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 Tarnished Keys
Author: emrose19 
Date:   2013-02-09 19:20

I play a Leblanc Sonata Bb clarinet. As a music major, I'm spending a lot more time with my instrument - and it's obvious. The keys on my clarinet (which I believe are nickel-plated) are SO tarnished. What can I do to make them shine again? (Without breaking the bank and taking it in.) Thanks!

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 Re: Tarnished Keys
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2013-02-09 19:33

Leblanc Sonatas usually have silver plated keys which will progressively turn yellow, then brown, then to blue-black when they tarnish. This can be removed with regular use of a silvercloth which has silver polish impregnated in the cotton - wipe the keys down with a cotton cloth or old t-shirt after playing, then every now and then give them a buff up with a silvercloth.

Nickel plated keys will turn dull grey when they tarnish and it's not easy to remove unless you machine polish them on a buffing machine with tripoli and finish with jeweller's rouge - so it's an extensive and expensive job as it means stripping the clarinet down to do, plus replacing key corks and pads as they won't stand up to being machine polished.

I've noticed some Leblancs (and others) tarnish as a result of something used in the making of the case which most likely contains sulphur - either the chemicals used in the treatment of the leather used to cover the case with (or a leather mouthpiece bag), the glue used to stick the fabric lining into the case or the foam used to cushion the case. Some mouthpieces give off sulphur fumes which can also cause silver to tarnish when kept in close proximity.

Former oboe finisher
Howarth of London
1998 - 2010

The opinions I express are my own.

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 Re: Tarnished Keys
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2013-02-12 20:39

Get your keys polished, and then put "silver anti tarnish strips" in your case.

No more tarnish.


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 Re: Tarnished Keys
Author: BartHx 
Date:   2013-02-15 16:31

I am tasked with keeping my wife's silver collection looking good as well as restoring clarinets as a hobby. I am currently working on restoring a 1948 Buffet which has not been serviced in the past 26 years (the only way I could get my hands on it was to offer a loaner). I have found that Maas Metal Polish (available on line) does an excellent and fast job of cleaning really tarnished keys. I use it with a micro-fiber cloth and also rub some into a micro-fiber cloth to keep as a silver polishing cloth to keep in my case. It is non-abrasive and as close to a truly wipe on wipe off product as I have found. I start when I disassemble to repad and then use the cloth in my case to keep the instrument looking good.

Disclaimer: I am in no way connected to nor do I profit in any way from Mass products. I am simply a very satisfied user.

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 Re: Tarnished Keys
Author: Carl Maria von Weber 
Date:   2013-02-18 05:58

Some people just have a chemical reaction with the nickel-plated keys. For myself, I can only play on silver or gold keys. If you are like me, nickel-plated instruments will tarnish no matter how much you clean it.

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 Re: Tarnished Keys
Author: KSL 
Date:   2013-02-18 23:48

I have a method for nicklel plated keys that works very well. My clarinets are Buffet R 13's. Purchase MAAS metal polish at any hardware store. I use ACE hardware. Also get a small electric buffing machine such as "Dremel" which uses different size felt pads. The 1/2 inch felt polishing wheels work very well.
Apply a little of the polish on the key and use a soft cloth to polish. This alone works most of the time. For stubborn keys use the electric buffer. The felt pads will turn black as the tarnish is removed. You may have to go through several pads.

With this method my clarinets look almost like new. Once the tarnish is removed you need to wipe your clarinet keys after each use, preferably with a polish cloth.

I hope it works for you.


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