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Old 01-02-2011, 06:23   #1
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Cleaning Old Brass and Metals

Hello fellow cruisers. I am in the process of doing up a 1978 38ft Downeaster and it has a ton of deck hardware that is oxidized. I'm looking for any advice on what types of cleaners or chemicals I can use to return my brass and metals to their shiny original ways. Please help.

Thanks!
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:35   #2
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For Bronze- How to Clean Bronze | Metals We use the baking soda and lemon juice but we don't have tons of bronze- just the odd piece here and there.
For Stainless- Home - Spotless Stainless Removes Rust, Protects Stainless Steel (best for surface stuff, for heavy duty cleaning nothing beats polishing by machine)

Edited to add- be sure you check for crevice corrosion as you clean!
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:52   #3
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How bad are they and what sort of finish are you after?

I use a steel version of one of these on my propellor. I intially expected it to tear the prop apart, however, what I found was that it strips the antifoul paint off the whole prop in about 30 seconds and leaves a clean smooth mat finish, superb and could then be polished or in my case painted again.

So how about trying a brass one which should be a little softer.

Once cleaned up how are you going to treat them to stop the oxidation returning? clear varnish perhaps, or have the cabin boy polish them every day.

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Old 01-02-2011, 08:17   #4
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Thanks Mimsy.

@Pete - they are pretty bad. We're talking 30 years of oxidation. I suppose I'm not expecting them to be perfect, but the shinier, the better. Hence, why I need something strong. Brasso, ammonia and even this Japanese chemical I found, have all failed me so far.
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Old 01-02-2011, 08:40   #5
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Crest tooth paste works good on bronze & brass.
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Old 01-02-2011, 12:40   #6
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You might try just a watered down mixture of muriatic acid (used in swimming pools) to get through the intitial oxidization then rub the rest down with brasso and wipe it off. That worked well for me on a couple of old dorade vents that had turned green.
kind regards,
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Old 01-02-2011, 13:26   #7
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Skipper Johns on the right track if you want to make this a big project. A few years ago I wanted to restore a 1920's era brass signal cannon off a Herreshoff schooner. The folks from Cannon Mania were quick to email a process (note that the word "simplistically" is theirs!)

Simplistically, I would do these steps:

1 Take apart all the pieces, wood and metal. Save every little piece.

2. All the metal pieces can safely be soaked in a 50% mixture of muratic acid and water. It can be purchased in Home Depot. Only use outdoors, don't inhale! Use a clean plastic pail. You can soak them overnight. Rinse well afterward. It will remove the oxidation, grime and soot from the barrel.

3. The end of the firing pin can be filed / sanded until it is smooth again. All the metal pieces can be buffed on a bench buffer or with a buffing wheel in a hand drill. You'll have to create fixtures to hold them. A vice with rubber pieces in the jaws will help. The white & red rouge sticks will make it shine (white first followed by the red). Practice on one of the hub caps. You will also be able to buff out the file marks on the end of the firing pin.

4. After buffing, hand polish the exposed parts with a soft cloth and a good brass cleaner. I use "Wrights". It is available in many supermarkets.

I did this on the cannon. It took about 3 days.
The results were worth it but I'm not sure I'd survive a whole deck of hardware. I've attached a "before" picture of the cannon.

Best

Carl
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Old 01-02-2011, 14:28   #8
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Thanks Mimsy.

@Pete - they are pretty bad. We're talking 30 years of oxidation. I suppose I'm not expecting them to be perfect, but the shinier, the better. Hence, why I need something strong. Brasso, ammonia and even this Japanese chemical I found, have all failed me so far.
Try ultra fine steel wool with your Brasso.
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Old 01-02-2011, 15:02   #9
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depending on how corroded, you can and might need to sand, and grind the metals...

if the metal is so corroded that it is sharper and more abrasive then sand paper then pretty sure you will need to polish the metals back from the grave they are almost in..

the acids will remove the corrosions, but the metal is likely pitted and scaled...

depending on what pieces you are dealing with you can juse sand paper and just use your hand, or you can use dremel tools with sanding wheels, and for larger pieces you can use the dremel or danding machines or grinder wheels...

you will end up working 'up' in grits to eventually some 400-4000 depending on the finish you want... wet dry sand paper...

there are also metal refinishing companies all over that will polish them and apply protective coatings to keep them that way...
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Old 01-02-2011, 15:19   #10
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Thanks Mimsy.

