I just finished a grueling 76-minute phone call with eBay customer service, which followed a 24-minute conversation with PayPal customer service. My goal in speaking with representatives from both companies was to resolve a recent issue, yet resolution was clearly not within their capabilities. In fact, after speaking with supervisors from eBay and PayPal, I learned that there is no customer service available at either company. What I did receive in lieu of reason, logic and understanding were scripts and come-back jargon aimed at getting me to hang up the phone.
The Back Story
I came into the office this morning and discovered emails from both companies stating that my PayPal funds will be held for 21 days and that I am expected to ship all items sold on eBay immediately. I was surprised by the emails which stated that, "While you establish a successful eBay sales history, you may not have access to your money for up to 21 days" and that "Your seller performance is below standard".
Why would I be surprised? Because we have been selling on ebay for 12 years with very high ratings the entire time. Harrelson Trumpets has only twice in that time had less than a 100% feedback rating, both times were due to non-English speaking customers misunderstanding an item description. Customer service has been a priority at HT since the very beginning and this is clearly reflected in the small percentage of our overall sales completed through ebay. According to ebay's own statistics, we currently have a 100% feedback rating and almost perfect seller ratings in all categories.
Understanding Ebay's expectations
So I called up PayPal and after a 10-minute hold, I explained my concerns to the customer service representative. I simply wanted to know why my PayPal account funds were on hold as I have been an upstanding customer for many years. My requests were met with someone who could barely speak English. She could, however, read from a script and proceeded to read verbatim the text in the emails I had received. I stopped her and asked for a supervisor hoping someone would examine the circumstances and then take reasonable needed action. The supervisor started in on the script and I stopped her to explain my situation. Then she skipped down the script a few paragraphs and proceeded to read. I stopped her again and told her I had read the email, which was the same as her script. She promptly put me on hold. Another ten minutes later, someone said, "Hello, eBay customer service...". I explained my situation and was again met with the script-reading technique. I thought to myself, how nice that paid professionals are reading to me this morning :)
When I finally had an ebay supervisor on the phone, I tried something new...
"Hello Racquel, this is Jason Harrelson. I am one of your valued customers and having sold on ebay for around twelve years, I have paid $xx,xxx in commissions and fees using your company's services. My problem today is that I have already spoken with three other customer service representatives and they have all been reading from the same script rather than addressing my issues.
Let me explain my situation... I received notification this morning that I am being punished by ebay for some unknown reason and that my paypal funds will not be available for 21 days. The script and emails all state that I have somehow fallen below the minimum ebay performance standard and that this is grounds for holding my funds. Yet, your company also expects me to ship items I sell on ebay immediately even though I will go unpaid for three weeks.
I live in the United States of America where it is generally accepted that businesses and sellers of goods may determine the terms of payment and in my case, I require full payment in advance of shipping an item to a customer. I do this for very good reasons. You see, a few years ago, I sold one of my handmade trumpets to a gentleman and he paid via paypal. After he received the trumpet, he posted photos online of himself playing the trumpet on tour. A few weeks later, I received a chargeback through paypal for the entire purchase price plus shipping. The buyer claimed he had never received the trumpet. I lost a valuable trumpet and almost $4000 that day. In that one year alone, I lost even more trumpets and over $14,000 in fraudulent claims by ebay and paypal users. This problem persists regardless of ebay's policies, which are designed to protect the buyer only. This is why I require payment in advance, but even then your company can (and will) take my funds back to issue refunds regardless of the authenticity of the claims. I have never once in my life sold a trumpet that was not in turn fully insured and shipped in good faith to the buyer. However, I have been the victim of tens of thousands of dollars in unfair refunds as the ebay system puts the seller at the mercy of the buyer's intent.
How can you expect me to accept the sudden and unreasonable terms of your company's policies after hearing my situation?"
Ebay Performance Standards?
Racquel responded by explaining that it is ebay's policy to hold funds when a seller falls below the recommended performance standards outlined on the Seller Dashboard on my account. She made a point to tell me numerous times that my performance was below ebay standards as if I was a third-rate ebay citizen. She then showed me how to access this page on the website, whereupon I discovered the number that had apparently upset the ebay system. There is was, glaring me in the face like a tarnished set of bottom caps on a new Bach Strad. It was hard to miss considering they had highlighted the "problem" with a bright red exclamation mark in a danger triangle! Don't take my word for it, see the screen shot below...I've clearly been a very irresponsible seller within the ebay marketplace.
