Cleaning by electrolysis

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by ChopsGone, May 30, 2009.

  1. ChopsGone

    ChopsGone Forte User

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    In some other threads, I've seen questions or suggestions about using electrolysis to clean horns. Right off the bat, let me say I'm not endorsing that idea, especially for instruments. OK? But since it's obvious that there's some question as to whether the trumpet should be the anode or the cathode, and the like, I'd like to share a link which I found most helpful when I put together my setup for cleaning old tools some years back.

    ELECTROLYTIC RUST REMOVAL (ELECTROLYSIS)

    He offers a link to another site on conserving underwater archaeology. There is a vast store of solid information there, especially in the silver and cupreous metals files. I should add that for me, electrolysis is the last choice. It really leaves a nasty-looking surface, so I prefer a bronze-bristled wheel in a grinder, or weak acid (citric, with acetic as an alternative), or just a series of abrasive rubber blocks and a wire brush. None of that applies to trumpet cleaning, just giving a perspective.

    All I hope to do with this posting is to clear up some of the misunderstandings about the process. Don't ever think that I believe this technique should be used on a trumpet.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2009
  2. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

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    Would that mess up the plating on a silver or nickel horn?
     
  3. ChopsGone

    ChopsGone Forte User

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    I'm not going to find out with any of mine. The section on silver has a lot of good information, including possible changes to the surface appearance. The section on cupreous metals goes into detail about the electrical current requirements, again with some cautions about nasty things which can happen when it's not within the correct range. The truth for a silver-plated item probably lies somewhere between those two. I do know that on steel or cast iron, cleaning by electrolysis leaves a dead, gray, ugly surface which requires a lot of hard work to bring back to anything like a normal appearance. Remember, this isn't a method which is commonly used on lightly-corroded items. In the old tool world, most people reserve it for the worst cases of heavy rust - if they're willing to use it then.

    A nickel-plated horn would probably hold up better than silver-plated, but then again, a nickel-plated horn isn't as likely to need electrolysis.
     

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