Saturday, September 7, 2013

UPDATE! ('bout time...)

Just a quick update, since I thought of it, and since I had a couple minutes before work. It has been so long since I posted because I:

  • finished school - Yay!
  • moved from Red Wing to Coon Rapids to Minneapolis
  • started 3 new jobs at once, one of which is setting up my own shop in the twin cities' suburb of Osseo!
So I will be bringing more posts soon, when I have time between jobs and back-to-school repairs. What it was like to set up the shop, what I'm still setting up, what I'm learning, and most exciting--what I'm fixing!!! So far, things are going very well.

P.S. I bought a lathe :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Extremely Satisfying Projects

NOTE: Blogger formatting is even worse than Word. I swear! Apologies in advance for the arranging of some of the before/after photos in the Bell Buckle portion. I eventually figured out the problem, but fixing most of the errors would require re-loading the photos, which I don't have time for at the moment. This inconvenience has been part of the reason for the delay in posts, for which I also apologize. Things have been very busy which is good and sometimes not so good. Here it is, though. Finally! Enjoy.

So in class, we work on a lot of small projects. Sometimes it's making tools, sometimes it's practicing dents or soldering that we can apply to the project instruments or graded work we turn in to the instructors. This post is dedicated to those times when the results of these projects are mega rewarding! For me, that has so far translated to building things and making them look and work really nice. And by "look nice" I mostly mean shiny! So let's get to it! Some of my favorite things I've got to work on so far...

Bell Buckle
A bell buckle is a type of dent that affects the roundness of the throat of the bell. They can vary widely in severity with each bell having its own unique way of buckling. Some examples include the "bracelet" or "sombrero." Everyone in class got to practice removing them from trombone bells. I wish I had a video of how our practice buckles were created, because it's really pretty fun to watch. I'll try to make a dent-creation video and post it at some point. Basically my teacher, Greg, grabbed the bell by the stem and smashed it repeatedly, flare-down, into the bench surface until this happened:

Dun dun dunnnnn! Looks terrible, no?  With the way mine buckled, the first step was to take out as many of the large creases as I could, using the dent roller, seen below. Some of the other bells with sharper creases had to be tapped down against a bell iron.
Roller. You have to watch out for the sharp corner on the edge of this one--they create "tech-dents" in your work if you're not careful. We also had some with rounded ends which are a bit safer, but this happened to be the available one at the time.
The above pictures show after rolling... lots of rolling. Next I flexed the throat back to round by hand and tapped the rim down, checking it by resting on a granite block to ensure levelness all the way around the rim. I also burnished out dents unreachable by the roller by alternating between the head of one of my steel hammers and a straight burnisher.

Getting closer to done...

The final step after everything was ironing the bell using a roller and a bell...iron. This step smoothed out all the last little creases and marks left from the previous steps. Now for a little dramatic before and after! The after pictures are of the bell once it has been all the way ironed and wiped clean of my fingerprints.

Remember? Before:




From the side
There it is! Pretty durn satisfying to fix.

Trumpet 3rd Valve Slide Dent Rod
This next project was neat because we got to make a dent tool to use of our very own. Mostly pictures step by step here. Again, apologies for the formatting. This template is really not user friendly at all. First, filing a taper and shoulder at which to solder on a dent ball...


Now that everything is fit, it's time to silver solder! My favorite! (No, really... it is.)


Beauty. Especially after a little pickling and buffing. A smidge extra solder on the joint at the straight end, but hey, none on the ball, and in this instance it's beneficial and will make that end extra tough in its use. The ball on the curved end I sanded about in half to be able to reach dents at the top of the crook of long, narrow tuning slides like the 3rd valve slide on a trumpet. I have also since made my own set of knuckle dent tools with threads to attach dent balls of various sizes. Making and improving tools is one of my favorite things I've gotten to do here! It also happens to be an especially great way to save money. NEXT!

Trumpet 1st Slide Build
The final project in this post was the 1st valve slide I got to build for a trumpet! We started with just the parts: crook, tubes, and ferrules.