Racquel continued by explaining that two of my customers within the past 12 months had clicked through a number of rating questions while leaving feedback for their transactions with my company. It is likely that these customers were leaving feedback on multiple items from various sellers at one time as the process is tedious in my opinion. I have left feedback thousands of times on ebay and the current system requires the buyer to rate the transaction in at least four categories rating from 1 to 5. Leaving a 1 or 2 rating flags an alert within the ebay computer system.
Poor ebay communications
My tarnish was within the rating for "Communications" which is not surprising to me. Communicating through the ebay system is complex to say the least. In fact, I would venture to guess at least 20% of all messages sent through the ebay system are either not sent or received. There are numerous words that cannot be included in an ebay message to prevent unauthorized sales outside of ebay. Here's the problem with this silly rule, sometimes customers really do need to talk to me on the phone to understand the details of a trumpet before making a purchase on ebay. Would you want to spend $2000-$5000 on a trumpet sold on ebay without being reassured that specific horn would be right for you? This is why I encourage customers to contact me directly via telephone. The other major problem is the logistics of IT at ebay. You see, we can reply to ebay messages within our email account and the responses are sometimes received. But sometimes we find these messages have been returned, but the original message has been deleted in the notification. This then requires us to go into our ebay account to respond. But guess what? The original message is no longer there either, so what can we do?
In my humble opinion, tarnishing my ebay record over two low ratings for Communications is a complete slap in the face. I am happy to talk to any of my customers, answer their questions and resolve problems if they arise. Just ask any of my customers, I will bend over backwards to ensure we both find a reasonable and rewarding solution throughout the purchase process. This is why people call every day and order custom horns, because I always deliver more than expected!
95% + 100% feedback is a problem!
How tarnished is my ebay record? Looking at the screen shot one more time, you will see that I have scored an average of 4.76 out of 5 in all categories. This is equal to a 95.2% rating overall and a 100% feedback rating through the normal star system. These numbers are pretty damning considering the extreme action that ebay and paypal have taken.
But then I received a phone call this morning and this put everything into perspective. The caller had placed an ebay bid on a CG Benge trumpet we were selling yesterday and wanted to discuss his situation with me. He stated that he was on the phone with ebay for an hour last night trying to resolve his problem to no avail. To understand how screwed up ebay is today and why he was having a problem, you'll need the back story on the ridiculous circumstances of this Benge auction.
Jen was listing some of our recent trumpet trades on ebay, which is one way we move products that are not within the Harrelson line. The process involves noting the condition of the item, taking quality photos, filling out pages of auction details, scheduling, pricing and promoting. All of this relies on the ebay IT system to work properly or you may have to start from the beginning losing all of your work, which is a problem more often than not. She listed the Benge on ebay on Wednesday as a one day auction closing yesterday.
When we came into the office yesterday, there were numerous messages (some of them unpleasant) from ebay users requesting more photos of the horn as there was suspicion that it was a copy, fake or damaged. I read the description, which was very simple and copied below to better understand the confusion.
"This Used Claude Gordon Benge was a recent trade towards a new Harrelson Trumpet. Made in Los Angeles, California Overall very good condition. Looks like it has been completely restored at one point. No dings or dents. Benge Hardside Case is available for an extra $100 if the winner so chooses. Good compression in slides and valves- see photos. Serial #120xx .470 Bore"
This listing description sounds very straight forward to me, yet I recall selling a different CG Benge a couple months ago and having the same reaction from bidders. Is there a company selling knock-offs of Benge trumpets today? If so, I haven't heard of this problem, but regardless we stand behind everything we sell. I noticed that the photos of the bell stamping which would verify the legitimacy of the horn were missing from the listing. It is likely that the ebay photo system lost the photos as this happens all too often and Jen proceeded to add the photos back into the listing. However, ebay's system would not allow her to add any photos today. In fact, it would not allow her to add to the description either and these two facts have always been a major problem with ebay. When customers express concern with a product listing, we want to respond in an appropriate helpful way. Adding photos and more to the description would benefit the bidders greatly in this instance, yet the option was no longer available. To be clear, it is usually an option to add to the description on ebay auctions.
