Friday, July 24, 2015

Maintaining Monel and Stainless Steel Trumpet Valves

Trumpet maintenance tips: Monel and Stainless Steel Piston Valve Care

Most modern trumpet valves (pistons) are made of a steel alloy, either Monel (primarily composed of nickel and copper, with small amounts of iron, manganese, carbon, and silicon)1 or stainless steel (usually 316 stainless composed mainly of chromium and nickel with a few percent of molybdenum and manganese and traces of silicon, carbon, nickel and phosphorus)2. These materials are known for their resistance to corrosion and wear. 316 stainless is especially resistant to pitting and corrosion.

Even though modern valves are made of tough materials and can resist corrosion, they can still get stained with contaminants from our breath (especially calcium and other mineral deposits), food particles, bacteria buildup, and residues from dried petroleum valve oils. The stains or other contaminants will cause the valve to stick since the contamination will close the very small space between the piston and its casing, often less than 0.001 inches (0.02mm). You can see really bad contamination and staining in this picture. These valves will surely stick and would require chemical cleaning to be restored to working condition.

Traditional petroleum valve oils (made from a petroleum distillate such as kerosene or liquid paraffin) will evaporate quickly, leaving behind black or blue residues which are difficult to remove. These residues can cause very tight-fitting valves to stick. You will also need to oil the valves frequently, especially in hot weather.

Synthetic valve oils such as Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil do not evaporate so quickly, and they do not leave behind any residues which would cause sticking. Synthetic oils are commonly used in automotive engines today since they last so much longer and keep your engine cleaner. Synthetic oil for your trumpet pistons offers the same benefits -- longer lasting lubrication and cleaner valves.

Here is a picture of Monel valves which have been oiled with only Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil for the past 25 years. They look great and they work great. These are from a Monette Bb trumpet made in Chicago around 1989.

Stainless steel pistons have a slightly smoother surface texture and are more sensitive to oils. They work best with a synthetic valve oil since the oil seems to wet the surface better and does not leave any stains or residues behind. Here is a photo of new stainless steel valves from CarolBrass®. Oiling regularly with Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil (or our Ultra-Light Valve Oil) will keep these pistons looking like new and working well for years to come.

We recommend that you oil your valves every day by pulling a piston all the way out of the casing and dripping a few drops of oil onto the piston surface. Carefully put the piston back in the casing and lock the valve guide into place. Tighten the valve cap, and move on to the next valve. It takes only a few minutes to oil them properly, and the oil will also help to remove any grime or other contamination that might be building up. Once each few months give the valves and the entire trumpet a good cleaning with warm soapy water so all the inner surfaces stay perfectly clean. See our tips on how to clean your trumpet here.

If you are switching to Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil from a petroleum valve oil such as Al Cass "Fast", Blue Juice, etc., we recommend that you first clean your horn as best you can. There is no bad reaction with these petroleum products when you first apply Ultra-Pure, but our oils will tend to dissolve and clean out the dried up residues that the other oils left behind. This clean-up period can last a few weeks and you may see some light grey residue coming out the water key. Keep oiling the valves and this will clear up on its own.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to clean and oil your plastic trumpet from TROMBA (or Allora)

This blog shows you how to clean and oil your plastic trumpet. We are showing the TROMBA (also called Allora in the USA), but you can follow these instructions for any brand of plastic trumpet or any brass trumpet since the steps will all be the same.

1. Take it apart and put all parts in a sink or bucket.
2. Fill the sink with warm, soapy water. I recommend a clear dish-washing liquid.
3. Use the flexible snake to clean all the tubing on the body of the instrument.
4. Use the flexible snake to clean all the tuning slides. Don't try to force the snake around the tight bends of the smaller slides.

5. Scrub the valve casings with the straight brush. Use extra soap on the brush to clean inside the casings.
6. Scrub the valve surface with the straight brush, using plenty of soapy water. Clean the valve ports with the tapered brush. While you are at it, also clean the mouthpiece with the tapered brush.

7. Rinse all the parts and let them dry.
8. Use Ultra-Pure Regular Tuning Slide Lube to grease all the slides and put them back into the body of the instrument. Also, put the bottom valve caps back on the horn.
9. Use Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil to oil the valve surface. Use enough oil to coat the valve, about 3 to 5 drops.
10. When you put the valves back into the casings, note that they have numbers (1, 2, 3) on the valve stems. There is a valve guide that has a wide and narrow part and will fit into the casing in a matching wide or narrow slot. Note that on the TROMBA or Allora trumpet, the 1st and 2nd valves have the narrow valve guide on the bell side, but the 3rd valve is opposite and has the narrow valve guide on the leadpipe side. This picture shows the numbers on the valve stems.
11. After everything is back together, blow some air through the horn and press each valve. If the air stops, then one or more valves are in backward.

