valves are functioning properly and not leaking too badly. I have a 100-year-old tuba where some of the plating is worn off the valves, but with a somewhat heavier valve oil it is very playable and in fact has only a very minor leak in the 3rd valve. You may just need to baby your valves from here on out, and be somewhat fanatic about oiling and cleaning them on a very regular basis. In a sense, you have a geriatric euphonium, and you need to provide it with life-extending therapy.
        Gary Merrill
        Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
        Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
        Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
        1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
        Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
        1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

        Comment

        • Sue T
          Junior Member
          • Nov 2023
          • 4

          #5
          Thanks for your reply and advice. I have always regularly cleaned the valves and the entire horn, and had it professionally cleaned periodically. The scraped small area is fairly recent and perhaps I did miss an abrasive deposit that then scraped. The pistons are worn, but I don't think there is any leaking at this point, just sticking. It is a geriatric horn certainly that needs careful care. Thanks.

          Comment

          • ghmerrill
            Senior Member
            • Dec 2011
            • 2382

            #6
            Originally posted by Sue T View Post
            Thanks for your reply and advice. I have always regularly cleaned the valves and the entire horn, and had it professionally cleaned periodically. The scraped small area is fairly recent and perhaps I did miss an abrasive deposit that then scraped. The pistons are worn, but I don't think there is any leaking at this point, just sticking. It is a geriatric horn certainly that needs careful care. Thanks.
            In case you want to ... here is how to check for leaks:

            1. Get a plastic bag (either a small garbage bag or a grocery store bag) big enough to hold a roll (or partial roll) of paper towels. One of those giant rolls is too big, and for a euph you may need a roll that has been partially used.
            2. Put the roll of paper towels in the bag.
            3. Push that straight down into your bell so that it is air tight. It needs to be tight enough to form an air seal, but not excessive.
            4. Put your mouthpiece into your horn and blow firmly into the mouthpiece with your lips sealed on it so no air is escaping from around your mouth.
            5. If you have a leak, you should hear the air hissing out of it. This will happen if (a) you have a pinhole somewhere in your tubing, (b) you have an open solder joint, (c) you have a water key that's leaking, or (d) you have a valve that leaks. You may need an assistant to determine exactly where the leak is.


            If there is no leak, you very likely will be able to blow the paper towel roll out of the bell (Not up into the air! But it will pop up until air is coming out of the bell.) Even with a minor leak you will probably be able to blow the roll up so the air comes out of the bell. (This likely won't work if you've vented one or more of your valves.)

            This is a good test to do every once in a while, if only to detect water keys that are leaking and need their pads replaced.
            Gary Merrill
            Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
            Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
            Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
            1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
            Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
            1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

            Comment

            • Sue T
              Junior Member
              • Nov 2023
              • 4

              #7
              Thanks! Tried it, no leaks, yay!

              Comment

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