Corrosion on a Lacquer-Finish Trombone

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Mar 17, 2019.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    A while back I posted some pictures of a second-hand Selmer Bb trombone which I'd bought. I've been told (on a bone forum), Selmer use a rather soft lacquer on their brass, which scratches very easily - and then the brass underneath corrodes. The problem is, as I found on mine, the corrosion doesn't limit itself to the scratch, but spreads sideways under the lacquer - which then means that 1. you can't polish it off; and 2. it carries on eating into the brass.
    This is what my bone looked like at the time of purchase, when I was trying paint stripper to remove the lacquer (it didn't even soften it!):
    upload_2019-3-17_23-1-16.png

    The pale green stripes and flecks are the green verdigris showing through the lacquer; the white gloppy stuff is the paint 'remover'.

    Second picture shows what I found when I managed to shift some of the lacquer with extremely hot water and a pot scourer (a painfully slow and laborious job):

    upload_2019-3-17_23-4-47.png

    The areas enclosed in a pale outline show where the corrosion had been eating downwards into the brass, and the pale line is the shelf at the edge of the corroded area. Granted, at that time it was probably only a few thousandths of an inch deep, but the brass is not that thick to start with - and if I hadn't stripped the lacquer off, it would have carried on eating away at the brass until it punctured it.

    The third picture shows what it looks like, tonight.

    upload_2019-3-17_23-10-0.png

    I still have a lot of lacquer to clear from the fiddly bits, but by far the worst of the corrosion was on the bell, so I went for that first. Brasso is not the finest of polishes, and I will switch to a more delicate one once I've got down to bright metal; but even if I never achieve the mirror finish that the pro brass repairers can achieve on their buffing mops, at least I'll have killed off the corrosion and will be able to keep it at bay.

    I've also bought a little pot of 'Renaissance' Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish to try, once I've got it up to a decent shine. Unlike things like beeswax, this stuff finishes up absolutely dry, so when you touch the surface, it doesn't smear, doesn't leave fingerprints, and doesn't leave your fingers waxy. It's used by some of the fussiest curators in the world - the staff of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

    I'll let you know how I get on with it.

    Jack E

    MTA - all of the above begs the question; if brass instrument makers routinely offer EVERY other instrument used in brass bands in silver plate - why are trombones the exception? Many good makers sell top quality bones in lacquer only, so if you want the far more durable silver finish, your only option is to get a pro instrument finisher to strip the lacquer, repolish it, and then plate it - at a cost running into hundreds!
    I've asked lots of people about this, and NONE of them have ever come up with an answer that makes any sense at all.
     
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  2. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

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    I suspect it's probably simple supply and demand - if there's very little demand, the shops won't spend money on stocking them and the manufacturers won't make them.

    FWIW, I own both silver and lacquered instruments, they both have their ups and downs in my opinion... old silver can wear through with use and some (like on an old Getzen I have) can bubble up too - and on older instruments the clear lacquers make it easier to see the condition of the underlying brass (silver can hide redrot, you'll see it clearly on lacquered instruments).

    I'm not sure what you're seeing is a corrosion that's likely to cause major issues - raw brass will tarnish with time, but it takes years of prolonged contact with acidic skin to start visibly wearing it down.
     
  3. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    I don't see that it can be 'supply and demand', Tom; there's only two tenor trombones used per band, but the same is true of baritones, euphs, Eb basses and Bb basses - yet all of those are readily available in silver plate, and all of them cost far more to keep in stock than trombones.

    I don't dispute that raw brass takes a long time before corrosion will eat through it; I've had some historical re-enactment equipment made of thin brass sheet which lasted for years withouit anything worse than minor tarnishing, even though it was constantly exposed to rain, snow, burnt gunpowder (which is very corrosive!) and sweaty hands. What was very noticeable on my trombone was that the corrosion was working faster where it was underneath the lacquer than it was where it was exposed to the air.

