Converting a rotary tuba from conventional right-hand operation to left-hand operation.

I was approached a sometime in early 2012 about moving the paddles to the opposite of a tuba so it could be fingered with the left hand instead of the right.  The fellow had suffered a stroke and had little use of his right hand.  If the paddles were simply moved,  there would still be a problem supporting the horn with the same hand as were operating the paddles.  The obvious solution would be to completely reverse a horn and use a strap instead of relying on the right hand to do much.


Above are a couple of images of the horn before stripping it and taking it apart.  It's a Chinese CC that I've had laying around for a year or so.  It was an 'OK' player but there's not much demand for a small-bore, four-valve CC tuba.  This tuba seemed like an excellent candidate for this conversion!


Lots of parts pictured above!  Note that I left the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th circuits attached to the valve section.  I'll mark everything and move it as I reassemble the horn.  Since the valve section will be turned upside-down...  all of the valve circuits will have to be reversed, too.


Here's the bugle cleaned up and ready to put back together.  The horn wasn't badly dented but just enough that the bow guards had to be removed so they could be straightened, too.  The assembled bugle on the right has been been completely reversed.  No braces are being used to hold the bugle together.  Some European tubas are built in this fashion and it makes for a very solid horn.  

Above left is part of the reason why no two tubas play the same.  Some of the joints in this horn basically 'fell apart' due to poor solder connections.  Many of the tube ends weren't trimmed square.  You can see that there wasn't even any solder on some of the valve circuit connections.  Above right shows the early stages of locating the valve section.  The first branch (right after the main tuning slide) has been reversed by adding a ferrule turning the 'in' side about 30 degrees.  Attention is given to making sure the 1st slide is in a good position and the 2nd valve slide can be pulled out and not hit the bell.  In this picture, the 1st and 2nd valve circuits have already been reattached.  Note that valve section has been turned upside-down.  #4 used to be the 'in' and #1 used to be the 'out'.


Above are the 'secrets' of how the parts can be 'reversed'.  The pictures on the left says '180 degrees' but the actual movement of the branch was about 30 degrees twist.  The the case of the leadpipe,  the ferrules allowed for about a 180 degree change in both places.  Using ferrules to do this will not affect the playability of the horn as long as the ends of the tubing are trimmed square to match and the joints are leak-free.  Of course, care needs to be taken to make sure solder does not run inside the tubes to create 'globs'

#1 and #2 valve circuits finished...   leadpipe attached...  and main tuning slide assembled.  Now it's time to turn the horn over and start building the 3rd and 4th circuits.  Looks pretty good, huh?  At this point,  I oriented the rotors so the open bugle was aligned and gave it a toot to see if the open CC, G, and C were in-tune.  Everything is fine.  I think this project will turn out OK!


The 3rd valve circuit was a piece of cake.  I simply cut the tubing where indicated and added two ferrules so the 'legs' could be turned 180 degrees.  The 4th circuit is pictured on the right but was a little bit more involved.  I changed the crook to a smaller King crook so the slide would lay in beside the 3rd slide better and added little length to the slide to make up for the difference.


Finally!  The paddle assemble is reattached.  The finger-ring also had to be reoriented.  All that's left to do is add a few braces.  I think I'll take the day off tomorrow and do that Wednesday!  I'm a BBb/Eb player and don't have very good CC 'chops'.  But...  I put the tuner on the horn and blew it enough to know that it's going to be a good player.


Schilke left-hand tuba

Although I did not build this one...  it's an outstanding example of another custom-made tuba.  This one was built by R. O. Schilke in 1981 out of components used on a Yamaha YBB-321.




Conn 20i short-action euphonium conversion to add a 4th piston.

I've been looking for a four-piston version of a Conn 20i short-action euphonium for a long, long time.  I figure it will become my 'old man' horn when I'm too tired to lug around a tuba!  I've been told that Conn built some of them but I've never had one in the shop...  or even seen one.  I got tired of waiting and went to my 'hellbox' where old horns go to die and retrieved two 'beater' 20i valve sections and parts from three horns as seen below.

