Trombone Materials

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Matt K
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Trombone Materials

Post by Matt K » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:09 pm

As suggested, this thread will be an aggregation of all sorts of information about instrument materials.


Metals
Material Name Copper Content Zinc Content Other Materials Notes
Yellow Brass 70% 30%
Gold Brass/Rose Brass 80%/85% 20%/15% These terms have been applied differently by various manufacturers over time.
Red Brass (or "Commercial Bronze") 90% 10% Sometimes referred to as "Commercial Bronze"
Coprion 100% Electroformed, pure copper
Sterling Silver (Silver Sonic) 7.5% 92.5% Silver Alloy used for King Silver Sonic instruments, which were incidentally also commonly lacquered over.
Bronze
Nickel (also "Nickel Silver" or "German Silver") 60% 20% 20% nickel This combination makes it sort-of a brass. There's actually no "silver", strictly speaking, in nickel silver.
Silver (electroformed) 100% Silver
Can someone remind me the differences between the various types of silver? I recall Bach having silver bells that were electroformed but also seem to recall there being a difference between king bells (silver sonic) but I might be mistaken about that.

I know Rath has bronze stuff... something like 80% copper, 10% zinc, 10% tin or something to that effect?

Ditto with nickel. Rath has nickel bells and if I recall the King Tempo as well?

Did I miss something? I could include non metal materials too like carbon fiber and plastic but thought it better just to leave it at this for the moment.

Working on adding lines to the tables in phpbb now.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by StevenC » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:37 pm

Matt K wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:09 pm

I know Rath has bronze stuff... something like 80% copper, 10% zinc, 10% tin or something to that effect?
Olds Supers had bronze bells, and Reynolds, of course, had their "Bronze-o-lyte". I never knew the numbers, but if it is bronze, it should be copper alloyed with tin.
Last edited by StevenC on Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sun Apr 15, 2018 1:09 pm

There is something called "commercial bronze" that is actually a red brass (don't remember if it's 85/15 or 90/10). I think Bronz-O-Lyte was actually this.

King used Sterling Silver, which is an alloy of 92.5% silver, with the balance being something like copper.

Bach used an electroformed silver that is pure and is called SGX.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by baileyman » Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:19 pm

I have a couple NY Bachs with something different for the bells, a less yellow more green or brown darker overall brass, i guess. Is this German brass? Dunno. I struggle to describe the color.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:30 pm

I should point out that Shires uses Sterling Silver for silver parts (leadpipes, bells).

I believe silver belled Conns were SGX. I don't know if King silver bells were ever SGX.

Note that nickel silver is generally 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc, which makes it a sort-of brass. No silver in Nickel Silver (also called German Silver). Olds made some trombones from this alloy, notably the Opera O23.

Checked out the formula for Commercial Bronze (Alloy 220) which is 90% copper, 10% zinc (making it really a brass).
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Neo Bri » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:53 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:30 pm
No silver in Nickel Silver (also called German Silver).
Also known as mythril!
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Matt K » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:11 pm

baileyman wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:19 pm
I have a couple NY Bachs with something different for the bells, a less yellow more green or brown darker overall brass, i guess. Is this German brass? Dunno. I struggle to describe the color.
It's possible they have a patina or in the case of them having lacquer, that it had a goldish tint to it. I had a Bach 42 from the 60s that had a very nice lacquer on it that was similar to that.

Thanks for the ratios bruce; I did a very short search earlier today before running errands and couldn't remember all the various sources I'd used in the past to find it!

Now I want a mythril leadpipe now that I've made that association! :pant:
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Matt K » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:18 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:30 pm
Checked out the formula for Commercial Bronze (Alloy 220) which is 90% copper, 10% zinc (making it really a brass).
So "Commercial Bronze" is basically just red brass then. Interesting!
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:22 pm

Note that real bronze (as used in cannons or marine applications) is a mixture of primarily copper ant tin (mostly copper). There are a variety of bronze alloys but I can't verify that any were ever used for trombones. Bronze is a lot more brittle than brass and that makes it much harder to work the way we fabricate trombones. Most bronze items I know of are generally cast from a melt.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Matt K » Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:23 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:22 pm
Note that real bronze (as used in cannons or marine applications) is a mixture of primarily copper ant tin (mostly copper). There are a variety of bronze alloys but I can't verify that any were ever used for trombones. Bronze is a lot more brittle than brass and that makes it much harder to work the way we fabricate trombones. Most bronze items I know of are generally cast from a melt.
Maybe I'll reach out to Mick and see what he says about it. It's the only material on his site that he doesn't list the exact content of, as far as I can tell!
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by blast » Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:55 am

Many years ago I gave Mick Rath some engineering books I had been donated that contained pages of brass formulations used commercially... yes, pages.
His slide bronze is I think, some kind of phosphor bronze... it is much heavier than the red brass he used in the early days. It is only used for slides.

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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by JohnL » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:50 am

Not speaking to any particular manufacturer's product, just a general observation...

