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Brass sensitivity has again been raised as a concern and area of interest, and is located here along with a discussion regarding potential lead content in brass.

Related to that, I am aware that nickel sensitivity is an issue for some, and would like to learn whether you have personal experience with it.

Nickel plating is often used as an interlayer to lessen the lattice mismatch between atomic layers of brass and gold, thus making the gold plate stick better. When the gold plate is worn away, as often seen on vintage metal mouthpieces, the underlayer is left exposed.

Not all vintage metal mouthpieces used nickel. If you know of particular mouthpieces - or limited phases of production - that were plated with an underlayer of nickel, please list them here.
 

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I tend not to react to nickel, but I refaced my Link and thought I'd seal it by nickel-plating it. I found I was getting a sore throat when I played. I thought it was odd as the skin directly in contact didn't seem bothered, but I got the sore throat each time I played.
I took the plating off and silver-plated it and have had no problems since.

I don't know if there are different ways of plating that make a difference but I've played a nickel-plated Wolf Tayne with no issues.
I'm not certain if my Links are silver or nickel plated under the gold, but I've not had a problem using them.

I have my doubt about the brass exposure. I think the amount of lead is very small and the amount of exposure tends to be very small - unless you play a bare brass mouthpiece. Even then you tend to get a patina forming which seems to seal the surface, so I'm not sure how much lead could escape(?)

Symptoms to lead exposure include mood swings and people can become short-tempered and aggressive. Thinking about some musicians I've known, it does make you wonder.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Brass sensitivity has again been raised as a concern and area of interest, and is located here along with a discussion regarding potential lead content in brass.

Related to that, I am aware that nickel sensitivity is an issue for some, and would like to learn whether you have personal experience with it.

Nickel plating is often used as an interlayer to lessen the lattice mismatch between atomic layers of brass and gold, thus making the gold plate stick better. When the gold plate is worn away, as often seen on vintage metal mouthpieces, the underlayer is left exposed.

Not all vintage metal mouthpieces used nickel. If you know of particular mouthpieces - or limited phases of production - that were plated with an underlayer of nickel, please list them here.
My understanding is that reaction to nickel is more of amnestying allergy than just sensitivity (maybe medical experts will correct t me and say it is the same thing). I also hear that people hitherto not allergic to nickel can suddenly get an allergy, based on exposure to nickel (A bit like other allergies such as bee stings some people can go through life getting stung a bit, then boom, one sting can suddenly set off anaphylactic shock).

Once I learned this we switched very quickly from nickel as an underplaying for gold to using silver under the gold of PPT metal mouthpieces.
 

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My understanding is that reaction to nickel is more of amnestying allergy than just sensitivity (maybe medical experts will correct t me and say it is the same thing). I also hear that people hitherto not allergic to nickel can suddenly get an allergy, based on exposure to nickel (A bit like other allergies such as bee stings some people can go through life getting stung a bit, then boom, one sting can suddenly set off anaphylactic shock).

Once I learned this we switched very quickly from nickel as an underplaying for gold to using silver under the gold of PPT metal mouthpieces.
When switching to silver plating the surface to gold plate on top of, did the brass first need a layer of copper or what is called a "copper strike"?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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When switching to silver plating the surface to gold plate on top of, did the brass first need a layer of copper or what is called a "copper strike"?
Not that I'm aware of - but bear in mind my supplier was the mouthpiece maker, ie Moragn Fry, who was then using his plating supplier. So I would not necessarily get feedback on the processes involved beyond "here is you gold plated mouthpiece."
 

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I have a sensativity to nickel. The other plating needs to be pretty think in order for me to not have a reaction to the base nickel plating.

I once held a mouthpiece in my hand that had nickel plating and my hand looking like I had received a burn. I even have to check the jeans and pants I buy just in case they nickel plate buttons or rivets.

There have been a large amount of mouthpiedes and horns I thought were silver plated but ended up being nickel plated. I usually look like I buned my fingers and thumbs if I play one for a minuite or two.

I have a few vfriends who end up getting ulcers when they play a mouthpiece with any nicklel content at all.
 

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Florida no USA and USA Otto Link mouthpieces had nickel plating under the gold layer, earlier and later (after 1973) Otto Link models had silver plate under the gold layer.

Source is this post by Theo Wanne: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...ginal-facing&p=2580547&viewfull=1#post2580547

I also checked many moons ago a King metal mouthpiece (I think they are the same as Wolf Tayne mouthpieces), which had nickel plating under the gold layer, and a first model Otto Link Early Babbitt from 1973/74 (made from a Florida USA blank, but silver/gold plated by Anderson and finished by J.J. Babbitt), which doesn't contain nickel.

See this X-Ray scans:
- Metal King mouthpiece (Ni = nickel): View attachment 241982
- Metal Otto Link Early Babbit (no Ni): View attachment 241984

I play vintage Links for many years and never had issues with nickel. I know about one member here on the forum who has issues with nickel (henblower).
 

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Pete, it’s a serious condition that unfortunately is irreversible. I have a good friend who’s allergic reaction is so acute, everything from zippers to nickel plated hardware of any kind will trigger the reaction.

