Restoration of an Alexander tuba

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Posted by Anthony Labelle on September 24, 2001 at 10:48:55:

As fate would have it, I've recently acquired an Alexander tuba that no one seems to have known existed. From what I've uncovered, it was from an old military surplus that was donated to my University several years ago, and hasn't really been touched since. I took it home last week and cleaned it up as best I could. Brought it from unplayable to playable, though I'm not sure it's quite "performable yet". Some of the immediate and most obvious problems are as follows:

-solder on the 'dent guards' around the outer bow has come loose, dent guards rattle a lot.

-substantial dent on the outer bow

-lead-pipe is pretty significantly dented

-'tone ring' is loose, peeled off around all the outer edges

-bell fairly dented up... looking very closely(with a light on the other side), I found two very-very slight "hairline" cracks, each less than a centimetre long.

-and, for the life of me, I can't seem to get any of the slides to move(aside from the main tuning slide).

Getting the dents out of the bell is something I'd generally do myself, but I'm truly amazed by how THIN the brass on this horn is, which makes me reluctant to try ANYTHING in the way of reshaping the metal. The good news is that once I cleaned out and oiled the valves and valve casings, the valves are really smooth(but not particularly fast, due to 'lazy' springs). The sound on the horn is to die for, but the intonation is pretty horrible(mostly because all the valve slides are stuck in an almost-all-the-way-out positiont).

There's no serial number on the horn as far as I can tell. "Made in West Germany" is engraved on the leadpipe, and "Gebr. Alexexander Mainz" is written around the "tone ring". Other than that, I can find no other markings aside from a "3" on the inside of each valve cap. The horn is pitched in BBb. I read in the archives that there were no serial numbers put on Alex tubas until about 20 years ago, so I assume this can give me a 'minimum' age for the horn. I don't know of the model number, as I'm not familliar with Alexander tubas.

Anyways, my question for you repair-folk out there is this- assuming money IS an issue(I'm about to buy a new CC tuba, so don't exactly have overflowing pockets for this project), what's the least that should be done to get this horn "performable", with the least amount of expense? Naturally I want to get the slides moving(and trust me, I've TRIED!) How important are the dents, especially in the leadpipe? Could the loose 'dent guards' around the outer bow simply just be 'taken off'? I've considered this, but my main concern is that there might be a hole in the metal under the dentguard where the most substantial dent is. Howabout the "tone ring"? I assume it's purely cosmetic, anyways... though the engraving on the tone ring is the only indication of the make of the tuba.

If I get this horn performable, I'll probably use it only for university band concerts... not looking to make it into a Hirsbrunner, just want to make it into the best Alex I can with as much do-it-yourself work and as little paying-someone-else-to-do-it as I can. I'll have some pictures of the horn later this week. Any advice is appreciated.


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