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I just bought a crap old trombone for $50. It has a few dings, but sounds fine. The problem is that the slide is slightly rusty (little fleck marks on the inner slide, I can't see inside the outer slide), and so it doesn't move very freely.

Is there any way to clean something like that up? I've had a bit of a go at it with a trumpet snake, but I think the bristle just dodge the rust flecks, and don't do much. My only other plan is to lube it up ridiculously, and then just move it repeatedly until the rust wears off, but I don't know if that's even viable. Any ideas?

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Is this for real?! Google "rusty trombone" and then add the trumpet snake and lube... this question's suddenly way off-topic! –  Widor Sep 13 '12 at 11:19
    
HAHAHA!! That's hilarious. I didn't know about that before, I promise. This question is real, and should be taken literally! :D –  naught101 Sep 13 '12 at 12:34
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There's some good info on general slide maintenance here: edwards-instruments.com/trombone/maintenance/slide_care.php. That doesn't cover repair (rust removal) though, and I'd be cautious to recommend anything since some solutions can take the lacquer off / damage the instrument further. –  JohnLBevan Sep 18 '12 at 12:22
    
@JohnLBevan: there's lacquer on the inside of the slide?? –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 0:32
    
The inside of the slide is not laquered, but the warning to "be careful" is worth heeding so you don't mess up the outside of your instrument. –  NReilingh Sep 20 '12 at 16:18

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If it sounds OK and the instrument seems in otherwise good shape, it MAY be worth reconditioning.

The first thing to try is to grab a real trombone snake; the bore of a trombone is a bit wider than most of a trumpet, and you want a brush that's wider than that bore in order to make a dent on any oxidation build-up in the slide. Follow these instructions: http://www.brassstages.com/acrobat/tromboneslidecare.pdf. Since you know there's oxidation in the slide, you may use vinegar instead of water as the cleanser for the inside of the slide tube. If there's any visible oxidation on the chrome-plated slide that doesn't come off with some vigorous rubbing with a soft cloth, the chrome has given way and the brass underneath is pitted; you'll need to get the slide tubes re-chromed to regain that smooth action (and it's unlikely to be worth the cost unless you really like the sound of the horn). Also, when lubing a trombone slide, you typically use something thicker than trumpet valve oil; usually the stuff's somewhere between valve oil and tuning slide grease. The thicker it is, the smoother it'll be, but the more resistance to movement it will have. There's a happy medium to be found; try Vaseline as a cheap starting point, mix in a little valve oil to thin it, and if you can't find a consistency you like, hit your local music store for the real stuff.

If that doesn't smooth out the slide, the outer slide tube is probably severely pitted. If that's the case the entire horn's probably garbage, but to save your $50 you can try polishing the bore. Head to the hardware store and pick up some brass polish, some rags and a few Scotch-Brite pads (not the sponges; we're talking the thin green pads). Now, you'll make several "bore swabs"; cut a few pieces of the rag and tie a string around em, to create a wad that will fit tightly into the bore. Make that string long so you can fish it all the way through, and you might want to put a small weight on it. Then, put a liberal amount of brass polish on the wad of cloth and pull it through the slide, going both ways. Repeat until you can't feel the swab catching on any part of the tube. If that takes longer than you're willing to wait, you can fashion another swab using more of the cloth with an outer layer of the Scotch-Brite pads. This swab will really scour the inside of the pipe, so I would not use it too much or you could mess up the interior diameter of the bore by enough to cause air leakage (ruining the instrument).

Once the inside of the bore feels smooth when you run the swab through it, rinse and swab it out well, then apply a liberal amount of slide grease to a clean swab and pull it through to make sure the inner tube surface has a good protective layer of grease. Finally, you'll want to get all the gunk out of the water key.

If you can't seem to get it smoothed out and you think you're wearing it out, you can take it to a repair ship and have it professionally reconditioned. Be aware that doing this will likely cost much more than the instrument did and may cost more than it is worth in good working order.

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Thanks KiethS, I'll give this a go, and report back. –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 0:34

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