A note about the break-in period for valves

The valves on your new plastic trumpet might be a bit stiff and slow. This is normal for a new student trumpet since the valves are not so perfectly fitted at the factory. You will have to wipe off the valves and swab the valve casings every day to clean off metals that are wearing down due to friction. Use plenty of valve oil during the break-in period. After a week or two of doing this and giving the horn a really good cleaning, the valves should feel fine and will move easily and quickly. You will know when they are broken in when there is no more black residue on the valves.

Purchase our basic lube kit. It comes with a bottle of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil and a jar of our Regular Tuning Slide Lube.

or on eBay:


You can watch the complete cleaning and oiling on YouTube:

Have fun with your new plastic trumpet!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gifts for Trumpet Players, Trombone Players, French Horn Players, Tuba Players

At Ultra-Pure Oils, we make several nice products that any brass player would love to find in his or her stocking or for a birthday or other special occasion! Here are a few great gift ideas that are all low cost.

Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil: This is the most popular product for brass players since they use it almost every day. Buy a pack of 4 and it will last the whole year.

Ultra-Pure Trombone Slide Lube: For the trombone player, they will want the lubricant designed specifically for the trombone slide, and this lube is amazing! Easy to use and long lasting.
Ultra-Pure Deluxe Care Kits: Brass instruments need occasional cleaning, and it takes special brushes to do it right. Ultra-Pure Deluxe Care Kits have all the special brushes, and come with the best lubricants! All our care kits also come with our extra-large microfiber polishing cloth and instructions. We have care kits for trumpet, trombone, french horn, and low brass (baritone, euphonium, tuba).

Ultra-Pure Lube Kits: For a simple gift, consider a bottle of valve oil plus a few of our tuning slide greases. We pack these in Lube Kits for trumpet, trombone, and french horn.

Ultra-Pure Oils products are all non-toxic, odorless, synthetic, and long-lasting. They are used by the pros, including Wynton Marsalis, Arturo Sandoval, Chris Botti, Alison Balsom, Joe Alessi, and so many more!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to break in new trumpet or cornet valves

When you first get your new instrument, the valves can feel sluggish or a little gritty. This is normal, since the valves may not be perfectly clean or fitted to the valve casing.  You will have to take very good care of the valves during the break-in period, usually taking about 2 to 4 weeks.

The first thing to do is to remove the valve from the casing and wipe it off with a clean cloth.
You can see from this photo that there is a lot of black grime that came off the new valve. The black stuff consists of tiny particles of metal and polishing or lapping compounds used in the manufacturing process.  Of course, there will be the same black grime inside the valve casing, so wrap a clean cloth around the valve casing rod and swab out the casing. When you wrap the rod, make sure there is no exposed metal, or you could scratch the casing. Blow off any cloth fibers after wiping and swabbing the valves.

Then, use plenty of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil to coat the valve and put it back into the casing.

During the break-in period, you will need to do this EVERY DAY.  You will know when the break-in period is over. The valves will feel fast and smooth, and there won’t be any more black grime coming off the metals. 

I also recommend washing a new brass instrument once a week for the first month. Use your valve casing brush and plenty of cool, soapy water to scrub out the casing.  Use a clear dishwashing liquid detergent (like Lemon Joy) and rinse it thoroughly.  I recommend using an old toothbrush with a little detergent to scrub the surface of the valve, since the toothbrush can’t scratch the metal. Run a snake through the valve slide tubes to make sure no grime is still stuck there. Rinse everything and apply fresh oil and tuning slide lube.

If you break in your valves carefully, they will be in excellent condition and will be ready for years of music making! 

If you need the special brushes used to clean a trumpet or cornet, you can find them at your local music store or at our website, here. 

Ultra-Pure Oils makes fine lubricants and accessories for musicians. Shop Ultra-Pure for trumpet valve oil, trombone slide oil or lube, tuning slide lube, slide grease, rotary valve oil, key oil, trumpet, horn, trombone, and low brass care kits, cork grease, microfiber polishing cloths and more!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Clean and Oiled Horn is a Happy Horn!

