Valve Oil...Mineral Based vs. Synthetic Part 2

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Rushtucky, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. Rushtucky

    Rushtucky Pianissimo User

    Sep 15, 2008
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Earlier there was a thread on valve oil and we got sort of "goofy" and strayed a bit. So I contacted my son, who is a Chemical Engineering student (senior) at Purdue University and posed the question regarding the different types of valve oil and which is the best.

    As we all know, there are two main types of valves: piston and rotor. As such, there are valve oils to accomodate each type of valve. The difference between the types of valve oil is primarily the viscosity or weight.

    In the other thread, I stated that valve oil to many brass players is a personal thing and claim one brand to be better than others. Valve oil is basically a petroleum distillate that have properties similar to kerosene, as many of you are most likely aware. This is the most commonly used type of valve oil, ie., Al Cass "Fast" valve oil. For rotory instruments, the same composition is used only it is a heavier weight, such as Holton's Rotory Valve Oil. Rotory valve oil is also excellent for older piston instruments.

    Synthetic valve oils are now becoming more popular and being used more and more. The characteristics of synthetic valve oil include greater compatibility with other valve oils without the "sticking". Many types of the "mineral based oils" reacted with one another forming a thick residue that many times required the instrument to be taken apart and a complete cleaning of the casing and valves to restore satisfactory operation.

    Synthetic valve oil has a slow or even in some cases a total lack of evaporation that results in fewer oiling to keep the valves functional and less dissipation on contact with moisture inside the valve casing. Some synthetic valve oils, such at Ultra Pure, have an additional advantage because they do not act as thinners if they came into contact with slide greases if the oil was inserted into the valve through the tuning slide and fouling the valve.

    My son stated that most of the trumpet players at Purdue used a synthetic valve oil.
  2. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    Therefore, based upon your post, synthetic is definitely the way to go.
  3. GoodMusic@PA

    [email protected] Piano User

    Aug 7, 2008
    I don't know, I tried synthetic oils before and have a bad experience with them, when i tried Al Cass on my valves, they did the job and were amazing, but I still haven't had a chance to try ultra pure...

    (this is my 200th post :wave: )
  4. Bachstul

    Bachstul Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 25, 2009
    And also, a synthetic oil brand may offer a slide grease that matches compatibility functions with the oil. This point MUST BE STRESSED!!!!!!...

    Your valve oil must be capable of dissolving your slide grease. Even upon washing in a bath; there is grease floating on the water and the film disperses everywhere on every surface, inside and out.

    After the trumpet is reassembled, tune/slide grease breaks away from where it is installed and finds it's way into the valve casing.

    Petrolite oil/grease,... or synthetic oil/grease........don't mix the two.
  5. Rushtucky

    Rushtucky Pianissimo User

    Sep 15, 2008
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Somewhat true Bachstul, however as stated, most standard mineral based oils are not capable of dissolving slide grease.

    Also, upon "washing in a bath", the instrument is cleaned in soapy water and yes, residue will accummulate in your tub or plastic container. It is my sincere hope that you would throughly rinse your instrument and dump the "wash water" out of the tub container, refill with clean warm water and emerse again making sure that all contaminates are out of the other words, it is "squeeky" clean just like after you would be when you exit the shower. At that point you would dry and re-grease slides, reassemble and proceed to apply the valve oil of choice.

    Also the chemistry students at Purdue concluded that synthetic valve oil is more efficeint than mineral based oil. Also as you noted, two foreign objects that are opposite in nature will not coagulate and resistance could occur.
  6. Bachstul

    Bachstul Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 25, 2009
    Al Cass oil cuts through the Selmer (red stuff) tuning slide, cork grease very well for me. I believe the Selmer grease is not lanolin based, for it doesn't have that "smell" we should be familiar with in other lanolin grease products; therefore, I believe these are compatible. I don't have luck with the truly lanolin based greases with Al Cass oil.

    It's just one idea with a sticky valve, I don't believe it's always fit to blame just the oil, and nothing else.
  7. GoodMusic@PA

    [email protected] Piano User

    Aug 7, 2008
    Yes same for me, I use the exact same combo, it works just great...:-)
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Do not forget that regular oiling flushes contaminents out of the valve, regardless of synthetic or petroleum based.

    There is more to oil than viscosity and that I believe is the difference that many of us experiment. How the formulas bind water and contaminents is very significant.

    Valve oils get contaminated relatively quickly. We are blowing moisture and aerosols into the instrument and there is no forced lubrication. Those contaminents are thus contained by the oil and turn into a sludge. In the case of petroleum based lubricants, the "lubricating" part evaporated within a day or so leaving sludge. Depending on the moisture content, that may continue to feel like lubrication, but valve wear is occuring!

    Al Cass seems to be fast, but if I look at the stains on every valve that I ever used it on, I know why it will never touch my horns again. I switched to synthetics 11 years ago. Those horns show significantly less wear than their predecessors.

    Proper oiling is key to optimal performance. Oil floats on water so our valves must be clean and BONE DRY before lubing. Then the oil sticks to the metal and can do the job it was intended to do!

    I have never worried about oil and grease and never had a problem except when I used military grade silicone grease on my slides. It wandered through the horn to the valves and gummed them up. I will never again use a non musical instrument lubricant. None of the name brand greases ever caused a problem.
  9. rhosch

    rhosch New Friend

    Feb 19, 2009
    Back in my college days we mixed up some of our own valve oil in the mechanical engineering "films and lubricants" research lab.

    Nothing fancy, really. We did use a petroleum base, much like kerosene, but a little less viscous. But we also added teflon to create what was really a synthetic in natural suspension. Examining pistons in the lab after a few weeks of play, we could see where the teflon had filled some of the microscopic imperfections in the piston exteriors. I suppose this left less room for particulate accumulation (and would over time slow the rate of wear), and prolonged the action of whatever lubricant was left in the valves.

    Newer synthetic oils seem to be a significant step forward from what we concocted, however. They stay around longer, which is pretty crucial. I do however think there is a lasting benefit to having a little teflon in the mix for a couple of weeks on older horns that have non-trivial wear on the piston and casing surfaces. Newer horns with pristine platings wouldn't benefit much, but it could restore some of the lost youth on older valves before resorting to a valve job.
  10. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    I've never used synthetic oils, but I'm about to start. I've been using Al Cass oil for years. I don't have any big complaints about it, except that it's petroleum based and that it seems to me lately I've been having to use a LOT of it. It seems to disappear very quickly.

    I just had the valves on my 1965 Benge completely rebuilt and replated by Jim Becker at Osmun Brass. I'm going to pick it up tomorrow and I intend to start using only synthetic lube in it and see how it fares. Should be an interesting empirical experiment...


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