What trumpet finish resists sweaty hands corrosion?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by jgotteach, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I have seen modern epoxy lacquer peel off, the silver plate on several horns and even some gold plated instruments with problems. The big question is NOT how do we apply even more stuff, rather how do we respond in each case.

    Horns in general: wipe off after EVERY USE sweaty or not. Use a microfiber cloth that absorbs more than standard natural fibers.

    Lacquer: as long as the surface has no scratches or other ways for your sweat to get "under" the coating, you are in good shape. This can be hard to achieve at the first and third slides.

    Silver is a metal that can combine with other elements like oxygen or sulphur. It is also soft. In the interest of keeping the finish shiny I do not recommend any type of polish or polishing rag. They just increase the amount of mechanical wear! Cleaning the horn regularly by putting it in very hot salt water with a big piece of aluminum foil restores the silver finish WITHOUT the abrasives found in EVERY polish!

    If a horn is properly gold plated, it is first copper plated, then silver and finally gold. That is the only gold finish in my experience that is durable. Still, it is soft and subject to mechanical wear so I always use an additional squirt of glass cleaner on the microfiber cloth instead of wiping it dry.

    Corrosion is defined here:
    Corrosion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I guess using this definition, the oxidation/sulphurization of silver would be a form of (reversable) corrosion. When Lacquer is damaged, the brass underneath also "corrodes" as well as the moisture of our sweat getting under the lacquer and annulling the bond between it and the metal.

    Just keep your axe clean based on your body chemistry and the instrument will give you decades of good service.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
  2. krmanning

    krmanning Pianissimo User

    Apr 18, 2009
    Fayetteville, NC
    I have yet to see any finish that can withstand my sweaty hands. Get a good quality hand guard (Leather Specialties) that covers most contact points, try and wipe it off after each use, and realize that its just going to happen. At some level, a horn with wear points is a horn thats getting used and not just sitting in the case.
  3. brassplayer

    brassplayer Pianissimo User

    May 6, 2009
    San Gabriel, CA
    My body chemistry also pretty much makes me a destroyer of horns. :dontknow:

    I echo krmanning's recommendation. Leather Specialties Valve Guards are the way to go. They are a little more expensive than other guards, but well worth it, IMO.
  4. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    Several posters have hit it on the head. If your son's touch to the horn is what is causing the deterioration, cut the touch. Look for a really good quality valve guard that provides MAXIMUM coverage -they are NOT all equal. Get one that covers the valves, plus areas on the bell, leadpipe, and 3rd valve slide that come into contact with your hands. Also, whenever possible, have him wash his hands before playing.

    By the way, with care, your son should be able to pass the Bach on to his son. My 1970 Bach strad (in silver) was bought when I was in college (age 20). I'm now 55 and it still plays like it did new. Silver is still good except where I often put a first finger over the lead pipe, and where the the thumb came in contact with the valves. My leather valve guarddidn't cover all areas. And yes, my son has his eye on my horn -so I got him his own.
  5. jgotteach

    jgotteach New Friend

    Mar 27, 2010
    I wanted to report back on the helpful email I received from Charlie Melk (recommended by VetPsych). He said that, although lacquer can be a better alternative than silver, the quality of the lacquer is what makes the difference. In his opinion, the difference between lacquer and silver finishes on a Bach are negligible. He feels that gold plating is the best, but expensive. ($1000). He has witnessed the most success with bathing/cleaning (not polishing) the horn on a regular basis.

    My son does use a Leather Specialty guard, but has still had major problems. One thing our local music shop suggested what that he change the leather guards every few months, as they become saturated. We'll have to make sure we find a guard that gives maximum coverage, as I'm not sure which style of leather guard he is now using.

    It seems that my son's sweat is on the extreme end of "attacking" the finish on his trumpet. Within a year of purchasing his trumpet, the corrosion (for lack of a better word) of both the silver and the metal underneath was so bad on his trumpet, the company actually repaired and re-plated the silver on the premise that there might have been a faulty finish in the manufacturing process. (A friend had a contact at the company and facilitated this generous gesture.) Unfortunately, the new finish did not hold up any better, so we concluded the problem lay in my son's hands (literally!)

    So we have decided to go ahead with the new Bach Strad silver, make sure it gets regular baths, keep a supply of Leather Specialty guards and microfiber cloths, and..keep our fingers crossed. It is my hope is that, like SteveRIcks, this trumpet will be in good enough condition to get passed on to the next generation!

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses!
  6. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009

    I understand as I have had a similar, but not as serious problem over the years. One thing you might want to do is to let him use the Getzen for marching etc., and the Bach for indoor rehearsals and performance. Get him to think about where he sweats the most, and go for the older horn, if not a performance. Of course, I've had some stage work where I sweated worse than on the football field. Just an idea...best of luck.

    Also, I'm sure you know this, but BE SURE he trys out a Bach before buying it!!! If the store has 8, play all 8 and pick the best. BA\chs are highly variable in quality. Inconsistency is the norm. You will find some play much better than others.
  7. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    An extreme suggestion, especially if you are the son, is that the ph of his sweat may reflect a high, or acid, ph of his body in general.

    Studies have shown that it is healthier to have an alkaline ph than an acid one. Things which throw the balance toward an acid ph are, not suprisingly, foods which are acidic: soda, coffee, pizza, burgers, beer, ketchup, sugar, corn syrup and oil. There ARE lots of healthy foods which are acidic too. The key is keeping your body slightly alkaline or neutral = ph of 7. Most teenagers in the US have acidic phs due to the large amount of sugar and soda and animal protein in their diet.

    Moving away from acidic foods can not only be beneficial for the trumpet finish, it can improve overall health, resistance to disease, and life expectancy.

  8. jgotteach

    jgotteach New Friend

    Mar 27, 2010
    Fortunately, my son only plays in jazz band, no marching outdoors!

    The music store is ordering a Bach for him to try. He'll try it out and compare it to his teacher's Bach, which he loves. This is one reason we decided to buy it from our local music store (where they do excellent service/repairs) rather than online. Although, with taxes, it is more expensive than online, we want to support our local music business.

    Thanks for the suggestions, SteveRick!
  9. jgotteach

    jgotteach New Friend

    Mar 27, 2010
    Interesting idea, Veery! As a matter of fact, my son also suffers from acid reflux, so there could very well be a connection.

    I completely agree with the importance of a healthy, nonacidic diet, but with my teenager, it is definitely a work in progress!

    About a year ago he went to see a hand specialist (orthopoedic surgeon) for a non-related problem. He mentioned the sweating problem, and she told him there is a "minor" surgery that can be done in extreme cases. We told her we didn't think he fit into that category, but thought it was interesting.
  10. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    High pH is alkaline, low pH is acidic.

    And skin *needs* to be slightly acidic (around 5.5) to combat bacterial and fungal infections.

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