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Brass Polishing and Cleaning


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  #1  
Old 01-07-2007, 07:26 PM
Mark L. Jordan Mark L. Jordan is offline
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Default Brass Polishing and Cleaning

I help wherever I can, and now it's my turn to ask for help.

My brass valves, whistles, injectors, etc. on my engine are never as nice looking as others I've seen at shows. I'd like to hear how everybody cleans and polishes their brass, and how they keep it looking nice.

Thanks,
Mark Jordan
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Old 01-07-2007, 07:49 PM
Brad Kelley Brad Kelley is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Hey Mark,
You should have a talk with my sister, she's in charge of polishing all the brass for our engine. I think she's been using Brass-o and Tabasco sauce, but I think the Brass-o and some good scrubbing work best for her. We cleaned all the grime off our whistle with cheap oven cleaner, and then she started polishing. It could still use a little time with a buffing wheel, but here are the before/after pics of our whistle.



I've always wondered if the seen-on-tv chemical cleaners really work, but I've never tried them and haven't met anyone who has. I play drums and I used to spend lots of time and energy polishing my cymbals, but Brass-o was the best method I ever found. We had a couple 2 liters of Pepsi that sat in sunlight and went bad, so I tried soaking one of my cymbals in that. It seemed to dissolve some of the grime but never really had any polishing effect. Put that myth to rest for me.

I don't think there's any easy way out, but good luck.
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  #3  
Old 01-07-2007, 08:07 PM
Farquhar Farquhar is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

No doubt in mind, that Brads purty Sis is the "Queen Bee" of brass polishers.
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:13 PM
oldtool53 oldtool53 is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Hi,

I have gotten good results using a fine steel wire wheel. Dont get one thats too course. This works really well on cast pieces. On parts with a smooth surface follow up with polishing compound and a cloth wheel or Brasso and a soft cloth. You may be eble to apply a clear coat to some parts to make that shine lest longer.

Mark in NC
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:14 PM
Pete Deets Pete Deets is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Hi Mark,
The most important ingredient is elbow grease. Added to that, my favorite is Semichrome polish. You're most likely to find that at motorcycle shops. I started out using it on my bike's chrome and have used it on brass railroad lanterns to good effect.
I've also used Tarn-X on silver with good results but you need to be careful to remove all traces of the chemical per the instructions.
Still in all, not much will beat a buffing wheel with the right jeweler's rouge and time and patience......PD
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Old 01-07-2007, 09:05 PM
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20 Reeves Highwheeler 20 Reeves Highwheeler is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Mark,
I use one of those bent spout toilet cleaners to clean the brass. I now use just a plain Ace brand, as the cheaper Ace works as well as the expensive ones. This does NOT polish the brass. It just cleans the base metals. Then some Brasso or that metal polish that comes in cotton wadding works well. I've used the buffer and jewler's rouge, but only on things that aren't special; NEVER on drip lubricators, grease cups or whistles, as the buffer erodes brass. You will especially notice it eroding from lettering. I use it on rough items that I want smooth. One thing I use the buffer on is on the new cast brass petcocks that come rough and unpolished. One nice part about jewler's rouge, it doesn't start a corrosion process as the chemical polishes do.
Gary
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Old 01-07-2007, 10:04 PM
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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Mark,

I like to use brown tripoli (1st choice) or red rouge (2nd choice) on a buffing wheel.

If you use these products on the right cotton wheel, you will get very good results.

A stiff or sewn wheel will help get the tougher stained areas and a soft wheel for final finishing.

A cotton wheel is only used for carrying the tripoli or rouge. A dry wheel should never be used, it takes a lot of pressure and rounds the crisp machined edges.

A good job polishes the brass only and does not round the corners as seen on many polished items for sale. I was taught many years ago by an old german man to only bring out the color and leave everything else where it was.

Tripoli on a cotton wheel brings out the color and brilliance of the brass and ads a protective coating.

Hope this helps.

-Mark Thompson
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Old 01-07-2007, 10:13 PM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Mark,

I have used several of the cleaners / polishes named above, but
I prefer NEVER DULL , most hardware stores have it, it is a cotten like wadding , just tear off what you need, it is reuseable , it also will turn your
hands black. I use rubber gloves with it, Keeps the smell and the dirt off your hands. Make sure to keep the lid on when not in use.

Mike
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Old 01-07-2007, 10:35 PM
Mike McKnight Mike McKnight is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Some folks might want to shoot me for suggesting this, but here goes.....

If it's got that thick green crap on it, I start with about 400 grit sandpaper, then keep going to a higher and higher grit, like 600, then 800, then 1000, then start buffing with some jeweler's rouge and a cloth to get a really high sheen and take out scratches.

Another way to start out (if you've got one) is with a glass bead blaster (NOT sandblaster with black beauty!!!!) to get the thick green patina off of it, then go to a really fine grit sandpaper.

Some folks with buffing wheels and jeweler's rouge on those table grinders can get results quick, us po' folks are stuck with elbow grease and lots of time!

Of course, this starting out with sandpaper is for something that's got about 50 yrs green patina on it....if it's a piece that just needs a little polishing, I'd go straight to jeweler's rouge and a cloth.

Mike
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Old 01-07-2007, 10:46 PM
Farquhar Farquhar is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

The Detroit Lubricator bulb I found here was so caked, that I soaked it 2 wks in some degreaser [the kind you can't buy anymore]. Then it was Brasso & elbow grease. Its not super shiny, but does look real nice.
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:10 PM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Mark:
As you know, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and it oxidizes (tarnishes) quickly when exposed to the air. With polished brass I like to wash it first with warm water and soap, then rinse it off. You can also add a small amount of ammonia for extra cleaning power!

