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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,I am working on a sax right now and it has a nickel finish, the trouble is it is grotty in places with mottling, blackening, grime which will not shift, i have tried industrial degreaser and chrome polish and it just does not look any better, short of using acid pickle then I am at a loss and I do not really wish to go down that route if I can help it, yes i can leave it as is but it affects my ocd and although I try t live with certain things this is something I would really like to resolve if possible.It seems to be dirtiest up under the main stack and tone holes, on the inner bow area you can even see brass, this is fairly obvious that it is some reaction of saliva over the years and must be fairly strong to eat the finish away, what do any of you use? all input is greatly appreciated.
 

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Hello Melissa,

Nickel is often absolutely impervious to tarnish BUT when it tarnishes then it develops a grey-blue hue with a waxy feel over the metal.

I am sure that this has much to do with the original quality of the plating. in general French and German nickel plate ( SML, Couesnon, Keilwerth, Kohlert) is of the outmost quality but I have to say that Italian nickel plate ( old Grassi and old Borgani) is not as good.

Of course we don’t often know what a sax has gone through its life.

There are some special cleaners for nickel but I know that once the plating has been affected in the way that you are describing there is very little chance that you actually will be able to bring a shine to that kind of situation.

I know that this video is about aluminum and not nickel but the situation is not really very different.

He has a good success with the use of a microfiber cloth applied to a rudimentary buffing instrument

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aecsw9MPxBg&frags=pl,wn

this too seems to be doing well with polished nickel with microfiber cloth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbb8LodPRj8&frags=pl,wn

read this too, ammonia seems to be the word (do this is extremely well areated places, and if possible wear a mask with a special filter )

http://navysalvage.com/nickel.html

“......

These suggestions on how to clean dirty nickel-plated finishes were offered to collectors by members of the Antique Telephone Collectors Association, and we are passing them along to you: We hope you find this information to be helpful.


Try soaking parts overnight in a water & vinegar solution (about 4 to 1). The dirt and tarnish just wipes right off.
-Richard

I use Easy Off oven cleaner with the YELLOW cap - Never had a problem with it.
-Tom

WD40 and 0000 steel wool works fairly well if there is a little green showing. Test first.
-Rob

Pure household Ammonia, about 59 Cents a bottle. Not the diluted, smell like pine, perfume etc. The real thing.
You need to immerse the part directly into the undiluted solution. Don't let it sit more then 5 minutes, as it can also strip old, flakey nickel. Do this outside the home/shop; otherwise you might pass out from the fumes.
-Walt

I use ammonia & water 50/50 %, soak for about 1/2 hr, take out of solution, brush with toothbrush (soft brush) or 0000 steel wool , & dry. repeat if necessary to achieve cleanliness desired, then restore/polish with "Simichrome" polish. Its the best I've found. Its approximately $6.00 in some of the larger antique malls. I even use the ammonia solution 100% without damage to the nickel. It doesn't restore bad plating, nothing does, but will clean plate that is still in good condition underneath the crud..
-Joe

This stuff (Simichrome) works miracles. It does an amazing job on nickel and chrome. It also does well with Bakelite. I sell this stuff and a lot of buyers are motorcyclists (lots of chrome there) and antique dealers that specialize in Bakelite jewelry. They use it to test to see if an object is really Bakelite. This stuff will polish Bakelite, but not other materials.
-Richard

I use a solution of household ammonia and mix with about 25% water. Let soak about 30 minutes then brush off with toothbrush under running water. May take a couple of soakings to get off all dirt & grime. I do this with brass and bromze metal. It will cause iron or steel to rust, and will take off paint, so be careful.
-Tom
"
 

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It sounds like it may be tarnish not grime. Are you certain it is nickel not silver plate?

If you have a silver polishing cloth or other silver cleaner, give that a try.
 

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The best metal polish I have ever used is Simichrome. I would try some of this before trying anything else. Certainly don't use anything called "acid pickle" unless you want to replace all the springs on the horn.
 

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This is not uncommon---especially on nickel plated clarinet keys. In my experience cleaners and polishes are mostly ineffective since the discoloration is not just on the surface. I have had the best success using a buffing wheel and Music Medic's "blue hubble" buffing compound. Keys are relatively easy. Blemishes on the body of a sax are more challenging requiring the judicial use of a "cutting wheel" and a lot of "buffing" using a dremel tool and various felt wheels and attachments to avoid harming the toneholes. The pictures below show the before and after on a friend's Big Bell series Cannonball. Funny story:

I called Cannonball to order a replacement thumb hook in nickel plate, and Ryan their parts manager and friend of mine told me they never made a sax with nickel plating. After bantering back and forth, I said I'll bring it up and show you since I live only 45 minutes away from their headquarters. I showed it to Ryan and he said that is a Cannonball and it indeed has nickel plating. He called Tevis in and Tevis said we have never ever ordered one of our saxes with nickel plating, but there it was in front of him. Whether it was a test prototype from the factory or a mistake at the shop where the plating is done no one will ever know, but it looked nice once it was cleaned up and I ordered a thumb hook in raw brass and buffed and nickel plated it myself in my shop.







 

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Thanks. I did this for the brother of a friend giving it white roos with silver domed resos and the works. He paid me back by assembling a bunch of "Pad Size Tools" for me to sell at $45 each, so we each got a good deal. If anyone wants one, I don't make them anymore but I can give you the plans to build your own.
 

