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topic 3567

Plating of Musical Instrument Keys


I'm looking for some information from someone who might have plated the keys on a clarinet before. I'm wondering what they are typically plated with? My wife has a clarinet that she would like me to recoat the keys of with the PVD (sputtering) system I use and I would like to put down the same metal that is typically finished.

I can tell you that the keys look metallic but in the area's that have worn away they look copper color. I'm assuming the final coating is either nickel or chromium but I'm not sure which. Any advice?

John Davis
John Davis
- Berthoud, Colorado, USA


I've been playing since 1971... clarinet keys, particularly any of them old enough to be worn down to the brass base, are almost always nickel plate. Much more recent keywork has occasionally been chrome, and Pete Fountain used to play a clarinet with gold-plated keys, but nickel was what was almost always used. I've never seen anyone replate keys, but I suppose it could be done provided you make sure the clearances (tight) on the holes for the pivots, as well as any threaded holes, are kept clear or reamed or retapped to their original clearance afterward, or the keys will bind.

Scott Wenzel
- Knoxville, Maryland


Although nickel plating is frequently used, silver plating makes playing easier because it's a significantly softer metal.

Daniel Landau
- Durham, North Carolina

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