For heavy tarnish, dampen a soft cloth in a mixture of hot vinegar and salt, let sit for a while, and wipe off with a clean cloth. On stubborn areas you may need to apply several times, and let it soak longer! I've never tried it, but I guess a fresh slice of lemon dipped in table salt works good?

I've used "Rubbing Compound" with good success, and you can purchase it at most NAPA stores. That is, this rubbing compound is used to clean and shine painted surfaces. Also works on area's that are scratched and stained. You just dip a clean soft cloth in the compound, rub in the same direction of the scratch, then buff with a clean dry cloth. (It sure brings out the shine on dull painted surfaces, and if it's that gentle on paint, you know it won't scratch polished brass.)

Follow up with Brasso, as it'll leave an oily film and keep the tarnish away longer!

Gary K
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:22 PM
Mark L. Jordan Mark L. Jordan is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Thanks, and keep the suggestions coming! I'll refine my question: I'm cleaning the valves (some rough castings) and parts ATTACHED AND ON THE ENGINE. I don't want to completely disassemble stuff. I'm searching for the quick and easy fix.

The best suggestion I see so far is Brad Kelly's sister I don't think I can afford that approach, so I'm still asking.

Mark
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:31 PM
Farquhar Farquhar is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark L. Jordan View Post
Thanks, and keep the suggestions coming! I'll refine my question: I'm cleaning the valves (some rough castings) and parts ATTACHED AND ON THE ENGINE. I don't want to completely disassemble stuff. I'm searching for the quick and easy fix.

The best suggestion I see so far is Brad Kelly's sister I don't think I can afford that approach, so I'm still asking.

Mark
You may have been outta luck there anyhow Mark, I don't think "Sis" is into rough castings! Shes a brass gal.

PS, in my previous post, I surely don't recommend that caustic stuff for brass, I just used it because I didn't know it was brass to start with, it was so caked/baked up. Probably been in that old shop for 60-70 yrs.
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:40 PM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark L. Jordan View Post
Thanks, and keep the suggestions coming! I'll refine my question: I'm cleaning the valves (some rough castings) and parts ATTACHED AND ON THE ENGINE. I don't want to completely disassemble stuff. I'm searching for the quick and easy fix.

Mark
Mark,

For rough brass castings, I like to use a brass wire wheel (available at most hardware stores) and put it on a bench grinder. This obviously won't help on parts attached to the engine, but was wondering if a handheld brass brush might work. They sell small ones for use in welding and soldering.

The other Mark

Last edited by Mark Thompson; 01-08-2007 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:42 PM
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Tim Searson Tim Searson is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Hi

Here is a engine that i know that the guy has spent hours upon hours with a small dremal cleaning all the rough casting marks off of the valves bodies and they just gleam!
Enjoy!

Tim
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Quote:
Originally Posted by M Zeigler View Post
Mark,

I have used several of the cleaners / polishes named above, but
I prefer NEVER DULL , most hardware stores have it, it is a cotten like wadding , just tear off what you need, it is reuseable , it also will turn your
hands black. I use rubber gloves with it, Keeps the smell and the dirt off your hands. Make sure to keep the lid on when not in use.

Mike
Thanks Mike,
I couldn't think of the name Never Dull and didn't want to walk out to the shop with my sniffling nose, to find out. And, Mark Thompson, I guess I didn't mean to insinuate EVERYONE ruined brass with a buffer, but I've sure seen some people ruined it with one.
Gary
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Old 01-08-2007, 05:09 AM
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Fred Van Hook Fred Van Hook is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Best stuff I've found is "ZUD" or "FLITZ" . Find them both on the web.They really help remove tarnish easily. Zud is a mild acid so use gloves it is also inexpensive. Flitz is a little pricey. I don't know where to buy elbow grease.
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Old 01-08-2007, 08:43 AM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

I guess maybe I'm weird, but I actually PREFER the warm brown patina of unpolished brass over the superfinished stuff. Besides the shinier stuff seems to attract magpies (sticky fingers) quicker.
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Old 01-08-2007, 10:28 AM
Pete LaBelle Pete LaBelle is offline
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

Restoring my Buffalo, I used a lot of old valves that I rebuilt. I cleaned them up with a sand blaster at a lower pressure. This leaves a matt finish. About 5-10 seconds on a wire wheel made them bright & like new again. Using purely a wire wheel takes a lot of time and the nooks & crannies will be missed. Since then, they just aging.

Things like whistles, gauges, oilers and a couple other fittings are shined with Brasso, them preserved with WD-40 after the show. All other valves & such are aging now to brown.

Metal tarnishes when exposed to air. A light film of oil retards this exposure. Brass (silver too) kept in my house is polished, then waxed with car wax to reduce this exposure and prolong the shine without resorting to a laquer type sealer.

Pete
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Old 01-08-2007, 10:44 AM
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Default Re: Brass Polishing and Cleaning

[QUOTE=Mark Thompson;192493]Mark,
For rough brass castings, I like to use a brass wire wheel (available at most hardware stores) and put it on a bench grinder. This obviously won't help on parts attached to the engine, but was wondering if a handheld brass brush might work. They sell small ones for use in welding and soldering.
QUOTE]

I have a brass brush on my bench grinder and it does a very nice job on cast parts like valve bodies. They won't be any smoother after the brush but will be shiny brass colored. If the parts are badly tarnished or nasty use a steel brush followed by the brass brush. For shining up parts still on the engine they make brass wire brushes that fit in angle grinders and drill motors. I need to figure out what to put on the shiny parts to keep them from turning green again though.
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