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Author Topic: How to clean brass.  (Read 3031 times)
Sulecen
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« on: August 04, 2009, 07:29:41 pm »

So considering the general populace of this fine establishment I figured you all would be best to field this question, what is the best way to clean brass once it as oxidization build up? What compounds should you use as well as what tools, should you use abrasive or soft cloths, ect.
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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2009, 07:33:34 pm »

I give a hefty rub with Brasso on a soft cloth... I'm sure that's a terrible sin and I will be chastised for it!
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jringling
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2009, 07:39:28 pm »

How clean do you want it? Brasso will polish the surface, but if you want a bright raw surface, I would use 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool. A fine wire wheel will remove tarnish and paint, but will leave a brushed finish...

What are you cleaning? sometimes removing the patina is a terrible mistake... and once it is removed, it cannot be easily regained!
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Sulecen
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You kill me with that machine-gun laugh


« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2009, 07:48:56 pm »

There are several different things that need cleaning, one such thing is a couple of decorative foils from 1930's spain that have inlaid paint in their brass hilts which is tricky. Then I need to clean the tools that I use to clean my muzzleloader, which after being in a friends "care" for some time I have found them in a sad state of decay.
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jringling
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2009, 07:58:49 pm »

foils - mild soap and water, dry completely, rub with a wax. I wouldn't try to remove any patina or finish...

tools - wire wheel or fine sandpaper/steel wool...
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2009, 08:05:20 pm »

Personally i use vinegar. If its bad then vinegar and fine wire wool. But for anything delicate id use a "proper" brass polish and them a wax (currently im looking forwards to trying "renaissance wax, that i ordered off the net yesterday"
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2009, 08:06:29 pm »

I second Brasso Smiley I use copious amounts and kitchen roll.
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« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2009, 09:44:36 pm »

I third Brasso  Cheesy nothing beats the smell
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Siggy
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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2009, 09:54:11 pm »

Brasso.
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greensteam
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Steamed up from birth


« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2009, 01:02:11 am »

As a lot of what Dr Greensteam & Son use is found stuff, it is often very green/black grotted. My usual first line of attack, and this is predominantly for copper items, is to make a strong solution of warm citric acid. I think it is better than vinegar because you can control the strength yourself. Buy citric acid crystals from the pharmacy, telling them you need it for home preserving (I initially bought it for making home made elderflower cordial). You may have to sign the Poisons Book because it is a notifiable substance, due to it being used by druggies to cut drugs with.

The item to be cleaned is submerged in a tub of the citric acid and the electrolytic process is hastened by the addition of some aluminium cooking foil or even an aluminium take away food container. This is highly successful even with very black copper items that have been in the sea etc. If the process seems slow, slug a bit more citric acid crystals in.

Also your house won't smell of vinegar.

When the copper turns from black/green to dull pink, take it out and scrub under a hot tap, using an old toothbrush. THEN you can strart with our old friend Brasso.

I love that Brasso have never hardly changed the tin design for a million years. It was apparently originally an Australian invention that the Reckitts company discovered on their travels and bought the rights to.

To re-corrode your shiny stuff, put it in a tub with a very strong solution of salty water.
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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2009, 02:18:12 am »

I third Brasso  Cheesy nothing beats the smell
I love the smell of Brasso in the morning Wink
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Captian Jay
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2009, 02:33:29 am »

*Screams in an ungentlemanly manner*

NO,NO,NO...

Forget about Brasso. You want 'Never Dull'. It's available at most automotive stores. Industrial grade defunkafier with an instant gratification factor that Brasso could never match.
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Titus Wells
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« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2009, 09:42:38 am »

Bathroom cleaners with hydrochloric acid such as 'Lime Away' are dilute enough to be fairly safe but effective at removing tarnish and corrosion. Just don't scrub or stir with anything containing ferrous (iron) materials because it will plate copper on to the surface of the brass or bronze.
Does that work well enough to be a worthy tip? Could you (for instance) colour a section of brass copper by this method?
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2009, 10:52:43 am »

I'm not sure that you could control where the copper plates out. Perhaps by applying a coat of lacquer wher you don't want color. It won't be a thick plating either way, more of a discoloring.