Adding the 4th piston to the cluster is about the same as adding a piston to other valve sections except that the oval ports are a little 'tricky' to match and make a sleeve for.  The 2nd piston and casing are salvaged from a 'donor' valve section...  virtually wasting the rest of the cluster because the stubs need to be left as long as possible on the 2nd casing.  I now have 'spare' #1 and #3 pistons if you need them!  Once the 4V cluster is built, it just a matter of finding the right combination and length of tubing and slides to build the rest of the horn.  Basically...  the third valve circuit is equal to the length of the 1st and 2nd combined and the 4th is equal to the length of the 1st and 3rd combined.  I generally go ahead and cut the lengths fairly precisely.  You can always put a slide out a little if it works out a bit sharp but if it's flat, your gonna have to make a cut somewhere. 


Below is the finished product....  complete with a recording bell and a VERY rare upright bell.  (well... actually that upright bell is from a Grand Rapids 'donor' horn!)  The finished product took two 20i valve clusters,  parts from three sets of tuning circuits,  one main bugle,  two bells, and bell receivers from two horns.  The 4th valve wrap contains two tuning slides...  more-or-less because that's the combination of parts that I had available.  The horn plays GREAT!  Both bells are in tune within about ten cents.  Note the finish...  not a high polish but more of a satin finished that was achieved with Scotch-Brite and then coated with Coricone 1700...  a brass sealer.  The end result is what I think is a good alternative to lacquer.  The coating has virtually no thickness and was developed as a military coating several decades ago.





I've always have wanted to get my hands on one of these things but this isn't something you run across on Ebay just every day!  Most folks have never even seen one... much less had a chance to play one!  Below is a cimbasso that Cerveny offers for sale.  This one's probably in the key of F.  

A cimbasso is sort of a cross between a contra-bass trombone and a tuba.  The one I'm going to build will be pitched the same as a BBb tuba and will have a .687" bore.  My plans are to use a rotary valveset salvaged from an Eb tuba.  Four valves should be adequate but I have several more spare rotors in case I need to add a valve or two.  The 10" bell is Getzen (from a baritone or tenor horn, I think)...  the back bow is 'borrowed' from a little Reynolds Eb 'peck horn'...  the leadpipe pictured (not bent, yet) is a generic one that is sized for a tuba receiver on one end and about .687" on the big end to fit the valveset.  Here are pictures of the parts so far:


Had a little more time today so I put the bell section together.  The connector (receiver) where the body will plug in is a modified Conn sousaphone neck receiver.  The next step is to fill a section of tubing with pitch and bend it to make the transition between the bell section and the valve section.  Note that the valve section is still configured for Eb.  All of the valve circuits need to be about 33% longer to change to BBb.  There is quite a bit of 'pull' available.  I'll lengthen the tuning slides later if necessary.  Fun project!

Ok....  it's been a week or so since I started assembly this project.  Below are a few pictures of the progress through January 21st.  The tubing I ordered last week came in Friday...  but it was shipped short so I didn't have enough to work on the circuit extensions for the 3rd valve.  It's going to be a couple of weeks until I get the additional tubing.  Then...  I'll deal with the 3rd valve circuit, put on a waterkey, and add more bracing.  I'm quite pleased with the project thus far.  It's pitched the same as a BBb tuba and I can tell you that the low register and pedal tones are a awsome!  Yeah...  that's my wife's sax stand!


OK...  below is the cimbasso.  Finished at last!  I played it publicly for the first time at Evansville's 'Jinglebones'...  a TubaChristmas for trombones.  They let me sneak in since this horn is not really a tuba and not really a trombone...  but close enough.  Besides...  the local fellow who did some of the arrangements has a passion for 'basement' trombone parts.  ...  which are NO PROBLEM for this horn!  The construction is 'interesting'.  Beginning with the loooong leadpipe with straight-bore tubing that makes two full wraps before entering the BOTTOM of the valveset.  The remote waterkeys are very necessary and are operated remotely by string.


Ever hear of the Tipitina's Foundation?

This organization is helping to provide musical instruments for musicians in New Orleans post Katrina.  Just go here:  and find out how you can help by donating instruments to this worthy cause.  Just go to the website and click on 'donate'.  Here's a picture of a King sousa I spruced up with a little dentwork and fresh paint.  It's now in the hands of a musician in New Orleans...   thanks to the Tipitina's Foundation: 



2nd tuning slide kicker for a Mirafone 186

I received a request from a customer to build a custom 'kicker' for his 2nd tuning slide.  A piece of flat brass, a couple of old bari sax keys, some Dubro ball ends, a torsion spring, some threaded rod, and a few hours in the shop resulted in a mechanism that can be easily reached by the players left.  Push to extend the slide and a spring retracts the slide.




