3/30/2010

Fly Rod Hardware Finishes


Both chrome nickel hardware and blued nickel hardware hardware can keep its integrity and finish indefinitely. Nickel for fly rod hardware is either machined from 18% nickel or 12% nickel. Nickel is highly corrosion resistant and certain grades when polished have a more bronzy luster to a more highly chrome luster. Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but contains no elemental silver unless plated. Other common names for this alloy are German silver, paktong, new silver and alpacca (or alpaca). A form of German silver was invented in Birmingham, England in 1832.

Nickel Silver was (and still is) widely used for the commercial production of industrial components, marine grade hardware, housewares, flatware and cutlery, and as the metal substrate for silver-plated goods, hence the term EPNS = Electro-Plated Nickel Silver.
Nickel Silver was formerly widely used in costume jewelry and as the substrate for silver and gold plated jewelry. Due to the high propensity of nickel to induce dermatology problems and allergy, recent legislation in the EU has restricted the use of nickel in jewelry (probably due to the copper formulation).

There are many different formulations of alloys which fall within the general term of "Nickel Silver". All contain copper, nickel and zinc, while some formulations may additionally include antimony, tin, lead or cadmium. A representative formulation (Alloy No.752 Nickel pretty common) is 65% copper, 18% nickel, 17% zinc. If all this is kind of boring it’s probably due to the fact that I spend a lot of time looking for the perfect numerical alloy of Nickel to machine my hardware from. It does make a difference in regards to how well it machines, cleans up, blues, etc.

When blued certain nickel alloys react differently. Some bronze a bit more than others, some take on a gun metal cool blue, others mottle and look a little like a custom blued turn of the century firearm. All bluing will eventually wear and scratch if not protected. Some clients like the look of bronzy blued hardware others like it jet black. I prefer a more typical custom gunsmith finish. Never rest the butt of your rod on asphalt or concrete it will scuff and scratch. If you put a fine shotgun or firearm on such a surface expect the same outcome. Common sense is the mantra. If you bang your rod into a rock it’s guaranteed it’s going to scratch. Normal wear of bluing is not a bad thing I love to see rods with a weathered worn blued appearance because I know immediately they have been used for what they were intended for, fishing. I personally own rods that I would never refinish for that very reason. All of my rods have a thin layer of a “foundry protectant” that coat all my blued hardware. It is very durable and lasts for a very long time.
                    ~Clint Bova