Archive for the 'Manufacturing' Category

The All New Eterna Proteus

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Eterna ProteusEterna Proteus

In 1962, the Getzen Company set the trumpet world abuzz with the introduction of the first 900 Eterna trumpet. In 2001, after decades of design changes, that legendary trumpet was returned in the form of the 900 Eterna Classic. Then, in 2004, the Eterna line was enhanced yet again with the introduction of the 900SB Eterna Sterling trumpet. Now the historic Eterna trumpet line is being expanded further with the exciting addition of the 907S Eterna Proteus Bb trumpet.

So what is the Proteus? Just like the name implies, it’s a versatile, all around trumpet. After nearly fifty years at the top of the Eterna line, the 900 Classic doesn’t meet the needs of some of today’s players. Many are seeking a more centered, flexible trumpet rather than the bright, lead style of the Eterna Classic. That is exactly what the Proteus was designed to deliver.

Design aspects such as the heat treated, two piece, #137 yellow brass bell and custom gold brass mouthpipe combine to make the Proteus better suited for chamber and orchestral work than its well know predecessor. Meanwhile, standard features like bright silver plate, fixed third slide ring, and lever waterkeys establish the Proteus as an outstanding value. A true upper level trumpet at a mid-grade price.

Improving from Start to “Finish”

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

At Getzen, we pride ourselves on our industry leading quality and we are constantly striving to find ways to improve our products even more. In that effort, we have made two key advancements in our production.

First is a new, cutting edge, aqueous ultra sonic cleaning system. This process uses a combination of special cleaning solutions and ultrasonic tanks to remove oils and other surface contaminates left behind during manufacturing. The process leaves the surface clean and prepared for lacquering or plating. A clean surface is key to bright plating as well as preventing acid bleeds and other lacquer defects.

The second advancement is an all new silver plating system. Our constant strives for improvement led us to create a new solution and implement new plating methods. Together, this provides a stronger, more durable bond with a brighter, richer silver finish.

Nickel vs. Monel: The Battle Rages On

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

by Brett Getzen

I suppose a better title would be “Us vs. Them”. Regardless, one of our proudest accomplishments is the reputation we’ve earned for having such great valves. Still, we’re asked why we use nickel plated pistons. Why not follow everyone else and use monel? The answer’s pretty simple. We use nickel plated pistons because they’re the best.

Are they cheaper to make? Nope. You could make a cheap plated piston, and some do, but that’s not how we do it. Are they faster to build? Not a chance. Over the years we’ve made both plated and monel pistons and the extra steps needed to properly make a plated piston almost double the labor time. In a business where labor is the biggest cost, that’s significant. So again, why do we use a more expensive and time intensive product? As I said, they’re the best.

When considering the quality of a valve section there are three factors to look at. First is overall build quality. No matter what material is used, poor construction will doom any valves. Second is the surface condition of the pistons. Ideally, a trumpet piston needs to be both smooth and hard. This determines how fluid the action is, how well it will wear, and even how much affect corrosion will have. The third factor is overall lifespan, which is generally determined by a combination of the first two. A well built valve section made from low quality materials won’t last nearly as long as one built with high grade metals.

I developed three tests to determine the quality of trumpet valve sections. The Getzen trumpet tested was a 390 student horn with nickel pistons I took right off the shelf. The second trumpet was a competitor’s student horn with monel pistons. For obvious reasons, I won’t name names and will just refer to this horn as Trumpet X. I will say many of you have probably had some experience with the manufacturer and leave it at that.

Test No. 1: Build Quality

Simply measuring key points of the valve section gave me a fairly good indication of the build quality. The three benchmarks I used were the outside diameter of the pistons, inside diameter of valve casing number three, and the amount of air pressure each trumpet held.

While the overall sizes were different, the gap on both horns was the same. However, Trumpet X held almost 1/3 lb less air, coming in below our standard for new horns. The low air pressure was caused by the lack of consistency in the piston diameters. Each piston on Trumpet X was narrower at the top than at the bottom. This allowed air in the valve section to escape from the top of each valve resulting in poor compression.