PARTS! Ferrules have been fit, and soldered to tubes


The fixture for aligning the crook, ferrules, and tubes was the trumpet itself. The rag behind is: 1) there to prevent lacquer on the tail from scorching, and 2) dampened to prevent itself from starting on fire. As you can see, the joint on the right went better than the one on the left, which will need wiping and more cleanup.


First, wiped. Then cleaned up and buffed. Did I not deliver on my promise of shiny things in this post?! Looks ready to lacquer. But I had to wait in line so...

Mummified! To protect it from dust, scratches and some oxidation.

There! Complete, lacquered, and all ready for small crook dent practice. As Greg observed, the dish dents made it look like one of the little alien guys from Toy Story. I concur. Thanks for looking again! I'll try to put more things up soon!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Back to the Fluture

Boooo terrible title pun, I am aware. But we are back! Back in woodwind lab again. Turns out my clarinet was in really good shape when I handed it in. Yay! My flute? Pretty ok. There were good things, but lots of pads not sealing too. Not super surprised--I knew I had problems getting the hang of it the first time around. To be honest, there were a couple pads that took hours... many hours. But that is just part of learning these new skills. Speed and efficiency will come with time--so we are told  almost every day... because it's true! As I am seeing in my return to flute padding.

Coming back from winter break, our first project in woodwinds was to do a playing condition repair on our project clarinet and project flute we had handed in during the first semester. The goal was to get them up to speed again, as if they were an instrument that came into the shop for its yearly maintenance. We evaluated what had to be fixed, fixed it, then went after things we maybe didn't like (but that didn't affect the playability of the horn) if there was time. I finished up my clarinet pretty quickly, and was very happy with how things were working. Riding that wave of confidence, I set out on my flute! Started out good. Padding was 3-5 times as fast as before, and things were mostly sealing. Exciting! I still have a couple to finish up, right now, and only really got stuck on one. This time I'm getting my friends and teacher to check my work and help out more, instead of spacing out at my bench when I get frustrated. So far it's helping, and I am much happier with my work than the first round when I did the complete overhaul.

...What complete overhaul? Oh, right. This one. Here is my long-overdue post of my first-ever flute repad!
Lots of pictures! Here we go: First after chem flush and silver dip was key fitting. 

After fitting keys, I started padding. First, setting the pad protrusion by measuring the gap between pad iron and pad cup using my handy-dandy set of auto feeler gauges. 
As you can see, right after installing, the bladder skin on flute pads will be wrinkled. If tested for seal as-is, there would be tiny little leaks where the folds happen, and that is NOT ok! So... 

...we iron them!

A little water on the pad turns to steam, working like a clothes iron to smooth it out before leveling to the pad cup. 


One way to level the pad cup to the tone hole and create a  better seal is to flex the pad cup. The white plastic leveling tools protect the pad from the edge of the tone hole as the cup is flexed down by hand.

I tested every pad with a feeler gauge to find leaks, and then marked their location with a permanent marker. We used the pad cups like a clock face to reference where the leaks are in relation to the arm. So this one leaks from 10 to about 2 o'clock.

To seal small leaks, little paper shims as thin as  0.001" are installed behind the pad to push it out to conform to the tone hole. Because of the way they are made, student line flutes will rarely have tone holes that are perfectly level all the way around. See where this particular pad was leaking, though? Around the 12:00 area? In that case you should not use partial shims to fill the leak, but rather install more full shims first to bring the overall protrusion out. Alas... did not learn that lesson until we were just about done.

When I get into a project sometimes I tend to be stubborn and keep digging away on something when it doesn't cooperate, rather than ask questions and try something else. One of my least-favorite sayings is "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results" ...most likely because I'm guilty of trying it anyways. I learned a big lesson with this project, and definitely experienced padding insanity. The leaks! Aaaa... But really things have been much better with my playing condition. Back to the overhaul:

Besides flexing the pad cups by hand, another option (depending on which way and how far it needs to move) is to brace with leveling tools, then tap to flex! Mr. Key, meet Mr. Hammer.