While "historical" bronzes were alloys of copper and tin, the term has become something of a "catch-all" for a bunch of different copper-based alloys. There's aluminum bronze (copper plus aluminum), phosphor bronze (copper plus tin and phosphorous), manganese bronze (copper plus zinc, manganese, aluminum, iron, and maybe tin), plus some others.

IMHO, there's no up side to trying to keep an alloy composition a secret when someone can just spend a few bucks (or euros or whatever) and reverse engineer it. As I pointed out on the old place several times, it's not just the composition, it's also the process that determines the alloy's properties. Process is really, really, hard to reverse engineer without some inside knowledge. Yet we have this long tradition of using "trade names" for everything (Re-O-Loy, anyone?).
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by whitbey » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:24 pm

I have an Edwards bell that is sterling silver. I think the Conn 88 sterling silver bells are similar as opposed to the Bach silver bells that are different. I think the King Sterling silver bells are different from my Edwards. They do not ring the same or play the same compared to a brass bell.

So what do you think the 92.5% is?
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:04 pm

It's 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Note that the metal content is only one factor in how a bell responds. The design can matter a lot more.

King identifies sterling bells with a Sterling hallmark (looks like an L with a line through it). Does your Edwards have a similar hallmark?
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Matt K » Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:20 pm

Exactly what Bruce said. That's one reason I left out from the table something like generalized playing characteristics. There are so many differences in just the nominal differences like bell gauge, flare, relative thickness at certain points that can potentially make a difference. E.g. Bach gold brass bells are a different weight than yellow brass bells. What makes the yellow brass bell play like it does then? The yellow brass or the lighter gauge bell material? Then you get into more drastic differences like would a Shires "7LW" bell share characteristics between a yellow and sterling silver bell? etc. So difficult to quantify! And beyond that, then there is the interaction between the other parts of the horn. Yikes!

It's interesting because the King Tempo actually have fairly heavy bells but seem to be well regarded as good horns for playing commercial stuff (especially rock). My thoughts are that they get recommended in part because of the nickel, partly because of the smaller bore size, among other reasons that I'm likely not thinking of. E.g. if the same person were to play a yellow 2B would they be more or less inclined to say it was good for the same application? What about if they were blindfolded?
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by whitbey » Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:46 am

BGuttman wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:04 pm
It's 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Note that the metal content is only one factor in how a bell responds. The design can matter a lot more.

King identifies sterling bells with a Sterling hallmark (looks like an L with a line through it). Does your Edwards have a similar hallmark?
More silver and less copper makes sense. Thanks.

Edwards did not mark the bell any different then there regular logo engraving. Except that there is not a code designation of the bell type.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:38 am

I’ve heard some rumors that Chinese and Taiwanese horns are made from “bad brass”. Personally I would take this with a large grain of salt, as other factors come into play, such as xenophobia, or distrusting the new kids on the block, or resentment at their lower prices. But is there honestly anything to such a rumor - has anyone found “Chinese” brass to be inferior - say, brittle, unresonant, uneven, too soft...? I don’t want any flame wars about this, just a rational discussion of the quality of the material. Any thoughts?
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sat Apr 21, 2018 12:30 pm

The Chinese seem to have a liking for an alloy called CuproNickel, which is an alloy of copper and nickel. It's white in color and thus won't readily substitute for brass but instead replace nickel silver. Big problem with cupronickel is that it is much more difficult to solder than brass, bronze, or nickel silver. Probably the reason why Chinese instruments seem to have a predilection for solder joint breaks.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Neo Bri » Sat Apr 21, 2018 2:28 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 12:30 pm
The Chinese seem to have a liking for an alloy called CuproNickel, which is an alloy of copper and nickel. It's white in color and thus won't readily substitute for brass but instead replace nickel silver. Big problem with cupronickel is that it is much more difficult to solder than brass, bronze, or nickel silver. Probably the reason why Chinese instruments seem to have a predilection for solder joint breaks.
That is interesting.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:20 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 12:30 pm
The Chinese seem to have a liking for an alloy called CuproNickel, which is an alloy of copper and nickel. It's white in color and thus won't readily substitute for brass but instead replace nickel silver. Big problem with cupronickel is that it is much more difficult to solder than brass, bronze, or nickel silver. Probably the reason why Chinese instruments seem to have a predilection for solder joint breaks.
Thank you. That's helpful info.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by blast » Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:28 pm

I would be interested to know which makers use such materials. I have yet to come across any odd materials or joints that come apart and are then hard to solder. Who are the guilty ones Bruce ?

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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by doctortrombone » Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:01 pm

Reedman1 wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:38 am
I’ve heard some rumors that Chinese and Taiwanese horns are made from “bad brass”. Personally I would take this with a large grain of salt, as other factors come into play, such as xenophobia, or distrusting the new kids on the block, or resentment at their lower prices. But is there honestly anything to such a rumor - has anyone found “Chinese” brass to be inferior - say, brittle, unresonant, uneven, too soft...? I don’t want any flame wars about this, just a rational discussion of the quality of the material. Any thoughts?
Bach's Chinese-made student horns had problems with the brass formulation. They had a tendency to rot out from the inside. In extreme cases, this led to red-rot. It others, it led to pitting on the inside of the outer slide, seriously compromising the slide action. I've worked on two which required actual honing (not a normal process for an outer slide) and other techs have reported the same. I don't know what was wrong with the alloy. Only that it rotted far more quickly than the alloy used on classic American horns.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:06 pm

It's possible that American brass horns are passivated to control corrosion while the Chinese were unaware of this.

