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How to get gold-colored bridge and knobs to shine again?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by el_Bajo_Verde, Oct 29, 2016.

  1. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016

    There seems to be some sort of film on the hardware that makes it look a bit dull. It doesn't just wipe off with a cloth or fingernail...

    What can I use to wipe it and make it shine? I'd rather not remove the bridge, just want to wipe it down
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    That stuff you are seeing is the clear coat, which protects the gold plating. Gold hardware on musical instruments is made by a process called Gold Chrome. First, the part gets a normal Show Chrome plating (copper, then nickel, then a thin coat of chrome). Then, it gets a very thin flash coat of gold. Gold is expensive! Left like that, the gold would tarnish or very easily wear through. So, it gets sprayed with a clear lacquer finish to protect the gold. In the old days, they used nitro lacquer, but they usually use a polyurethane these days.

    That's what you are seeing. The protective clear coat has gotten dulled and pitted and may be starting to chip off.

    Be very careful here! If you try to rub or scratch off that protective coating, you will almost certainly wear off patches of the gold. You'll see shiny chrome underneath. Don't start rubbing the parts with cleaners, particularly anything with solvents or abrasives. You will ruin the parts.

    The way to restore them is to remove the parts from the instrument and soak them in lacquer thinner. Then very gently wipe off the residue of the old clear coat. Don't scrub; dissolve it and wipe it off.

    When the parts are clean, respray them with a clear coat. A classic metal clear coat is Sta-Brite, which is used when repairing trombones. It's a simple nitro lacquer in a spray can, which is pretty good for protecting brass or gold. At metal supply stores, there are better polyurethane-base finishes available which are made specifically for clear coating metals. More expensive, but tougher and more durable.
    DevinWard369, BritFunk, Deak and 2 others like this.
  3. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016
    Very interesting! I assumed the gold hardware was not truly gold. It is dulled, but not chipping. I will keep those steps in mind when I get to take the bass home next month.
  4. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016
    Trust me, it still looks amazing! I will always prefer gold hardware!

    I'm just a perfectionist :thumbsup: Chrome hardware looks generic to me, it's too common for my tastes
  5. BassFishingInAmerica


    Jul 24, 2014
    Gold looks awesome on that quilted green. If you can be 100% sure that the hardware is not coated with lacquer, CLR works good. I always thought the gold coating was similar to the gold used on the short-lived Sacajawea dollar coin. I dip them in CLR and they shine like new. That's if it is just tarnish.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    That's not tarnish on these parts. When gold tarnishes, it turns brown. These parts have a clear coat, which is now pitted and dulled.
  7. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    then be prepared to accept a quickly-appearing worn look or to shell out for replacing it often.

    not a fan, it just doesn't last. (@Bruce Johnson's excellent suggestion aside, once it wears to the point you see silver instead of gold there's no fixing it without getting it replated.)
  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    All these yearss and I had no idea they were clear coated. Thanks Bruce.
    el_Bajo_Verde likes this.

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