Standing in the way of customer service
So Jen called ebay to resolve the problem. The woman was less than helpful and then rude exclaiming to Jen, "We're not God, we're only ebay and I cannot help you!". I remember this happening as I was at my desk when I heard Jen exclaim, "I know you're not God!". Seriously, this is what the world has come to when dealing with simple problems. Rather than working with the customer (us) to resolve the situation in a reasonable and appropriate manner, customer service reps are either reading from scripts or resorting to emotional outbursts? There are so many personal, attentive, productive actions that could take place within business relationships and yet big corporations treat their customers like cattle. Move here, consume this, now accept these changes on our terms, do this, do that... At what point does the mass consumer of a product or service stand up and say, "Enough is enough!"?
Enough is enough!
Well, I believe I've had enough with ebay and their ridiculous terms, conditions, policies and negligent interactions with their customers. It is now my goal to move my business as far from ebay sales as possible while enlightening my customers and readers on the pitfalls in doing business with large corporate entities aimed to please stockholders. Rather than selling on ebay, Harrelson Trumpets will now utilize this resource as a form of advertising, selling off miscellaneous second hand parts here and there while promoting our website. In fact, we are pricing our ebay items higher than our website to encourage customers to shop with us personally through our website or via phone, email or in person. Websites and web stores have become so impersonal while the Harrelson reality is that we are here to work with you individually in a kind, helpful, respectful and positive way.
More standing in the way of customer service
Getting back to the Benge trumpet auction, we tried to end the auction so we could then add the correct photos and start a new auction immediately. Now it is ebay's policy that you cannot end an auction under any circumstances. What if the item was lost, stolen or sold before the auction end? According to the ebay rep, these are not valid reasons to end an auction. And if there is an error in the listing that ebay will not allow us to correct? Tough luck buddy. In fact, if I were to list an auction for a Bach trumpet and show photos of a Schilke by mistake, I am not allowed to correct the description, the photos or any mistakes AND when the auction closes I will be on the hook for whichever instrument the buyer chooses. If I do not comply, the buyer could keep the instrument and receive a full refund! Um, Houston...we may have a problem.
Then we noticed a button we had never seen before, "End auction and sell to the high bidder". This option was new to me so I pressed the button to learn more, which in ebay fashion results in pages of pressing buttons to get anything done. Much to my surprise, the auction ended immediately and a message flashed on the screen, "Congratulations, you just sold your $2000 trumpet for next to nothing by mistake!". Okay, it didn't say that exactly, but that's what Jen and I were thinking! Never in the history of ebay has it been so easy to do anything.
Angry, entitled and manipulative...
With one click, we created a major headache all because ebay has taken away all of our customer service tools. Now we had to deal with a customer who may think he's buying a $2000 Benge trumpet for $500 several hours before the auction was scheduled to end. We sent him a message explaining the situation and told him about the new (identical) auction we had just posted with the corrected photos. What was his response? A quite unpleasant phone message late last night followed by an email accusing us of dishonesty. And what did he have to say on the phone today? Believe it or not, he launched into a conversation about how he is in the midst of suing his employer for unfair employment practices and how he got screwed on ebay by another seller in the past. Then he mentioned that he originally thought his luck had changed and finally things were going his way now that he mysteriously won this Benge trumpet earlier than the scheduled end time at an extremely low price. And how he soon realized things weren't so great as we were cancelling the transaction to re-list the item with a fair and accurate description. To top it off, he admitted to writing a nasty email in hopes that I would feel bad and offer him a cash deal outside of ebay to keep him from complaining. I doubt many of us wake up in the morning thinking that the person you wronged is going to call you out in a blog post, but that's exactly what I'm doing.
No good dead goes unpunished
And who is then punished by ebay? The man who wholeheartedly attempted to do right by his customers by correcting a mistake and selling within the confines of the ebay system. The final straw was when he mentioned that he had been on the phone with an ebay rep for an hour last night complaining about my unfair business practices. So this guy is likely the cause of all of my headaches today? Or rather, ebay's one-sided approach to resolution and automatic siding with the buyer is the problem. No one from ebay called to discuss the problem with the listing in an attempt to gain facts or encourage amicable resolution. Either way, this bidder and the system by which the bidding occurred is clearly not in the interest of anyone except those who stand to gain from the fees and commissions associated by the transactions.