Mirafone detachable bell replacement

There seems to be lots of Mirafone 186's with front-facing detachable bells out there that can be bought for a reasonable price...  substantially less money that the standard 186 with fixed upright bells.  I not only offer replacement bells for many dollars less than original Mirafone bells...  but I also can build detachable upright bells for these horns.  From what I understand, Mirafone did not sell both bells with a 186.  It was either/or...  not both.  Mirafone also does not offer replacement detachable bells.  Here are a couple of pictures of the upright bell I build.  It is virtually the same dimension as the original bell and does not change the pitch of the horn.  Of course, if you want to scrap the front-facing bell to sacrifice the tenon, it will save you a few dollars.  


Marzan four piston BBb tuba

Serial number 74265.  This one was made in the Boehm & Meinl Factory and has a .753" bore and 19" bell.  The tuba came out of school program and has some serious issues.  The bell has been roughly rolled-out (probably a couple of times) and has six or so breaks that will have to be silver-soldered.  The bottom bow was smashed and the back bow was severely dented.  As of July 13th, I've finished the dentwork.  In the next week or so, I'll take the bell off so dentwork can be done and the holes can be fixed.  Intonation of the open bugle on this horn is incredible!  The difference between the low BBb, the F, and the Bb in the staff only varies a couple of cents.  If anyone has any information regarding the production numbers of the Marzan tubas, please give me a shout.  I think there were five different models.



The two pictures above shows the Marzan after some preliminary dent removal.  I've already straightened the back loop and top bow.  I didn't have to remove the bottom bow...  just took off the guard wire and used the magnets and balls.  The next step is to remove the bell.  The pictures don't show it well, but the lower part of the bell is covered with small dents and there are seven perforations in the bell where it was rolled out perhaps several times.  Once the bell is removed, I annealed an area about six inches wide in about 3" from the rim.  There was also a 2" long split on the inside of the bell tangent to the bell-wire.  To anneal brass, it has to be heated up to red and allowed to air-cool.  That makes the brass dead soft and lets me roll the creases out without making more cracks.


Above are a couple of shots of the nasty cracks in the bell and some of the creases that were produced during earlier repair attempts.  99.9% of those creases rolled out just fine after annealing.

Magic!  The creases are gone and the cracks have been repaired with silver solder.  There was a band of creases and cracks all the way 'round the bell beginning about 4" from the rim.  The flare was practically detached from the stack!  If you look close, you can still see 'witness' marks, but the bell is a heckofalot better than it was.  I'm told that the Marzan bells were notorious for being quite thin but this one seems sturdy enough.


Ahhhh....  the bell's back on.  I finished up around 5pm this evening...  just in time to take the Marzan to Germannia Mannerchor for our regular every-other-Friday-night rehearsal.  The reflections from the flourescent lamps in the shop don't do the bell justice.  I'm quite please with the way the Marzan turned out after only a couple of days work!  I'm going to keep this horn around for a while.  Intonation and projection is awesome!

How does the Marzan compare in size to other horns?  Well...  based on the size of the final branches, I consider the Marzan to be a 5/4 horn.  There is really no specific criteria to govern whether a horn is a 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, or 6/4 size although there have been many in-depth discussions.  Some folks hint that the gallons of beer that a horn will hold may be the ultimate indicator but so far, no one has published any data.  So...  for the time being, you'll just have to judge for yourself.  Pictured above from left to right...  Conn 20/21J (most consider this to be a 6/4 horn),  a Meinl-Weston 25 (most consider this to be a 5/4 horn),  the Marzan,  and a Mirafone 186.  The Meinl 25 has the same valve section as a Meinl 20 but the bottom bow and bell are quite a bit larger.  By-the-way, the little bitty horn between the Meinl and Marzan is a Couesnon Eb and the horn between the Marzan and Mirafone 186 is another Mirafone 186 except it is a bell-front.  You decide.

Frankenhelicon Project Revisited

I started this 'Frankenhelicon' project about two years ago and only got as far as adding the 4th piston. This is the way the horn looked with the brass body, custom brass sousa transition and plastic bell. What I really need was a horn that I could use for those five-hour stand-up German gigs that are coming up this fall...   sooooo....   it was time to construct a helicon bell for the horn.




