I am the original owner of a 30 year old flute. The silver plate is pitting. Do you all know of anything I can do to slow this process down?
Do you all know what will happen eventually? Will the silver just disappear?
Do any of you have experience with replating? So far, replating looks prohibitively expensive, but I was still curious. Do you know if the flute comes back sounding like itself, or like a whole different flute?
To slow the process I remember seeing little chemically treated pieces of paper called "Silver Savers", in a friends case that reduce the speed of the process. You could have a google of them or ask in your local music store, but I believe they came with her flute so I wouldn't know where to get them, sorry!
As for different sound after re-plating, it would really depend on the quality of the service. I mean in some cases it done properly it could improve your sound, but make sure you do your research before you pay for anything as you don't want to damage your instrument.
Will replating change the sound? Techincally the answer is yes. Will you or anyone else notice - - probably not. Would I?- probably.
Can you slow the pitting - not really. There are things you can do to prevent it from, or slow down the begining of the pitting process. It is unrealistic to even try to stop it now (however I have supplied a suggestion below).
Replating will consist of taking the flute apart, cleaning, polishing, and neutralizing the body. Then it will be electroplated. Depending on who does it and what their training is it coulud be built up with other metals and then silver or they could just do silver on top of it. Part of the polishing process will result in removing metal from your flute (this will technically affect the sound), the plating will add mass back on (this will techinically affect your sound). Again, depending on the quality of the plating solution, the quality of the equipment being used, and the quality of the technicians experience will all affect the final product.
Your sweat gets into those little pits and it is next to impossible to get it out. With the sweat in the pit (which is like a funnel) it acts as a catalyst and helps it eat away faster. To help prevent it you can wipe down your flute and clean it regularly; and you can put chalk in your case to reduce tarnishing - but once the pitting has started you really can't do much about it.
That being said, you might try wiping your flute body down with a solution of 70% rubbing alcohol each night or once a week. (don't use anything stronger than %70 - you want the distilled water[30%] to get into the pits to get your dirt, grime, and sweat. Then the alcohol will evaporate the water and the contaminates it grabbed onto. Don't get your pads wet though.
There are self plating products that apply a *very* thin layer of plate to almost anything metallic you immerse in the product. I have never tried this and my flute is full silver (925) so I suppose will never need it.
Maybe somebody here has some experience with this process. You should take the cork ensemble before using the plating solution.
Guys, re-plating may be very expensive (taking in account the value of the flute in question), and as far as I know it's not durable. If you re-plate a flute and then you put it apart as a decoration item, maybe the re-plating could last. Of course that's not the purpose, since I understand this is an instrument to be played.
So, unless this is really disturbing the player, I would not re-plate this flute. Maybe considering buying another instrument, say, a used one, in better condition than this one, could be even cheaper than entirely re-plating.
Thank you all for the help. I am reading this and googling for the terms you use and the companies I don't know -- thank you very much.
My choices seem to be: replate & overhaul the old flute body OR get a new flute body. If you can think of other options -- please let me know. I like to understand my options before I make choices -- and replating is something I know so little about. You all have been tremendous help for me to understand what replating might do.
Thank you all very much.
editing to add: I think (realistically) the most I can hope for is that the maker lets me buy just a new body and not a new head joint. I don't need a new head joint. I put this head joint in my childhood flute, and even though it's too loose and I'm chasing it with my lips, this head joint makes even my first flute sound AWESOME.
edit 2: The pitting doesn't bother me much, but the leaking from the pads bugs me alot. However, with the metal in its current condition, I'm having trouble getting the flute worked on. With the metal as it is, good technicians aren't sure that overhauling this flute is the best use of money. I've gotten this feedback from a few reputable people over the years. The last two people who did work on the flute have both retired.
Another option in general is for me to learn to repad. I was thinking to buy a damaged used flute, teach myself to repad, and do this myself. But I thought I'd focus my questions in this thread on what would mean to replate a flute.
I usually suggest, as it was my own solution: buy a new and better flute (if you can afford it) and keep the older as a backup, i.e. for emergencies in case of trouble with you main instrument or also for travelling to risky places, such as camping or similar situations.
If you prefer your present HJ to the one you will get with your new (which I doubt, because it is so old and newer HJs are, in general, much improved), you can always get you old HJ fit to the new body for little money.
Thank you all very much for explaining the science and the options surrounding plating, corrosion, and replating. I dislike making choices when I feel blind about one of the options. You've helped alot.
adding -- Wow, galvanic corrosion is neat. I wish it didn't happen to my flute, but it is interesting. Thank you!