Here's a shot of a disassembled key being put back together. This is the A, the Bb key slips on over the hinge rod shown above. A tiny steel knock-pin, inserted through the hole in the hinge rod holds the Bb in place.

After all the pads are shimmed, we set a slight impression in them by baking them in the pad oven while lightly clamping the keys shut with clips.

Ding! Pads are done. This is the oven at school :)

Assembly blooper! The thumb assembly is a closed key, right? Woops.

Swedging the head joint tenon to shrink it down for an easier fit.

The beauty ring at the body tenon got knocked loose, so I got to fix it. The first thing I EVER soldered! 

See the problem? The tenon fits fine in the socket, but leaves an ugly gap with the foot joint when assembled.  These rings are separate pieces slid onto the flute and soldered in place. They somewhat protect the flute where they are attached, but are mostly for appearance. Hence: "beauty rings."

Ok... technically the first thing I ever soldered. After tapping the ring back into place with a hammer and plastic wedge, I was able to just flux and reheat the existing solder to hold the ring in place.

Back where it should be!

Much better!

One of the last steps--sealing the head cork before installing it in the head joint. We used paraffin wax to coat the outside.

Then spun the cork in the bench motor, burning (melting) the wax in to the cork with a strip of leather.

There's my first flute overhaul! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mouthpipe-ectomy and Reconstructive Surgery

Mouthpipe project! We all had to remove, disassemble and replace the mouthpipe  on a trumpet as part of our grade in the brass lab. The replacement mouthpipe was cut to length from the yellow brass Allied universal mouthpipe. Like I posted earlier, I had to replace the mouthpipe on what was also my project trumpet, and ended up turning the whole thing in for both grades. I took tons of pictures, basically step-by-step, so without further ado...

Preparing to remove the mouthpipe assembly. There are a number of ways you can unsolder it,  I chose to remove the mouthpipe assembly, then the braces.

I slipped business cards (background) between the solder joints where the front and rear mouthpipe-to -bell braces contacted the mouthpipe assembly, then lifted the it off while heating the final solder joint at the casing-to mouthpipe brace.  I used a drumstick to hold it and not burn my hand on the still-toasty parts.

Then I heated the s-braces and gently knocked them into a water bucket to remove them. Last to go was the casing-to-mouthpipe brace which I lifted off with a pair of pliers while heating. Once the mouthpipe assembly was removed, it was disassembled into 4 parts: receiver, outer upper main tuning slide tube, finger hook, and mouthpipe.

All the pieces, wiped to tin and ready for cleanup

All of the parts to be re-used were sanded and buffed to remove any burnt lacquer and tinning.

I used a pipe-cutter to shorten the wider end of the new universal mouthpipe. I also had to sand off the smaller end to achieve the appropriate inside diameter for that end of the mouthpipe.

Our guide for length was the original mouthpipe

To fit the receiver to the new mouthpipe, I used brass shims for a nice, snug joint.

The gap between the outer main slide tube and mouthpipe was a bit larger, so I expanded the mouthpipe at the end using a Morse #1 taper. I over-expanded slightly, so scraped the outside of the mouthpipe down to size. Doing so can actually provide a better fit than just expanding. I then used brass shims to fill the rest of the gaps and remove any wobble between the parts.

All ready to solder! It was important to constantly check for alignment when constructing the new mouthpipe assembly. Lookin' good here, huzzah!

Soldered, and wiped to tin! (practice bell for dents in the background)

Everything cleaned up, buffed, and ready to be reattached! 

This part of the project went by fast! It was neat to start putting together a lot of our skills on one project. While I had to wait to use a solder bench or particular tool, I could always go take more dents out of the bell or slides or... well that was mostly what I had to do on this horn. Some of the dents took more time and care, like where the s-braces had pushed into the bell (see above--here it has been restored already) especially near the narrow end of the stem. TOUGH! But like I said, it was awesome to put my new knowledge to use and make this trumpet better. More mouthpipe project to come, including an unforeseen structural issue! Stay tuned.