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topic 0819

Cleaning a silver plated saxophone


Q. I have a customer who sent me a 70 year old sandblast silver plated sax for cleaning, etc. In some areas, particularly under key hinges near the steel springs, the finish would not come back to "silver". My customer had greater expectations, and I need assistance to find the right words to explain why the finish cannot be made like new. Some kind of galvanic process is involved, but can you help me explain it better?

Joan Mamanakis
- North Benson Music


A. Not being able to see it, most people will have to guess. My guess is that the hinges were brazed on with silver solder which takes some extra effort to activate versus the brass parent metal in the plating process. It probably got a very thin layer of silver which has long since been worn and or polished off. You are probably looking at the braze which is going to be hard to brighten by buffing since you can not adequately get a wheel on it.

I doubt if the truth is going to interest the customer. I would cut my losses and try to salvage some customer relations. Give the customer the polish job for whatever % of the intended cost that he feels comfortable with. Zero is a possibility , but a loss is better than bad PR.

Warn your next customer of the possibility, and that you charge for services, regardless of the outcome.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. Upon re-reading your letter, it seems like you tried to clean the existing plating, but did not try to replate the sax. It may be expensive, but can it not be sent to a silver plating shop for replating? I suspect that James is right that you are now looking at an instrument with exposed brass, solder, etc., rather than silver plating over the entire instrument.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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