How to clean a gold-plated trumpet?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by joshlalonde, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    Just what exactly are people trying to rip off the metal surface with ultrasonic cleaning that can't be removed by more conventional means?

    Protective oxide layer?
    Protective metal plating?
    The brass itself?

    Cavitation (the 'abrasive agent' of ultrasonic cleaning) can do all this and more.

    Trumpets have been around for a few thousand years and managed quite well without such brutal technology. I think it's probably a bit OTT myself.
     
  2. SAS

    SAS Pianissimo User

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    Cavitation in Mantis shrimp produce heat equal to that of the sun, and light, and an explosion (according to scientists). I actually just watched a documentary on that a couple nights ago. Mechanized ultrasonic cleaning does not produce that kind of forceful cavitation in the machines in use for cleaning brass instruments. But with that said, do I want to risk it? Not sure. I have a lot of people telling me not to, and an equal amount saying it's fine. I know ultrasonic cleaning will take silver plating off at weak points where underneath there is existing damage, like pits on a lead pipe that aren't seen under the plating until the process removes the "contaminant". This is where I'm weary of the idea with old horns.
     
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't think that we need to argue about "to ultrasound or not". Each of us has our preferences guided by our necessities.

    I have all the proof that I need about Ultrasound based on a major disaster that VW and Mercedes had years ago. Fuel injector nozzles failed in a big way after industrially ultrasounding them. Sure we are comparing apples to oranges BUT the potential for destructive results is there and I will not have my critical horns subjected to anything that I am not thoroughly convinced about - especially with machines where we have no real objective data about what 1 minute, 5 minutes, ½ an hour really does.

    Solder joints can be chemically cleaned before a repair so there is always an option. If the shop decides not to, fine. Then we as the instrument owner have a decision to make: take a chance yes or no. My suspicion is that they want minimal cosmetic damage to the gold and that is why they prefer ultrasound. That also involves a decision........

    I will propose that even soldering a brace has the potential to change the instruments behaviour (otherwise we would not have the brace in the first place). If the brace was not perfectly formed, the artisan will often use a jig or some wire to "force" the pieces to connect and then solder the piece that are now under tension. This also adversely affects the response.

    The issue of repair is not a trivial one and I am sure most do not achieve the optimum sonic/response results because of lack of knowledge/experience/budget/ability to discriminate. That does not necessarily make the horn crap afterwards, but any of you that have played Bach trumpets rebuilt by René Spada know what I am talking about.

    We always have decisions to make and hopefully have the intelligence to sum our experience to get the very best odds when making them. I am not sure that most instruments would even be close to their original state if they got a low tension rehab program. Many players would not like the difference - at least at the beginning.

    When a solder joint pops, there are a couple of things to consider: was mechanical force externally applied, was the horn jig-built with tension, was it simply a crap solder job? Once we know that, we can consider what needs to be done - with all of the warts.

    I have a technician that I blindly trust. We discuss what I want to do and he NEVER does more ore less than what we agree on. He put a new leadpipe (a shortened Bach red brass #25 Bb pipe) on my Bach 229CL 3 hours before a concert on Friday (no emergency, I simply didn't have time earlier). The horn never played better!
     
  4. Kevin Whiting

    Kevin Whiting Piano User

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    The 1925 Conn New York Symphony is Silver and Gold plated.

    Kevin
     
  5. Frankie Prive

    Frankie Prive New Friend

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    In principle, based upon the inert nature of gold, all discolouration will only be superficial, therefore the detergent cleaning should be sufficient for stain removal.
    I clean both my lacquered brass and silver horns with good quality automobile body wax about once a year following a warm water detergent bath and have never had any issues.
     
  6. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    Gold plate is quite porous. Over time, I find a few faint purplish blotches appearing. A little alarmed when I first noticed it, but I think it's due to a slow bleed of silver from beneath the gold. Likely only micrograms are involved and there doesn't appear to be any deterioration of the finish.
     
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    If it were only so........ There are so many bad examples of gold plate where underlying problems leech (or was that leach) through the surface. The good plating jobs should have a flash layer of copper, then silver then gold. Then you should be safe!
     
  8. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

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    Thanks for sharing. I have a gold plated Olds Super that has a few spots of the purple too. Was wondering about it. No idea what they did to the horn before (recent) plating.
     
  9. SAS

    SAS Pianissimo User

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    On horns made in the turn of the century and early 20's/30's, they silver plated over sand blasted brass, and then gold plated. My Holtons were made, engraved, engraving covered, sandblasted, silver plated, and then gold plated. My Buescher was quadruple silver plated and then quadruple gold plated over the brass. They also sandblasted, but only the valves, I think.
     

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