    I had exactly the same with light alloy seat and mudguard brackets on my Harley-Davidson. The lacquer got a few very tiny cracks in it when I had to remove two securing bolts, and white crusty corrosion took off like galloping dry rot underneath the lacquer. When I buffed all the lacquer off with wire wool, and then polished it up with Solvol Autosol, it stayed shiny for months on end, even though I lived right on the coast.
     
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Wow Jack, what a result! What put you onto the idea of using wire wool?

    When you have done a bit more work on this instrument then it would be helpful to others if you would write up your lacquer removal, polishing and protecting techniques for others to potentially follow. Some simple sequential format would, I think, be ideal.

    With regard to silver plate on Trombones I believe that it is rarely offered because the bulk of Trombones (sold) are not played in Brass Bands but in Orchestras and Wind Bands instead. In those groups the (other) Brass instruments are rarely silver plated so the Trombones fall in with that. The bulk of commercially available Trombones are also made in the USA where there was effectively no Brass Band tradition and all standard instruments were either lacquered or raw Brass.
     
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  5. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    Sheer desperation!

    I will certainly do so.

    Now, that makes some sense to me, as I understand that neither cornets, tenor horns, baritones nor euphs are used in orchestras, and I believe I read elsewhere that orchestras use basses in the key of C or F, rather than Bb and Eb; if that is so, then the primary sales of cornets, tenor horns, baritones, euphs, Bb and Eb basses would be to brass bands - encouraging makers to at least offer the option of silver plate.

    Thanks for your detailed reply, 2nd tenor - it's been very helpful!

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
  6. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Jack, glad that my answer was of some assistance to you. I will try to answer the Tuba part of your comment:
    “Now, that makes some sense to me, as I understand that neither cornets, tenor horns, baritones nor euphs are used in orchestras, and I believe I read elsewhere that orchestras use basses in the key of C or F, rather than Bb and Eb; if that is so, then the primary sales of cornets, tenor horns, baritones, euphs, Bb and Eb basses would be to brass bands - encouraging makers to at least offer the option of silver plate.“

    With regard to Basses they are so very expensive that the rules get twisted a bit. An Orchestra will normally have just one Tuba player and that player will pick a suitable beast on which to play particular pieces; his (or her) parts are written in Bass Clef (so absolute pitches) rather than transposed treble clef. Tubas in F and C are (were?) the typical orchestral standards but the four valve Eb is also used by some very respected players. North American Wind Bands used to use both Eb and BBb Tubas, but the Eb has been mostly dropped now in favour of the BBb. Anyway, unlike other typical Brass Band Instruments and like Trombones Tubas are used in multiple types of music groups, you’ll also never see an F or CC Tuba in a Brass Band.
    Edit. I think that a visit to the Tuba section on eBay USA will confirm the BBb’s relatively high popularity (most popular Tuba ?) in the USA (Tubas | eBay).

    With regard to size it’s a case of ‘Horses for Courses’ I suppose, the smaller instruments are (in my experience) more flexible in most of what they can do and more sonorous but the BBb can hit those lowest of notes more easily and is a loud beast. Then, of course, you have the play what you have factor; Tubas are so expensive and bulky that it’s virtually impractical to have an assortment. I believe that the Orchestral players like to cover their needs by having an F or Eb plus a CC or BBb. An individual amateur buying their own Tuba out of their own pocket might not be so keen on having to outlay for more than one Tuba. (Edit. Note that outside of Brass and School Bands players almost always own their own instruments - for them playing a Tuba can be a very expensive hobby!!). For Brass (Silver) Bands the situation is different again, typically the Band buys the Tuba so the need for and cost of Silver Plate is considered in a very different way.