Initial Measurements
  390 Trumpet X
Air Test 1.2105 lbs .8947 lbs
Piston #1 O.D. .6485″ .6695″
Piston #2 O.D. .6485″ .6695″
Piston #3 O.D. .6485″ .6695″
#3 Casing I.D. .6520″ .6730″

Test No. 1 Winner: Tighter fit and higher compression put the 390 on top.

Test No. 2: Surface Condition

The most important factor of piston quality is the surface condition. Valve action depends on how smooth the pistons are, durability is dependent on how hard the metal is, and corrosion resistance is reliant on both factors. Let’s take a closer look at the three.

First, it’s important to note that nickel plating is very dense which creates a lubricious surface. In plain English, that means the piston surface is so smooth that it feels wet even when completely dry. Now that’s smooth. Monel on the other hand has a very grainy surface once annealed. This graininess causes pistons to drag and provides a place for acids and dirt to take hold, which can cause rapid corrosion.

Second, one of the most time consuming steps in piston construction is the final lapping. This process of working pistons into the valve casings can make or break any trumpet. In an effort to save time and money, many of our competitors cut corners when it comes to lapping. In some cases, student and intermediate level instruments aren’t lapped at all. Proper fit and valve action are sacrificed to cost cutting. Another common trick is to use a low grit lapping compound. The benefit to the manufacturer is that the pistons can be lapped to size very quickly. However, the coarse grit leaves a surface covered with tiny intersecting scratches known as cross hatching. Cross hatching can cause uneven wear, sluggish valve action, and pistons depressed off center to actually bite into the casing wall. Cross hatching can also hold dirt and saliva, again speeding up the corrosion process. To prevent that from happening, we lap our pistons with a fine grit compound. This not only creates a smooth, even surface, but also a tighter fit. While it takes longer to lap this way, the finished product can’t be beat.

Surface hardness is key to long lasting valve action. No matter how tight your tolerances are or how smooth the surface is, if the piston is soft it will quickly wear out. Most importantly, the surface needs to be consistently hard. Varying areas of hardness will cause uneven wear which not only slows the pistons, but can also damage the inside of the valve casings.

The common argument in favor of monel is that it’s harder than nickel. This may come as a shock, but that’s true. Monel is harder… in its original state. However, monel is very susceptible to annealing. That is softening due to exposure to high temperatures. High temperatures like those needed to braze in piston liners. That’s right, a process used to turn a piece of monel into a piston is the very thing that ruins it. You’re left with a surface that’s hard in some spots and soft in others, mainly around the ports. The soft spots wear faster than the rest of the piston resulting in a poor fit and slow, sluggish action along with air leaks and compression loss. Not exactly what you want from a trumpet piston.

Nickel on the other hand is much less susceptible to annealing. The temperatures required are much higher. What little annealing may occur is negated by the extremely hard nickel plating which creates a consistently hard surface. This provides you with even wear throughout the life of the piston. Not only that, but the hardness makes nickel plating an ideal bearing surface and allows it to be honed to amazingly tight tolerances. All ideal attributes for building trumpet pistons.

I had a local metal treater test ssome tubing for me. They tested the surface hardness of raw and annealed monel as well as raw and plated nickel. In the chart below, the higher the number the harder the metal surface. I think the results speak for themselves.

Metal Hardness
Metal Hardness Rank
Raw Monel 64 Second Hardest
Annealed Monel 59 Softest
Raw Nickel 60 Second Softest
Plated Nickel 75 Hardest

Now you may be asking yourself why not just nickel plate monel. Those of you that asked, pat yourselves on the back. That’s the only way to build a decent monel piston. However, nickel plating over monel is not as durable as plating over nickel. Starting with nickel tubing provides a stronger bond between the layers as well as a piston with a built in safety. That is, if and the nickel plating does wear, you’re left with an exposed section of nickel tubing. While it’s not as hard as the plating, the nickel tubing is harder than an exposed piece of monel would be. That means your pistons will still perform and hold up well until you can have them replated.

