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 Replating Keys
Author: Graciela 
Date:   2009-03-28 03:23

My fingers are very.... acidic? My nickel-plated keys have worn down over time so that the rough bronze-ish color ish showing through in many places. Does anyone know how and where I can get my keys replated and how much it would cost? Or should i just buy a new clarinet?

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2009-03-28 04:03

You can put clear top-coat nail polish on the keys to prevent furthur wear. A lot of people do this and a few coats will last about 1-2 months before you need to reapply.

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2009-03-28 05:42

I just had the keys on my 1963 R13 replated.

The price was about $20/key, though I don't know what the exact amount was because, of course, the clarinet had to be stripped before being sent to the plater, then repadded, new springs installed, and the instrument reassembled and adjusted. With some other minor work to bring the horn into prime condition, the total bill was around $650.

If the price isn't daunting, this may be:

Plating companies generally run key plating only when it's convenient for them, and my keys waited for about six months before it was convenient for them to do my job. So if you only have one instrument and can't get along without it for a long time, either buy a backup instrument or reconsider.


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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: Geirskogul 
Date:   2009-03-28 08:24

I look at worn keys as a sign that the player loves to play, don't get them replated. It costs too much and isn't worth it for most people, unless you already have other work to do. A clear coat of nail polish or spray enamel (with a mask on the other parts of the instrument, a slit in a piece of construction paper works wonders) will do the trick.

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2009-03-28 20:40

Nail polish??!!!!????

This makes your keys very "tacky" and effects your abililty to play.

Just use a 100% cotton cloth to wipe the keys down after you play. This will cut down on the oxidation process.

The other "thing" about replating is that it changes the tolerances of the keys..... distances between posts, etc. So you need a trusty repair person to make things right.

If you are just worried about tearing through metal (as I do as well) you can think about gold if you must replate. Gold is resistant to toxic sweat in ways that nickel and silver can only dream about.

Also, if you're in the market for a new pro horn, Yamaha's CSG-H has nickel/gold plated keys ......well under three grand the last time I checked.

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2009-03-28 20:48

> Nail polish??!!!!????
> This makes your keys very "tacky" and effects your abililty to play.

Not in my experience. Sure, it very much depends on the type of varnish used, and how it reacts to sweaty fingers.
Certainly worth a try - if it doesn't work out, you can still remove it and think about something better.


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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2009-03-30 12:37

I agree with Paul about the gold- if you really are going to spend the money, you should spend a bit more to get gold and you will never have to worry about it again.

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: William 
Date:   2009-03-30 15:04

Gold is durable and best--one of my R13 Bb's was done about 20 yrs ago and still looks like new.

FWIW, I just had a used R13 A clarinet silver plated and the total cost (including corks, pads, etc) was a bit under $500. For my hands, nickel always tarnished and looked terrible after a while. However, with silver on all my clarinets, there has never been a problem with wear or dulling of finish. And to me, silver just feels better.........

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2009-03-30 17:00

Dear William,

There are those of us who "eat" silver. Nickel wear for me is mainly a discoloration (sorta bluish) well in advance of the the bare metal underneath showing through.

With silver, however, within a year of NOT wiping off keys after each use, the surfaces begin to show ruts where the plating seems to have literally been disolved.

No problem with gold at all!!

You make a good point about "feel." There is a bit more feeling of being securely planted on the keys with silver. Of course the counter to that argument is that nickel allows for better sliding. The feeling of gold falls somewhere in between.

............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: shmuelyosef 
Date:   2018-09-02 23:55

Old post, but i have a curiosity about keywork.

On saxophones, the lacquer wears off the keys in the first year or two if you play a lot. Nobody really seems to mind or do anything about it.

For years I played King Super 20 tenors that had nickel silver keywork (except key cups) which seems similar to clarinet keywork.

If, for example, faced with a clarinet that has pitted nickel plate on the keys (like 70s LeBlancs), couldn't I just lightly sand them and polish out the scratches so the customer has nice touches again?

Post Edited (2018-09-02 23:55)

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: Burt 
Date:   2018-09-03 00:15

I'm one of those who "eats" the plating material. I used silver paint on the worn areas for cosmetic reasons, and covered that with clear nail polish. None of the areas I treated are near pads. While I've had a minor problem with the paint cracking away, I've had no problem with the surface being tacky. My actions have not impaired playability at all.

On the pre-R13 I used to play, I had no problem with the (dull) nickel-silver plating.

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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-09-03 18:12

shmuelyosef wrote:

> If, for example, faced with a clarinet that has pitted nickel
> plate on the keys (like 70s LeBlancs), couldn't I just lightly
> sand them and polish out the scratches so the customer has nice
> touches again?

I'm not sure of the answer you'll get from modern repair people about keys with worn plating. But FWIW, when I was student in Philadelphia, Hans Moennig avoided selling plated-key clarinets and didn't like to work on them. The reason, as I understood it, was exactly what you suggest - that scratches and even light tool marks could be buffed out and the key surfaces brought back up to their original sheen if there was no plating involved. I think he considered plating to be a nuisance.

Unplated keys can be polished to a very attractive finish. I just don't know if the color contract between a buffed unplated key and the surrounding plated ones would be a serious cosmetic issue for some players. If that isn't an issue, I don't know why buffing and polishing the damaged areas wouldn't work well.


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 Re: Replating Keys
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-09-03 19:24

Unplated keys that have been buffed will soon dull down to match the others that haven't been touched, so not really an issue after a little while.

I prefer unplated keys for the simple fact alterations can be made and there's no plating to have to remove prior to silver soldering, then have to get the key replated afterwards to match the rest of the instrument.


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