Eric Swanson

Eric Swanson is the best trombone repair technician that I know. He is also a trombonist, so his customers feel comfortable letting him repair their horns. Eric has provided me with the following information on basic slide care and rotary valve maintenance.

Trombone Slide Maintenance

Assuming that the slide is free of dents, is straight, and in alignment, the key to a good slide is keeping it clean. Many people who think that they have a bad slide would be surprised at how well their slides could work if they were cleaned and lubricated properly. The buildup of old slide cream and years of dirt and grease can make the slide action sluggish and uneven. The first step is cleaning.

Use a flexible brush (sometimes called a snake) and dish soap to clean the slide bow and the inside of the inner slides. I really suggest getting a vinyl-covered flexible brush to avoid scratching the metal. To clean the inside of the outer slide use a cleaning rod. If you don't have on, get one! Tear four-inch by six-foot strips of cotton flannel or old cotton sheet. Feed the cloth through the slot in the rod so half is on each side. Loop the cloth over the end of the rod. Wrap the cloth around the length of the rod (you want the entire rod covered) so you can hold onto both ends along with the handle. Use the cleaning rod like a plunger and work it back and forth in the slide, changing the end several times to expose clean cloth each time. Repeat for the other side.

You will be surprised at how well slide cream works as cleaner, so we will now apply that and then clean again. For best results, do not use cold cream. It promotes "slide cheese" more than the inorganic commercial slide creams. I prefer Trombotine, but Superslick also works pretty well. Wipe all the old cream off and apply a small amount of cream to the stockings of the inner slides (the slightly larger part of the slide at the far end). Spray with water, put the outer slide on, and work the slide back and forth for a few minutes.

Now clean the outer slide again just as before using a clean cloth (you will need several strips of cloth, but you can wash and reuse them). Wipe the old cream off the inner slide and apply fresh again. Spray with water, reassemble, and work the slide up and down again.

The slide should work much better now. Some slides will work even better using Superslick Plus in addition to slide cream. To try this, wipe off the inner slides again. There will be cream on the inside of the outer slide. Apply a drop of Superslick Plus to each stocking and rub it in, then spray with water again.

If you can see a lot of the cream on the slide, and the slide is gummy, you are using too much cream. This is a very common problem. If you have followed these cleaning instructions and the slide still does not work (gravity should easily pull the outer slide off without any help), it is time to visit the repair shop.

You should probably clean your slide about once a week, or more often if you play a lot and especially if you play outdoors.

Rotary Valve Maintenance

  1. Oil valves via top and bottom posts weekly or more often with semi-heavy oil (key oil or 3-in-1).
  2. Valve oil may be run through the valve as needed to thin out the heavier oil.
  3. Linkages should be oiled with the heavier oil at least weekly.
  4. Bumpers and valve alignment should be checked regularly. Bumpers will usually only last a year at the most.
  5. Slides should be kept greased and moving freely. Use a good slide grease, or brush on STP Oil Treatment. Never use Vaseline.
  6. Having the valves removed and chemically cleaned by a good repairman every year or two will prevent almost all valve problems.

Latest Project

Recent additions to my portfolio include OSU Trombones, ITF2007, and the Getzen Gazette.