Any and all pistons can corrode. It’s just a fact. If they aren’t cared for, this corrosion happens sooner rather than later. The key is to prevent corrosion as long as possible, therefore extending the life of your trumpet.

So what causes corrosion? Basically, the answer is your spit. Acids in your saliva combine with dirt in your valve section to form a piston killing mixture of sorts. This mixture most aggressively attacks soft or worn areas on the piston’s surface. As the surface corrodes it becomes rough. The problem grows exponentially as more dirt builds up in these rough spots and causes more corrosion, which makes the surface rougher and so on. This corrosion and roughness can get so bad that, left unchecked, brass from the valve casings will actually begin to deposit on the pistons. Once this happens, the valve section is, for all intensive purposes, ruined.

Our pistons are built with this in mind. The hard, smooth surface created by the nickel plating protects the piston. The extreme density and corrosion resistance of nickel plating offers no place on the surface for acids and dirt to attach themselves. Think of the plating as a force field of sorts repelling the piston’s attackers.

Monel on the other hand doesn’t offer this protection. Not only the failings of the metal itself, but also the corner cutting of other manufacturers creates pistons that might as well be sponges. The soft areas caused by brazing quickly wear creating microscopic pits. These pits act as tiny little hooks grabbing on to acid and dirt causing corrosion to spread quickly over the piston. In the end, you’re left with a piston surface that’s more like sandpaper than a bearing. Not exactly what you want from such a crucial part of your trumpet.

Test No. 2 Winner: With harder, smoother, and therefore more corrosion resistant pistons, the 390 is obviously the winner again.

Test No. 3: Life Span

Finally, the most telling test of all was how long monel pistons lasted in head to head competition with our nickel plated pistons. After all, that’s the true mark of quality.

The first thing I did was have both valve sections disassembled and cleaned. Each piston was oiled using standard Getzen valve oil, reassembled, and air tested. The whole point of this was to ensure that each horn was treated the same way and entered the test in the same condition.

The Test
The way I tested the piston life span was pretty simple. Each trumpet was mounted into a machine built for just this purpose. A small bench motor attached to an arm mechanism that moved up and down when turned on. The travel of the arm was set to the exact travel distance for the pistons being tested. When everything was set up, the machine ran the trumpet valves at 300 strokes per minute.

At this point, it’s important to keep in mind that the test was not intended to simulate actual playing conditions. It was more of an overall quality test. I equate it to automakers testing seat cushions. They repeatedly drop a 50 pound weight onto a seat to test its construction. That isn’t a real world test, but it does show the seat’s durability. That’s what this test was intended to do. Also keep in mind that, over the duration of the test, both trumpets were treated the same way. Both were only oiled once and each trumpet was exposed to breath and moisture after 100,000 strokes. As the machine ran, I blew through the horn for a few minutes to introduce saliva in order to test the pistons’ corrosion resistance.

Trumpet X Test Results
  Starting Numbers 128,800 Strokes Loss
Air Test .8947 lbs .7368 lbs .1579 lbs (17.6%)
Piston #1 O.D. .6695″ .6670″ .0025″
Piston #2 O.D. .6695″ .6675″ .0020″
Piston #3 O.D. .6695″ .6670″ .0025″
Casing #3 I.D. .6730″ .6740″ .0010″

At somewhat random points along the way, I stopped the test to take measurements of the pistons, casing, and compression. For the sake of space, the starting and finishing results are shown here.

Trumpet X was stopped after 128,800 strokes. At that point, the pistons were so corroded, that they locked in place while the machine was running. As soon as I pulled a piston, I could plainly see why. Corrosion covered the surface of all three pistons making it impossible to continue the test.

Monel Pistons Notice the wear and corrosion on Trumpet X’s pistons, especially the large amount on No. 2 and No. 3. Also note the yellow discoloration of the pistons. This is brass that has been deposited on the pistons from the valve casings. At this point, all three pistons were ruined and no longer functioned.