Here's a updated picture of the horn the way it is today....  with the Mirafone stack and King 1235 flare.  The picture was taken at an outdoor beer garden gig on June 27, 2009.  The rest of the pictures and descriptions that follow are what led to the 'frankenhelicon' as it is today.  Note the dual main tuning slide.  The extensions are removed when I have the sousa transition and bell mounted on the body.


The following are pictures of the parts I used to fabricate the helicon bell.  The bell ring is from a plastic Olds sousa and the bell stack is from a scrap Miraphone bell.  The picture at the lower-right give you an idea of what area of the Miraphone bell was used. I removed about 3" from the bell throat so it would match the bell ring I made to fit the tenon on the sousa. Rolling these custom tenons and bell rings is fairly easy if you have a ring roller and the equipment for brazing.


After all the parts are trimmed to fit, the bell is epoxied to the stack. Before the epoxy is applied, the parts were 'scuffed up' to give the epoxy plenty for surface to bite.  The picture at the lower right is the bell collar that will be soldered to the stack after the epoxy is cured.



Above is another picture of the transition that is used when putting the horn into the sousaphone configuration. It's not used when the helicon bell is in place. That's an old silver Pan-American bell that I can use in place of the 36K plastic bell if I want.


Above are a couple of pictures of the complete helicon along side its 36K cousin. The horn was a little sharp so I've extended the main tuning slide about 4". Intonation is as good as any sousa! The new helicon bell is 26" diameter and looks a little big for the horn...  but it projects well. I may opt for a regular Miraphone style bell a little later if I tire of the 'bigness'.  As of May 4th.. 2006, I've used the 'Frankenhelicon' for three rehearsals and one stand-up German gig. It may well become my primary German/Dixieland horn...  especially for stand-up playing. The bell ring is finished with Krylon 'Fusion For Plastics'.  It's a textured 'shimmer' finished specially formulated for ourdoor use on plastics. There is some pretty neat stuff in spray cans now.     

Adding the 4th piston


First of all, it's handy to have two old Conn BBb sousas laying around for parts.  These are the OLD ones with the 1.047/48" diameter pistons and .734 bore.  Dunno... I guess they are (were) 14K's or something.  Anyway, scrap one valveset to get the number 2 piston assembly.  Then...  cut the tube off on the 'out' side of the #3 piston of the valveset you are saving leaving as long a stub as possible.  The 3rd valve circuit is removed here just so there will be room to work on the 4th valve circuit.  With all the crooks in the 3rd valve circuit it will be fairly easy to deal with it later... AFTER I finish roughing in the 4th valve circuit.  

The 'in' side of the salvaged #2 casing gets silver-soldered to the 'out' side of the old #3 casing with the help of a brass sleeve.

Then...  after making a little jog to connect the new #4 casing to the existing main tuning slide,  you gotta figure where to put almost all the tubing that came from the #1 and #3 circuits on the scrapped valveset.  All of the pieces you see here came from the old valveset except for the large crook at the lower left.  I think the crook is off an old Miraphone.  Anyway... it came out of the junkbox.  I've incorporated two tuning slides into the new #4 circuit so making final adjustments won't be a problem.  A few braces and it will be ready to test.  Pictures taken on March 15, 2005.  More to follow.  Update...


To Play Or Not To Play

(topic could be "does it matter or not"?)

To play or not to play WELL, that is!  The above image shows a dent that was UNDER the brace flange between the 1st valve slide and the body of a Miraphone 186.  I took the slide off to do some repair work to it.  This dent is about 3/8" diameter and 1/16" deep...  large enough to make most 186 owners shudder if it would have been visible.  The truth is, I find A LOT of defects this when I take a horn apart.  This particular horn had not been 'dicked with' (in the words of Joe S.)...  so, I'm fairly certain that's the way it left the factory.  Also,  the solder joints in neither of the 1st valve circuit slide tubes were soldered full-circle.  The point I'm trying to make here is that only 'The Shadow' knows what makes one horn play better than the next.  There is no such thing as two identical horns!  Did this particular flaw cause problems in this horn?  Heck, I don't know!  I played the horn...  and will play it again after I finish putting it back together.  I just find it interesting when I try to digest all the opinions of folks who think they have discovered The Holy Grail of musical instruments! 

Here's another example!

