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Elements of Brass Instrument Construction:  Double-Piston Valves

Piston Valves

The piston valve consists of a cylindrical outer casing (a) and the piston (b) inside, which fits tightly within the outer casing. The valve loop (c), as well as the main tubing (d), are soldered to the outer casing. The piston is perforated with ports (e) that lead the air stream either straight through the main tubing or into the valve loop. The valve loop is disengaged or engaged by the up-and-down movement of the piston within the casing that aligns the ports either with the main tubing or the valve loop.

Double-Piston Valves

Example of double-piston valves

The double-piston valve is first recorded in 1821 in connection with a trumpet by Christian Friedrich Sattler of Leipzig. In this valve type the simultaneous movement of two pistons introduces an additional valve loop. Double-piston valves come in a great variety of operating and return mechanisms:

  • long levers with long return springs (mainly in Bavaria and Switzerland)
  • short levers returned by flat or wire springs (Old Mainz Model)
  • touchpieces with long leaf-springs (New Mainz Model)
  • touchpieces on rods guided in small tubes enclosing a coil spring (Système belge)
  • touchpieces connected with a clock-spring mechanism, similar to that of a rotary valve (Vienna valve)

The only city in which double-piston valves are still in use today is Vienna. Therefore, double-piston valves are often called "Vienna Valves." However, this over-simplifies the great variety of constructions found in the past, most of which were developed outside of Vienna.

Double-Piston Valve Diagrams

Parts of a piston valve (letters refer to diagrams at right):

a = valve casing
b = piston
c = valve loop with slide
d = main tubing
e = port
f = touchpiece, finger tip, lever
k = lower valve cap
l = return spring
r = connecting piece
s = saddle
t = valve channel

Double-piston valve diagram

Top image: valve closed     Bottom image: valve open

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