Trumpet Repairs: Bell Recovery

1st March 2022

This poor Trumpet was one of the more extreme dent repair challenges we’ve taken on. After being accidentally run over with a car(!), this Trumpet seemed to be almost beyond repair. However, we ‘never say never’ in our brass workshop and this is the story of a minor miracle…

The First Diagnosis

The ideal solution would be to replace the bell section entirely, this was indeed an option – but extremely expensive, much to the despair of the owner who loved this instrument for many years. After discussing various options, we agreed to do our best straightening the bell by hand. We knew it wouldn’t be 100%, but once the work was done, we would check in to see if he was satisfied or would like to pursue the expensive bell replacement.

Starting the Repair

Firstly, the Trumpet was mounted on a bell forming mandrel – this cone shaped former can be used as a template, to push burnishers into or hammer down the rim. As you can see, a significant improvement could be seen almost immediately with a bit of brute force. Brass is fairly soft and co-operative when it comes to re-shaping, as long as it’s not too old and brittle.

The rim of the bell had split through, this extreme kind of damage often results in a ‘deadening’ of the overall resonance of the bell. We were able to fill it with soft solder to keep it going, and luckily it still played well.

Once the rim was flat, we were able to start looking at how the inside of the flare and throat of the bell had been affected. Restoring the external profile of the bell flare is one thing but correcting the internal shape can be laborious as your eye expects to see perfectly circular reflections.

A small change in one place can distort another area and these imperfections can be chased back and forth for hours. Thankfully, our customers expectations of the end result were on a par with ours – anything is better than how it arrived!


The surface lacquer coating had been badly stretched by the damage and then again by the repair – see pic below. We call this effect ‘crazing’, where the lacquer becomes milky, matte finish and sometimes even breaks away. We can facilitate re-lacquer work, but it is expensive, and we were trying to keep costs low.

We stripped the remaining lacquer off the bell section in-house and got to work polishing the damaged brass with wire brushes and abrasive compounds on our buffing wheel. This really helped erase some of the more noticeable surface damage.

Once the bell was highly polished, we painted it with a brush-on lacquer. This is not our preferred method, as this superficial lacquer can be scraped off with fingernails and doesn’t look smooth and glossy like epoxy lacquer. It does however protect the brass from oxidising which is all we needed it to do. 

Final Thoughts & Completed Pics

The final bell repair is far from perfect, but our customer was thrilled with the result from the initial starting point and with the limitations of cost. Having talked through the options, we were able to compromise while still doing what was needed within the budget and requirements of the owner.

This job is a perfect example of how understanding a customers needs can help us to think outside the box, to work flexibly and creatively to get a damaged instrument back into the players hands. This Trumpet lives to play another day, and there’s happiness all round. Lovely.