I took apart the 1st rotor circuit to remove some dents and found that the tubes were not properly trimmed before they were soldered into place.  Inside the ferrules, the tubes should meet up with the stubs that a hard-soldered onto the rotor housing.  As you can see, there was a 1/8" gap between the ends of the tubes.  On the left is a comparison with another rotor housing.  The pictures below shows the same components with the ends of the tubes trimmed to the proper length for reassembly.





Yep!  The Miraphone 186 on the left in the two pictures above has it's original bell.  The horn in the center is a Mirafone 186 that sports a bell off a Yamaha YBB201.  The Miraphone 186 on the right has a brand new bell which is of Chinese origin.  How do they play, you say?  Well....  although the Yamaha bell is much heavier,  one would think it would tend to deaden the timbre a bit.  However,  I think the horn is actually a little brighter and just as focused as it's genuine Miraphone pal.  The Chinese bell has a very nice 'ring' to it and is a little brighter than the horn with the Yamaha bell.  I think this is a very attractive alternative to buying an expensive Mirafone bell that can cost between $600 and $925 depending on who you talk to.  I will install a great generic replacement bell for around $400.  The installation is quite simple since the Yamaha bell's throat is exactly the same size as the Miraphone's when trimmed to the correct length.  The Yamaha bell is 17 1/4" diameter...  just 3/4" larger than the original 'old style' Mirafone bell.  The more modern Chinese bell is 16 3/4" diameter.  Incidentally, that Miraphone 186 on the right also has been coated with the 'alternative to lacquer' that I mentioned in some of my posts on Sean Chishams 'TubeNet'.  Don't get too excited about the coating just yet.  Give it a couple of months to see how it wears and if it tarnishes!  BTW...  the horn with the Chinese bell was later modified to add a 5th rotor. This has become my primary concert horn. The bell works great! Click here to go the page about the added 5th rotor.

Leadpipe Mods

(images follow text)

On many European horns, the leadpipe is attached to the top bow and the bell with an almost continuous solder joint.  My Carl Wunderlich (GDR stencil... probably B & S) is what I would consider to be a typical European tuba.  It's a very good-playing horn and I have absolutely no reason to mess with it.  However, my nature drives me to 'mess with things'.  There have been many discussions about heavy mouthpieces and 'stand-off' leadpipes so I thought I would do a little experimenting with my Carl.  I removed the leadpipe (that I had already dropped about 3" to suit my stature) and removed all the solder from it and where it originally contacted the horn.  I then cut a 3 1/8" long piece of 1" diameter solid brass and bored a 5/8" hole through it so it would fit over the existing receiver.  I then slipped the piece of brass over the receiver and soldered it into place.  When I reattached the leadpipe,  I left about 1/4" of space between it and the horn.  Then,  a quick trip to my junkbox yielded two short braces.  I place one brace toward the outside of the top bow and the other at the front of the bell.  I then made a crescent-shaped piece to fill the gap between the receiver brace and the new 'heavy' receiver.  I figured if I don't like the set-up I can always 'go back' without making major changes.  How does it play?  This was already a great-playing horn but I think it may be even more responsive now.  It's hard to say.  Tooting around in the shop and playing a few scales is not a true test.  I'll the Carl in a band environment several times in the next week or so. 




Van Bryant II 'Frankenhorn' Project

I put this little gem together from parts provided by Van Bryant II of Gordonsville, Tennessee.  The valveset is Getzen to which has been added a Stage One - California bell, and an inverted leadpipe.  The valveset and leadpipe are raw brass.  The bell and slide tubes are silver plated.  The horn seems to center well but the real proof will come after the horn is back in the hands of someone with trumpet chops!


Rolling Rings For Bell Tenons and receivers


Here, I'm working with a brass strip that is 1.5" wide and .062" thick.  I choose .062" thick material for this horn because that is typical of Conns.  but I have seen thicknesses as .125" on some other horns like my Martin 'mammoth' sousa.  I buy it at my local 'metals' house in 8 foot lengths.  I also keep 1/2", 3/4", 1", 1 1/4", and 1.75" widths in the shop.  Those sizes cover most of what I think I will need.  If I need an odd size, it's just a 15 minute ride to buy more sheared to any width I need.  The cost of .064" thick brass??...  about 20 cents a square inch...  including the cost of the custom-sheared widths.  Measure the diameter of the tube that you need a ring for and multiply by 3.1416 and add about 2".  The roller machine leaves a flat spot on both ends of the strip for about the first 3/4".  Then saw to length making the end as square as possible.  A power band-saw is a handy tool to own.  There are three rollers on the little gadget in the right-hand picture.  The roller on the left-bottom and the roller on the top are fixed.  The roller on the right-bottom pivots around the top roller.  As the strip if fed into the rollers and the handle on the far side is cranked, pressure is applied to the strip and forces it to bend.  Several trips through the roller as the right roller is brought up makes the rolled diameter get smaller and smaller until the desired size is reached.