You know the feeling --- you are trying to play your best and suddenly your valve or slide sticks. It is almost as bad as the feeling you get when you are playing with a mute and it falls out of your bell and crashes onto the floor!  Well, read on and I can tell you how to solve both of these problems.
Tip #1: Oil your valves and lube your slides even if they seem to be working fine.  The space between the valve and its casing is truly microscopic. All it takes is a bit of grime or dirt to make the valve hesitate or stick. By oiling every day or two, you will help to remove any buildup before it becomes a problem. At Ultra-Pure Oils, we recommend that you remove your valve from the casing and use plenty of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil to coat the valve and to remove any grime. The best time to do this is just before you put your horn away for the day, so the valves are stored in oil, not in saliva. If your valve is sticking all the time, no matter how clean it is, then take your horn to a brass technician for repair.

Trombone slides are also built to very tight tolerances and need daily lubricating. Wipe off the inner slide and swab the outer slide with your cleaning rod and a clean cloth. Then apply a few drops of Ultra-PureTrombone Slide Lube to the stockings. If the slide is dented or out of parallel, take it to your brass technician for repair.

Tip #2: Grease your tuning slides once a week. Tuning slide lubes or greases will break down with oil and moisture. If you don’t have grease on the slide, it can form a green “rust” and start to corrode or wear the slide.  And if you move the slide without being greased, you are rubbing a soft metal (brass) directly on a metal sleeve, often made of nickel silver, which can eventually cause wear and leakage.  If the slides get leaky, the instrument will not play too well, and the tuning slide can even slip during a performance, making you play out of tune. Use Ultra-Pure RegularTuning Slide Lube or our Tuning Slide& Cork Grease for the main tuning slide and slides that need to stay in place. Use Ultra-Pure Light TuningSlide Lube for the slides that need to move quickly for slight tuning adjustments, like the 1st and 3rd slides on trumpets and cornets. If the tuning slide is badly worn and leaking, you can use Ultra-Pure Heavy Tuning Slide Lube to seal the leak and make it stick in place.

Tip #3: Use Ultra-Pure Heavy Tuning Slide Lube to prevent your mute from falling out! Just put a tiny amount of this heavy lube onto the mute corks. This lube is so sticky, that it is practically glue. It will really keep the mute in tight and will also quiet the squeak that can happen when you twist the mute into the bell.

The bottom line: Keep your horn clean and oiled, and you will be able to enjoy it for many years to come.

Ultra-Pure Oils makes fine lubricants and accessories for musicians. Shop Ultra-Pure for trumpet valve oil, trombone slide oil or lube, tuning slide lube, slide grease, rotary valve oil, key oil, trumpet, horn, trombone, and low brass care kits, cork grease, microfiber polishing cloths and more!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to oil rotary valves of french horn, rotary trumpet, trombone triggers

Rev. Oct 2017

Oiling the rotary valves, also called rotors, of the horn, french horn, rotary trumpet, trombone triggers, tubas or other brass instrument is simple, but you will need three kinds of oils and a tuning slide grease.

Ultra-Pure Oils offers a complete lube kit for rotary valves, pictured below (click on any photo to enlarge).

This lube kit has all the oils and grease you will need to keep your instrument lubricated. Even if your valves feel good, you should oil them once a week.

Let's start with oiling the bearings. There is a top and bottom shaft that rotates in a hole as you move the valve lever. This rotating shaft is called the bearing or spindle.

Remove the valve caps and use the Light Bearing Oil to oil one end of this bearing.While you have the valve caps off, oil the threads with the Linkage, Lever & Key Oil.

Next, oil the other end of the bearing. It is oiled in the small gap in the valve mechanism. Again,  use the Light Bearing Oil. A drop in each gap is all you need.

After the bearings are oiled, pull your tuning slides out a few inches without pressing the valve levers. This creates a little suction and pulls some oil into the bearing surfaces.

Next, oil the linkages and levers.  Put a drop of the Ultra-Pure Linkage, Lever & Key Oil on each side of the lever key and also the springs.

Oil any moving linkages, ball joints, rockers, or other moving parts. Afterward, wipe off any excess oils.

Now you will oil the surface of the rotary valve (the rotor). Remove one of the tuning slides and hold the horn so the slide tubes are pointing upward. Put 3-5 drops of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil down each slide tube and move the valve lever a few times to spread the oil. Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil is the lightest of these three oils. There is very little space between the rotor and its casing, so you need to use a very light oil.

