Editor's note: Every time one buys a new Schilke trumpet or cornet or finds that his green (or black) valve felts have become so pulverized from pushing the valves down millions of times that he needs to replace them, one faces the anomalous situation where the puffy thick new felts leave the valves way out of alignment, i.e., the valve port doesn't line up perfectly with tubing to which the valve opens.
Valve alignment is somewhat controversial.
Mr. Schilke felt that its importance was modest and that, even in his horns where attention to detail was paramount and certainly second to cost, the puffy new felts would have to work their way to optimal performance over several months. In the meantime, the misalignment isn't really significant to the performance of the instrument. Given the (very roughly) 10 year life of a valve felt, the alignment would be very close to right after the first six months and before the last six.
Some people feel that valve alignment should be very precise and perform that service using measuring devices and valve cap felts made from neoprene or other non compressible materials. Details concerning Precision Valve Alignments can be found here:
What follows are suggestions made by John Lynch of Nocomis FL concerning some other ways short of spending lots of money to those guys to effect a more accurate alignment. Lynch is a retired NASA physicist whose hobby is instrument repair and modification.. His work is excellent.
The way the [Schilke] valve caps are made does not allow the piston to be depressed far enough to get perfect alignment (with the new felts). In my opinion, perfect alignment is not as important as is sometimes claimed; however, there are two fairly simple solutions.
You can use thinner rubber washers, such as were supplied on some Schilkes.
If memory serves the self stick Getzen washers are very close in size and can be used to achieve very good alignment. The downside is that such a thin washer generates a "clank" when the valve is pushed down hard. Personally, I prefer the thicker felt.
You can also raise the finger button by putting a very short allen head set screw in the valve stem. That may require that you get an appropriate tap and increase the depth of the tapped part of the stem. Set screws are used in that way by many of us to align valves, most notably Bob Reeves. In the same vein, you may be able to find some very narrow washers that you can put between the top of the valve stem and the finger button.
If it were my trumpet, I'd use the felts and put up with the misalignment.
If a customer sent the horn to me for alignment I would use the set screw solution, mostly because they are available in any reasonable hardware store. The washers are hard to find and if I were to put them on a customer's horn I would have to glue them under the finger button to keep them from being lost whenever the finger buttons are removed.
© 2005 by James F.
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