It is clear to me that ebay's sole incentive is to complete as many transactions as possible, thus earning more profits regardless of any code of ethics. It is also apparent that the ebay community of bidders also suffers, in some part, from the same lack of morality. The business world is filled with great people who are motivated by innovation, kindness, mutual respect, a win-win attitude and so on. And there are those who lack integrity both as individuals and entire organizations. Those who will take when others are not looking. Those who would choose to deceive rather than look in the mirror and admit their own mistakes. Those who bring humanity down to the level of pop culture shallowness and irresponsibility that so many elders have complained about for eons.
It is up to each of us as individuals to first determine what is acceptable and not acceptable, what is right and what is wrong, what is valid and what is invalid, what is logical or insane. Every person on this planet may consciously choose to be good to others, responsible for their actions and thoughtful to plan a course of action in light of circumstance. Life is our opportunity to actively create positive change in our world. This planet is our shared space in which we must interact from birth until death, either successfully in happiness or otherwise, but this is always a choice.
After everything, the ebay and paypal policies and punishment, the ridiculous efforts by ebay to stand between Harrelson Trumpets and our customers, ebay's numerous IT problems and the self-serving manipulative bidder, what is my next move? I offered the upset bidder a free set of bottom caps at the end of our phone conversation and sincerely apologized for inconveniencing him. I have resolved to write this blog entry revealing how and why we see ebay as a very poor business model, hopefully discouraging commerce there. And Jen and I are re-building our online store to include our stock of trade trumpets allowing us to better serve all customers.
In Jen's own words, "it seems that throughout our history (of Harrelson Trumpets), we have worked so hard with thoughtful well-intended action only to be slapped in the face again and again...and this has made us a stronger, more caring company, but we deserve better". That just about sums it up. We are good people taking positive action to better the world and we do in fact deserve better. But in reality, sometimes you simply have to wade through the bs to get to the other side!
Join us on our Facebook page (Harrelson Trumpets) or here on our website for great deals on pre-owned instruments and accessories with amazing personalized customer service and no red tape!
I answer questions regarding SWE Mod Kits every day. I will be updating our website soon to include more information on the science behind Standing Wave Efficiency. Put simply, SWE Mod Kits reduce energy loss in the instrument, thus increasing efficiency. This translates to playing with less effort, improved attacks, flexibility, slotting, endurance and dynamics.
It is important to understand that SWE Mod Kits only increase efficiency of the existing instrument. They do not darken or brighten the tone, but rather the SWE Kit preserves more of the potential overtone series based on the tapers of the mouthpiece, leadpipe and bell. You will hear more of the overtone series meaning more lows, mids and highs.
How does a Mod Kit affect flexibility and slotting?
Many trumpet players claim that heavy bottom caps increase slotting and reduce flexibility. This myth has been dis-proven many times and the subjectivity of the individual player is usually the misunderstood variable.
Adding heavy bottom caps results in improved flexibility and slotting. Yet many players feel the exact opposite until they become acclimated to listening to the projected sound in the room. Most trumpet players are accustomed to hearing their sound from behind the bell as production trumpets lose a great deal of energy within the mouthpiece, tubing and valve casings. When adding a SWE Mod Kit or SWE 5MM Modular Mouthpiece, the sound will project more from the end of the bell to the audience and less from the tubing. Until the player learns to listen to the projected bell sound, it will seem that there is less sound, which in turn will affect perceived flexibility and slotting.
How quickly will you acclimate to a SWE Mod Kit?
Acclimation varies by player, but usually requires no more than a few sessions of playing softer and listening to your sound in a new place. Focus on the sound reflecting back to you from in front of the bell in various performing spaces. It is helpful to play softer than normal in a resonant room that reflects sound rather than soaking it up. Acclimation will be difficult in practice rooms with padding or spaces filled with soft fabric and materials such as carpet and curtains.
Which size Mod Kit is right for your playing needs?
The following chart will give you an idea of what to expect from each variation of SWE Bottom Cap weight. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the options we produce and our overall goal is to increase efficiency while reducing weight. Future SWE Mod Kits will evolve with a integral cell structure that is far superior in terms of efficiency compared to current designs while being considerably lighter in weight.
