Lacquer to Silver!!! (it is possible!)

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Martin Hall, Nov 26, 2003.

  1. Martin Hall

    Martin Hall Member

    I purchased a Smith Watkins cornet around 4 years ago, and it plays wonderful. The only snag is that the lacquer is starting to show signs of wear!

    It was the same price as the silver plate, which I understand is more hard wearing, its just I fancied a "gold" one for a change!

    What I am wondering now is whether to have my instrument re finished, and whether it is possible to have it plated in silver!

    Has anyone had their instrument undergoe such a technique and did it spoil the sound / quality of their instrument!

    Any thought's?
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Depends whether you mean "spoil" or "change"!

    It is certainly possible to have your instrument re-plated, but I think there is little doubt that you would notice some sort of change; whether it is for better or worse will depend on taste.

    It is generally thought that (on high brass at any rate) silver plate will give a brighter, more brilliant sound, whereas a lacquer finish will tend to give a darker, more mellow sound.

    At least one consideration might be, what do the rest of your section play? If you currently have a front row all playing on lacquer-finished cornets, then to suddenly introduce one silver-plate instrument might well cause some problems in the section blend/balance, if nothing else.

    Just a thought.


  3. Revel8ion

    Revel8ion New Member

    Is this based on scientific fact or has it now just developed into an “Urban Legend”.

    I have been listening to Dyke for many years and have not heard any noticeable difference now that they are all (including the trombones!!) playing on silver instruments.

    I would have thought that as silver plate is an actual plating, whereas lacquer is only sprayed on, the silver plating would be thicker and therefore, if anything, produce the more “mellow” sound!

    Can any physics experts (or instrument manufacturers) shed any light on this?
  4. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    If they're all silver, then cool! If they're all lacquered, then cool also. It's when you mix and match. The idea of a "section" is to group by likeness. It's why you don't normally chuck a flugel amongst your cornets, or a trombone with your euphs. My band is all silver with the exception of 2 trumpeters who haven't been offered any cornets yet, and an all-llacquered trom section with one exception.

    I'll even go so far as to say sometimes mixing brands and models can also have a similar effect. It's whether or not you care about the difference is all that matters.
  5. Martin Hall

    Martin Hall Member

    Thanks people for your comments so far!

    The rest of front row all play lacquer finish courtois and have generally a different sound to me, some brighter, some mellower, depending on their mouthpeice selection. My bumper upper, has pretty much a bright sound, especially in the top which does allow me to ease off a little up there.

    My main query, is whether you can plate over a lacquer finish, and does it last or cause any problems?

    Come on chaps dig deep!
  6. Emb_Enh

    Emb_Enh Member


    to silver plate directly over lacquer is not possible. You go on to say:

    its just I fancied a "gold" one for a change!

    ...I represent a company which can do this for you, contact me on email for a price. I would personally oversee the job from beginning to end.

    What I am wondering now is whether to have my instrument re finished, and whether it is possible to have it plated in silver!

    Yes we do this also

    Has anyone had their instrument undergone such a technique and did it spoil the sound

    the only thing to change the sound characteristics would be added weight. Some people feel that lacquer being basically a veneer is lighter than silver plate. heavy=dark sound // light=bright sound. It is ALL a matter of degree. If the instrument is ultra liteweight to start then adding a 5oz weight is gonna make more of a difference than if the inst. was regular weight from the offset.

    Once again different plating/finishes do NOT have sound characteristics..only the possible variable of added weight makes a difference. AND plating or lacquer weight is negligible.

    / quality of their instrument!

    Plating of any kind [silver/nickel/gold] will last a whole lot longer than lacquer..which therefore helps the re-sale value.
  7. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Well the underlying metal on both instruments is brass so there would be no problem at all getting the plate to bond with the instrument as long as every last bit of laquer was stripped off. I imagine the stripping process could be done chemically. There would also have to be some chemical / acid bath treatment to prepare the base metal so the plating can 'key' in.
    What I don't know is if the 'base' instrument before the final finish applied is exactly the same size in both cases. If they are then I see no problem. However I think you would have to get the specs from the manufacturer. If you got a metal working shop to silver plate it and they applied a different plating thickness than the manufacturers then I wouldnt have a clue how it would affect the sound.
    There would be a lot of preparation and I don't think this would be cheap. I would venture a guess that it would be more cost effective to sell your laquered instrument and buy a new silverplated one.
  8. Martin Hall

    Martin Hall Member

    Well the instrument did costs over £2000 with spare leadpipe, so I don't really want to go out and buy another!!!!

