Unsticking stuck slides

If you take care of your brass instruments, you’ll never have a stuck tuning slide. Unfortunately, there are a lot of musicians who aren’t exactly proactive when it comes to caring for their instruments. That being the case, naturally I end up working on a lot of horns with stuck tuning slides. Here’s how I get them out:

First I have to assess the particular slide situation. If the slide is out far enough, I can usually get a slide pulling tool against the ferrule and slowly tap it out, carefully alternating the sides of the slide I’m tapping so it comes out evenly.

If the slide is all the way in, I take a rag or piece of leather and stick it in the crook along with a broad edged screwdriver and tap the screwdriver with my hammer until it frees the slide up.

Sometimes, neither of these methods works. :-(. Now I have to resort to a more clever method:

I’ll first warm up the slide with my torch, taking care not to unsolder any nearby joints or braces. Once the slide is nice and hot, I spray some PB Blaster onto the point where the inner and outer slides meet. If I got the slide hot enough, the heat will draw the oil into the space between the tubing.

After repeating this a few times, I try to tap the slide out again using the same method as before. If that fails, I heat and oil again. Eventually, the slide will start moving and I’ll be able to pull it out.

The key to the whole operation is patience! If you try and do it to fast, you’ll use too much force and make dents, bend things, or break solder joints. Trust me, I lost my patience one too many times and kicked myself later.


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