OK...   now, the diameter of the ring has been reduced to a size just a dab smaller than the tube it is going on and stretched over the tube.  A 'C' clamp is applied and a mark is made on the edges of the rolled ring.  Both edges are marked because the clamp has to be taken off to get the ring over the band-saw blade.  Once the ring is over the blade, the marks are re-aligned and the 'C' clamp is put back on.  Note that the ends of the rolled ring are overlapped a couple of inches.  These ends get thrown away or saved for other projects.  After sawing, place the ring back over the tube and check it for size.  If the ring does not fit quite tight enough, it can be trimmed.  Then, the ring goes under the acetylene torch to have the joint brazed.  Total time from start to finish is about 30 minutes.  The only things left to do is drill three holes, attach the screw flanges, and give it a good polishing.  Many of the large sousa tenon receivers have an angle on them where they fit to the body.  This one will, too....  just as soon as I make a hardwood 'plug' to fit inside the furrule and form the angle over it by spinning the ferrule in a lathe.  The receiver rings are actually an interference fit to the body and must be assembled to the branch before the branch is soldered to the horn.  These rolled rings can also be decorated by adding grooves like the original ones.  This is done by making a wooden 'holder' for the ring, chucking it in a lathe, and using a grooving tool to make shallow cuts.  Each size is probably going to require a unique size of tooling but I've found that most any of the holding devices can be made from hardwood rather easily.  A lot of hand work and special tooling is needed to fashion tenons and receivers but the alternative would be to do without since most of this stuff is out of production.  The fact is...  anything that WAS manufactured can be duplicated.  It's only a matter of time and money! 

Jarno #5 Taper Reamer


Here's the difference in the mouthpiece insertion before and after treating a the small receiver on one of my old Conn Eb tubas to a makeover.  Ist...  I reamed the receiver out to .531" diameter down to where the leadpipe meets the receiver.  Then...  after countless revolutions with the Jarno #5 reamer, you can see that the insertion depth of a regular shank mouthpiece has increased by about 1/2".  That means that the taper has been opened up by about .025".  There is still plenty of 'meat' left on the receiver.  There is still quite a bit of gap between the end of the MP and the leadpipe and I might tighten that up a bit later.  In the meantime, the horn plays OK and I have the benefit of using any of my regular shank mouthpieces.

Jerzy Krywalski tenor horn reconstruction

This cute little Bb tenor horn was a mess when I received it!  Dents all over...  several splits in the tubing...  draggy rotor linkage...  and lots of other 'uglies'.  The guy I bought it from said it was a really ugly horn and certainly made a believer out of me!  

Here's a 'before' picture and a few 'after' pictures:




Over-the-shoulder Civil War fakes

This was a fun little project!  I reconfigured some old marching band horns to make some over-the-shoulder horns for a local reenactment group.  First...  it's a matter of finding old marching horns that are good candidates for the conversion.  Then,  I had to whack and whittle to straighten out the bell crooks and add tubing to bring them back into tune.  Heck,  some of these old horns weren't in tune in the first place.  A cornet can be redone to make a Bb soprano.  Old Getzen 'frumpets' can be configured to make F or Eb alto horns.  And marching baritones can be butchered to make Bb tenor horns.  These are indeed 'fakes'.  They are like the original Civil War relics in concept only.  Here are pictures of the Bb soprano (top),  the Bb tenor horn (middle), and some pictures of the Eb tuba fashioned out of an old Blessing B450 and an old euphonium bell:


The image above left is a Blessing B450 BBb tuba that I bought off Ebay.  The auction info said it belonged to a street person who lived under a bridge and did whatever he could to keep it playing!  What a mess!  There must have been five pounds of solder holding all the junk on the horn!  The left-hand image is what the Blessing looked like after taking it apart.  The bottom bow and the bell were not used in the new Eb OTS tuba.


