Chem Clean or Ultrasonic: Which is Best?

Brass instruments have traditionally been cleaned with a combination of soaps and chemical baths, accompanied by a good deal of hand scrubbing. In recent years ultrasonic cleaners have come into the picture, offering a different cleaning method. Which method gets your horn cleaner, which is safer for the horn (and you)?  How do you choose?

valves-beforeAs a brass instrument is played, deposits build up on the inner surfaces. These include old grease and oil, food particles, dental plaque and bacteria, calcium, and copper carbonate, the material formed by the reaction of the acids in your breath and the copper in the alloy. Copper carbonate builds up green, rock-hard deposits. It’s the primary cause of sticking and other action problems in rotary valve instruments. If the mouthpipe is brushed out once a week or so and the instrument is oiled frequently enough, a brass instrument can go for years between Chem/Ultrasonic cleanings. In actual practice, however, this rarely happens and a cleaning is needed every year or so.

A Chem Clean starts with a scrub with brushes and detergents to remove old oil and grease. The instrument is immersed in a mildly acidic solution  which dissolves the calcium and copper carbonate. Areas of heavy buildup can be addressed with acids on a
q-tip. Then the instrument is scrubbed again with detergent to remove any residue and is re-assembled.

Ultrasonic cleaning replaces the hand scrubbing with sound waves. The disassembled instrument is put into a tank of cleaning solution and bombarded with sound waves. The sound waves cause microscopic bubbles to form in the fluid. These bubbles immediately collapse, converting the sound waves into kinetic energy. This process, called  “cavitation”, creates the scrubbing action that cleans the horn. One of the big advantages of ultrasonics is that that scrubbing action reaches all through the inside of the horn, even into areas unreachable by brushes.

valves-afterWhen using ultrasonic cleaners it’s important to be aware of their power and potential for damage. The microscopic bubbles are very good at finding their way into the pinholes left by dezincification and opening them up. So, older instruments and instruments that show any signs of dezincification (red rot) should not be ultrasonically cleaned. Ultrasonic cleaning can also remove some lacquers. So, it’s important to use the least power and the shortest time that will do the job.

Some people have the misconception that ultrasonics replace acids in the cleaning process.  This is not the case. The acids are needed to dissolve the calcium and copper carbonate deposits. The cleaning solutions we use are mild enough to be handled without gloves. We have tested samples for up to four hours of immersion with no measurable loss of metal. (Repair shops and manufacturers used to use Chromic acid to produce a bright brass surface. This material did remove metal and is also a carcinogen. It has been banned by the EPA although, amazingly, you can sometimes still find people using it.)

In our shop, a typical cleaning may involve both ultrasonics and traditional techniques. We choose the combination that’s safest and most effective for the instrument.

Schedule a Cleaning

Meet Genevieve

genevieve600

Genevieve is the newest member of the Osmun team.

We’re happy and excited to welcome Genevieve Rudolph to our team. Genevieve is a trumpet player and a student at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. She’ll be answering the phone, helping with customers, and helping to keep our display instruments in tip-top condition. You’ll find her here on Saturdays and some weekday afternoons (when her band schedule permits.) We look forward to working with her.

Financing Your New Horn

We’re often asked by customers if we offer financing. The best way to finance a large purchase is with PayPal or a credit card.  PayPal offers six months of no interest financing on purchases over $99. You can choose PayPal financing on our website during the checkout process.  For longer terms, credit cards are the best option. Some cards offer interest-free financing for up to twenty-one months. Sites like Nerdwallet (http://www.nerdwallet.com/the-best-credit-cards) can help you find the best card for your needs and circumstances.

Getting Ready For the Holidays

Choosing gifts for the brass players on your holiday list can be tricky. You want to support and encourage them, but it’s difficult to pick out things will be appreciated. Here are some ideas for presents that will appeal across a wide spectrum.

