God-awful complicated projects!
(what was I thinking when I accepted this job?)

My pal Tony suggested I put together a quick page to share with a few interested parties showing some images of a rather complicated project started a llllloooonnng time ago and will finally be completing in the near future.   It's a Martin 6/4,  3 valve, top action tuba that is being converted into a 4 valve, front action tuba. The bell is 22" in diameter.


Here are images of the valve assembly and branch sub-assembly prior to mounting the bottom bow and bell. Notice, you can see the body section has already been bead blasted.

NOTE: There is a lot involved when doing this sort of work, you can't just stick a bunch of pipe together and expect it to work perfectly. It has to be assembled, tested, then taken apart to perform the needed modifications. This happens over and over until the instrument functions correctly in tune with itself and with the right level of response to the player. Not all tubas are good candidates for this kind of procedure. In addition to all that complicated stuff, the parts must be designed and fabricated in a way that they look proper to the instrument and not cobbled together bits and pieces of other horns of a different make and pattern. The dimensions need to be closely observed so when the horn is completed it looks like a picture straight out of the manufacturer's catalog. This can be very frustrating but if you are doing this kind of project it is important to pay close attention to this matter and not say "oh well" and blow it off, you will have no end of regret in the end.

Oh yeah, when you put this size of a horn together, it is best to polish and prepare before and during the soldering process in order to minimize the amount of detail work after the horn is assembled. These puppies get heavy when you polish them intact, it can be real hard on the back (groan).

Here is the Martin in March of 2004


The instrument was a mess when it arrived, so I restored all the original parts that would be used in the project. The piston valve block was from a Martin 4 valve sousaphone that a local school had discarded at auction,  having the same bore size as the original three valve block. The large inside branches and those used on the fourth valve slide, in addition to the third slide dog-leg were fabricated in-house from flat sheet stock, as were the extra braces that would be needed. The third valve top slide is presently too short but will be elongated when time allows.

The instrument has yet to have its mouth-pipe and receiver installed, they will also be custom made for this instrument in the next few weeks. The tuba, when finished, will be satin silver plate. I expect to complete it around the middle of the year. The body, having been restored, was reassembled in sort of mirror image of its original configuration and the branches were coiled in reverse in order to give it a proper balanced feel and appearance.


Fast forward to June of 2004...

Having fabricated and installed the new nickel silver mouthpipe and a number of other assorted bits and pieces, it is now ready for masking and glass bead blasting prior to being shipped out for silver plating. 

Fast forward to July of 2004...


Here the big girl is standing proud after the bead blasting and ready for plating. The instrument was shipped out in the middle of July. At this point we wait with quiet anticipation for her return. Rest assured, when she is back, there will be pictures aplenty!!! 

Fast forward to August of 2004... C'est Fini!


And she plays as well as she looks!



Take a moment to stop and take a really good close look at the above image.As it is said,"The devil is in the details." The difficulty of a good quality job is good, and I mean really good, fit and finish. For anybody performing such tasks, this is the part that really shows the integrity and craftsmanship that these instruments demand be lavished upon them.



The mouthpipe was custom fabricated. We tried several times before finding the correct taper for this horn.



Notice how the ferrules stand out so nicely against the satin finish!


Finally at the end of August the tuba is completed. As is always the case with such large instruments, a good deal of additional polishing is needed before the final assembly can be undertaken. So after a very late night in the buffing room and a lot of final clean up, the valves, waterkeys and tuning slides are installed. It was a lot of fun to play-test. Enough with that horn, it's time to get on with the next... 

Also included is a shot of the next big project to be started later this year after I wrap up a few  other long over-due projects (maybe).


This is a J. W. York BBb, 6/4 tuba and its new Hirsbrunner valve section that will be installed after the body is restored. Even though the slides will need to be altered and all the braces be replaced with York style braces, this job will go much more easily than the Martin.