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Thread: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    So I have an old National tenor with the nice shiny "German silver" finish (it's actually a nickel alloy, or so I understand). Been playing and singing with it. Trouble is, I sing like a sprinkler head, if you know what I mean. What's a good product I can use to keep the instrument clean and shiny?
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    Carpe Mandolinium
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Is it lacquered?


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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Dunno what you mean, John. I don't know anything other than what I've posted. You already asked this question once in another thread, so you should already know that I don't have an answer for you. If you can help, then please help.
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Probably nickel plated rather than nickel-silver/German silver, so I wouldn't get to agressive with it. If it's just "spit spots" you want to get off use a very slightly moistened soft cloth.
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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    What John is referring to is that a lot of polished brass/silver plated stuff is actually painted with clear lacquer so they won't tarnish.

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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    In the other thread somebody posted a link to the National Guitar website.

    I'm not going to discount what National says, because one would hope that they're the ranking experts on National instruments.

    That said, I'm gonna put on my hat as a French Horn player (with a nickel-silver instrument) of many years. And I'll start by saying that used correctly and carefully, vinegar does work, but there are some more specialized, and thus probably better products available. (AT least for horn players, who tend to stay away from vinegar because it takes some elbow grease, and a French Horn bell is incredibly thin and fragile--I crumpled one once.)

    There are a number of cleaners and polishes designed specifically for brass instruments. Brass and nickel-silver are similar enough metallurgically, and nickel-silver instruments are ubiquitous enough that the products for brass will work on nickel-silver unless the label says otherwise. These products are designed to remove body fluids from the surface. And there are some that are absolutely non-abrasive.

    There are quite a few of them, and I've never found any huge difference among them, but in your case you might want to opt for a spray-on cleaner.

    You can also get a polishing cloth designed to be used on a brass instrument along with the cleaner/polish (although I always use just a chamois from an auto store). The specially-made cloths are probably better.

    The kind of things I'm talking about should be available in any music store that caters to the school-band trade. On the web the go-to site is Giardinelli (NFI). I've always found them to be very helpful and well-informed on the phone. They're headquartered in New York (Schenectady, I think), but I don't know where their call center is (you know how that works nowadays).

    While you're at it, poking around in the band instrument section, you might want to pick up some French Horn valve, also called rotor oil. It's the best think I've ever found for oiling tuning machines because it's specifically formulated for brass-on-brass applications. (The really good stuff [I think I pay $5 for a 0.8-oz bottle of Hetman brand] might not be available in your local store.)

    Obviously, be careful with the cleaner/polish. Just be careful about contact with skin etc. And I would confine it to the nickel-silver parts of the instrument, because I don't know what it'll do to wood. I also have no idea what it might do to picks, so you'll want to keep it off your strings.

    Hope this helps.


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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Cool. Well, I gave it a once-over with the vinegar, but I will probably keep an eye out for something more specialized. I really don't know whether there's some kind of lacquer coat over the plating, but I don't think there is. I think the brass in National guitar bodies is a little sturdier than your average French horn bell (although the cones might be another matter).
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    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Cool. Well, I gave it a once-over with the vinegar, but I will probably keep an eye out for something more specialized.
    nickel/silver - try Mothers non-abrasive metal polish, that should do her.

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    Registered User Nick Quig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Those silver polish cloths are good-they're impregnated and would be just right for light cleaning and it would save messing about with polishes which tend to get into places you don't want!
    Most good jewellers sell them.

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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    For whatever it's worth, I've played an Irish flute that has nickel-silver rings on it for the last 25 years and have never had to polish it. In my experience, nickel-silver doesn't tarnish as actual Sterling silver does. It's just as bright and shinny as the day it was made. Wiping off spit marks with a soft cloth is OK, but personally I'd wait until you actually see tarnish before polishing anything. If it is just a thin plating, you might easily wear through the coat, lacquer or not. Don't polish it if you're just assuming it should be polished.

    Nick mentioned jeweler's cloth which brings up the point: Why not ask a jeweler?

    P.S. The bell of a French horn, like all brass instruments, is lacquered and one never uses a metal polish unless he desires to remove the coating and allow the tarnish to develop into a patina (many players actually do that).
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Since its just spit, I'd suggest soap and water on a damp cloth..
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    From Tim - "In my experience, nickel-silver doesn't tarnish.......".You've obviously never owned a Stelling Banjo !.Mine tarnishes almost overnight.On the other hand,the Nickel-silver plating on my Chinese built Gold Star never needed polishing other than a wipe over,in the 3 years i had it. Also,your comment that ''most Banjos are Chrome plated'' - in almost 50 years of playing Banjo & literally playing 100's,i've never 'personally' seen a chrome plated one.They are made,that's for sure,(Deering make one),but the vast majority are Nickel plated.The Silver polishing cloths that i mentioned,are made for any type of Silverware & work extremely well for lightly tarnished items.For items showing a heavy tarnished surface,just use a Silver polishing liquid - that's what it's made for. Geoff Stelling offers 'Simichrome' polish on his website - " For nickel-plated parts (do not use on gold plating)." for $8.00 a bottle,
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    I stand corrected, Ivan.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    The bast stuff I ever used is Simichrome. As its' name suggests, it is for chrome, but the label also lists nickel. I have used it for nickel plated parts like bass tuning machines, and my old Weymann mandolin. It works fantastic. The tuning machines on my old Kay bass were so dirty and full of grime I didn't even know until after I polished them with Simichrome that the pair on one side were nickel and the pair on the other side were brass!!! I owned the bass for 2 years before I knew that. You can find Simichrome in most motorcycle shops.
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    Registered User swain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Flitz is available as a paste or impregnated cloth. Worth a try, as is Simichrome.

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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    I'd like to apologize for apparently giving poor information. Besides the flute, I've owned five banjos, none of which ever needed any polish at all. I have an Epiphone five-string that has sat mostly unused for 20 years and it's as shiny today as when I bought it new, although the head has yellowed considerably. My experience has seen dull films from skin contact, but never actual tarnish that needed polishing off. This mislead me to believe the parts were chrome plated.

    This forum is far too valuable to me to allow misinformation, even my own, to go uncorrected.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    or, try this stuff : http://www.nevrdull.com/
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    I think I would stay away from nevrdull......... I use it on parts of my Harley and that stuff is actually semi-abrasive.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    I suspect that the way individual finishes tarnish,is down to the specification of the actual plating material / process,of which there are many. I had a Banjo Gold plated years ago,thinking that would solve all my tarnishing problems,boy !, was i ever mistaken.It was 'soft' Cyanidic Gold,& within months it had pitted with black spots of 'tarnish' all over it. I had to have it stripped & re-plated in Nickel. Most Gold plated items for musical instruments are 'hard' Gold plated. I don't know to what plating spec.my Stelling is plated,but as i said,it does seem to tarnish very quickly. Since i began playing Mandolin,it's been polished more than played this past (almost) 7 years. Chrome plating is harder & more durable,but as you'll have seen on car fenders ('bumpers' to us folks in the UK),it can & does very often 'peel',
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Another vote for Simichrome. Used it on my National Style 0 guitar, on resonator coverplates on Dobro guitar/"Dojo"/mandolin, and on a variety of banjo resonator flanges and other metal parts. Used it on brass lamps as well. Seems to clean decently without being abrasive.

    I do second mandroid's observation that spit should come off with mild soap and warm water. Of course, depends what you've been eating/drinking while playing...
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    jug stomper Michael Eck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning & polishing "German silver" on metal-body National

    Flitz is definitely what I would recommend. It's actually available from National on their website and they send a sample with each new instrument.

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