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I had a hunch that of course acid would remove the corrosion. I used a 1/3 HCl solution and put the keys in there for about 10 minutes and shazam, the tarnish was gone, but I forgot one thing, That German silver has a significant copper content, and so the keys developed a slightly coppery tint, which actually doesn't look bad. Then just hand polishing to make them cute. The corrosion was atrocious, and would have taken days by only hand polishing. I forgot, I remover all of the springs prior to dropping the keys in the solution. Anyway just something that I tried that worked extremely well and quickly. Hopefully some of the hardcore guys will post something as well.
 

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Many of the various acids used to remove the nasty crud on german silver keys can discolor the metal. I use a product that will remove the crud if you don't leave it in too long. Most generally I buff the keys to make them shiny again and wash all the buffing dirt away, making sure to swab the inside of all of the tubes and ends of the pivot rods.

I suspect most DIY repair projects for the person who wants to do their own clarinet repad will not want to purchase special chemicals or have a solution of HCL around the house. In that case I would do the following: Remove keys, springs, corks and pads. Wash the keys in a dish washing liquid with a product like dawn that will cut any grease and oil. Soak the keys in a plastic tub of vinegar for 20-30 minutes. Thoroughly wash the keys again. Dry and hand polish with a polishing cloth.

Just be aware that unplated keys will start to tarnish and corrode very quickly. If you are one of these people with a skin PH that reacts with the metals in an instrument, your clarinet will be back to that lovely geen condition very quickly unless you take the time to wipe the instrument down after playing.
 

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Man, that is the kind of speed that can only be acquired by YEARS of living in the buffing room. I am much slower.
Machine buff a set of Bb clarinet keys in 30 minutes...bout right. Possibly less. I don't charge for 30 minutes. Buffing is Nasty. I charge a higher rate for nasty. I spent many hours in the buffing room at the overhaul shop. I wasn't even close to being as fast as the gentleman that buffed full time for us. He buffed french horns for Conn in the 60's-70's.He buffed tubas, sousas and everything else at our repair shop. He was amazing to watch!
 

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I can buff a set of keys in twenty minutes. Just did it last night. I hate buffing so I work fast to be done with it.
 

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If I had to do it for a living, I would hate it too.

But as a hobby repairer, there is something extremely satisfying and rewarding, bordering on the therapeutic, to slowly get from a sad damaged instrument like this:



to one that then becomes:

 

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It is a Noblet "Artist" and I believe is silver plated. You can see on the pad cup in the after picture an area where plate has come off, but that is the only area on the instrument where that was really apparent.

Dremel, small wool mop, Hyfin and patience

Here are another couple of pics



 

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Are those keys silver plated?
Though if your question relates to the OP and this thread being about nickel silver, then here are pics produced by same process. But this is a SLOW process, not quick!



 

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As a chemistry teacher, I am a bit concerned about your 1/3 HCl solution. The concentration you start with can make a major difference. Is that out of a stock bottle (about 12M) or some dilution (typically 0.1M to 6M)? As you can see, typical concentrations in a lab can vary by a factor as much of 120.

Please remember (especially if you are using 1.0M or above acid) always add the acid to the water and not the other way around. If you do it the other way around, you risk splattering acid all over as, under the right conditions, it can build enough heat to boil the solution.
 

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Looks really nice!

But just thinking about buffing a bass clarinet with nickel keys with a DREMEL makes my wrists cramp.
Thanks

There was a fine line between psychological therapy and repetative strain injury...

But it is an alto, so some would say it doesn't count as an instrument anyway...
 

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Just remember, if it is plated, it is very unlikely to be German silver. German silver is an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc (no silver). The nickel and copper are relatively unreactive in HCl. However, the zinc is very reactive producing hydrogen gas and zinc chloride. The copper color is due to the removal of zinc from the alloy. If you leave the keys in too long or use this method too many times, you will end up with spongy, weak metal (similar to using brass rather than bronze for hull fittings on a boat in salt water). I would definitely not suggest using this technique on silver or silver plated keys.
 
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