Hi folks, thanks as always for reading. I thought today we’d do something a little different. I like to seep you all up to date on my endeavors, and I’ve recently embarked on my latest restoration project, and wanted to tell you about it.
I recently acquired this vintage King tuba (originally from the King plant in OH, if my sources are accurate), and I’m making a project of restoring it. You can see from the photograph that it’s pretty old-looking, but the folks who owned it before me took pretty good care of the outer finish. The innards are a completely different story. I’m not super surprised, given that they weren’t musicians. Still, short of a wasps’ nest, I don’t know exactly what in god’s green earth got into this old thing.
Now, any vintage piece like this isn’t going to be a concert regular these days, since brass instruments don’t age like a violin, say, or a cello. Still, I want to get it up and playable for the Preservation’s anniversary concert next spring.
So, here’s the plan. I’m going to give this puppy a nice, thorough cleaning, strip it down, work on each component until they’re all ship shape, replace the ones that can’t be salvaged (the mouthpiece doesn’t look promising) with something period, and then tune ‘er up!
With these old ones, you can’t always be sure of the condition when you buy them, because most folks don’t play them to assess value. So, I wasn’t too surprised to see some corrosion and gunk in the valves and fittings when I got mine, even though some of the other parts of the bell were buffed to a mirror.
Anyway, stage one is going to be a thorough, intense cleaning.
Here’s where the purists and I disagree. If you’re just going to keep an instrument on a shelf its whole life, then sure-be extra careful. Get a glass case and polish it gently. But I don’t think that’s the point of owning an instrument. Even if I’m not planning to take this King on tour, I want it to be alive, a real testament to its glory days.
So, I’m taking a different approach. Enter the air compressor. Now, I know this might sound a little crazy at first, but using air to clean the innards is a lot less dangerous than fiddling around in there with tools, and it usually does a better job at dust on antiques. I’m about to get the new one in the mail-it’s a smaller portable unit, but I think it’ll do the trick nicely. If you’re in the market at all, I can’t recommend this site highly enough: http://aircompressors.reviews/quiet, or just the homepage, aircompressors.reviews. Sorts out all the small air compressor brands for someone like me, who isn’t exactly a regular power tool user. I’ll be using air power to clear the pipes, fitting a rubber nozzle over the mouthpiece and cranking things up slowly to make sure all the fittings are holding up.
Next is taking apart all the valves and finger pieces. That’s going to be a more laborious process without a doubt. But once I coax everything apart, I’ll be blasting those off to clear the dust and gunk, then soaking them in a good restoration metal solution I’ve got from a friend who lives in Germany.
Once that’s all finished, I’ll start putting her all back together again! And yes, it is a her. Not quite sure on a name yet, but I’m thinking something stately. Doris? Let me know in the comments.
Well, I should be starting on this expedition shortly, so look out for updates!