Mysterious Tarnish Attack

Discussion in 'Trumpet Repair and Modification' started by Doc G, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. Doc G

    Doc G New Friend

    Apr 8, 2015
    Clayton, NC
    I generally leave my Bach Strad on its K&M stand, day and night, in the area where I do most of my practicing. A comfortable, climate-controlled room on the second floor. It's almost always uncased in open room air. During that time, I've noticed only slight areas of tarnish, which never get very far...I stay on top of these things and like to keep a clean, pretty horn. Anyway, I had to leave town for a few days; so I put the horn in its case and locked it up in my safe, as I did on one prior occasion this past February...for only two nights, I believe. Came home that time, got the horn, it looked fine; I uncased it and I put it back on the stand. When I opened the case this time, the horn didn't look at all like it did when I left it.

    When I retrieved the horn today I noticed a light yellowish cast or tinge all over it...almost like a very light brass. It was due for a complete cleaning anyway, so I attended first to the tarnish. I have Tarn-X, which I've used in the past, successfully, but never enjoyed the experience. This time I broke out my Denis Wick Silver Cleaning Cloth to remove most of the tarnish and followed up with a product I just bought called Wright's Silver Cream, which I found very easy to use, especially for getting into nooks and crannies. Then I just cleaned the whole horn thoroughly with water (which removed any remaining Silver Cream). There might be an easier way, and I'm open to suggestions, but it looks good as new, and tarnish removal isn't the point of this post.

    What I can't figure out is how it happened in the first place, so that I might avoid repeat episodes...possibly even worse. The safe is on the first floor, does not contain a dehumidifier (one could be added), but our AC is very efficient, the entire house is cool and dry through all seasons...if that even matters. I'm not wise in the ways of tarnish, but I was truly surprised to see the Strad go from shiny silver to dingy light yellow within no longer than 5 days. No harm done; everything cleaned up nicely, but I'm mystified as to the cause.

    Something about its environment clearly didn't agree with the finish. Again, it was secured in it's original case inside the safe. Any tarnish authorities out there with possible explanations?
  2. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    Good question. Typically tarnish is speeded up by the presence of sulfur dioxide and warmer temperatures. I noticed that the King Liberty I keep out on a stand has recently had a rapid increase in tarnishing.

    I use Wrights cream which works well. Most here would encourage you to use the hot water, salt, baking soda aluminum foil method. I have limited results with it. Need to design myself something to hold the horn and solution that keeps the temperature hot.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to hear other ideas on why tarnishing accelerates at times.
  3. Doc G

    Doc G New Friend

    Apr 8, 2015
    Clayton, NC
    Sulfur dioxide, you say? I'm not sure that it's presence would be elevated in my safe...but the contents is varied. I suppose it could be a slightly warmer environment than ambient room temperature. The safe is in the laundry room; but it wasn't in use while I was away. (Or it shouldn't have been.)

    Yes, I've read of the "hot water, salt, baking soda aluminum foil method" in a couple of threads, but haven't come across the exact methodology involved. Sounds like it might be a tad involved, but I get the feeling it's fairly popular. I'll stay tuned on that one.

    Thanks, Steve, for the reply and the info.

  4. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    Aluminum foil method is easy. Remove valves (don't put them in), disassemble horn. Wrap parts in aluminum foil (just a 10 second quick wrap, nothing fancy). Submerge in very very hot water (the hotter the better). Add a cup of baking soda and/or table salt. Wait for 40 minutes. Unwrap and rinse. Done.
  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    The tarnishing agent is hydrogen sulphide rather than sulphur dioxide.

    Only very small amounts are involved. My guess would be that your case has got a little damp sometime, and allowed some microbes called SRBs to start a little colony somewhere. Might be an idea to give your case a thorough airing.
  6. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    Yes, hydrogen sulphide. As I tell my wife, that is what I said , isn't it. Was in the brain, didn't get to the paper. Thanks for correcting.
  7. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    Maybe some moisture absorbers in the case may help. I have had it happen as well, and never sure why.

  8. Tomaso

    Tomaso Pianissimo User

    Oct 2, 2014
    New York City
    Just goes to show how dangerous and unpredictable instrument cases are. When they're new they mysteriously dent and tarnish the horn, when they're old they stink and cause red rot.

  9. gordonfurr1

    gordonfurr1 Forte User

    Aug 2, 2010
    North Carolina
    What in "tarn-ation" ?
  10. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    Wood smoke and ash contain sulfur compounds. I notice my silver-plated horns out on stands tarnish faster in the winter, when we and most of our neighbors use wood stoves for heat. I also remember more tarnish during nearby summer wildfires.

    You can buy strips of paper that absorb sulfur compounds -- they're commonly put in drawers with the fine silverware:

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