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Cleaning raw brass

Stephen Howard

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It's not especially acidic.
But yeah, you can use Brasso. It's a mechanical (abrading) means of removing verdigris though - and that'll have implications for the cosmetic finish of the horn.
If you're going to go down that route you'll get better and neater results if you start off with a fibreglass pencil to remove the bulk of the verdigris before hitting it with metal polish.
 

Ivan

Undecided
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It's a mechanical (abrading) means of removing verdigris though
Really? Can't be the only mode of action shurely

There seems to be some chemical action too... Brasso turns from creamy to black, brass turns brassy
 

Stephen Howard

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Really? Can't be the only mode of action shurely

There seems to be some chemical action too... Brasso turns from creamy to black, brass turns brassy
Only one way to find out - pop a drop of Brasso on a piece of brass and let it sit there awhile...see what happens.
It won't be a lot. And then it'll dry out.

The black stuff is brass. Tiny, tiny bits of brass.
If you were to scale up a drop of Brasso you'd see that it was a liquid which contains lots of rocks. When rubbed over the surface of the metal these rocks would tear and gouge the surface, revealing shiny unoxidised metal beneath. That's pretty much how all metal polishing works.
 

Stephen Howard

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Cosmetic finish...meaning... patina?
Sort of. Any method of removing verdigris is going to have an impact on the finish - be it any surrounding lacquer/plating or as factory-applied patina.
The most precise way of removing it is with a fibreglass pencil. Slightly less precise is a chemical method - provided the application is careful.
A metal polish is the least precise, given that a rubbing action is required in order to make it work - and unless you're extremely careful it's going to mean the surrounding finish may be stripped away.
 

jbtsax

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I started out polishing bare brass saxophones using Brasso and ragging strips, but found that it is not water soluble and hard to completely remove with soapy water. I later discovered Miracle Cloth which is a bit easier to use and clean off the "residue". Now I mostly use my 8" buffing wheel and small buffing attachements on my dremel tool.

Thanks @Stephen Howard for the tip about the "fiberglass pencil" which I had never heard of before. I'm going to buy a few and try them myself.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,129
Brasso has a lot of 'tooth', as Stephen notes it is more abrasive when compared to something like Wenol or Maas.

This is neither good not bad, if your job needs something aggressive, then it's good.

However, relying on a paste polish, period, to bring a very unclean bare brass horn back to clean....dang, it is gonna take a LOT of work to do that; this is why some recommend a chem or sonic bath to get started. Neither of those baths (including soap wash afterward) will likely produce a satisfactory 'final result' on their own (aesthetically), but it gets you (and your rotator cuff) past the tallest hurdle.
From there, you can jump to relatively mild pastes like Wenol or Maas, or I have seen decent results for people who did the bath then Miracle cloth as well.

As for chemical action of pastes....I suppose it begs the question as to whether a paste polish actually works at all with significant chemical action ?; or whether the paste is simply the 'delivery medium' for what amounts to rouge, really.

I mean, compare how a brass polish works compared to say, Tarn-X on silver. Obviously the latter is a chemical solution and it's chemical action at work there, not mechanical.

There ARE liquid Brass dip cleaners on the market...never used one of those, myself. My aforementioned Wright's Copper Cream or Barkeeper's Friend products (thanks @jbtsax for your confirmation on the effectiveness of the latter, glad it wiorked well for you- when I suggested it on a different thread, similar subject, it was met with some skepticism)...those two DO have chemical action (as well as abrasive) because if in fact you do leave the stuff on 'dirty' bare brass it will 'clean' it without any abrasion necessary. I find Barkeeper's more aggressive than Wrights, just a bit.
So in the absence of a professional solution bath, those two products are better than half-decent stand-ins. They still require complete disassembly, of course, and there is no way you can do keywork with the pads in since they require a water rinse.

My recollection is Brasso and Noxon smell quite ammoniaic....while most others do not. So I do not know whether the solutions of those products actually is 'harsher' in a sense than some others.

With the chem bath and Wright's as my heavy-hitter cleaners...I have stopped using Brasso altogether. I think the bottle I have here must be 4 or 5 years old.
 
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JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,129
It works because the active ingredient is a weak acid (oxalic, in this instance).

Here's how another acid (citric) works - minus the scratch-brushing. This is from an article I'm currently working on about methods to deal with verdigris.
Wow that worked better than I would have expected, actually.

How did you apply it and how long did you leave it on ? Did you use an abrasive tool as well (toothbrush, whatever ?) Or was it purely applying the acid and letting it sit and do its thing >
 

Stephen Howard

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1,701
Wow that worked better than I would have expected, actually.

How did you apply it and how long did you leave it on ? Did you use an abrasive tool as well (toothbrush, whatever ?) Or was it purely applying the acid and letting it sit and do its thing >
I used a doubled-over pipe cleaner.
You can use a brush, but it tends to dribble - which is not a good thing if you're looking to preserve the finish outside of the treatment radius.
No other tools/brushes were used - it's just a case of applying the acid and letting it sit...though a few rubs with the pipe cleaner will speed things up a little.

The reason it works so well is that verdigris (copper carbonate) dissolves in dilute acid.
 

Stephen Howard

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1,701
You could use T-cut, rather less abrasive than Brasso.
But it isn't - T-Cut is coarser.
Silvo would be the next step down, but it's really rather too fine to be of much use against anything other than very light deposits of verdigris.
It would be more effective to use harsher abrasives more accurately - hence the recommendation for the fibreglass pencil.
 

DavidUK

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4,400
Really? Can't be the only mode of action shurely

There seems to be some chemical action too... Brasso turns from creamy to black, brass turns brassy
I think Steve is talking about Brasso liquid on a cloth whereas perhaps you are thinking of Brasso wadding?
The wadding does seem to make brass shine with a wipe over but I don't know if the liquid contained in the wadding is simply Brasso liquid or some other composition? @Stephen Howard - any ideas?
 

Stephen Howard

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1,701
I think Steve is talking about Brasso liquid on a cloth whereas perhaps you are thinking of Brasso wadding?
The wadding does seem to make brass shine with a wipe over but I don't know if the liquid contained in the wadding is simply Brasso liquid or some other composition? @Stephen Howard - any ideas?
There's a very weak urea/ammonia solution in Brasso - hence the somewhat pungent aroma - but it's at least strong enough to lighten up a mild tarnish.
As such it's a bit pointless using Brasso as a chemical cleaner, and there are other and better cleaners out there (usually acid based).

Ammonia is interesting stuff inasmuch as while weak solutions will lighten up a mild tarnish, stronger ones will accentuate it. It's often used in patination solutions.
 

Stephen Howard

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1,701
Not tempted to foray into well aged urine?
Been there, done that.
As part of my work on restoring period instruments it's sometimes necessary to use the same materials and techniques that were used by the makers - particularly when it comes to dyes and stains.
 

apinter

Member
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74
On my delacquered tenor I use a solution of water and vinegar and it cleans verdgris quite effectively
 
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