Cleaning out long-unused French horn?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Little-Acorn, Mar 14, 2016.

  1. Little-Acorn

    Little-Acorn New Member

    Hi all,

    I'm new here, thanks for this great forum!

    I have a French horn I acquired new in 1963, played a lot for many years. About 17 years ago, had to stop playing for a while. Restarted about two years ago, and am slowly getting my chops back.

    When I restarted, I noticed the horn was playing very sharp, I had to keep the main tuning slide almost all the way out. So far that it sometimes fell out :eek:. This is about an inch farther out that it had always played, which is a lot for this horn. My friends tried it and got the same result.

    I had washed and snaked it out when I restarted. Then washed and cleaned it out (I think) using a snake and a lot of warm water again, about six months later. After that second cleanout, it was a little less sharp, though the slide was still out like 3/4" or so more than in the good old days.

    I suspect that over the 15 years I didn't play it, some crud dried hard on the inside of the horn, reducing its effective volume and making it go sharp. The first cleanout didn't penetrate the superhard crud, and it stayed in place. The second cleanout was after six months of playing, and some of the crud may have softened a little and the snake brushed it out. But I suspect there's still some in there.

    I'm about to clean and snake it out again. My question is, is there anything I can use (cleaning fluid or soap or dishwashing liquid or whatever) that will help get that crud out of there without damaging the horn? Is there any cleaning fluid specifically designed for brass instruments? I can let it soak a long time (days) if needed.

    It's a Mirafone "Siegfried" model double horn, gold-brass alloy, they made a few of them back in the late 50s and early 60s, yes that's how the company name is spelled on it. Ring around the bell, engraved valve caps a la Alexander (but they are original Mirafone) still has the original hard-rubber "corks" in the valves (quite a novelty in 1963), it's a much better horn than I am a player.

    Thanx all!
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    May be a simple matter of leaving it to soak for much longer ... ?
  3. simonbassbone

    simonbassbone Member

    Would be worth taking it to a local instrument repairer. Most of them are musicians as well so you could explain the issue and hopefully get a good result.
  4. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    I have no idea if this may cause any damage to such a venerable instrument, but some years ago I took over a euphonium that had not been thoroughly cleaned for five years or more and asked a top player and clinician for advice which was as follows:
    Soak in a bath with plenty of milk!
    Rinse out
    Soak in a bath with plenty of vinegar
    Rinse out
    Soak in a really hot bath to clean all the above fluids.
    It worked for the euph.
  5. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Just one thing to add... be careful with really hot water and lacquered instruments.
    Silver plate its not a problem, but lacquer doesn't like really hot water.
  6. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    The euph was silver plated
  7. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Was more a note for the OP incase his horn is lacquered...
  8. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    You could try putting it in a tub to soak and throwing in a bunch of Sterident tablets (or whatever dentures cleaning tablets you can find). They won't damage the lacquer, and are very good, with all those bubbles and fizzing, at releasing scale and tarnish and whatnot. I'd throw the whole tube of tablets in if you're using a bath. Then give it a good run through with the snake.
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  9. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Ultrasonic cleaning is what you need. Many repairers have machines big enough to take a tuba so your horn should be no problem. It is non invasive and gets into all the knuckles and narrow tubing.
  10. mat_spedding

    mat_spedding New Member

    Slider1 likes this.
  11. Little-Acorn

    Little-Acorn New Member

    Well, I cleaned it out again in a fairly straightforward way: A little dishwashing liquid down the bell, start filling it from the bell with warm (not hot) water, give it an occasional shot of dishwashing liquid was the water wound its way thru. Had to aspirate it a few times to get the water thru the valve tubes etc until it was flowing strongly with its own weight. Then stopped up the lead pipe and let it soak all day. That evening, snaked out all parts, rinsed it real good, let clean warm water flow it for 15 minutes or so. Dried everything, cleaned and greased the slides, put the handguard back on, fini.

    It is almost back to its original pitch (tuning slide almost where it belongs). And right now it's in the hands of The Windsmith of San Diego, to iron out that big dent and re-solder a broken joint where two tubes cross.

    Thanks so much for all the help, friends. Time will probably come when I go for an ultrasonic cleaning, and/or try those dental tablets.

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