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Silver tarnish

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
I was wondering how one goes about polishing silver saxs and keywork. Is it:

  1. You don't.
  2. With extreme difficulty and patience.
  3. Some method I've not thought of.
My reason for asking is that, even if one was to buy a horn with a non-silver (or lacquered silver) body, what do you do about the keywork?

I found this post in another thread (which wasn't specifically about silver tarnish) in which the poster says he puts a sock of activated charcoal into his case to soak up the sulphur in the air. Is this the recommended method of preventing key/body tarnish, or is there another way?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I've got 2 silver saxes, no lacquer. My wife has a silver flute.

You need to distinguish between silver and nickel plating and also whether the keys are silver plated or nickel silver (a lot of brass saxes have nickel silver keywork, not silver plated).

Nickel silver is pretty much the same stuff as 'silver' coins are made of, just needs a bit of metal polish every now and again. Avoid the abrasive polish. Same for nickel plate. Mostly you can clean by wiping it down after use with a soft micro fibre cloth.

Silver/silver plated saxes do tarnish, but it's really easy to keep under contol - just wipe thoroughly with a soft micro fibre cloth after use, and store in the case. Once every couple of months or so use silver cloth gently (my wife's never done this with her flute and it still has no tarnish after 12 years). If the tarnish builds up under/between the keys where you can't get at it, either use a silver cloth and blunt kebab sticks to push it in, or leave it until the next time the sax is disassembled for repair. I've takenthe keys off mine once to clean under/between them, cos it was too deep seated to leave (annoying me). Don't use the abrasive silver polishes - stick to non abrasive liquid polish or better a damp silver cloth - the liquid polishes get on the pads and it's difficult to remove.

If the sax is lacquered, just a soft cloth, maybe a bit of furniture polish.

Other suggestion (from cybersax.com, I've not tried it myself)) is to put special jewellers paper in the case, but I've not found any to try it with. Not heard of the activated charcoal trick before, but it may work - although for how long I don't know, as activated charcoal absorbs a lot of other things which'll reduce it's effectiveness quite quickly. You can buy it reasonably cheaply from pet shops which stock fish - it's used fo wate puifaction, and bulk packs are quite cheap, can't say the same for filte inserts, though.

Avoid rubber gloves when cleaning silver saxes, they contain a lot of sulphur.
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Subscriber
Messages
8,891
I use Goddards silver polish with a variety of bits of lint free cloth, blunt plastic sticks and earbuds, used very carefully so strands don't catch on springs etc.
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
912
I use Goddards silver polish with a variety of bits of lint free cloth, blunt plastic sticks and earbuds, used very carefully so strands don't catch on springs etc.
I read on an SOTW thread about someone making soft bags with an antitarnish cloth to prevent silver tarnishing, not sure they're commercially available. Also I've heard of 3M strips used to keep silverware shiny (inside a case), again I know they're available in the US but never seen any in the UK.
To clean silver plated instruments, I personally prefer removing all keywork, then use a Goddards polishing cloth cut in long thin strips: with a bit of practice you can get the strips around the posts without upsetting the (very sharp) needle springs. I don't like using silver polish as it takes ages to remove and if it gets in small areas it's just very time consuming to clean up.
To avoid touching the instrument while polishing, you can use those cheap white cotton gloves, like the type the Chinese like to give away with their instruments!

Not long ago a customer brought in a beautiful Beuscher Aristo tenor in bare brass, the previous owner decided to use Brasso to clean it up without removing the keys... I had to remove every key, every rod and screw and clean up all the pads that had been splashed with polish and were a 'little' sticky! So, yes, I wouldn't recommend that!

Hope this helps,
M.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Brasso and the like are very abrasive. Used regularly, they'll remove a lot of metal.....
 

AlanU

Member
Messages
655
To keep tarnish away I use activated charcoal granules in an odd sock kept in the case.
Activated charcoal, also called activated carbon, can be bought for use in filters for fish tanks.
It is used in gas masks, industrial filters and 'Odour eaters'.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Phew ...

To keep tarnish away I use activated charcoal granules in an odd sock kept in the case.
Activated charcoal, also called activated carbon, can be bought for use in filters for fish tanks.
It is used in gas masks, industrial filters and 'Odour eaters'.
Gas mask helps neutralise the sock .... :)))
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
In the Brass world we get used to polishing cloths and even glove shaped cloths which simply remove the oxidised tarnish - my silver trumpets and cornet would look very dull otherwise. One of the best cloths is made by Denis Wick and is available from many online retailers - they are impregnated with appropriate stuff and can be used time & again - mine is about 3 years old and will last as long again.

Kind regards
Tom
 

AlanU

Member
Messages
655
Great, but try getting cloths and gloves in all the nooks and crannies of a Saxophone without snagging springs and knocking off corks and felts.

Activated charcoal will capture the sulphur particles in air that cause the tarnish.
Therefore no tarnish to remove, voila!
 

picconose

Member
Messages
75
When I was at the US Navy School of Music, we were not allowed to use polish or chemicals of any kind on our flutes and piccolos. (I was a flute major) Neither were we allowed to remove any key work. All cleaning was done strictly by friction, using 100% cotton cloths. To get between the keys, we cut the cloth into long thin strips, and fished them under the springs. Sitting down, and holding the flute or piccolo between our knees, we would grip one end of the cloth in each hand and rapidly move the strip back and forth. InNstrument inspections were held monthly, and woe be unto he who had dust, lint or tarnish visible anywhere on or in the instrument.

Those musicians who played on lacquered instruments were allowed to use lacquer polish. The only thing brasso was used for (other than our uniform buckles) was cymbals, and the brass racks supporting tubular bell sets.
 
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