Another problem is shipping in a container over the ocean. The salt air can sometimes wreak havoc with many metals.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:14 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:06 pm
It's possible that American brass horns are passivated to control corrosion while the Chinese were unaware of this.

Another problem is shipping in a container over the ocean. The salt air can sometimes wreak havoc with many metals.
Pardon my ignorance - what is “passivated”?
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by elmsandr » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:22 pm

Reedman1 wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:38 am
I’ve heard some rumors that Chinese and Taiwanese horns are made from “bad brass”. Personally I would take this with a large grain of salt, as other factors come into play, such as xenophobia, or distrusting the new kids on the block, or resentment at their lower prices. But is there honestly anything to such a rumor - has anyone found “Chinese” brass to be inferior - say, brittle, unresonant, uneven, too soft...? I don’t want any flame wars about this, just a rational discussion of the quality of the material. Any thoughts?
One fun part here.. the processing of the material changes some of the characteristics you mention. Brass work hardens, meaning that it will get harder and more brittle the more you work it. There are billions of ways you can order it from the mill, and then another billion ways to work it in your shop. If neither you nor the mill know what you want, the material will not have the expected characteristics by the time you force it into a trombone shaped object. Ten years ago, I would have advised to run screaming from anything from there. Now, with some help from knowledgeable makers, I’d happily play a horn from many of the makers, even without testing in person.

Cheers,
Andy
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:31 pm

Reedman1 wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:14 pm

Pardon my ignorance - what is “passivated”?
Look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passivation_(chemistry)
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Reedman1 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:52 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:31 pm
Reedman1 wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:14 pm

Pardon my ignorance - what is “passivated”?
Look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passivation_(chemistry)
OK - thanks.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by blast » Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:55 am

So Bach's cheap student horns are suspect..... The horns that cost a little more.... Wessex, Mackbrass etc seem fine.... Chinese Rath, Eastman and others are fine. Perhaps the buyers at Bach are a bunch of cheapskates who paid too little and were rewarded with cra...sub-standard product.
I've taken apart New York Bachs and found shoddy workmanship and found serious build flaws in modern custom horns..... life ain't simple.....

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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BillO » Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:22 pm

:clever:

The Chinese are master metallurgists and had been for centuries before the Europeans figured it out. They can make alloys of arbitrary quality ... as good or as poor as you are willing to pay for. That leads to another thing the Chinese have a long history of being masters at, and that is supplying goods to a market. Any market. If you want to pay $200 for a trombone, they will make a $200 trombone for you. Just don't expect them to use the best materials in making it. If you want to pay more, they will make it with better materials and use more care. The choice is yours. So when you get a cheap Chinese trombone, it's a piece of junk because it's cheap, not because it is Chinese. :good:

Cupronickle refers to all alloys of copper an nickel. What we call nickel-silver is a cupronickel alloy. It just so happens that the Chinese were the first to alloy copper and nickel, and they did it without zinc. The Germans invented nickel-silver (or German silver) in an attempt to duplicate the Chinese alloy. I don't know what actual alloy goes into $200 trombones made with "cupronickel", but I do know the best Chinese cupronickel alloys and formulations are prized throughout the world for their ability to resist corrosion. They are used extensively in marine applications and making US currency. If you want to see what cupronickel looks like and how tough it is, look no further than a US quarter. :good:

The worst brass I have seen in my life was in Stanley light fixtures that were made in the good 'ol US of A. They literately crumbled apart after 5 years. :horror:

Jus' sayin'
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by Slidemo » Sat Jul 14, 2018 8:07 am

Regarding Elkhart era 88H's....

What brass in the above table is used for:

1. Bell, red/gold in colour?
2. Slide, red/bronze in colour?
3. Slide, yellow in colour... I assume this is standard yellow brass?

Cheers,

Hamo
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by BGuttman » Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:30 pm

Color is only one facet of how an alloy responds. There is also the hardness. Brass is currently sold in three hardnesses, but the amount of metalworking will change it to something else.

So we have alloy, thicness, and work hardening. All are part of the equation.
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Re: Trombone Materials

Post by bimmerman » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:54 am

I came across this video and thought it'd be helpful to hear the differences between the bells. Christopher Bill posted a video not too long ago where he went to BAC and tested nickel silver, yellow, rose/gold, and red brass smallbore bells, and you can definitely hear some differences in the sound. He plays a variety of excerpts and styles too.

I'm not sure I agree with all of his thoughts regarding use cases for the bells, but the video captures some of the sound and articulation differences between bell metals with a consistent slide/mpc/player combination. Check it out!

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