Ive used wax polish pained on warm to mask out areas i didnt want discoloured.
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Grymm
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"If I want your opinion I'll thrash it out of you"


« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2009, 12:33:21 pm »

Rub with the cut end of a stick of rhubarb that'll get it bright.
Make the rest into a rhubarb and ginger crumble.
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« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2009, 12:59:50 pm »

But not the leaves.
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sebastian Inkerman
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« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2009, 02:12:53 pm »

Persoanlly, I've been using Jeweller's rouge to clean my brass plate up after the etching baths. Use it in conjunction with a dremel polishing wheel and it comes up lovely. Plus it leaves a very slight finish on the brass so it takes a little longer to tarnish again without ganking it up. The only down side of it is that if you are using the block type, it may get quite messy. The polishing wheel needs to melt the rouge onto it's surface so just apply it to the block while it's spinning and you get a nice coating, you do however get a coating all over hte table too. I have seen rouge granules, which I'm assuming makes a paste, but i've never used that myself. I prefer to get messy to get things clean  Grin
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Titus Wells
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« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2009, 02:20:50 pm »

Do you have a professional tank? Is it possible to make one/set one up rather than buying one?
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sebastian Inkerman
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scrounger and builder of mildly interesting stuff.

S_Inkerman
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2009, 02:27:02 pm »

I used an old lasagne dish myself. As long as it's not made of metal or has any metal in the glaze, you can pretty much use anything as long as it immerses the piece fully and the stuff I was etching was all flat pieces, so my ferric chloride only needed to be about 1cm deep. I don't go for the whole electrolyte etching thing. It's far too much fuss IMHO.

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Titus Wells
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« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2009, 02:29:13 pm »

And Ferric Chloride you get from.......

excuse my ignorance. Silicones, resins, foams, modelling materials... these I can tell you about. Metallurgy and electronics, blargh!
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jringling
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« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2009, 02:30:46 pm »

I used an old lasagne dish myself. As long as it's not made of metal or has any metal in the glaze, you can pretty much use anything as long as it immerses the piece fully and the stuff I was etching was all flat pieces, so my ferric chloride only needed to be about 1cm deep. I don't go for the whole electrolyte etching thing. It's far too much fuss IMHO.



Electrolytic etching can be very "difficult" to get right... I think I might look into ferric etching for some future projects...
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sebastian Inkerman
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scrounger and builder of mildly interesting stuff.

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« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2009, 04:39:30 pm »

Sorry, the ferric chloride can be purchased from Maplin in granular form. You just need to dissolve it in some hot water and you are ready to rock and roll. Once you've cleaned the brass within an inch of it's life and put the resist on. If you are cleaning to etch, then there will be an extra step before you apply any resist. You will need to rub the surface down with white spirit, that gets rid of the residue and provides a good surface for the resist to adhere to.

One thing that I tried out was laser printing the design in negative onto an acetate sheet and then ironing the design onto the brass directly. You can get some intricate designs that way, but you've got to watch the time you leave it in the bath like a hawk. The first one that i tried using this method worked a treat, the second was a bit pants as I think i left it in slightly too long and the resist started to flake off in places leaving an uneven etched surface. If you do try the laser printer method, make sure that you get the acetate that has a paper backing on it. and then go over the black sections again with a resist pen, just to make sure. I also got my resist pen from Maplin, it's very good, don't use sharpies though I found that out to my cost.
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Sulecen
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You kill me with that machine-gun laugh


« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2009, 04:45:51 pm »

Well then I go off for a few days from this thread only to come back and to find a veritable gold mine of information! Thank you all! I must say the etching intrigues me mightily.
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jringling
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« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2009, 05:02:03 pm »

Well then I go off for a few days from this thread only to come back and to find a veritable gold mine of information! Thank you all! I must say the etching intrigues me mightily.

electrolytic etching: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,13644.msg268001.html#msg268001
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von Adler
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« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2009, 05:12:16 pm »

The polishing wheel needs to melt the rouge onto it's surface so just apply it to the block while it's spinning and you get a nice coating, you do however get a coating all over hte table too.

Try dampening the buff wheel around the edge, then dipping the block into hot water so it softens a bit, and then rubbing the polish into the buff and then letting it dry. This way you have less mess and less wasted polish, though it takes more time and patience.
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