    As far as I know the Lacquered and the Silver Plate supply is based on customer demand, and as before the (international) bulk of customers happen to be those who demand/prefer the golden colour of Brass to that of Silver, ‘cause it matches the rest of the (Orchestras’s or Wind Band’s) Brass Section. Though Wyvern’s (Wessex) available selection contradicts me I suspect that, with the exception of traditional British names like Besson, the desires and needs of Brass (or rather Silver) Bands are just not significant enough to warrant having very expensive Tubas made in Silver plate and then held in stock against a potential sale - Silver plate also makes an already rather costly item quite noticeably more so. To my way of thinking it’s easier and better commercially to make and offer what will sell quickly and easily to the bulk of available customers - so lacquered Brass first.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    Worth bearing in mind market compositions here:

    Baritones, tenor horns, soprano cornets, BBb basses - British-style brass bands are the whole of the market
    Euphoniums, Bb cornets - British-style brass bands are much of the market

    For the other instruments (flugel, tenor trombone, bass trombone, Eb tuba), the pictures are more complex.

    The Eb tuba as preferred by brass bands is also seen widely in British orchestras, but there's a large overlap between the two sets of players. Internationally, tubas are sometimes seen in Eb, but more often in C or F; the Eb tuba is largely a British preference, and the brass band market is important to that.
    The flugel is also found in various other ensembles and has a substantial following in jazz; with only one per brass band the market is important but not dominant, and with most favoured models coming from abroad, our interests struggle to catch the attention of manufacturers.

    Trombones have widespread musical roles to play outside of banding. The trombone appears in (but is not limited to): orchestras of various types, wind bands of various types, jazz groups of all sorts of types, etc etc
    Further, hardly any trombones are made in the UK, and those that are find it hard to establish any kind of a market presence, often getting a reputation for being rather substandard (e.g. few people tend to like the Besson Sovereign trombones and you hardly ever see them about in consequence). Rath is an obvious exception, but their boutique business model is about a high price point, low volume and attention to detail. The only maker I can think of that produces both well-liked trombones and band-only instruments is Yamaha.
    What I'm saying is that brass bands do not drive the trombone market, which contains more variety than the two types usually found in brass bands (large bore tenor and bass). The numerically most favoured tenor trombone models are all made in the States (Conn, Edwards, Bach, Holton), with only Rath making any dent in that national market dominance. Trombone players are not usually restricted to playing in brass bands and are usually also found turning out for all sorts of other ensembles. The finish is either not felt to be a matter of much importance amongst trombonists of my acquaintance (a large group covering a number of countries), or they can be prone to worrying unnecessarily about a different finish changing the sound (that's a rabbit-hole in itself - people convince themselves very easily that metal composition or lacquer does much more to the sound than it could possibly be doing). For whatever precise reasons, the expectation has become fixed of a lacquer finish (I suspect the answer lies with Conn's processes between the wars and their market dominance at that period followed by the wholesale British move to their trombones in the 50s and 60s), and we in brass bands do not have much cultural leverage to shift it. It is possible to buy trombones in silver plate, and they play fine. But people follow the herd.
     
  8. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    We needed a Silver Trom for our "Silver" Band and decided a King 3B was the one for us while the silver sonic solid silver bell was not a great idea. We contacted Band Supplies of Leeds who got a new King 3B in Lacquer and had it stripped and silver plated for us. Proper Job, excellent. Real service.
     
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    The SilverSonics are very prized in general, btw
     
  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Gosh, some enviable finances your Band has, does some member have a ‘rich Uncle’ ? ;-). I’d have been very pleased with a standard silversonic myself, near enough all silver for me and the two tone adds a bit of class - well to my taste anyway.

    A quick search for Silver plated Trombones didn’t turn up much but for those without (such) deep pockets the Yamaha YSL 354 is available in Silver. Whilst obviously lesser than a 3B some consider the 354’s to be ‘just’ student instruments, however given a reasonably able player they can deliver a lot of good music (all of what’s expected in community and lower section Bands, I believe). The YSL 354’s typically high second hand values (on eBay) might indicate that I’m not alone in that judgement.