More information on SWE Mod Kits
Over the last nineteen years, I have done controlled experiments in the lab and in the real world testing Standing Wave Efficiency with various Mod Kit weights, materials, densities and cell structures. In a future blog entry, I will share those results along with screen shots of various spectrum analysis results and full ultrasound video. Until then, here are links to more information. Leave a comment if you have a specific SWE Mod kit question and I'll respond.
SWE Mod Kit Q&A page
SWE Mod Kit Photos
The following photos show a small sampling of various SWE Bottom Cap designs I have created. For over ten years, I made most of my SWE Mod Kit parts manually on a standard 2-axis manual lathe. Today, I program and machine everything on high precision CNC machinery. My 6-axis lathe doubles as a milling machine allowing me to turn or mill every side of any part increasing precision, quality, productivity and creativity while shortening the wait time for my customers.
I have been incredibly focused the past six months in an attempt to keep up with changing customer trumpet orders while simultaneously improving all of our SWE Trim offerings. I have revised top caps, bottom caps and created many new designs and options. This includes SWE Finger Buttons, which are now fully modular. The funny thing is that some of my customers view change as some kind of threat rather than seeing improvements as worthy and valuable. In the last two months, I have had a few customers express disappointment in the new modular finger button design. Why, I ask is this better design an issue? The response, "It just isn't what I expected". But my real question is, "What specifically about the new design is a problem?". So far, there have been no responses to this question. Apparently, customers feel the right to be upset without reason. I disagree with the notion that the customer is always right. I have devoted half of my life to understanding trumpet design and manufacture so I do believe I am best qualified to design and build SWE Modular finger buttons. Of course, I'm always open to new ideas, suggestions and logic as I re-design and develop trumpet technology so always feel free to share your ideas with me. But disliking something simply because it is different is not helpful.
What is the Modular Finger Button design and why is it better for you?
I designed the modular finger button system to solve numerous production bottlenecks and to deal with difficult customers who change their minds at the last minute. I find it surprising when I am finishing up a trumpet order and my customer calls to inform me that they no longer want their custom opal finger button inlays in 24k gold, but would rather switch to black onyx in platinum. How can I be expected to scrap the original order and build the new one within a few days? Yet customers insist that because they've only made a minor change, they expect their order to be on time. The scenario I described happens so often that we are revising our website and order forms to include disclaimers stating that any changes may delay your order. To be fair to us at Harrelson Trumpets, changing your mind at the last minute creates some major headaches more often than not so please be kind and change your mind ahead of time. Thanks :)
So I created the modular finger button system to solve the issue of last minute order changes. This allows us to create a wide array of inlaid caps in various plating finishes ahead of time. Then we simply screw them onto the threaded base that fits your specific trumpet. There's little risk of creating inlays that will not be used as the modular system allows any cap to fit any brand and model trumpet. This reduces the wait time to receive your custom order, while saving precious shop time and resources. Not to mention saving inlays as these are often very expensive materials.
The new Modular Finger Button System provides the following benefits to you:
Every change I make at Harrelson Trumpets is purposeful to increase efficiency, productivity and incorporate logic or style. I truly believe the new modular finger button system is the best system ever designed and that my customers will be pleased with the form, function and versatility currently available. With that said, there is a second generation modular finger button system already on the drawing board, which may eventually supplement this current system. However, the system currently in use will remain available for the foreseeable future offering you more options than you ever imagined.
Here are a few of my favorite photos of new modular finger buttons and SWE trim parts designed over the past few months.
In Part I of Achieving Optimum Mouthpiece Gap, I defined gap as the space measured from the end of the mouthpiece to the beginning of the leadpipe. I also explained how this usually affects playability for most players. You may want to read Part I first as this will be helpful in understanding the following illustrations and explanation.
Next, I will examine the various causes of mouthpiece gap inconsistency and then offer solutions to compensate by physically changing the length of the gap. I will also offer guidelines to better understanding which gap setting may best fit your playing preferences.
What causes Gap variations?
In the illustration to the right, the top half of the receiver has been cut away for easier viewing. There are two very small pieces of debris between the mouthpiece shank and receiver, which may represent dirt, small dents or or manufacturing defects. Such obstacles are likely present in almost all mouthpiece shank to receiver setups and these change the gap considerably. The slightest debris or raised area on the tapered shank mating surface will increase gap. This means that a perfectly new mouthpiece and receiver could have defects that widen the gap. Debris and damage will also increase gap and could accumulate over time compounding the problem. Since optimum mouthpiece gap is our goal, we want to minimize these factors to maintain consistency over any period of time.