It’s very telling to see what kind of wear took place on Trumpet X. The wear not only destroyed the valve action, but it completely ruined the compression of the trumpet. While it wasn’t up to our standards to begin with, the compression was still enough that the trumpet could be played with some success. However, after losing over 17% of its air pressure, Trumpet X was left almost unplayable. At this point, the only thing that could save the horn would be a complete piston rebuild

As you can see, the 390 lasted much, much longer. At the 128,800 mark there was almost no change to the pistons, casings, or compression. In fact, the only measurable difference was .0005″ worth of wear to the valve casing. Where Trumpet X was ruined, the 390′s valve action was still smooth, fast, and showing no signs of slowing down.

Now fast forward to 1,000,000 strokes. At this point there was some wear to the valves. However, the valve action was still smooth and fast. Most importantly, the trumpet still tested at over one pound of air. This means that the 390 trumpet still had enough compression to meet our new horn standards. Also, while the pistons looked used, they were still corrosion free with all of their plating intact.

There are two key factors to note about the test results. First, the nickel plating stayed corrosion free during the entire test. This is important because corrosion is like cancer for trumpet pistons. The monel pistons in Trumpet X quickly failed once corrosion started. All it took was a small amount of acids via saliva to expose the weakness of the monel.

Nickel Pistons At first glance, the 390 pistons appear to show almost no wear at all. It wasn’t until the pistons were measured that the minimal amount of wear was shown. At this point, the 390 pistons had been run for just over 1,000,000 stokes on one oiling and still performed almost like new.

The second thing to note is where the wearing took place. With Trumpet X the vast majority of wear was seen on the pistons themselves. Each piston lost .002″ – .0025″ from their diameter, but Trumpet X only lost .001″ from the valve casing. The majority of wear on the 390 occurred on the casings themselves while the pistons stayed relatively intact due to the hardness of nickel plating compared to yellow brass. With a bearing surface, it’s ideal for one to be surface be much harder than the other. This leads to consistent wear of both pieces and longer overall life. Harder pistons are preferred because worn casings are easier to repair. In the case of nickel pistons, it’s relatively easy to replate them slightly oversized and relap them into the worn valve casings to repair the valve section. Repair would be more costly and time consuming with worn out pistons. Your only realistic option would be to start again with brand new pistons refit to the trumpet.

Finally, I was amazed by the performance of our pistons. I knew they’d win, but I had no idea just how much longer they would last. The actual count on the machine was 1,009,100 strokes, which is no small feat. It’s difficult to put that into real world terms, but the fact that the nickel pistons lasted 10 times longer than the monel is very telling. In fact, the 390 could be run even longer. I only stopped the test because my point was made and it had to stop some time. Based on the amount of wear between 500,000 and 1,000,000 strokes I have a good feeling the 390 has at least another 500,000 strokes in it and that’s still with only one oiling.

390 Trumpet Test Results
  Starting Numbers 128,800 Strokes 1,000,000 Strokes Loss
Air Test 1.2105 lbs 1.2105 lbs 1.1579 lbs .0526 lbs (8.7%)
Piston #1 O.D. .6485″ .6485″ .6475″ .0010″
Piston #2 O.D. .6485″ .6485″ .6470″ .0015″
Piston #3 O.D. .6485″ .6485″ .6475″ .0010″
Casing #3 I.D. .6520″ .6525″ .6545″ .0025″

Test No. 3 Winner: Obviously, without a doubt, the clear winner is the 390.

So what does this mean to you as a player? One million strokes on a piston may not be regularly achieved, but it’s nice to know that you could do it. The real lesson is that, despite what the “big boys” tell you, monel is not the superior piston material. It may function well for some manufacturers in the short term, but the overall quality is sub par in comparison to nickel plated pistons. In the case of some trumpets, you’re faced with low quality materials built with little or no craftsmanship leaving you with slow valves that may corrode in place overnight.

Another lesson to take away from this is that nickel plating is not the end all answer for piston performance. It’s possible to build cheap, inferior nickel plated pistons. Generally speaking, these pistons are made from monel and covered with a very thin or “flash” layer of nickel plating. As with anything, time and care must be taken to ensure the right materials are used and worked in the right way to create a superior finished product.

