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Thread: Valve clearance/compression/"tightness"?

  1. #1

    Valve clearance/compression/"tightness"?

    So, over the past year and a half or so, I've owned three different euphoniums - from Willson, to Geneva, to finally settling on the Adams E1 I fell in love with at ITEC last summer. All three have been great, if different, horns in their own right, and one striking difference in all of them I've noticed - and been curious about - is the amount of room or clearance the pistons have inside their casings - how tightly they "fit", I guess. I never thought much about it in my Willson, but once I started playing on different horns I began to really notice the difference.

    The Geneva and the Adams seem to be on opposite ends of this spectrum, Geneva having fairly "loose" fitting valves and Adams valves being extremely tight (even after being broken in), with Willson being somewhere in between the two.

    I'm curious about how varying levels of valve tightness/clearance might affect a horn, either beneficially or detrimentally.

    A few uneducated guesses/observances on my end:

    - More clearance seems to lead to more water coming out the bottoms and even up around the stems of the valves. I used a grime gutter in my Willson, but haven't had a single drop come out of the Adams valves (although the water keys get plenty of exercise).

    - Would more clearance possibly be a design choice on the part of the instrument manufacturer, meant to give the valves faster action? If this is the case, I guess the flip side would be that it could lead to unpredictable "sticking" if not pressed down perfectly straight?

    - Tighter valves SEEM to need more frequent oiling, but that might be in my head.

    Does anyone else notice any of this stuff, in these brands or others? I know not every manufacturer makes their own valves, so brand-to-brand, it probably depends on where they do get their valve sets from.

    I know I'm probably thinking too deeply into all this, but it's fun to just ponder on things like this, and honestly what else to I have to do in quarantine???
    Sean

  2. Similar experience

    Sean,

    Over the last 13 years, I have had (in order):

    1. 2007 Besson 2051 Prestige - (new) Very early German made Prestige. Valves were VERY wet, but incredibly smooth and fast. While I did not notice much in the way of leakage from an air perspective, the gutter got an incredible amount of use.
    2. 2009 Sterling Virtuoso - (new) I still own and play this. It came with Bauerfeind valves like your Adams E1. Much tighter (and heavier) than the Besson. Over time, with attention to cleaning (both horn and valves) they have smoothed out. After 11 years, they feel very quick, a little heavy, and weep a bit of moisture into the gutter, but not much.
    3. 2001 Besson 967 Sovereign - (used) This was a late model English built horn. The valves felt very much like those in the Prestige (including the Prestige buttons I put on it). The horn had been lightly used, so there was very little wear. Despite having a plaque build-up when I got it, it cleaned up nicely. Water leakage was pretty profuse, but handled by gutter. Big difference is that Besson did not hone the valve cylinder the entire length in the later English period, so the piston could not be inserted or removed from the bottom (which is sometimes useful).
    4. 2017(?) Adams E3 Prototype - (new) This has the Bauerfeind 4th valve (same as my Sterling) but has the top sprung short stroke valves. They seem to be pretty tight. Since there is a large unsupported top end of the valve (stem and spring section) and a shorter mating surface at the bottom, they are sensitive to being pushed from off center. It also needs to be kept immaculately clean since any plaque or debris build up on the piston or in the cylinder shows up as sticky valves. Even given that, I find them amazing. There are no nipples on the bottom caps, so no gutter. Still no water leakage whatsoever after nearly 3 years.


    In all my horns (including my Sterling baritone), what I find is that when I play a LOT in hot weather, the valve oil washes out very quickly and the valves seem to build up a sticky plaque layer quicker. This results in valves sticking more frequently. If I don't keep everything REALLY clean I start having problems in the second hour of a 2 hour concert. Cleaning may require fine polishing of the pistons to remove calcium buildup and thorough cleaning of leadpipe, and all 4 valve bodies. Followed by thorough oiling on reassembly.

    Doug
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    ...In all my horns (including my Sterling baritone), what I find is that when I play a LOT in hot weather, the valve oil washes out very quickly and the valves seem to build up a sticky plaque layer quicker. This results in valves sticking more frequently. If I don't keep everything REALLY clean I start having problems in the second hour of a 2 hour concert. Cleaning may require fine polishing of the pistons to remove calcium buildup and thorough cleaning of leadpipe, and all 4 valve bodies. Followed by thorough oiling on reassembly.

    Doug
    I experienced the exact same thing as Doug in hot weather. I have owned my Adams E3 about 3 1/2 years now. A year ago I left it with Lee Stofer in Iowa to remove a pin prick of a dent in the bottom bow, which was obviously inflicted by someone who disliked me so much that he/she knew this would drive me absolutely nuts (which it almost did). I also had the hand guard come unsoldered. AND, I asked Lee to take a look at the valves, which I had found, like Doug, to be really tight. They are Bauerfeind valves. So Lee did some polishing and other magical stuff to my valves, and viola, they are much better. They were fast before Lee did this as long as the weather was right and they had the right amount of and the right kind of valve oil. This past year I have been using Monster Oil (Doc's Juice) and am very happy with it.

    As for the grime gutter, which I use on the Adams, I get some. How much? I usually won't empty it during a 1-2 hour rehearsal, but will at the end. The slides that fill up mostly, in order, would be the main, the first valve (surprising to me), then the 2nd valve. The others are insignificant.

    I play my horn 1-2 hours daily at home, coronavirus or not. I usually have to re-oil every other day at least. And playing at home for 1-2 hours is different from band rehearsal. In band, there is a lot of time when you are not playing. At home, it is pretty constant playing for 1-2 hours. So, I do empty the grime gutter once or twice in a session at home. I usually wait until I start hearing gurgling as I play, or in some cases when my wife hears the gurgling first and comes in and whacks me over the head, and says, "Empty that darn thing!"

    Lee put in some Yamaha springs (I think) when he serviced my horn a year ago. I still have the stock Adams springs that look really dinky (the diameter of the spring circle is much smaller than most). I am not sure I have found the perfect springs yet. Life is a journey, and valve oil, springs and hitting all the notes right the first time are sometimes elusive things.
    Last edited by John Morgan; 05-10-2020 at 04:03 PM.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  4. #4
    In theory, tighter valve seals will make the horn more responsive and will help even out the response from note to note. And in theory, tighter valves could lead to problems when temperatures swing a lot or when any dirt or deposits build up.

    My old tenor horn has very leaky valves. The response is quite un-centered but the valves NEVER stick!

    If Lee has not worked over your horn, you can purchase stainless steel polish and use it on the pistons. It will make them a bit shinier but won't take off any significant thickness or loosen the seal enough to notice. Stainless steel is tough enough to take it. But the shinier, and therefore smoother, surface will more a little more easily. (I have heard some techs say that the non-shiny appearance leaves micro grooves that help hold oil. I find NO evidence of that from playing mine before and after Lee worked on it.
    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

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