Sticking SLides

Discussion in 'Trumpet Repair and Modification' started by trumpetsplus, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    Here is another in the series on maintenance and repair. The original article with picture can be read on my blog:

    Here is the text of that entry:

    What to do about sticky and stuck slides?

    The first thing to do is have a very careful inspection. The most likely causes are our old friends:


    Dirt and corrosion are the most common causes for stuck slides. The corrosion needs to be “cracked” with penetrating oil and judicious use of heat. It can take several days for this to free the slide. Please be patient!

    Are both slide tubes stuck? In the case of the main tuning slide, the likelihood is that it is mainly the upper slide that is stuck. Bear this in mind when applying force to move the slide. Too much force on the lower will move it too far in relation to the upper which can put so much stress on the slide that the bow bends or the solder joint breaks.

    It is not possible to use slide pliers on the Yamaha 2335 and certain old Conn student models. This is because of the way the main slide was manufactured. The ferrule is not a ferrule joining tubing, but a tube pressed onto the one-piece slide. Whilst Yamaha’s recommended method of dealing with stuck tuning slides was to cut the slide, remove each half separately and replace the slide with a new one, I always prefer to use the other weakness of this model: its lack of rigidity. A twisting force on the tuning slide will often work to release the slide. In the few cases that it has not, I have unsoldered the upper receiver from the lead pipe and freed the lower slide. A lot of heat on the upper receiver and quenching in cold water normally frees this assembly. Another method that has worked in some cases has been to push the ferrule along the tubing to expose bare metal and solder it in place.

    If there has been a dent in the outer slide, this will be transmitted to the inner slide. The only way to deal with this is to force the slide out, then deal with each dent individually.

    If the chassis is distorted, or the slide tubes are out of alignment, this problem needs to be resolved before the slide will move freely, for instance with adjustable 1st or 3rd valves. I use calipers to measure discrepancies in the slide spacing, and a ground block to check on parallel. I also use a clarinet pad feeler gauge to check alignment differences between inner and outer slides.

    However, never work on slide alignment until all tubing is perfectly clean and free of damage.
  2. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    I have a codicil to this and a previous thread::dontknow:

    A reason to think before acting, and what is it worth?

    A college freshman brought his professor’s C trumpet to me. The student had borrowed the instrument and “noticed” that when he took it out of the dent bag, woops I mean gig bag, the bell was bent near the bell crook. And it had a sticking valve.

    I took a look, and saw that the bell could easily be straightened. I did this, pushing the bell back into place on a mandrel.

    Then, after some more inspection, I remarked that the 1st valve slide was quite stiff. Yes, the student had noticed that. (It was the first valve that was sticking).

    One action fixed both the sticking slide and the sticking valve. The upper slide receiver going into the 1st valve casing was bent. This not only put the slide out of alignment but also distorted the 1st valve casing. I carefully pushed the tube back into place by hand. This restored action to both the valve and the slide.

    Total time involved to assess and repair was less than 10 minutes. My ability to assess and repair is based on over 50 years experience with trumpets. The professional trumpet was transformed from being unplayable to being an absolutely top class instrument.

    I already independently had a good relationship with both the professor and the student. How much should I have charged for this repair?
  3. hup_d_dup

    hup_d_dup Piano User

    May 28, 2009
    Tewksbury, NJ, USA
    Here is one approach (not that I am recommending it):

    Charles Steinmetz was an electrical engineer who developed methods to utilize alternating current at the end of the 19th century. After he retired in 1902 he was called back to General Electric to solve a problem that their current technicians couldn't fix. Steinmetz found a defective part and marked the location with a piece of chalk. He then sent a bill for $10,000.

    Ask to explain the invoice, he re-wrote it:
    Making chalk mark $1

    Knowing where to place it $9,999​
  4. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    Worth a try!
  5. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    last week I took a Yamaha 2320 that was a $30 Craigslist purchase to a local band instrument repair shop just to get an estimate on what it would cost to free the three valve tuning slides and knock two dents out of the crooks on the #1 & #2 slides.

    The guy (right in front of me) used a mandrel and a little rawhide hammer to unstick the #1 & #2 slides pretty quickly, but the 3rd slide was not cooperating.

    Then he broke out the slide pliers and started hammering.... no luck.
    Then he put some oil on it and heat. No luck.

    Finally he put some more heat, used the pliers and really started walloping on the slide very near the 3rd valve casing...

    Sure enough, you could see where the valve casing became distorted and the 3rd valve no longer moved.

    He pretended like nothing happened, hoping I didn't know what I was seeing... and he said the I should let him keep the horn overnight and he would let it soak in some special penetrating oil (looked like PB Blaster from the auto parts store).

    The next day I got a call saying that the horn wasn't repairable, or that the cost would exceed the value. They offered me $40 for it to use as parts.

    I am not sure whether the guy was an incompetent babboon, or if he just stole the horn from to repair and resell himself.

    This guy was recommended to me by a couple players in the local community band, and when I told them about my experience they all nodded knowingly... "Yeah... he can be "hit or miss"...They didn't mention that the 1st time! Thanks guys!

    Regarding the "what do I charge for the repair" question...