That’s the kind of quality and craftsmanship you’ll find in every Getzen trumpet. From student cornets to professional trumpets, every Getzen valve section is built from the same quality materials, using the same skilled techniques, and tested to the same high standards. After all, there’s a reason why we have the courage to cover our horns with a lifetime valve warranty while other companies only feel comfortable with a year.

The Birth of a Handslide

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Learn more about Getzen slide production by viewing our factory videos.

Have you ever wondered how we earned the reputation of manufacturing the finest trombone handslides? It took years of experience, extremely high standards, and countless hours of handcrafting. We’ve also thrown in a few trade secrets for good measure. It’s a process that has taken decades to perfect and now you can get the inside scoop on exactly how it’s done. Just keep it between us.

Step #1: Proper Material
This is where it all begins. In order to end up with quality finished products, you have to start with quality raw materials. We use only the finest nickel silver tubing available for our inside slides. The raw tubing is milled to our exacting standards and to our precise specifications. Each piece of tubing is inspected before use to ensure there are no inclusions or other imperfections in the tubing. Even the tiniest nick will spell disaster later on down the road.

Step 1

Step #2: Drawing
After inspection, the raw tubing has to be drawn down to the proper size. This is the trickiest part of the process. If the tubing is not drawn correctly the finished pieces will be curved or “banana-ed” as we call it. If this happens, the tubing is thrown out and we start over again. As the tubes are drawn they are inspected in batches to ensure they are up to par. This may sound wasteful, but if you don’t start straight, you won’t end up straight and that is the key to a smooth slide.

Step 2

Step #3: Straightening
This is the first time the tubes make their way to our slide room for treatment. Each drawn tube is hand checked for straightness. This is done using a large piece of flat steel and a backlight. When a tube is placed on the steel plate any light that shows between the tube and the plate indicates a tiny bend in the tubing. These bends need to be removed and are “massaged” out by hand. A time consuming practice that takes years to master.

Step 3

Step #4: Plating & Buffing
After being straightened, the loose tubes head back to the plating room for a healthy layer of chrome plating. This creates an incredibly hard, durable, and slick surface. Hard plus durable plus slick equals years of lightening fast, trouble free action. From there, the tubes make a stop in the buffing department where each is polished to a high shine. This is done to reveal any surface imperfections as early as possible, when the tubes can still be easily repaired or replaced.

Step 4

Step #5: Mounting
This, like every step before it, is crucial to ensuring a top quality handslide. The slide tubes and other parts are mounted together using special fixtures designed to hold the various parts of the slide square and true while the mounter solders them together. It is very important to be certain that all parts fit together correctly with as little tension as possible. No matter how well the individual parts are built, they are useless if not put together just so.

Step 5

Step #6: Straightening Part Two
That’s right, after all the pieces of a handslide are put together, they head back into the slide room for a second visit. This is to true up both inside and outside slide assemblies. Both are checked for absolute straightness using the same technique mentioned earlier. However, this time a specially ground granite block is used instead of the steel plate. The granite is ground, polished, and measured to be as flat as humanly possible guaranteeing a perfect straight edge for creating perfectly straight slides.

Step 6

Step #7: Slide Prep
After the second straightening, outer and inner slide assemblies are paired together before undergoing slide prep. The outside assembly is treated with a process known as trip and lap. Basically, a two step technique that polishes the inside of the tubes to a mirror finish. The smoother the better. Both inside and outside assemblies are then cleaned. The final prepping step involves lubricating the slide and giving it a final check for proper action. The slide is then corked and stored in the slide room until needed.

Step 7

Some Secrets Revealed
Specially designed mandrels\dies are used only for drawing slide tubes. While more expensive than standard mandrels\dies, these precision tools draw much straighter tubing. 2) Before plating, each inside tube is barrel shaped at the stocking end. This reduces the amount of metal on metal contact between the inner and outer slides resulting in less friction and smoother action. 3) At the end of the prep stage, inner tubes are sprayed with non-aerosol Pledge furniture polish. This creates a thin layer of lubrication without any build up. Best of all, as the Pledge dries it can be easily reactivated with a simple spray of distilled water.