What is an Adjustable Gap Receiver (AGR)?
As mentioned in Part I, an Adjustable Gap Receiver (AGR) would solve these problems while giving the player complete flexibility in experimenting with various gap settings. And since the AGR is adjustable, anyone could set any mouthpiece to their individual optimum gap length. I have designed several different AGR systems utilizing the following mechanisms; 60 degree pitch screws, Acme screws and cylindrical shank collet chucks. The Collet System has proven to be the most efficient and versatile, yet the most expensive to produce. Later this year, I will redesign the Summit to include an AGR to solve all of the problems I have discussed.
Why are manufacturers to blame for Mouthpiece Gap inconsistencies?
The primary cause of inconsistent mouthpiece Gap is trumpet and mouthpiece manufacturers. There is no common set of standards by which manufacturers conform to produce consistent components in the brass instrument industry. In most cases, individual manufacturers focus on producing mouthpieces that fit their in-house brand(s) of instruments. Individual mouthpiece makers are then challenged with producing tapered shanks that fit most brand trumpets. However, this is surely a lose-lose scenario as the wide variance in mouthpiece receiver tapers is such that there can be no successful compromise between all brands. There will always be mouthpieces made to the highest quality and specifications that will not properly fit instruments of equal or greater quality. In fact, the odds are not in favor of the two variables producing an appropriate match to your gap preferences.
Examples of manufacturing variables that contribute to Mouthpiece Gap inconsistencies.
How do I measure Mouthpiece Gap?
Measuring mouthpiece Gap is fairly simple using a fine tip marker and a toothpick as outlined on my website here: Measuring Mouthpiece Gap
I encourage you to take a few minutes to read my first blog entry on this subject found on the same link. Understanding how and why mouthpiece Gap is important could lead to better flexibility, easier wide interval slurring and attacks, improved accuracy, range and endurance.
Is there a chance I will experience Mouthpiece Gap issues?
It is common to have a mixture of these scenarios such as playing a Monette mouthpiece with a short shank coupled with a long receiver producing an extremely wide gap. When I hear of people trying a new brand of mouthpiece that didn't work for them, I first question if it was the mouthpiece or the unfortunate combination of manufacturing variables that is to blame for their negative experience. The odds are that mouthpiece gap is the primary factor by which most trumpet players choose their favored brand(s) of mouthpieces. If you don't think you have ever experienced a gap issue based on differences in manufacturing specifications and variations, try measuring gap differences with any of the following comparisons;
When designing and building trumpets, I set the optimum gap to the brand and size of mouthpiece each client will use on that horn. If a client wishes to play a Schilke or Monette with other brand mouthpieces on the same horn, I usually need to adjust one of the mouthpieces or find a compromise. It is impossible to compromise between two extremes such as sharing one horn with Schilke and Monette mouthpieces as the length variance is too great.
How to adjust Mouthpiece Gap at home with a few simple techniques
Now to the fun part, adjusting mouthpiece gap at home with your own two hands! The first step is determining your current mouthpiece gap with each mouthpiece you intend to use on a specific trumpet. If you play with the same mouthpiece all of the time, this will be easy. In cases of using multiple mouthpieces on one or multiple horns, there may be some additional challenges, but nothing too difficult to overcome with a few extra steps. I've broken each scenario down into steps for clarity. Please do not attempt to skip any steps or make assumptions as short cuts will compromise the validity of this process. I explain how to reduce gap and how to shorten mouthpiece after the following illustrations.
How to minimize Mouthpiece Gap with O-rings
When your current Gap setting is too wide, usually over .120", it may be necessary to lengthen the mouthpiece shank or minimize space inside the receiver. This is normally achieved in a shop with tooling that widens the receiver taper. However, this is impractical for the average professional trumpet player and usually reserved for permanent changes performed by a trained technician. The simplest solution is to purchase a Mouthpiece Gap Shim Kit from Harrelson Trumpets, which are available in delrin or brass as a set that includes many sizes of shims that may be used alone or in combinations to achieve multiple sizes.