    Would recommend the cornet hands down!

    Any ideas on price for silver plating?
  9. Hornblower RN

    Hornblower RN Member

    Have a word with Leigh at ...he is doing up a trumpet for me at the moment. He will discuss your requirements over the of luck :lol:
  10. Martin Hall

    Martin Hall Member

    Thanks I will
  11. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    For those people with sufficient time and patience, here is a link to an article written by Renold Schilke concerning the physical/acoustical properties of different materials/finishes used in brass instrument manufacture. Clinic.html

    Interestingly, Schilke asserts that Lacquer is considerably heavier than silver plate, and will adversely affect the tonal quality of an instrument to such an extent that, even today, Schilke refuse to supply any of their instruments in a lacquered finish. (for those concerned with appearance, and who can afford it, they will supply with a true gold plate.......)

    The only other point I would make, (with no disrespect intended to those who offer alternatives) is that if I had spent that kind of money on a professional quality instrument, I would not consider going anywhere other than to the original manufacturer if I wanted any rework/repairs undertaken. I am confident that Smith-Watkin themselves will be able to quote you for re-plating.

  12. Martin Hall

    Martin Hall Member

    I have mentioned it to Richard Smith and he has said he could do it.

    The problem is he is very busy and mainly involved with the production of his instruments, and although I know he sends them away to get the finish applied.

    I just wanted to find out if others had "made the change" and what effect it had, if any!

    The experience of having Dr Richard Smith sat in your living room, fitting you out with the ideal instrument is certainly one everyone should try.

    Just wish I would have put more thought into the finish and longevity of the instrument.
  13. Emb_Enh

    Emb_Enh Member

    I am representing DENIS WEDGWOOD instruments who GOLD / SILVER / LACQUER on the premises.

    Denis used to play CORNET with the Covent Garden Opera Orch, JAMES WATSON uses the WEG cornet, and Weg is currently working on a project for HM The Queen.

    Rod o-iii<O
  14. neiltwist

    neiltwist Active Member

    as roddy said, plating doesn't really make any difference in itself, for example, if you want to create a more 'symphonic' sound on a trombone, then you can get weights to attach to your bell, i'm sure they can be found for other instruments, but I saw them in 'the valve' in london.

    My besson bass trom is completely silver plated, and I have had no problems with the plating, unlike some laquer finishes I have seen, but if I were to have it laquered i think it would make little difference; the underlying metal is very heavy (much heavier than other bass troms I have tried, but not necessarily all), and this helps to give me a sound that I like and isn't too tinny.

    With regard to the physics of it, brass instruments are very complex, and are beyond the scope of what I have studied so far (fluid dynamics etc :?), and therefore what I now say may be wrong, but it still works on vibrations.

    The heavier the metal used, the greater the inertia (resistance to movement), and so the sound produced will not depend on the instrument quite as much, and will give a 'purer', less 'distorted' wave form, will effect the higher harmonics produced, and the sound wont be emitted from the surface of the instrument quite as much, and hence will sound 'darker', and possibly give less feedback. The opposits can be said for a lighter instrument, but it is all relative, and the way you produce the note in the first place makes a large difference in this.

    As I said earlier, I agree with roddy, it is the weight not the colour/type!
  15. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    . . . and I never even knew she played :!: :wink: :lol:
  16. Emb_Enh

    Emb_Enh Member

    AHHAHAH!!...nice one Pete!! ---ahhahah!!

    Rod o-iii<O
  17. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

  18. W.Rimmer

    W.Rimmer Member

    Stripping lacquer, polishing and replating is a service that I offer at a very competitive price. I do the preparation and pre-polish then I use the same plating company that do the Smith Watkins instruments. Email me at . Website
    People become convinced about all sorts of things about how the finish changes the sound, there is no scientific basis for it, but perception is everything!

  19. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't have thought anyone could legitimately refer to Renold Schilke as un-scientific ......... ??

  20. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    I can confirm from personal experience that Dennis is a genius when it comes to instrument repair / refurbishment. If it can be done, Dennis will do it, and at reasonable rates too.

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