@Pete - they are pretty bad. We're talking 30 years of oxidation. I suppose I'm not expecting them to be perfect, but the shinier, the better. Hence, why I need something strong. Brasso, ammonia and even this Japanese chemical I found, have all failed me so far.
Oh dear. In that case I am with Bergovoy, you are going to need to use some violence to sort this or you will be wasting hours faffing around. I missed the picture from my first post, but I use the steel version of these on my prop to get a smooth bronze finish. You should try the brass version lightly to see the effect. However, it is likely to take a fraction of the time to clean them up compared to trying to polish all the items. Get in there, your angle grinder is now your best friend

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Old 01-02-2011, 17:12   #11
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Green is Beautiful

It's your lucky day. I also own a Downeaster of the same vintage and I can tell you everything in the world there is to know about your question.

1. Learn to love green. It's not discoloured, its aged- a patina. Like a piece of art. Scrub it with pure clean salt water to make the bronze go greener. Paint your topside stripe green to match. Use red bottom paint for contrast. Become an Irish citizen and change the boat registration to Irish so there will be no doubt about how you feel about green. That's what I did. Green is beautiful!

2. For things you simply feel compeled to renew to shiny metal status, use phosphoric acid (brand Phospo) which you can find in the paint department of Home Depot. As stated previously, Muratic (pool) acid works, but it is a much stronger and more dangerous acid. Soak in 100% phosphoric acid and rub with bronze wool or a 3M SkotchBright pad and the oxidation will dissolve away magicly in an hour or two. Be sure and wear rubber gloves, etc.

It works great but you have only removed the oxidation. If you want it shiny you will have to polish it and that is a whole nother topic. Youl'll need to take things off the boat and use a grinder with buffing wheels, several degrees of abrasives and patience to take it through the stages of surface smoothing just like you would teak and varnish. I did this for things in the cabin and it wasn't all that much work and be sure to laquer it afterwards or you'll be doing it again in a month.

BTW--phosphoric acid is also execelent for cleaning engine heat exchanger tubes, saltwater toilets (disolves urine created calcium deposits in the plumbing) and also stainless steel and rust on regular steel.

Bronze is out of fashon on boats because the market is driven by newbie buyers who respond to the shinny stainless look. But bronze is a near perfect metal for boats and a salt water environment when strength and reliability is paramount. Bronze does not gaul, does not self destruct with hidden crevice corossion, rarely has hairline cracks like stainles steel and will truly last a lifetime. For chainplates, turnbuckles, propellers, and the real working end of things, bronze is great.
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Old 02-02-2011, 00:52   #12
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Thanks for all the advice guys and thanks North26West80 for giving me a great laugh about going green! Green is beautiful. :-)
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Old 02-02-2011, 01:10   #13
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yes, i agree natural patina is what it is all about... anything that can be should be...

but for things that need to be smooth, you can finsih them off to remove the sharp edges for safety and lines, and then faux patina them, and apply protectant coating ...
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Old 19-03-2012, 15:14   #14
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Re: Cleaning Old Brass and Metals

While I was in the Navy we would have to clean the brass nozzles on the firehoses. The Navy likes their brass to be shiny. Believe it or not we used a bucket of water and 4 or 5 packets of dry bug juice (Kool-Aid for you sandcrabs) mixed in. Let it sit for about an hour and it came out shiny and looking new. Don't know if that would work for you but there it is.



David
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Old 19-03-2012, 15:53   #15
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Re: Cleaning Old Brass and Metals

Snow Bowl toilet cleaner!
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