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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an Armstrong alto flute s/n #28-38864 which I purchased new in Wash. D.C. in 1979.
The doctor recently diagnosed my lip problem as a nickel allergy.
Can anyone tell me whether there is nickel in the head joint of this instrument?
If so, where can I get a non-nickel head joint?
Theo Wanne has gotten back to me to say that my tenor mouthpiece is gold-plated brass.
And I was told that my Miramatsu C flute has a silver head joint.
Obviously, my clarinet mouthpiece is not metal, nor are my soprano or alto sax mouthpieces metal, so that leaves the alto flute as the probable culprit.
Thanks for your help.
 

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You might very well have a nickel plate flute. I have had a couple of Armstrong altos for sale and I can’t remember if they were silver plate or not but I think it was silver.

The best person to ask is Bruce Bailey who has been working in Elkhart making flutes at Armstrong’s, if memory serves right.

Anyway even if your flute is not nickel plate but silver plate there might be some nickel somewhere. If your problem is only localized to the lips ( and not your hands) you can do a number of things one of which would be to get a wooden headjoint.

Alternatively you could have the lip-plate gold plated.

Or, If you could live with a Chinese made headjoint or a whole flute, you will get away relatively cheap otherwise, it is going to cost a pretty penny and finding a wooden alto ( vintage?) could be a better solution in the long run.
 

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I recently acquired an Armstrong Alto flute made around 67/68.
The HJ is sterling and I was told that others are silver plated nickel.
You should be able to find a replacement in solid silver/sterling.
 

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None were nickel plated. The heads were either sterling silver (lip too) or silver plated nickel. If you need the lip changed to sterling, let me know as I should be able to have that done. If it is sterling silver, it will be marked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I may very well decide to have the lip plate converted over. I'll know for sure after seeing the dermatologist on Wednesday.
Does that involve removing & replacing the old lip plate, or simply re-plating the existing one?
Any idea what the cost and turn-around time would look like?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Seems like a wooden head joint on an alto flute would not project quite as well?
Yes, it is only around the mouth, no sign of trouble on the fingers (knock on wood!)
Where does a guy go to get a lip-plate gold plated?
 

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In the mean time, how about painting the lip plate with a lacquer, or even nail polish, or covering with some adhesive tape.
 

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What do you mean? If you are allergic to nickel, a wooden headjoint certainly has NO nickel!

You might be allergic to other things and even in sterling silver there might be some elements which might trigger your allergies. Sterling silver is only 925 parts of silver. There is higher purity silver 999 used by some jewelers, Karsten Gloger, for example, uses that ( or did so when I bought one from him) for his saxophone necks.

I would definitely go for that if you decide to go the silver way.

Of course if you want to change the lipplate , the one you have needs being removed and the new one soldered.

Gold plating or solid gold is another possibility. But gold plating (as silver plating) will wear out, so solid gold would be a better thing.

You can have things gold plated anywhere if you decide to plate the entire headjoint but goldplating only the lipplate will maybe cost more because you need to remove it (I think) and then re-solder it.

Of course NONE of these alternatives come cheap and that’s why the cheapest will probably be a wooden headjoint ( which has NO nickel!)
 

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If you change to a sterling lip, it will need to have the old one unsoldered and teh new one attached. For silver plate, everything will stay on and the old head will be cleaned and replated in one piece.
 

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Note that gold plating is not done directly to brass. It is usually plated over the top of silver or nickel plate. If the gold wears then the nickel becomes exposed.

I believe some Otto Links may be like that and is why i stopped nickel plating prior to gold plating.

Nickel allergy is weird, some people have it from day one and some people develop it due to exposure to nickel.
 

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The gold used in instruments is usually an alloy. 24 carat gold is too soft and is virtually never used in an instrument.

Nickel is one metal that COULD be in the alloy of 9, 14 or 18 carat to make it harder so he would possibly again be exposed to nickel.

So in my opinion gold is out and 925 silver would be better which usually contains copper to make the alloy, although I'm not 100% sure some nickel wouldn't be in there.
 

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I played a wooden head on a C flute that had every bit as much volume and bite as a silver one.

Wish I could have purchased it.

My Armstrong alto from the 60s is silver plated with some loss here and there.
 

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Nickel is found in "white gold", but most other alloys use silver or copper as the minor elements.

The gold used in instruments is usually an alloy. 24 carat gold is too soft and is virtually never used in an instrument.

Nickel is one metal that COULD be in the alloy of 9, 14 or 18 carat to make it harder so he would possibly again be exposed to nickel.

So in my opinion gold is out and 925 silver would be better which usually contains copper to make the alloy, although I'm not 100% sure some nickel wouldn't be in there.
 

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Note that gold plating is not done directly to brass. It is usually plated over the top of silver or nickel plate. If the gold wears then the nickel becomes exposed.

I believe some Otto Links may be like that and is why i stopped nickel plating prior to gold plating.

Nickel allergy is weird, some people have it from day one and some people develop it due to exposure to nickel.
According to Theo Wanne the metal under gold plated Otto Links is silver or rhodium.

FROM THEO'S MOUTHPIECE MUSEUM:

"Interestingly, Otto Link also started putting rhodium (nickel) plating under the gold plating, instead of silver. As gold does not adhere well to raw brass an intermediate material is usually used. Silver worked will, but as it is as soft as gold, it would wear quickly. Rhodium is much harder, and lasts a lot longer; however, gold does not stick well to the rhodium. Many of the Florida mouthpieces we see today are a shiny nickel-silver color due to the gold plating rubbing off and leaving the hard rhodium exposed."

Now obviously Theo has nickel in parentheses implying that some nickel is present in the process but I believe he is incorrect. He also uses the phrase " nickel-silver color which adds to the confusion.

Also as an aside, there is no silver in "nickel-silver".

Edit: Theo was pertaining to Florida Links in what's written above. I have no idea what Otto Link uses now to gold plate their mouthpieces.
 
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