C Trumpet Project

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Derrick, Apr 28, 2013.

  1. Derrick

    Derrick New Friend

    Apr 4, 2013
    Hello, all! This being my first post, I suppose I'll do an introduction before proceeding to the topic!
    I'm a High School trumpet player who will be majoring in Music Education next year or the year after. I'll also (hopefully!) be getting my Performance Degree immediatly following to open up possibilities for sucess!

    If you have any questions you'd like to ask me, feel free to do so! Now on to the topic!

    I have a 1960's Fullerton Olds Ambassador that I picked up about 2 weeks ago. I already have a Bb horn (2010 Yamaha Xeno) that I use for most of my in class playing and gigging. Ever since I began to start playing church gigs and performing with Orchestras, I had been just transposing because I know it's good practice and a skill that everyone needs to have. Now that I have spent a few years transposing up and down 1,2, and 3 whole steps, I knew that it was going to be time to buy a C trumpet soon. So instead of making a full commitment and investment so soon, I decided to try my luck at converting one for myself!

    I've got a mini-pipe cutter and a very small and thin "hacksaw". Both of these tools should work I believe(the pipe cutter works VERY well, but can only be used for some of the pipes. If you've ever used one, you know why!), but I still need a soldering iron with silver solder to replace the position of the braces. Unfortunately, the Olds Ambassador has a TON of braces! I believe the difficulty in the job will be the braces, not making the cuts.

    Speaking of the cuts, I have all of the cuts measured out by someone who has done this before. From what I've learned on TrumpetMaster poking around, I think I'm on the right track. If all goes well, and it doesn't have horrible intonation and tuning issues, I may invest in having it refinished.

    So, what do you all think of it? Any tips or things to be aware of? Questions? Want pictures and progress updates?
  2. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    You need a gas torch for soldering, not a soldering iron. You need to be able to debur, clean, and de-grease the parts. You need to be able to buff the spots where you are going to re-solder, you need to figure out how flux works.

    Sounds like the kind of thing you do when you are 16-17yo that you look back on when you are 40 and realize how stupid it was. That, and the thing at the lake after the prom. Watch out for that one!
  3. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Welcome to TM, Derrick! Be careful, very careful, when chopping up trumpets with the intent to make them anything more useful than a lamp! I know, because I've tried, and ruined a few horns!

    The project is a good one: I've seen Ambasadors turned into passable C and D trumpets, but I wouldn't advise jumping in as a DIY project. The tubing cutter will crimp the pipe, and is not a good idea. Even with a jeweler's saw, it is difficult for the un-initiated to make a clean cut. Then there is soldering and un-soldering--another art. You will need some sort of heat sink to keep the parts you want to keep soldered from falling off when soldering something else; it is hard to keep tubes parallel, etc. If you have a local repair tech, try trading some grunt work--cleaning instruments, sweeping floors, etc. for some instruction. That is how a lot of the old-school masters started, and most techs would be delighted to find an enthusiastic student.

    There are some good books out there (you'll have to buy them) and maybe some You-Tube videos, but you'll still want something to practice on first. A lot can be learned from tool catalogs. ( Ferree's Tools Inc ) We also have some adept people on the forum; perhaps they'll chime in.

    Good luck, and have fun!
  4. Derrick

    Derrick New Friend

    Apr 4, 2013
    That's what I was advised. Wasn't sure if I was advised correctly, hence why I posted! Buffing won't be a problem, nor will de-greasing and cleaning the parts.

    @Vulgano Brother
    Thanks! I realise the likelyhood of ruining this horn, hence why I picked up a cheap ambassador! As far as help, I have 2 family members, one of which is an engineer and the other a well rounded shop repairman. The tubing cutter has not crimped any piping yet. The trick is an immense amount of gentle rotations and then even if it does, I can re-round it with a simple tool. I don't doubt the jeweler's saw will be difficult to use, but hopefully I can manage to make even cuts. I'll have to file the cuts down anyway with steel wool.
    Thank you for the tips on the books, that's a good idea and a good investment, probably!
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  5. trumpflugel

    trumpflugel New Friend

    May 2, 2007
    Derrick. Let us know about the finished product.
  6. Derrick

    Derrick New Friend

    Apr 4, 2013
    Gladly! It may take some time given that I have a few concerts, gigs, auditions, and exams within the next few weeks but I'm eager to get working on it.
  7. Masterwannabe

    Masterwannabe Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 11, 2009

    I have done several of these conversions, my first one 30+ years ago and it is probably most successful one (divine guidance certainly because I did it mostly because I was told it couldn't be done) although all have turned out good. The biggest issue after determining where you want to make your cuts is to take your time. Practice doing some soldering before you attempt this, this is the one item that will make or break the project, a sloppy solder job will give the impression of the whole project being sub-standard. I actually sort of cheated on my first one, I cut everything down and put it together with out solder and played it and when it was in tune to my satisfaction I sent it off to be re-lacquered and I let the tech re-solder but such things were considerably less expensive 30 years ago. Just as an aside, when I got that horn back a pro player friend wanted to try it and he said he actually liked it better than his top of the line Yamaha C.

    BTW, I am currently converting a mid-60s Ambassador myself, they have great valves.

    Ray Z
    If you don't know where you are going it doesn't matter how you get there.
  8. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi Derrick, I second all of the above good advice that's been offered. Having disassembled, panel beaten and reassembled a few horns over the past six months, there's a couple more things that I can add about soldering...

    First, all the horns I've worked on have had a mixture of hard (silver) and soft solder. Funny, I'd always thought that trumpets were silver soldered until I screwed up a tuning slide trying to silver solder a joint that had been made with tin-lead. Very ugly. Things like brace assemblies and the joints between tubing and the valve assemblies use silver solder whilst brace to tubing joints and tuning slides are soft soldered - tin-lead or one of the newer lead-free soft solder mixtures. With careful quick use of a torch you can usually remove or add a bit without the rest of the horn falling to bits. To make a joint I clean and tin the two halves and use fine electronic solder. If the joints fit well then it's easy to join them without a whole lot of excess solder. Hopefully you wouldn't be pulling tuning slides to pieces so the main alignment tasks would come if you had to remove and replace the leadpipe. I've found that wiring everything into place, checking alignment, then sweating the joints worked for me.

    You'll need to give some thought on how to hold the horn whilst making incisions. I've used conical mandrels that I made for repairing bells, but these aren't ideal in all cases.

    Please post details of your progress, I'm sure many TMers have thought about having one of their horns "spayed" and it's a project I'd like to have a have a crack at.
  9. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    A lot of the art in converting a Bb to a C is knowing where exactly to shorten the tubing. How much off the bell - how much off the tuning slide etc. Then it is extremely important to take exactly the right amount of the valve slides, especially the 2nd slide. I keep tolerances to within 0.002" (0.08mm).
  10. Derrick

    Derrick New Friend

    Apr 4, 2013
    I'm honestly considering "cheating" like you did. I haven't made the decision on it yet however, so I'll heed your advice and do some practicing. Any ideas what would serve as good practice?(Perhaps converting my pocket trumpet to a C pocket trumpet would server well ROFL)

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