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alex_holden

Nickel Plating Of Nickel Silver Ends

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I've read on here that nickel silver ends were sometimes also bright nickel plated. I'm guessing this was to stop them tarnishing? Was this standard practise or something only done to special high-end instruments? Did they use nickel silver as the base rather than brass so that it wasn't as noticeable when the plating inevitably started to wear through?

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There are different grades of NS, some of the ones used were distinctly yellowish. I had a Jeffries like that that was plated, but the better plan is to use a grade that has somewhere near 18% nickel and leave it. Nickel does not bond well to NS without a copper precoat and can begin to flake off if it is heavy enough not to wear off. Nickel isn't immune from tarnish from hands anyway. Straight NS can be cleaned and or re polished if you care about looks, essentially indefinitely. Grades used for jewelry or belt buckles give good service.

Dana

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Thanks Dana, I think I'll stick with just polishing the NS. Personally I like to see a bit of patina; maybe these days laser-cut stainless steel is the better option for ends that never tarnish.

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I have been using Nickel Silver for making the metal parts of Uilleann Pipes for nearly 40 years and never felt the need to plate it . Generally it stays reasonably free of tarnish unless the player has a skin type that causes rapid oxidation .

 

I agree with the Dana's comments although it is not always easy to find N/silver with a particular percentage of Nickel , most of what is on offer in Europe will contain 12%.

 

The temptation to use Stainless Steel is one I hope you can resist.... for me there is something not nice about its colour... too cold perhaps ?

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I agree with Geoff about SS color which has no warmth to it. There are 300 series austinetic stainless steels that just have nickel in them, commonly used in food service items like counters etc, that is warmer in tone than the 400 series that is usually used for flat ware or most polished goods, but neither has the warmth of NS. Laser cutting SS requires a lot less energy than NS or any copper alloy, on the other side, NS is much easier to form.

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On the subject of Tone :

 

it would be interesting to make a test of the various metals that one could use for the end plates. There is a topic on this website where I discuss an instrument I owned a few years ago which had a distinctly beautiful tone, okay it was a particularly fine Wheatstone Duet from 1927 but, according to the company legers the ends were made of Brittania Metal . Having researched exactly what that particular alloy is (a type of Pewter) I cannot imagine why it may have influenced the tonal qualities but close examination did not reveal any other differences in the construction of that instrument.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Chrome plating does have that 'cold' look a sort of blue-ish tinge similar to much of the Stainless Steel types. Although I have seen it on concertinas, perhaps as a replacement finish or on some Boosey and Hawkes period Wheatstones from the 1960's , I do not find it anywhere as pleasing as Nickel Plating.

 

But coming back to my 'Tonal ' thoughts; how about making metal ends from the new Silver alloy Argentium ? It has less Copper than Standard (Sterling) Silver and the addition of 'Germanium' (whatever that is) which makes it very tarnish resistant. In fact reading Wikipedia , just now, I notice that there is an Argentium 960 ( 96% pure Silver) which " meets the standard for Brittania Silver Hallmarking".....

 

Hmmm .... Perhaps the instrument I was so taken by its tone did not have Brittania Metal ends but Brittania Silver ends ?

 

The cost of making a concertina with solid silver end plates is not ridiculous, I have made many sets of Uilleann Pipes where all the metalwork is Sterling Silver. I cannot but give a rough idea of the material cost, as bullion prices change daily but from what I paid last year I estimate it might add less than £300 to the cost of materials for a concertina of standard size.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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I agree stainless is emotionally cold to the eye and the slightly yellow look of German silver (nickel/copper) is easier to look at. If you want a long-life shine titanium is not that hard to turn into ends, I have machined a couple of sets. Very light comparatively.

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Chrome plating does have that 'cold' look a sort of blue-ish tinge similar to much of the Stainless Steel types. Although I have seen it on concertinas, perhaps as a replacement finish or on some Boosey and Hawkes period Wheatstones from the 1960's , I do not find it anywhere as pleasing as Nickel Plating.

Also I would be worried about chrome plating starting to flake off eventually. Anecdotally, I've heard that modern chrome plating is less durable than it used to be (and I've personally bought reproduction classic car parts that started pitting and flaking after a couple of years), partly due to cost cutting and partly because various nasty chemicals used in the plating process have been banned and replaced with environmentally-friendlier but less effective alternatives.

 

But coming back to my 'Tonal ' thoughts; how about making metal ends from the new Silver alloy Argentium ? It has less Copper than Standard (Sterling) Silver and the addition of 'Germanium' (whatever that is) which makes it very tarnish resistant. In fact reading Wikipedia , just now, I notice that there is an Argentium 960 ( 96% pure Silver) which " meets the standard for Brittania Silver Hallmarking".....

 

Hmmm .... Perhaps the instrument I was so taken by its tone did not have Brittania Metal ends but Brittania Silver ends ?

 

The cost of making a concertina with solid silver end plates is not ridiculous, I have made many sets of Uilleann Pipes where all the metalwork is Sterling Silver. I cannot but give a rough idea of the material cost, as bullion prices change daily but from what I paid last year I estimate it might add less than £300 to the cost of materials for a concertina of standard size.

I've not yet worked with Argentium, though I have had similar thoughts while making sterling silver jewellery in the shape of miniature concertina ends. It's relatively easy to work, doesn't have as cold a colour as stainless/chrome, and with use and occasional light polishing to remove tarnish it builds up a (subjectively) beautiful patina over time. I thought of perhaps trying it out on a miniature before a full-size instrument. :)

 

Though it occurs to me that it may be necessary to have them assayed, which complicates matters a little as you have to register with the hallmarking council, have a sponsor mark punch made, and physically take them to an assay office.

Edited by alex_holden

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My understanding of Argentium is that it is not subject to firescale when heated for silver soldering in jewelry unlike sterling, which needs a good flux coating to protect it. I would certainly use it as an alternative to sterling. I'm not aware of any downside other than being about 20% heavier than NS.

Dana

Edited by Dana Johnson

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I was tempted but my quick Argentium search did not reveal anything thinner than 14g. This is around twice as thick as the average end.

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I was tempted but my quick Argentium search did not reveal anything thinner than 14g. This is around twice as thick as the average end.

My Silver supplier www.cooksongold.com lists Argentium down to 0.3mm sheet.... though they do not list 0.6mm (24g) I am sure they would roll any thickness, within reason.

 

Certain Concertina models one comes across , which were available in either wooden or metal ended versions can show an incredible tonal difference; if they were designed with one end material in mind they can sound harsh or dull with the alternative.

 

I have often thought to make a set of exchangeable metal ends for my favourite wooden ender.... hmmm.... a lot of work just to see how it would be!

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