Repair Reports: Four Valve Tuba


Welcome to Repair Reports, an ongoing blog series dedicated to showcasing our efforts in repairing your instruments!

In this first edition of Repair Reports, we’re looking at a tuba owned by our customer, Cyril. Unfortunately, due to a gig-bag mishap, facilitated by a last minute band committee meeting, the tuba’s mouthpiece and valve oil ended up lodged somewhere up the main tube of the instrument, necessitating our intervention to find the lost mouthpiece and restore the tuba to full working order.


To that gauntlet, a Bitterman steps forth. Using a combination of skill, soldering torch and sheer strength of will, tuba’s bell is removed to ascertain the errant mouthpiece’s position. Also, during this process, North put his back out!

The removal is done via the removal of any stays, and un-soldering the lead pipe from the bell. Unfortunately, the mouthpiece cannot be found yet. As a result, the removal of more of the main tube is required, via a similar fashion as before. Cue the disassembly montage music!

Eventually, the culprits were located and removed, leaving the tuba in a considerable state of disassembly. Thankfully, our expertise in brass repairs means we can also re-assemble instruments, and not just take them apart!

The tuba does have an aged appearance, due to its raw, unlacquered brass finish. This means that the brass takes on a patina through the combination of air exposure and consistent playing. Players choose unlacquered brass as a preference due to the belief in better resonance of the instrument, unfettered by the additional coatings that lacquer consists of.

Smoothing things out

Bitterman, at this point, takes time to even out some dents and warping on the disassembled pieces. Due to the size and shape of this well-used instrument, this fettling wouldn’t have been possible if the instrument was fully assembled!

Check out the embedded video on the right to see Bitterman hard at work de-denting!

More and more parts are re-contoured, and the tuba again takes shape as the components are lined up and re-soldered back together.


Re-taking shape!

As if there wasn’t enough used before, even more elbow grease is required! Now the tuba is re-assembled, clean-up operations begin to polish out the various re-soldered joints, stays and pipes to finalise the repair job. The local supply of Silvo and cloths is firmly raided, and the mighty fine finish of the tuba gets some highly polished spots in places in the process. In addition all the valves and slides are given an ultrasonic clean and service.

Bitterman, however, perseveres, and the instrument is now back in the hands of Cyril, ready to give some excellent low-end once again.

Excellent work, Bitterman!

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Cyril and Bitterman, triumphant!
Cyril and Bitterman, triumphant!
Bitterman’s On The Case!

Some re-assembly required.
Some re-assembly required.
Dent Example
Crumpled or dented areas, such as in the detatched bell on this image, are hard to reach when the instrument is fully assembled.
All that trouble over such small things!