    Whatever, the point David made is that if you want a Silver plated Trombone then good ones are available by special order and at a premium price - otherwise it’s a case of limited supply.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  11. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    Actually plating a lacquered brass King 3B was about £900 cheaper than the actual silver sonic with the solid silver bell.
     
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Apologies, I think that there must be some misunderstanding on my part and I don’t want to divert the thread further but rather clarify my reasoning. Sales details/literature can sometimes lead one to incorrect beliefs. Genuinely solid Silver (100% made of) items look the same as Silver plated but are specialist items that I have little interest or experience in (because they’re typically beyond my needs and my means). At the listed price the inference (to me) is that the King 3BS Silversonic must be the normal protective and decorative Silver Plate rather than actually Solid Silver.

    As I now look at the Band Supplies Web Site they list the King 3BS Silver Sonic at £2,200 and the King 3B Laquered at £2,257 (see: Tenor Trombones).
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
  13. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    £ 2 200 for a King 3b silversonic is a fantastic price. Especially if they have one in stock. Gear4music want £4755 and with none in stock they quote delivery next month.
     
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    If looking for one I would avoid retailers and be patient waiting around second-hand sites. It'll take longer but be mich cheaper.
     
  15. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    Location:
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    I don't think I would buy a second hand trombone, without trying it first. We have a Sovereign with a tiny blemish in the slide which everyone hates as it does not slide freely in one spot and the cost of repair is about the same as the value of the bone
     
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    You either have a very cheap Sovereign or a very expensive repairer! If you're cautious, buying without trying is not much of a risk.
     
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  17. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    @ Jack E.

    I realise it’s only around a week since you posted your first results but wonder whether there might have been any progress since then?
     
  18. Basstiger

    Basstiger Member

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    Location:
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    I agree with MoominDave above, I have bought
    Virtuosi Bb/F trombone
    B&H Imperial “flying globe” straight tenor
    Blessing Artist straight tenor
    Yamaha YSL 352 tenor
    Yamaha YBL 613H bass trombone all on eBay.....all untried and they were all good.
    I sold them all again on eBay for pretty much what I bought them for with the exception of the 352 which a friend of mine is still playing after about 10 years (bought on her behalf in the first place for the princely sum of £95)
    I also bought a Yamaha 682B “Bousfield” untried from the classifieds on here a few years ago. That was a beautiful instrument.
    I have settled down now and only own a 613H (not bought online and tried in the shop) and a B&H Imperial Euphonium (which I bought untried off eBay!)
     
  19. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    1,163
    Very little, I'm afraid! Though I do keep pegging away at it in odd moments.
    I've been offered a move from the flat I live in (a converted cart shed on a farm) to an adjacent flat which the farmer has just refurbished. Due to its location, I'll be able to practise in my living room all day during the week without disturbing any neighbours - but I'm taking the move as a motive for having a big clear out of all sorts of things which I haven't used for a few years (and never will again) as well as a lot of plain junk. Who'd have thought one very small flat could contain so MUCH??? Maybe I should hire one of those mini-skips . . .
    As I'm very happy with my baritone from John Packer, I've decided to give my old B & H Regent to the band for their loan stock - only I thought it only fair to give it a thorough clean first. I got some of that cleaning fluid from Bsharp that Mesmerist was very impressed with - but what a performance! Not because of the cleaner, which appears to be working well - but trying to get the liquid into all parts of the pipework.
    I don't have a bath (just a shower) and neither my plastic storage crates nor my dustbin was big enough to take the Regent. The least worst option I had was the vertical washing tub in my twin tub washing machine - and even then, a quarter of it was above the water level, so I've had to do it in two stages. The ideal would be a big container about 4 feet cube, so that I could turn it over and over (like they do with French horns) to get rid of all the trapped air. What a faff . . . :rolleyes:
    If I ever take up the Eb bass, when it needs a clean it's going to a repair shop! (unless I win the lottery and buy a place with an indoor swimming pool :D)

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
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