A beginner's inquiry to instrument repair

Discussion in 'Trumpet Repair and Modification' started by RedEagle05, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. RedEagle05

    RedEagle05 Pianissimo User

    Sep 10, 2015
    Southeast WI
    Hi all,

    I am looking for some advice on how to attempt my own instrument repair. I understand this is a touchy subject as it really is best to have your instruments repaired by a knowledgeable brass tech (trust me, I have seen some pretty awfully botched trumpets in my school band) but I would like to look at doing some minor repairs to a few of my cornets. Particularly I will be purchasing tomorrow what I understand to be a 1927 Conn 22B Symphony Cornet and a 1915 York (Grand Rapids Co.) Cornet for a grand total of $50. I know that the Conn has a dent in the 2nd valve slide and an opera style tuner that will likely be difficult to budge (as stated by seller). I believe the York has a slight compression issue with the third valve and needs a good cleaning, which I trust myself to do with a fair amount of dawn degreasing soap and some lukewarm water. Aside from this, I'm wondering what sort of tools might be useful for attempting to straighten slides and leadpipes, and doing some of the repair work. Aside from the Conn, (and not by much), none of these cornets I seek to repair are very valuable or have any sentimental value. I'd like to learn some basic repair tips- and am looking for recommendations on the right tools and a place to start.
  2. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    Before recommending tools I suggest if you have access to a brass repair man offer to do simple jobs for him, sweep the floor, mow his grass etc in return for watching him work, you will learn what tools and how to use them. I did this many years ago, learned a lot and made a lot of my own tools.

    Doing your own repairs can be very satisfying, like most things it takes practice to gain skills.

    Regards, Stuart.
  3. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    I would highly recommend you take Stumac's advice. Anyone can grab some tools and do a butcher job. There is something to be said about learning how to approach work in life professionally and with integrity.
    I would also recommend you pick up some beat up instruments to practice on along the way.
  4. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    I also commend Stumac's advice, but above all you need to have an aptitude for the medium. Nowhere in your post do you mention any love of, or previous experience in, mechanical work.

    Instrument repair, especially brass instrument repair requires much understanding of the instrument's construction. That is why highly talented saxophone repairers are not necessarily suited to brass repair.

    I have written many blog articles around the subject of brass repair. Here is one of them: The Art is in the Diagnosis

    When you show me that you have an understanding of this concept, and others discussed in my blog collection, I will be happy to help you to the next step. Without some level of knowledge, you will not be able to understand the answer to your question.
  5. Clarkvinmazz

    Clarkvinmazz Forte User

    May 11, 2013
    Oberlin, Ohio
    Just to help out, if it had an opera glass tuning slide the cornet is probably an 80a. The. 22b is a trumpet.
  6. larry newman

    larry newman Piano User

    Dec 22, 2005
    North Tonawanda, NY, USA
    An amateur repair might well play every bit as well as a professional repair, but it will not look the same, and will destroy any value the horns might have.
  7. simonstl

    simonstl Pianissimo User

    Nov 25, 2008
    Dryden/Ithaca, NY
    Some days I wonder if there's a brass instrument guild working hard to ensure that no one spills the secrets here.

    Try a metalworking forum? They tend to be pretty open about all kinds of work. It might not be as specific to trumpet, but it could be a more detailed place to start.
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    no guild here and no preventing info from getting out. I just see people in the business asking fair questions first. Reading the metalworking forums was pretty frustrating for me because those that had no idea what to do came on like they were top machinists. I bought myself a metal lathe for Christmas and was interested in something specific.

    I would have really appreciated someone in the know qualifying me and then giving info suitable for my level (hack).
  9. RedEagle05

    RedEagle05 Pianissimo User

    Sep 10, 2015
    Southeast WI
    Mr. Jaeger,

    I would be happy to do just that. I appreciate the insight and will read over your posts once I find some time this week. I have 2 years of experience in high school robotics as far as machining parts and welding goes, and additionally am in the process of restoring a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle with my father. I wouldn't call my abilities proficient in any manner, but I am curious and willing to take the proper time and steps to ensure I learn how to fix my instruments the right way. I respect that this is a delicate and precious art, and as you said, I will take the time to understand the concepts necessary and to get back to you.

    In addition, there are a few local repairmen I have established a good relationship with. So far distance is the only thing keeping us from holding counsel- but I will make an effort to get myself there if it's the best way to learn.
    Peter McNeill and coolerdave like this.
  10. J. Jericho

    J. Jericho Fortissimo User

    Mar 16, 2011
    I don't believe there's harm in sharing information. Just because someone is told or shown how something is done doesn't mean that the person receiving the information has the ability or even the desire to do it himself or herself. Look at the popular TV show How It's Made, for instance.

    Magicians (or illusionists, as they are known these days) used to guard their secrets with intense jealousy, thinking that if people knew how their work was done, no one would care to see them perform, and there would be so much competition that they'd lose their livelihood. Well, the cat's out of the bag, and people are still fascinated to watch experts at magic do what they do best.

    Another example would be from personal experience. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my surgeon had pioneered a procedure for dealing with this particular form, and he had a video of one of his operations available that showed exactly what he does to remove the offending tissue. Did I decide, after viewing the video, to do it myself? Of course not. Nevertheless, the video can be seen by other surgeons who can then apply what they learn to their own practice. His response to this is to train other surgeons himself so that the procedure is done to the greatest advantage to the patient. Did he lose any business as a result? Of course not, and he remains the premiere surgeon in the world in his field.

    I maintain that knowledge is a good thing, and that if you show someone how to do something, it's up to them to do it well... or not, and if they end up doing it better than you can, they deserve their share of the business they derive from their skill. When I was much younger, I used to be a bit guarded about my talents at several things. As time passed, I began to share my knowledge with others, and I discovered that I still remained better at what I did than they were. The only side effect was that some of them were able to improve the way they did things, and more people benefited as a result. I see that as a good thing.

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