Or simply purchase Nitrile O-rings at your local hardware store. Take your mouthpiece to the hardware store and request the gasket and O-ring bins usually found in the plumbing department. Select several O-rings of the same or larger inside diameter of your leadpipe venturi and the same or slightly smaller outside diameter of the shank end of your mouthpiece. Most leadpipe venturi range in size from .338 to .355 inches so you do not want an O-ring measuring any smaller than this size range.
Once you have your O-rings, determine how much space you would like to fill to achieve Optimum Gap and carefully press them into place by inserting partially into the receiver followed by inserting your mouthpiece. Look inside the receiver to ensure a proper fit then test your horn with the new Gap setting. What has changed? Are wide interval slurs easier or more difficult? Do notes lock in too tight or not tight enough? Check your results against the illustrations outlined in Part I of this topic and make adjustments as necessary.
In some cases, it may not be practical to insert O-rings into the receiver. This is true when you are setting the Gap of a secondary mouthpiece that measures too wide. This will require some creativity and patience as you will need to add the O-ring or shim to the end of the mouthpiece shank. The simplest way is to stand your mouthpiece with the shank end up. Now carefully epoxy the O-ring(s) to the end of the shank with a high quality ($5) 2-part epoxy. Wear gloves as epoxy is messy until it is cured, usually after 24 hours. Take your time positioning the O-ring(s) and check on it just before the epoxy sets. You can find the "set" time of epoxy in the instructions. Do not touch until the full curing time has passed or you may need to start over.
How to increase Mouthpiece Gap by shortening the Mouthpiece
When your current Gap setting is too narrow, usually under .080", it may be necessary to shorten the length of the mouthpiece shank. This may sound slightly insane, but believe me when I say most mouthpiece can be shortened a bit with little or no adverse effects. In almost all cases, achieving Optimum Gap is more important and beneficial than the small changes experienced by shortening the mouthpiece. With that said, I do not recommend shortening any mouthpiece more than 3/16". If you are using a digital caliper for measurements, this is around .190". If the mouthpiece needs to be shortened more than this amount, consider a new mouthpiece, new receiver or new trumpet.
The best way to shorten the shank end of a trumpet mouthpiece is to simply chuck it into a lathe that has been fit with custom jaws forming a perfectly round grip slightly smaller than the outside diameter of the mouthpiece. Outside of a few shops in the world, you are unlikely to find anyone with a lathe setup to trim mouthpieces.
So what's the second best way to shorten your mouthpiece? With a hand file and a deburring tool. Mark the length you believe needs to be removed. Now mark half of that length and file the mouthpiece down to this first line. Debur very lightly with a standard tubing bevel tool (found at the hardware store for $3) and play test the mouthpiece with the wider Gap setting. What has changed? Are wide interval slurs easier or more difficult? Do notes lock in too tight or not tight enough? Check your results against the illustrations outlined in Part I of this topic and make adjustments as necessary.
If necessary, continue filing down to the second line or a new mark if you have determined some other setting would be beneficial. Always test after removing half of your goal as it is very possible you could create too much Gap, which is counter-productive. Remember, measure twice and file once. You cannot easily add material after it has been filed away.
Some of you may be familiar with power tools, thus it may be tempting to use them to shorten your mouthpieces. If you own a lathe, please take the proper precautions and time to create a suitable and safe work holding scenario before attempting to cut the end of a mouthpiece. The lateral forces of removing metal at the end of a chucked mouthpiece are significant and there is a very real possibility that it could be ripped out of the chuck and across the room, possibly injuring you or someone nearby.
Should you feel the need to use power tools, please only do so if you are truly qualified and understand how to do this safely. In place of a lathe, which I do no recommend for this purpose, a table top disc sander is a great alternative. I am not speaking of a hand held disc sander, only a table or floor mounted sander is safe for this purpose. You must again create a jig or work holding solution to achieve a square cut. Cut a perfectly square wood block approximately 4 x 2 x 1 inches and drill a hole just large enough to fit the shank of the mouthpiece through at the correct height to squarely trim the end. Use this jig in conjunction with a square guide way on the table of your disc sander and grind away. Remember, measure twice and grind once. Please use common sense and only perform work in a safe environment. If you do not understand how to use a power tool, please use a hand file instead. It is safer and you won't lose any fingers that way!