Finally, grease each tuning slide. The valve oil tends to remove your tuning slide lube or slide grease over time, so put a fresh coating on each week. Just get a dab of lube on your fingers and rub it into the slide. After reinserting the slide, wipe off any excess grease with a tissue or paper towel.

That's it! By oiling your instrument weekly, you will be protecting the valves, rotors, and mechanical parts from wear and will be able to enjoy your horn for years to come.

Ultra-Pure Oils makes fine lubricants and accessories for musicians. Shop Ultra-Pure for trumpet valve oil, trombone slide oil or lube, tuning slide lube, slide grease, rotary valve oil, key oil, trumpet or trombone care kits, cork grease, microfiber polishing cloths and more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Development of Ultra-Pure Rotary Valve Oils

We have been thinking about new products at Ultra-Pure Oils for quite some time. Every now and then, we are asked if we make rotary valve oils. Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil works great on the rotor surface (a few drops down the slide tubing), but we did not have the thicker oil needed for the bearings (also called spindles) and the even thicker oil for the mechanical linkages.

Well, a few months ago, a very important customer asked us to develop these oils and we did quite a bit of research. We asked horn professionals and top brass technicians what they recommend. They all pretty much agreed that it takes three distinct oils to lubricate the rotary valves, and they all liked Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil as the rotor oil. They gave us the most valuable suggestions on how to oil these delicate valve mechanisms. This diagram, modified from the Paxman website gives a good overview.

Oiling Rotary Valves / Oiling Rotors

It also took us some time to find the best way to package these new oils! Rotary valve bearings and linkages have to be oiled in tiny spots, with only a few millimeters clearance. So you really need a needle tip or a very long plastic tip to do a good job. There are very few choices for needle oiler bottles, but we found a good source. We had to wait for samples and then had color choices to make. We turned to our friends on Facebook (what are friends for!) and asked for their suggestions. Red and Blue were the favorites! The company I worked with even made us a custom color of blue which we appreciated very much.

We had to design new labels and we even bought a label applicator machine to make things easier.
This cool manual label applicator is from, and we highly recommend it. It is built to last and makes quick work of applying labels to round bottles. Our labels are completely oil-resistant and come from Lightning Labels.

Of course, the development of the actual oils was the primary challenge. At Ultra-Pure Oils, all our oils are synthetic, non-toxic and odorless, so these new oils also had to meet this requirement. Once we found the oil and tested it, we knew we had a winner (I'm not going to show the designed experiment with all the blends and trials, but they were extensive and took several weeks to complete).  I have a nice rotary trumpet from J. Scherzer but the valves tend to "freeze" after sitting in the case for 2-3 weeks. So  I cleaned the valves completely and applied the new oils. Three weeks later -- if I press the valve levers ever so lightly, I can feel the valves move absolutely freely and easily. No sticking! This never happened before with this horn! Players are going to love this stuff!

Finally, the products were all done. Bottles, labels, and oils arrived in bulk, and I had pre-orders to fill. You can find them now at our web store and on ebay!

Ultra-Pure Light Bearing Oil (for the top and bottom bearing or spindle) and Ultra-Pure Linkage, Lever & Key Oil for all the mechanical levers, linkages, ball joints, hinges, keys, triggers, etc. If your bearings are worn, use the heavier Linkage, Lever & Key Oil. And if the rotors are worn, use the Light Bearing Oil instead of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil on the rotors.  Use the Linkage, Lever & Key Oil on all woodwind keys (use very sparingly on woodwinds).

The Light Bearing Oil also works great on "classic" cornets and trumpets where the valves are quite worn and leaky. This thicker oil is just perfect for sealing the space between the valve and the casing.

Welcome to the Ultra-Pure family, guys!

Visit our website at and take a look around!

Update 2/23/2017:  Our bottles have changed a little over the past few years and now we use long plastic tips on the Light Bearing Oil and the Linkage, Lever & Key Oil.  Both these bottles now have child-safety caps to meet the strictest regulations for light oils.  The Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil label now says "for Pistons or Rotors".   We also upgraded our label equipment to an electric label applicator for much faster labeling (1200 bottles per hour).

Ultra-Pure Oils makes fine lubricants and accessories for musicians. Shop Ultra-Pure for trumpet valve oil, trombone slide oil or lube, tuning slide lube or grease, rotary valve oil, key oil, trumpet or trombone care kits, cork grease, microfiber polishing cloths and more!