Valve Alignment Tool
Who’s seen one of these old-school valve alignment tools before? I bought it a few years ago, and it works, but a couple of the horns I aligned played better before messing with them, and I switched the pads back to how they were. Either it was because I was used to them that way, or they actually played better with a small amount of mis-alignment.
Play better or sound better? I got a horn back from a PVA and swear it sounded darker before, which I preferred. And, although theoretically the PVA "blueprinted" it, I don't think it played btter than before, also.
If I remember correctly (it’s been a year or two since I did it), I noticed more of a difference in response than anything else. I left it that way for a few weeks and never warmed up to the change. I did the alignment on 4 or 5 instruments - one was perfect the way it was so I didn’t change anything, one or two seemed to play better, and one or two played worse to me.
I have also had mixed results with PVA and gap - regardless if I did it or I had my artisan of preference do it.
What ALWAYS worked was a complete disassembly of the horn - unsoldering EVERYTHING soft soldered, reassembling without jigs or tension applied to the parts, solder cleanup and polish inside, then valve job, PVA/gap.
I believe that there is a short and long term "break in" of the horn and player. Short term, it is wear/mechanical (valves/slides) for the hardware and acclimation of the player. Long term it is tempre, wear (gap, leaky slides and valves) and the training of preferences in our ears/brain. Those preferences can be blow, sound, color or intonation - all being related.
tmd last edited by tmd
Play better or sound better?
Good question. I had a tech do a PVA on my 1965 Strad. I felt the horn sounded and played about the same afterwards. (I realize this is a subjective statement.)
My issue was with the way the valves worked after the PVA. The firm rubber pads used with a PVA are relatively noisy. In addition, the second valve on this horn would hang all the time after the PVA, and improved after I removed the PVA. Of note, this valve has always been a bit fickle, and requires a little TLC to operate smoothly. It's been evaluated, and the horn has been disassembled as part being refurbished, with no definitive answer for the valve issue. However the PVA made it worse.
So for me, the PVA made the valves more noisy. And the PVA made a fickle valve operate worse. I removed the PVA. The valves are quieter with stock felt pads. And the second valve operates more smoothly.
How do you remove a PVA?
Yeah, my homegrown valve alignments weren’t PVA, in the sense that I didn’t use rubber “felts”. I just used an assortment of regular felts to do mine. I wasn’t worried about any long term felt compression - I could tell right away if I liked the result, and kept the old felts in the correct order in case I needed to undo the new alignment.
Yeah, I think if you go for a pva you need a pro to do it.
I have been doing my own visual alignments for some years, I use a No 0 dental mirror ($4) and a single led Book light ($2), the second thing I do on a secondhand horn after a good cleaning.
2 examples come to mind, a Bach 1964 Mt Vernon Large bore purchased from a local shop on consignment from the estate of the original owner, it had been serviced by the shop, cleaned and new felts fitted.On getting it home I did not feel it lived up to the hype the Mt Vernons receive. Checking the valve alignment all valves werre out in the up position, rectifing this made a great player, all my friends that have tried it want it.
Purchased a 1941 York Custom from an on line dealer I had several transactions with, it arrived with a note saying "I hope you are happy with it, it does not play very well", this was an understatement, there was no note center at all! The valves were a long way out of alignment, rectifyng made it playable but I was not happy with it, the notes now centered but the tone was dull and lifeless, it had at one stage had the leadpipe bent and straightened not very well, the rear brace resoldered with an excess of solder, on heating up to remove the excess solder the brace let go with a loud pop as the tension was released, plays much better now.
One of these days I will dismantle the whole horn and reassemble stress free.
Valve alignment in most cases is a compromise, I have measured the difference in the spacing of the input and output ports of valves and found only 4 trumpets that I feel are within good engineering tolerance 0.002", coincidently they are my best players, 1949 Olds Super Recording Eclipse and Taylor with Bauerfine valves and 2020 Jerome Wiss 6/20.
I think that the word "precision" in trumpet valve alignment is not exactly accurate. We have a "huge" amount of play horizontally even if we get up and down right. I have never seen a "precision" valve guide that reduces that horizontal error to thousandths.
That being said, I think that the valves and slides being tight is even more critical. Many good players play much better with heavier valve oil - even if the player does not like the feel.
I use a cheap fiber optic endoscope to look at the bore and valves from the inside. Need to get the solder blobs and grime out too.
J. Jericho last edited by
It's not hard to get valves positioned as close to the factory design as possible. A small mirror, a focused light source, and shims, whether purchased or improvised/hand-made, combined with an intelligent approach and some time, will yield good results. If someone has limited manual skills, of course paying someone else that does have the skills to succeed to do the job makes sense.