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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I found many threads that gave me partial answers about metal alloys in Link mouthpieces, but I would like to know in general.
Background is that I would like to buy a 50s Double Ring that looks like all the plating including the layer of rhodium has come off. I have an allergy towards nickel, though not a massive one, and in the past I sold all my metal mouthpieces that weren't sterling silver just as a prophylactic step to avoid trouble. I regret this especially for the Double Rings which I had and loved.
Modern Link mouthpieces use what they call "bell brass", an alloy which contains nickel in small percentages. Accordingly, if those pieces lose their plating and the layer beneath it, nickel will be set free in small quantities.
I learned that rhodium is not a problem: it does not emit nickel (as I have been told of someone who should know).
So the question is if Link used "bell brass" in the late 50s for their mouthpieces or if it was pure brass made of only copper and zinc. The early DRs had a layer of silver under the gold, but, as I said before, the rhodium does not trouble me whereas the brass alloy does. I would be happy to know the "bell brass" was an invention of the last 20 or 30 years.
I know there are some really experts around here, so thank you for your kind advice.
 

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This is the first time that I have heard mention of bell brass containing nickel. What is this source of information?

Your comments about silver and rhodium are confusing - both are alleged to be plating interlayers, not constituents in the brass.

I recall Otto Link boxes of the Florida era claiming "Bell Brass" so it is not a more recent development.

Regarding your sensitivity: Have you considered learning about qualitative methods to test for nickel?
 

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I interpreted "bell brass" as to be the same alloy as used to cast bells (vs free-machining brass, an alloy containing lead at the grain boundaries to enhance chipping when machined).

I agree that most anything written on the box is likely from the marketing department.
 

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I think bell brass is more of a marketing term to make you think it "rings" better. Also I maintain that Rh plating under gold is a myth. I do not know of anyone who has tested and found Rh on a vintage Link.
This.
If the plating is worn through to the brass, there was silver under the gold. Never seen nickel wear through over an entire piece. There was never rhodium under the gold. I'm not 100% sure but I think the old Links were just cartridge brass (70/30 brass/zinc), don't know about today, maybe something more suited to the forging process they now use than to the casting process they used to use.

"bell brass" is a phrase that doesn't really seem to mean anything. Bells and cymbals were traditionally made from bronze with a high tin content, not brass. There are a lot of things like gun metal, cartridge brass, naval brass, bell metal, etc. which mean some specific alloy traditionally used for those purposes. Bell brass isn't one of those things AFAICT, it's just marketing mumbo jumbo.
 

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I think bell brass is more of a marketing term to make you think it "rings" better.
For sure, but even then I wouldn't bet my life it's "pure brass made of only copper and zinc." For one thing, in ordinary brass there may be a small amount of lead, and of course very small amounts of other impurities. But "bell brass", is there even such a thing? From what I'm reading, it's either pure BS, or a stupid misnomer for a type of bronze - i.e., more tin than zinc. [... as I see others have already pointed out while I was writing that. oh well! ...] My money is on pure BS - it's just common brass - as I suppose B20 bronze would be rougher to machine, for no good purpose.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everybody. I learned from mouthpiecemuseum that NY Double Rings had a silver coating under the gold and the Florida Double Rings (as well as later models) rhodium. No, Dr. G, I haven't done qualitative methods concerning my nickel allergy. I just found out about it when I had a series of tests done years ago.
 

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Speaking of mumbo-jumbo, after looking up "qualitative methods", I think it would be just as well to ignore that phrase and read "test for nickel" as a suggestion that you could have someone find out how much nickel there actually is in a mouthpiece. I don't know how practical that would be, especially if you're only considering the purchase of the mouthpiece.

As for the rhodium plating, yes, you will see that on mouthpiecemuseum. Someone sure does think it's rhodium, and that's who thinks that. Elsewhere there are real doubts about this. I suppose the big question for you is whether the mystery undercoat plating, if it isn't rhodium, might be nickel - it wouldn't be the only time that's been done.
 

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... for example, you can buy a test paper that, used in combination with dilute nitric acid, will detect small amounts of nickel, under 1%.

I think there may be no practical way to test directly for rhodium like that, as it's one of the really impervious metals. One would have to eliminate all the alternatives, by testing for silver, nickel, etc.
 

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In checking the manual there is no standard brass that has nickel in it.