The above shot is the reassembled Blessing branches, a short conical baritone section, and the euphonium bell.


The above two images are the completed Eb OTS tuba.  When doing cutting and reassembly of this magnitude, you are really taking your chances of what you'll end up with.  The open bugle Eb (below and in the stage) are both nicely in tune.  The open bugle Bb is about 30 cents flat.  That might change for better or for worse after I add a water key.  Note that to make a BBb into a Eb horn,  about 4 1/2 feet of tubing has to be removed from the open bugle.  That's almost impossible to do and retain the bottom bow and the bell.  In this case, the original Blessing bell and bottom bow was not used.  An amount of tubing equal to about 25% also has to be removed from all of the valve circuits.


I just finished another over-the-shoulder 'fake'...   this time it's a repiano OTS cornet fashioned from a an old Bundy/Bach cornet that was very similar to the one shown for comparison.  In order to change the Bb cornet to the Eb repiano,  I have to figure out a way to get rid of about 11 1/2" of tubing from the open bugle and about 30% from the valve circuits.  The only part I actually had to make was a 3 1/2" straight section between the bell stack and the #1 piston.  Everything else is just reconfigured from the old parts.  Notice the difference in lengths between the OTS and the stock cornet valve circuits. 

Miraphone CC to BBb slide conversion


Well...  I got this neat little 3/4 Miraphone 184-4 CC and I'll be darned if I'm going to learn another set of fingerings.  Soooo,  I made a tuning slide that is two feet longer to change the key from C to Bb.  Basically, it's just the old tuning slide for the CC combined with the tuning slide out of my Miraphone 183-4 (Eb) along with a crook and some slide tubing out of my junk box.  It works very well.  The only intonation problem I noticed was that the 'C' below the staff was very sharp....  but by using the 4th valve for that note the sharpness was corrected by pulling the 4th valve slide an inch or so.  The picture on the left is the slide concoction on my 184.  Now that I've proved to myself that it will work with no major intonation problems I will make a solid assembly like the slide on the right.  This is a CC to BBb slide for a 186 that was sold on Ebay a couple of weeks ago.  This conversion is a matter of getting an additional two feet of tubing into the horn right after the valve set before the conical tubing starts.

OK....  I've had a couple of days to try this conversion slide thing out.  It might be OK in a pinch, but I won't vote for it as a principle horn.  I'll either learn CC fingerings or sell the horn.  With the slide installed,  the other slides have to be pulled waaaayyy out to get the pitch down.  The 'C' below the staff is so sharp the only alternative is to pull the 4th slide to within an inch of it's life!  The 'C' above the staff is so sharp it needs to be fingered 'B natural'.  Soooo....  it I also have to remember alternate fingerings, there's another nail in the coffin.  THIS Mirafone CC is for sale! Well...  that problem is solved.  I sold the horn.  Now I don't have to worry about learning the CC fingerings! 


Clockwork Spring Conversion

What do you do with a Karl Ziess 4V BBb rotary horn when the clockwork springs are driving you nuts!??  The clockwork springs were probably OK when the horn was new and they were matched.  Over the years,  repairs were made and the result was springs of four different lengths and tempers...  and they all seemed too stout,  making the Karl Ziess a real pain to play for long periods.  I suppose a fellow could buy some spring steel stock and make new clockwork springs.  I can do this, but I can tell you that the time it takes to make four new springs, anneal the ends so they can be formed, and fighting to get them all the same....  would cost more than most folks would care to spend on an old horn.  

This picture shows the four springs that were removed from the Ziess.  It's easy to understand why the force required for each valve was different.  There have been many repairs made to the horn and I wouldn't begin to try to guess if any of these are the original springs!  Actually, two of them were broken.  I don't know what kept them working as well as they did!  The springs are attached at each end.  A typical repair to a clockwork spring is to make a new end that has broken off.  This was usually done by simply annealing the end of the spring and bending a new attachment.  This resulted in a shorter spring than before.  The shorter the spring is, the 'quicker' the force builds....  making the old springs feel stiff.

Pictured above is what the clockwork paddle assemblies look like before starting modifications.  The spherical jobbies are part of a Du-Bro conversion that was done several months ago to get rid of the clattering 'S' linkage.