My understanding is that reaction to nickel is more of amnestying allergy than just sensitivity (maybe medical experts will correct t me and say it is the same thing). I also hear that people hitherto not allergic to nickel can suddenly get an allergy, based on exposure to nickel (A bit like other allergies such as bee stings some people can go through life getting stung a bit, then boom, one sting can suddenly set off anaphylactic shock).

Once I learned this we switched very quickly from nickel as an underplaying for gold to using silver under the gold of PPT metal mouthpieces.
 

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There are also a few solid nickel (“nickel silver”) mouthpieces with no plating. Vintage Goldbecks for one.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There are also a few solid nickel (“nickel silver”) mouthpieces with no plating. Vintage Goldbecks for one.
Unless I'm very much mistake, nickel silver is very different from solid nickel and is basically a kind of brass. mostly copper with a bit of nickel.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Unless I'm very much mistake, nickel silver is very different from solid nickel and is basically a kind of brass. mostly copper with a bit of nickel.
Correct. Cu60-Ni20-Zn20
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Correct. Cu60-Ni20-Zn20
So yes, and my Rudall Carte wooden flute has what is described as German Silver keys, and I think that is the same thing. I played a very nice R & C tenor that was made from nickel silver.
 

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So yes, and my Rudall Carte wooden flute has what is described as German Silver keys, and I think that is the same thing. I played a very nice R & C tenor that was made from nickel silver.
Yes, "German silver" is another name for nickel silver. It would be interesting to learn whether people that experience strong reactions to nickel metal and nickel plate, react similarly to alloys with high nickel content.

If anyone has a nickel allergy, please do not intentionally put yourself at risk as an experiment, but if you have previous experience with exposure to nickel alloys, please share those experiences here.
 

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The gold plating company Gold Plating Services from which I buy most of my plating supplies recommends pre-plating with bright nickel before plating with 24K "hard gold". The reason they claim it is better than silver is that in some cases over time the silver undercoat will start to tarnish and that will show up in the finish of the gold. I can't prove or disprove the validity of that claim. They do sell bright nickel plating solution but not silver so that might have something to do with it. ;) For plating mouthpieces and keys I try to achieve a thickness of 2.5 microns (100 micro inches) of "hard gold" which contains cobalt for hardness. This thickness has a FTC classification listed as "heavy gold plate". If someone has a mouthpiece where the gold plate is wearing off to expose the nickel, it can be re-plated to restore the finish.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
An alternative for the interlayer is rhodium. I recall that Matt Marantz developed his plating process to include rhodium, so perhaps we could get his perspective as well.

For future work, it would certainly be interesting to learn whether anyone has evaluated the durability of the various alternative plating processes.

For now, my concern is for musicians with nickel sensitivity/allergy knowing what vintage metal mouthpieces might harbor health hazards for them.
 

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Copied post from "Avoid Brass Mouthpieces" thread -

I happen to be one of those people who break out with blisters whenever I have prolonged contact with nickel. Much to my wife's consternation I haven't been able to wear my wedding ring since about six months after we were married. Fortunately, we've been married nearly 41 years, our anniversary is next week on the 16th, and somehow the marriage has hung together despite the fact that my ring has been in a drawer since 1978. I have considered having the ring shot with clear lacquer but have never tried it. I suspect it might work for a year or two. By now, with osteoarthritis and natural aging, my ring won't fit over my left pinky much less my ring finger. I'd have to get it re-sized then lacquered. Another approach might be having it plated with 24k gold. This all has nothing to do with the subject of metal poisoning from brass mouthpieces. I suspect anyone having trouble with them is sensitive to copper and should go with plastic or hard rubber. I don't think copper will kill you unless you have one of those rare problems where your liver can't clear copper from your system. Cu and Zn are necessary metals to human biology so some small exposure isn't going to hurt you. But if you have one of those rare conditions where your body can't get rid of excess Cu or Zn then you should stay away from metal mouthpieces.

I read through the rest of the posts and the one about German silver caught by eye. I started my musical journey on an old plastic French clarinet with German silver keys. I haven't played it in years but I do know I never had a reaction to it. I suspect my "nickel allergy" to my ring may be more a case of contact eczema. When I was young I managed a restaurant where there was always moisture and cooking grease under my ring. Grease can be very irritating and does cause eczema in some people. I haven't tested the theory by wearing the ring. It doesn't fit anymore. It may not be nickel allergy at all.
 

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Dr G.

I have located a guitarist friend I know has metal allergies. Although this is not mouthpiece related.
He is severely allergic to nickel, gold, silver and cobalt. He uses some type of specialty made low/no nickel stainless steel strings. Also some special mixture of brass for the frets on the neck . The allergies came to be in his early to mid 20s. He is now 31 and found no cure. His father is a metallurgist. Currently he uses bamboo utensils or chopsticks to eat. Yes it is severe. The allergies came to be in his early to mid 20s, now 31. His father is a metallurgist. Currently he uses bamboo utensils or chopsticks to eat. Yes it is severe. If you desire any additional information I can contact him to put the two of you together.
 
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