There is no such thing as bell brass as has been said....its bell bronze....which some people may confuse with brass but eh are quite different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Right, Jazzaferri, I think Link themselves call the material bell bronze and not bell brass, so I was mistaken there. What is important for me to know, in the end, is if there is any emission of nickel in Link mouthpieces. I think it might be a good idea to test mouthpiece concerning metals causing allergies. It would be a great service for the increasing number of people who suffer from allergies. When I was a guitar player in my young days, I never thought twice when I equipped my guitar with a fresh set of....pure nickel strings. Twenty years later, I only used stainless steel although a number of guitar-players still swear nickel strings sound different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Just to show you how hard it is to find out about the materials the Link company used in plating their mouthpieces:

http://www.todayaq.com/general-discussion/talk-04034.html

When you scroll down, you'll find what we discussed here before (rhodium/no rhodium). Someone there even talks of "rhodium-nickel" or "silver-nickel". I think I'll ask Link directly if any of their mouthpieces contain nickel or traces of nickel.
It would be interesting to find out if you know anyone who used nickel test-tabs on Link mouthpieces to find out if there is nickel once the gold plating wears off. I once had a modern Dukoff LD7 that I soon put down because of the taste. Obviously, that piece with its matte surface in silver color reacted with my skin.
Fortunately, the guy who is offering the Double Ring is ready to do that test, and I'll be happy to post the result here.
 

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Well, according to the metallurgical handbook, there is no commercially made brass that has any nickel reported in its alloy.

I can't think why anyone would try and add nickel to brass. There are certainly cupro nickels but quite different properties from brass and quite different uses.

Nickel plating is as has been said here very common. Any layer of nickel plating would be pretty obvious if there was a top coating of a different metal that was worn away. It has a pretty distinctive cast to it.

Why a company would nickel plate and then add another metal is beyond me. Copper is often used before the final plating coats of chrome and possibly other metals, as , (if my memory is still working right ) it improves the adherence of the top metal.

Rhodium being as rare and expensive as it is, would be an unusual undercoat in a plating process but would make for a pretty nice finish coat. Check out Morgan Fry's mouthpieces. Just keep it away from chorine as rhodium chloride is lethally toxic at fairly low dosages 100-200 mg I think. Very stable noble metal. Used in cat converters and expensive spark plugs.
 

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Yep, on the box too.
my bad. of course it's only on the box.

Why a company would nickel plate and then add another metal is beyond me. Copper is often used before the final plating coats of chrome and possibly other metals, as , (if my memory is still working right ) it improves the adherence of the top metal.
It's hard, shiny, cheap, and adheres well to a lot of metals. So under gold it gives more protection to the piece underneath, and lets you use much less of the precious metal than you otherwise would need for a good finish, so there is significant cost savings for the same appearance. This is why it's been pretty common practice for quite a while. Copper is used over things like tin or some steels that chrome and nickel don't adhere to very well, but most brasses it's not necessary, and fwiw chrome sticks to nickel very well, too -- e.g. chrome onto nickel onto brass is common for bathroom fixtures.
 

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Ahhh thanks Morgan. Now that you write it, makes perfect sense, and Comes back to me. It's been more than a few decades since I used this info. Doh.

So to get this back to Henblowers nickel issue, would I be right in understanding that it's quite probable that any plated mouthpiece might well have some nickel plating under the final finish..

Incidentally, My alto mpce is a Morgan Fry HR. It ended my alto mpce search.
 

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So to get this back to Henblowers nickel issue, would I be right in understanding that it's quite probable that any plated mouthpiece might well have some nickel plating under the final finish.
Sort of, depending on what you mean by "quite probable." Some mouthpieces are that way, some aren't. Do any silver plated mouthpieces have a nickel undercoat? I'd guess not so many. As for old Links -- still open to question. By the way, I see on one of the mouthpiecemuseum pages, the old underplating is referred to several times as "rhodium (nickel)". No idea what that means either.
 

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Like Mojo said, in this case the term "bell metal" is purely for marketing hype because typically, bell metal is a kind of bronze which Links never were. I think they were going for the idea that the mouthpiece 'rings' like a bell or something. Also, as already stated, there was never Rhodium plating on these pieces but rather either silver/gold or nickel/gold. I've seen the analysis from a few 50's pieces etc and there was a small percentage of Lead in the ones we checked out. You can try and find a jeweller that has the equipment to analyze your mouthpiece. Best of luck!
 
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