    I own a business that does alot of custom work (signs, banners, engraving, awards). The question of what to charge comes up alot in our business because sometimes the material costs is quite low. Sometimes we can also do the work very quickly, which can leave the customer a feeling that we didn't do too much to warrant such a large fee.

    Well, if you look around you will see that we have quite an investment in equipment and infrastructure all dedicated to being able to do quick custom work. I can look around and see well over $50k in equipment, plus inventory of every manner of material we may need. I have years of training, and have dedicated thousands of hours to get better in my trade so that I am good at what I do. I also have other overhead that we have to pay just so we are available to the customer... rent, electricity, phones, internet, insurance, water, supplies, computers, software, and on and on...

    The best way to handle this question is to post a pricing policy. You have to have a "shop minimum". It costs a certain amount of money to operate a business day in and day out. You can do some math and figure that out, but for me my target goal was to average $75/hr in gross sales. If I made that then I knew my overhead an profit goal was covered.

    So, if I ran a business like yours I would have a shop minimum charge... say $25... just so you do not spend 15 minutes on something and only make $5.

    I would also avoid doing work while the customer was standing right there. It lessens the perceived value of what you do. Tell him to go get a cheese burger somewhere, and you will see what you can do, but it looks tough... Then when he comes back he is so relieved that you could fix it he will pay anything. Tell him the "guy off the street price" would have been $125, but because you know the professor you will let him go for $100 and you will keep quiet about the repair next time you see the prof.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2011
    trumpetsplus likes this.
  6. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    Thank you very much for your response to this. Yes, you understand exactly what I am talking about. In my little shop is over $50k of machinery and supplies, not counting the trumpet inventory. I will consider your reply very seriously.

    Another situation was that I was asked to tender for repairing instruments for a school district. They did not want pricing on jobs, they wanted an hourly rate. Where do you start to explain the insanity of such a request to the administrators?

    Similarly, I was auditioning for a rock band back in the 80s and a fairly standard blues tune was called - I was invited to take a solo. The guitarist said to me later "how did you know exactly what to play in that solo?". I didn't get the job - I replied to him "If you have to ask that question, you will not understand the answer".

    Oh boy, don't we have fun in music!!!!!:thumbsup:
  7. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    What has worked for us is to hang a "menu" that is pretty large on the wall near the front counter... sorta like what you may see at the car mechanic's place.
    List common jobs :
    Mouthpiece Pull
    Stuck Slides (Minor)
    Stuck Slides (Major)
    Minor Dent Repair (Small-Medium-Large)
    Major Dent Repair
    Bell Crease
    Ultrasonic Power Flush Cleaning
    Valve Tune Up Kit
    Valve Alignment
    Other repairs done by estimate such as : Overhaul, replate, relacquer, custom fittings & fabrication.
    Shop hourly labor rate is $xx.xx


    Put some crazy prices up there... Half the time they will pay it wothout question. Otherwise you can offer that as a starting point to offer the customer a "discount"... even though the new discounted price is probably more that you used to get. He feels like he got a deal and you get what you are worth. Win-Win

    Then you don't look like you are pulling a number out of your a$$ every time someone asks how much something costs.

    Regarding the school bid...
    It doesn't matter what the hourly number is! Just make it good enough so that you get the bid, then adjust how long a job takes so you make what you need. remember that you are getting tons of volume, and probably have to pick up & drop off, then spend time on follow ups and missed things. Tip: Tell them your hourly rate for normal work, but offer them a "School District Discount"... they love getting a deal. Also set a labor minimum... a job is never less than 1/2 hr. no matter how quick you do it (like a mpc stuck)
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2011
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    We can calculate forwards and backwards, at the end of the month bills must be paid and we all want to have at least some life outside of the shop.

    I agree with the pricelist for simple things like mouthpiece pulls, corks, felts and dent removal. Stuck slides are a different matter and there should be a minimum of for instance a half hour rate. Valves are the same - no set price, minimum 1/2 hour fee.

    You could offer a maintenance plan for $150 than covers chem cleaning twice a year and half price on all standard repairs - not including parts like leadpipes and bells. This would encourage repeated trips to the shop for prevention and probably result in some good mouth to mouth advertising.
  9. catello

    catello Pianissimo User

    Dec 14, 2009
    Winter Park, FL
    Rowuk - Are you recommending a chem clean 2x per year? Also, I came across an older posting of yours that suggested you were doing some research into the effects of ultrasonic cleaning on a trumpet - did you ever arrive at any conclusions you could share?
  10. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

    Mar 21, 2006
    At my shop we use an hourly rate, but have prices that are set based on the standard time of repair. Anything left with us is considered to have been approved for repairs up to 1 hours costs. Anything over that, we phone and consult unless the customer just says fix it for whatever it costs, or gives us a set amount. We don't prefer the set amount because it is hard to do $150 worth of repairs on a horn that needs $500 worth of repair.

    To the poster with the yamaha: Don't sell it to the shop. I have never had a slide on a Yamaha that is so stuck I had to scrap the horn. Parts aren't that expensive and can be replaced. The only time we write off a horn is if the valve block is destroyed.
    Slide pliers are a last resort, when slightly flexing, oil, and heat don't work. Sometimes it is easier to just unsolder the slide and solder a mouthpiece in to the stuck inside slide than it is to risk damaging the ferrule by hitting it with pliers and the hammer, even though that is probably quicker.

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