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I think that Melissa’s problem might be in a completely different ballpark.
 

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When nickel DOES tarnish it is very difficult to remover.
I have not tried the ammonia, but have resorted to pretty aggressive buffing.

I once made a heap of nickel plated manipulative wire puzzles and stored them in a newly polyurethaned wooden box.
Overnight they acquired an extremely durable, dull, rough, off-white tarnish, very difficult to remove.

Obviously, polyurethane fumes can do this. At least two well known instrument makers have had this problem from vapours given off from a material used in constructing the case.
So bear in mind that the case may be the cause.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Nice work Jb..Yes Milandro, it is waxy in places, so far I have even gone out and bought some Solvol autosol to see if it works in the meantime whilst waiting for my order of Simichrome to arrive, now I just took the photographs and under scrutiny and seeing them at high res, the finish has actually worn off to the brass underneath and I have never seen this with Nickel, it has not worn like silver plate does either, they are like little areas of acid/saliva, it looks pretty gross to be honest and I think the photos make it look much worse, but then this is bad.I have a full sized buffing unit set up with large wheels and it is not touching it, I have used my dremel in areas and it did make some slightly better, I have tried super fine wire wool- no difference either, I am getting closer to using the acid pickle but it may be overkill, the horn is filthy inside and out and this is after hand ragging it for 2-3 hours.
 

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I think that there might be more than saliva here and that there could be galvanic corrosion affecting the metal under the nickel going on.

Which horn is this and more importantly is it worth all this effort? Consider blasting with beads to achieve an even surface and maybe plate again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ok, sorry, I am unable to reply with quote......Well Milandro, regards galvanic corrosion, if i put it in my pickle tank and only part of it survives then you hit the nail on the head!I have done some dint removal and somewhat aggressive buffing and it has not affected the horn, I have done a trumpet once which folded up doing the same, I have a photo somewhere but suffice to say it did not look very well.........The horn in question is actually one of my Couesnon collection.
p.s. shot blasting this would not be cost effective and there is nobody within the UK that actually does it..yet!
 

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Cheers, nice though they are , value and rarity of these horns is limited.

Blasting the surface with beads will change its look to a satin finish ( Buescher style) but I am convinced that it won’t change the sound.

I’d protect the rolled toneholes but but would do a light bead blasting rather than risking a pickle bath going wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am unable to shot blast it here as there does not appear to be anyone in the UK that does it, I heard a horror story from one tech who used the services of someone for a trumpet and they nearly blew a hole in it, sadly the plater's that we have around London that may be able to at least do something charge a small fortune and again, the horn is not worth it.
This is why I am leaning towards the pickle bath as I made one up and have had some good results with it, i only need to change things slightly and it shall strip all the nickel off leaving it bare brass, it just seems pointless and a whole lot of effort for what shall be a cheap vintage horn, I suppose like many though it is a labour of love, I seem to find myself doing things just for the sake of it but it is great learning.
 

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Melissa I have- or did have- quite a lot of shot blasting done locally. A local firm near to me in W.Mids/Black Country specialise in nickel plating,copper plating mainly nowadays for car restoration.
ACF Howell,Croft St. Walsall. West Mids. Usually charge me a fiver! (£5.00) for a tenor/alto. Back in the day when my area was 'the workshop of the world' dozens of small firms operated 24hrs a day metal finishing.
 

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I imagine a pickle bath is an excellent electrolyte, so you may get some of the brass eaten away by galvanic action during the pickling.
 

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I am unable to shot blast it here as there does not appear to be anyone in the UK that does it, I heard a horror story from one tech who used the services of someone for a trumpet and they nearly blew a hole in it, sadly the plater's that we have around London that may be able to at least do something charge a small fortune and again, the horn is not worth it.
This is why I am leaning towards the pickle bath as I made one up and have had some good results with it, i only need to change things slightly and it shall strip all the nickel off leaving it bare brass, it just seems pointless and a whole lot of effort for what shall be a cheap vintage horn, I suppose like many though it is a labour of love, I seem to find myself doing things just for the sake of it but it is great learning.
I say go for it. Caswell also has an effective nickel removing solution that has to be heated. I have removed the nickel plating from the keys on a couple of Yamaha student saxes using this and have given the brass a "scratch brush" finish. They came out nice, but it is a lot of work for a "student" sax, but like you said I did it mostly for the learning experience.

I do some electroplating myself and have tried in the past to "touch up" worn nickel plating using a brush plating system. That was a real waste of time. You can get away with it on silver plating, but not on nickel. You just can't nickel plate over nickel. Go figure. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Bopity, Thank you very much, I shall certainly look into this as am within easy reach and very much appreciate your help.
Saxo, I could do this by adding a few wires here and there and it is a simple process though if it was rare or sought after things may be different, this model does not even have front F and I am only doing it because some of these French horns are hard work in my humble opinion with so many springs going through the keywork and unusual octave mechanisms, I would like to get a feel for them so it becomes second nature so to speak as loathe struggling with anything.
You are right though, the silver plating touch ups are far easier and I have also tried doing the same with Nickel with terrible results, it seems it is all or nothing.
Yes Gordon, if the mix is too strong it can eat at things better left alone :D
 

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I’d certainly explore what bopity funk suggests.

There are many, outside of the music instruments industry, which restore parts for the automotive restorations (BIG thing these days), which are more than capable to do this.

The size and type of beads change.

You can do all sorts of finishes with different beads.
 
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