Cleaning Brass Hardware in a 1929 Home

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Old 05-04-05, 11:38 AM
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Question Cleaning Brass Hardware in a 1929 Home

I searched the Community Forums for a similar question but didn't come across one that gave me the answer I was looking for. I've been working in a home removing paint and staining/finishing the wood. Before putting the doors back on in one bedroom I'd like to clean the hardware as best as possible. I used a liquid brass cleaner (can't remember the name) and some of the brass cleaned up, and other sections didn't. I have hinges that are 1/8" thick, 3 1/2" tall, and 1 1/2" wide on each section. They appear to be solid brass. There is a coating almost like rust on top of the brass, but it isn't rust. Any ideas on getting them back in shape? Can they be buffed on a wheel?

Respectfully,

Handy Matt
 
  #2  
Old 05-04-05, 10:19 PM
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Mmmm...maybe...
The rust that isn't...if it's not green/blackish, it's not brass oxidation (brass rust)
Is it really red like rust?
Could it be iron oxide rust from the insides of the hinge?
If not you could be dealing with brass plate and that can't be buffed or cleaned up very well
Maybe a better description would help decipher it from here
(just a color or a coating of lumpy stuff or what...)

Did the liquid remove any of the rust stuff?

Can you scrape the rust stuff off?

What didn't the liquid polish remove? or was it kind of random?

Regardless I think you'll need a beefier polish
Most liquids I've used aren't up to a tough job like that
Brasso (cotton batting type) is good, but it sounds like you need a paste you can goob up and leave on for a while, then wipe off
I'd use Simichrome for that
But if it's crunchy rust...it may not be worth it
 
  #3  
Old 05-04-05, 11:40 PM
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It could be a protective coat of lacquer.
 
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Old 05-05-05, 07:20 PM
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The product I've been using is Flitz, made in West Germany. It's identified as a metal polish and fiberglass cleaner.

The coating on the brass is definitely on top. I've been rubbing sections and it does come off slowly, very slowly. It's a thin, even layer of a brownish color. It's only on one section of the hinge, either the side that attaches to the door, or the side that attaches to the door jamb. And it's strange that it also appears on the loops covering the pin, but only the loops that attach to the tarnished side of the hinge. Could be something that was sprayed on for some reason. Go to this web site...

http://community.webshots.com/album/281138066qrBVrz?163

I've included 2 photos of the hinges. The dark areas are the coating I've been talking about.

Thank you for your input.

Handy Matt
 
  #5  
Old 05-05-05, 11:04 PM
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It looks like old lacquer. If it's really old it could be shellac, Someone probably tired of continual polishing.

Acetone removes lacquer. Alcohol removes shellac. You're back to the perpetual polish / tarnish cycle.
 
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Old 05-06-05, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by 2000
It looks like old lacquer. If it's really old it could be shellac,


I think we have a winner
The doors were taken off to be re-finished at one time
The 1/2 hinges were left on and re-finished with the door

My money's on shellac
 
  #7  
Old 05-08-05, 05:44 PM
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Thank you for the responses. I'll give your suggestions a try this week and will let you know how it works. I'm optimistic about this one.

Handy Matt
 
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Old 05-09-05, 01:33 AM
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My gray cells conjure Flitz as a polish. If refinishing brass, then you will need to drop hardware into lacquer thiinner, polish with Flitz, and wipe or redrop into lacquer thinner to remove polish residue, and then spray with a couple coats of lacquer. Note: brass will eventually oxidize and the process will likely have to be repeated.
 
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Old 05-09-05, 07:08 PM
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I have not found a rattle can lacquer that was worth the effort
It's more like they tend to make it harder to polish when the time comes than keeping it from needing to be polished
Best to let it oxidize or polish it regularly
If it doesn't get fingerprints it will oxidize gracefully, or not need polishing often

A baked-on epoxy enamel is the only really good way to keep brass from tarnishing

But then...I am on the corner of river and ocean here (the land of rust and mildew), so maybe I'm a little sensitive about this one
 
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Old 05-16-05, 07:23 PM
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I tried some acetone and alcohol on these hinges and haven't had any luck. I didn't spend a great deal of time on them, but the effort was put forth with no change in the appearance. I rubbed them, didn't do any soaking. Stubborn pieces. I'll keep experimenting as time permits.

I'm curious, what would happen if I tried to take a buffing wheel to them?

Handy Matt
 
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Old 05-16-05, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Handy Matt

I'm curious, what would happen if I tried to take a buffing wheel to them?

Handy Matt

So am I...
Fair warning:
Brass is really really soft so you can't use a HD material removal type buff, and of course the nice, soft, coloring buffs don't remove enough of the finish
That doesn't mean you can't find the right balance and strip that stuff off w/o affecting the brass, it just means....well....you're on your own
There's no shellac/brass removal # 3 buff
Let us know how it turns out
 
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Old 05-17-05, 12:46 AM
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O.K. it wasn't an organic coating. That leaves one possibility: chemical coating.

Artificially antiquing brass is similar in some respects to anodizing aluminium. The base metal and the metal oxide(anodizing) combine chemically forming a tough coating. Like an anodized coating the methods of removal are: (1) electrolysis (professional method only) and (2) abrasion with grit, buffing and polishing compounds, or chemicals.

An easy "universal" method of removal does not exist!

Before & after all operations wash with mild soap, rinse with clean water, and dry.

Suitable abrasives with separate cotton wheels (1) tripoli (buffing), then (2) rouge (polishing). Courser abrasives will scratch & pit brass.

Household chemicals: Ammonia, Acetic Acid (Vinegar), Citric Acid (Lemon Juice), Sodium Hexametaphosphate. [It's used in water purification systems and it's the ingredient in dishwasher detergents (like "Cascade") that causes the water to "sheet" during the rinse cycle].

A clew about stronger chemicals: most of the brass antiquing solutions form sulfates. Of the two metals (copper & zinc that compose brass) zinc is more reactive. End of discussion.

Ammonia will chemically abrade thin sulfate coatings and brass tarnish.
The household acids are weak electrolytes (useful for abrading thin sulfate coatings). Each should be neutralized after use (baking soda) before washing.
A paste or pumice of Sodium Hexametaphosphate is useful for abrading thicker sulfate coatings.
 
  #13  
Old 05-17-05, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Handy Matt
... I've been rubbing sections and it does come off slowly, very slowly. It's a thin, even layer of a brownish color....
Handy Matt


I'm still thinking shellac
It does come off
It just takes a long time
 
  #14  
Old 05-17-05, 07:38 PM
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Wow!! Lots to dwell upon. Member '2000' certainly provided extensive detail on the chemical processes involved. I'll have to tackle things one at a time and find out which offers success. Please, allow me plenty of time. Just a thought, maybe the first effort will provide the solution. I can only hope.

Thank you for all your input.

Respectfully,

Handy Matt
 
  #15  
Old 06-06-05, 06:28 PM
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It's been more than 2 weeks. There's been a new direction established in this project. All the brass hardware that I removed has since been reinstalled. The homeowners are having some remodeling done and wanted to close off this one bedroom so other areas of the home could be opened up. As part of that they have decided to consider the possibility of purchasing replacement hardware. They are waiting for a catalog from Vandyke, I believe. Unfortunately, there is no additional information to provide right now. No experimenting got done since my last post.

Thank you, again, for all the input. Should this project go back to its original path I will let you know.

Handy Matt
 
  #16  
Old 06-06-05, 06:36 PM
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Thank You

Thanks for the update Handy Matt
So...we may never know, huh?
 
 

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