Booiiiinnng!  This paddle assembly has been taken apart to reveal the spring.  Pitch the spring!  In the next step,  the bearing plate is pressed back into the housing with the bearing projecting towards the inside of the housing.  The bearing projection in the bearing plate on the opposite side of the assembly is then be cut off.  This leaves a solid-looking housing with a hole through the center the same size as it originally was (hopefully!).  I thought about turning a solid bushing to completely fill the spring housing but decided to 'use what was available'....  thereby saving the time of having to fit new bushings to the existing shafts.

In the above picture, I am beginning to rough-assemble the paddles and springs to the mounting bar.  Notice that the spring at the upper right is in the process of being modified.  Two turns of the spring are being removed from each side of the spring so they will fit into the confines of the original assembly.  I probably could have found a spring that would have worked without modifications but I tend to try to use what I have in stock.  In this case,  the springs are Ferree's S96 springs.  It's fairly easy to modify the tension of coil springs by simply unwrapping or tightening the coils.

The paddles and springs are mounted onto the shafts and attached to the horn in order to establish the spacing between the paddles.  After taking the measurements,  I made spacers to go between the paddles...  .880" between paddles 1 & 2 and 3 & 4...  and four more spacers .440" to go on the outsides and in the center.  I like to cut tubing on the lathe.  That way, the ends are always square and I can face the parts off to precise lengths.

The finished product!  The Du-Bro spherical rod ends were added to the horn several months ago.  The end result is very smooooooooth valve action.

The Martin 'Mammoth'

Martin before 2.JPG (55874 bytes)

This old Martin 'Mammoth' rested on it's stand for perhaps 20 years until I decided to undertake the task of putting it back into playing condition.  The 1926 sousa was suffering from heavy tarnish, multiple dents, several major cracks from previous repair attempts, and over .003" in piston wear.

Ready to assemble.JPG (82174 bytes)Bell collar.JPG (75990 bytes)

The picture on the left is a view of the parts awaiting re-assembly.  The main branch required three patches and several passes with the silver solder to repair cracks generated from work-hardening of the brass due to previous dent removal attempts.  The photo on the right is a shot of one of the largest bell collars in the business....  7 7/8"....  surpassed only by the very rare Conn 'Jumbo' sousa.  Despite the huge bell collar, this Martin 'Mammoth' only has a 26" bell.

Martin finished 1.JPG (82966 bytes)Martin finished 2.JPG (78370 bytes)

The Martin 'Mammoth' re-assembled and awaiting final finishing and a valve job.  It plays 'OK', but it's amazing the adverse affect worn valves have on a horn this size!  The total time required for me to take the horn apart, iron out the dents, do the patch work, perform rough finishing, and re-assemble it was about 20 hours.  When the pistons come back from the plater, I will have another few hours lapping them to the casings.  Add several more hours for final finishing.  And you wonder why these things are so expensive when they come up for sale!  No...  this one is not for sale...  yet! (well...   I DID put it on my 'for sale' page in late October 2005.  Might as well sell it as I only played it three times in 2005!)  

Martin - finished.JPG (62168 bytes)Martin Mouthpipe.JPG (51463 bytes)

Ok, it's March 4th...  just three weeks from bringing this battered mess of neglect to the shop and here it sits ready for it's next life.  I took the Martin to a rehearsal on 3/2 and it played fine except the 'C' below the staff was a little squirrelly and the horn played a little flat.  Soooo...  off came the original bits and I made a one-piece mouthpipe.  The lower range got more stable and the horn is now about 15 cents sharp with everything pushed in.  Success!!  Can't wait for those outdoor concerts this spring!  Update...  this horn has now been living in Canada for a couple of years.

Karl Zeiss Du-bro4.JPG (72306 bytes)

Above is a Du-Bro link conversion on a Karl Zeiss 4V tuba

Huttl - before.JPG (64248 bytes)Huttl - after.JPG (58316 bytes)

Above is a 'before' and 'after' picture of a little Huttl Eb alto 'peck horn'.  I received the horn in several major pieces.  There were dents over every square inch and lots of evidence of amateur repair work.  A new #2 tuning slide had to be made and three patches were applied to other areas of the horn.  I think this one is going to end up in the hands of a fellow who plays in a Civil War 'reunion' band. 

Page modified on May 3, 2012

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