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!