What to do with rotary valves?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Repair and Modification' started by trumpet blower88, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. trumpet blower88

    trumpet blower88 Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 15, 2005
    Flagstaff, AZ
    So I know this is actauly a french horn question, but I'm sure some of you own or have owned a rotary valve trumpet, so maybe you can help.
    Anyway, I recently picked up my french horn from school the other day, I've never played one before and I know nothing about how these valves work. I was practicing today and I noticed the valve action was kind of sluggy. I unscrewed the top and noticed that they don't even come out to oil them or anything, so I just put a couple drops right on the litle circle thing. It seemed to help.

    My question is, how do I take care of rotary valves? I know there is the litle string things that I'll have to replace occasionaly but is that all? I didn't mess anything up with a few drops of oil did I?

  2. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    TB88, I'll take a shot at this. My eldest daughter has owned and played a french horn for the last 10 years or so and is now teaching music.

    Rotary valves have exceptionally tight clearances. The rotor and the housing it sits in have a very slight taper so that it is extremely difficult for dirt, etc. to get in there. You can go for years by only adding the requisit drop of oil every month or two or three. When it comes time to take them apart and fix them, generally they will require a full rebuild and that's not something for an amateur to attempt. Best to leave them alone and let the pros handle it.

    The strings are amazingly durable. My recommendation is for you to get a digital camera and take a picture (or ten pictures) BEFORE you take them apart. That way you'll know exactly how they go back. There are resources on the 'net on this subject c/w diagrams. The thing that will probably wear out the fastest are the rubber bumpers or "stops" on the valves. Those will dry out and that almost-silent "bump" you feel when they hit the stops will turn into a "clunk" and then a "clank". You want to replace them before they get to that stage. They just slide out and back in.

    The one part of a French horn that is probably the most critical and delicate is the leadpipe. Red rot is VERY common in the leadpipes. Because the pipe is quite a bit smaller diameter (and longer) than on a trumpet it is more difficult to dry it out. REKA have a cleaning kit for French Horns that is pretty good: Leigh uses their trumpet model of the kit for his horns. You can buy the REKA at a couple of the online retailers (forget which at the moment... ww&bw?)

    A french horn is VERY soft compared to a trumpet: I don't know if they use a higher copper content or if they anneal a lot more. I do know that you can dent the bell or bell throat just by looking at them. (OK, a slight exageration... but only "slight")

    Good luck with the horn.. it's a wiley beast but there's a lot of "good stuff" you can play on it. Heck, you will even get invited to sit in with woodwinds!!!
  3. mike ansberry

    mike ansberry Forte User

    Dec 30, 2003
    Clarksville, Tennessee, U
    Sometimes it helps to put oil into the valves through the valve slides. I pull one slide out for each valve. I squirt some oil in, and while holding it in such a manner that the oil stays in the horn, I tilt it back and forth to run the oil through the valve cluster while working the rotors back and forth. French horn valves frequently get corrosion on them when the are allowed to sit over the summer. If the oiling doesn't help, they will probably need to be disassembled and cleaned. This is best left to a competent repair person. It can be done at home, but some people find the task of reassembling and stringing the valves to be a daunting task. If you do take them apart, the corrosion can be cleaned off with a cloth and some Brasso. Make sure you clean the brasso off the valve before you reassemble it.
  4. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    First you get a steam roller...

    Seriously, we were working up Beethoven 8 for a show tonight and Bob Dorer has a slick way to get the valves oiled:

    Do as Mike A, suggested and pour the oil in the valve port and wiggle the valves a bit. Then, take of the bottom valve cap (actually, do that first), cover the open tubes with your two fingers and blow hard into the lead pipe. Can you picture that?

    What you'll see in a couple of seconds is the oil bubbling up in a hundred tiny bubbles at the bottom of the valve where you can see the rotation. That's the oil being forced around and through the valve. It works great! Flip the valve a few times like a trill and you'll see how nice it works.

  5. trumpet blower88

    trumpet blower88 Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 15, 2005
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks for all tips you guys. I don't know why I didn't think of putting it in the slides and working it though, afterall, thats what I do in marching band when I'm in a hurry...

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