  • The Maslet horn straight mute is a versatile all-around choice.A Really Good Mute. A professional quality straight mute is a basic item for every trumpet, horn, and trombone player. Horn players need a good fibre mute. Aluminum mutes are standard for trumpet and trombone. If your brass player is using a plastic mute or the old red-and-white fibre kind, a new mute will be welcome.
  • Silent Brass fells and sounds like a concert hall.Silent Brass/ Practice mutes. These specialized mutes for practicing allow a player to warm up or do basic maintenance playing without disturbing people in the next room.
  • Combo tuner-metronomes pack a lot of punch into a small package.Electronic Tuners and Metronomes. Rhythm and pitch are the building blocks of performance. Everybody needs a tuner.
  • Solid, stable, and hold its adjustmentStands and Lights. If your brass player is using a wire stand at home you can bet he or she will appreciate a solid, strong, orchestral stand that can support a heavy load of study materials. A good stand light can be a life-saver in a dimly lit room or pit.
  •  About Playing and PlayersBooks. Books about playing, players, and performance broaden horizons.

Made for Marking MusicStocking Stuffers. Small, inexpensive, and guaranteed to be appreciated:

We Go the Extra Mile

Osmun Music Trumpet Specialist Jim Becker

Osmun Music Trumpet Specialist Jim Becker

Jim Becker, our ace trumpet tech, just got a nice shout-out from a happy customer on the Trumpet Herald (Here’s the link):

Hi All — Last year I had Jim Becker at Osmun do a valve job on my 1968 Olds Special. He turned a “Special” into a “Fantastic.” This past week, he did a valve job on my 1954 Olds Recording, with the same result. The horn is the off-the-map good. In my view, for a vintage horn, there’s no bigger bang-for-the-buck than a valve job, as long as the rest of the horn is sound. Jim also goes the extra mile, always finding other things to correct along the way (my Recording came back with the bell straightened out and with O-rings on the third valve slide). He’s an expert’s expert, fair in pricing, and a nice person to boot. Thanks, Jim!

Be sure to check out the Trumpet Services page at osmun.com.

A Visit From Kruspe

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Jim Becker, Jim Engele, Katsushi Sakaino, and Bob Osmun check out the new Kruspe “Horner Philadelphia” model double horn.

This morning, Osmun Music welcomed Katsuchi Sakaino, the owner of Ed. Kruspe Metallblasinstrumente. Mr. Sakaino is in the US showing his new horn to interested players and dealers all around the country.

The firm Ed. Kruspe has been in existence since 1833. It was bought by Katsushi’s father Tatehiko in 2012 and they continue the tradition, building all brass, with an emphasis on horns, in their workshop in Bavaria.

You can read about the history of the company on the Kruspe website.

The new Kruspe “Horner Philadelphia” horn is a direct descendant of the horn Kruspe developed for legendary Philadelphia Orchestra hornist Anton Horner, in 1904. The Horner model was the first successful wide taper horn and was a big part of the “Philadelphia sound” made famous by Stokowski. In the late 1930’s it was copied by Conn and became the Conn 8D.

Contact the shop if your interested in more information, and be sure to check our new and used horns, accessories, and mouthpieces at osmun.com.

New Atkinson Horn

Atkinson AG2K horn

Atkinson’s new Geyer-style double horn.

We’re pleased to have the new Atkinson AG2K horn in stock. Mark Atkinson is a 2nd generation horn maker. He makes everything, bells, valves, mouthpipes, in his Burbank, California workshop with one assistant and his brother Jim, who makes parts in between Hollywood studio sessions. These horns are among the most “Geyer-like” of the various Geyer style horns out there. The principal horn players of both the LA Phil and the Boston Symphony are currently playing this model. (At last count, there were three in the BSO!) So, if you’re in the market, or if you’re just curious, we have the AG2K as well as Geyer style horns from Dieter Otto (Jeff Nelson model) and Hoyer in stock for you to try.