Tough to get desired results this time

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Paul M
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Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

I decided to tackle one of my dirtiest old British brass reels. I'm not quite satisfied with the current status, although it is one heck of a lot nicer to look at now. I felt I had to clean it at least this much but not sure if this is it, or I should try harder. I have avoided the buffing wheel but I can tell you I was tempted. Something seems to have stained the brass on half of both sides. Maybe it was sitting in mud at the bottom of the Thames for 100 years. I can't tell you how much dirt came off. When it came out of the various baths, brown stuff was coming off like crazy. It was like working with a reel covered in old excrement. Or possibly it was bronzed and half the bronzing came off.

It now looks pinkish copper in some areas, brass in others and a darker stained shade in other areas on both sides. I just did my best to even it out using everything I could think of short of the buffing wheel or Dremel tool. A couple of the screws had disintegrated heads and were frozen through the whole project, so were left in place. The frame holds together very tightly anyway and now the handle/spool turn like new.

Part of this project was an experiment to see if I could reduce the heavy corrosion of the screws and get that blackened crud off the screwheads without resorting to major abrasives. After the initial soak in mineral spirits and vinegar solution/ultrasonic cleaning and more scrubbing, the crud was still there so I decided to soak everything in Quaker State 10W30 for 3-4 days. A lot of the black stuff fell off the screws during that oil bath but motor oil (at least this one) is a smelly thing to have open in the house, so I won't be using that process in my man cave in future.

One of my lessons learned is that if you try to clean one of these old relics with more than a damp cloth, you can easily get into trouble! This is because the crud starts coming off significantly in some areas down to the original finish but not at all in others. So it looks like a cheetah, making you want to scrub it more and more.

Now I feel I am at the point where I am stuck in between too much and too little cleaning/polishing but decided to stop and put it it back on the shelf as is. I'll let nature take its course re-oxidizing for the next custodian.

BEFORE
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TAKEN APART AS MUCH AS COULD BE DONE SAFELY
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ARMED WITH 10W30
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NOW
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Thoughts and comments welcome.

edits: removed erroneous ref to Mobil 1
Last edited by Paul M on Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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scottorock
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by scottorock »

Not sure if you used a vinegar bath, but vinegar will pull out the copper in the brass. Almost like a copper "plating". I think if you use a vinegar and peroxide "bath" it will help bring it back to "brass". Don't remember how many parts of vinegar to peroxide but Im sure the all knowing "google" will direct ya!

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Paul M
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

Interesting. I did use a vinegar-water solution as part of the process. I didn't realize how much it helps to be a metallurgist/chemist. I will research this. I'd much rather even out the finish from this point using that approach versus more cleaning and making it all copper-pink. Thank you!

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scottorock
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by scottorock »

Looking back at your post, and the first photo, I don't think I have ever seen brass oxidize to that uniform color of black before! We've all had reels that got uglier the more we cleaned. My vote at this point is to take that tube of simichrome, a micro fiber cloth, a recliner, and a good movie! Wax on, wax off! And when that entire cloth gets as black as your first photo... new cloth and a new movie!

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Paul M
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

I was getting tired of doing that but I guess I could have quit too early. Heading off on a business trip for a few days so will consider options while cruising at 30,000 ft. Thanks, again!

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scottorock
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by scottorock »

Nah, scratch last post. I think it looks pretty cool as is. Side note...after spending my fair share of time in London, I can say that there are far nastier places in that old town than the bottom of the river. Nice winch!

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john elder
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by john elder »

This has been my experience as well with the old brass reels...just never seems to be a stopping point and many times, i wish i'd never started. But yours was really bad, Paul, and now is better than it was...it tis what it tis!

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Don Champion »

The copper color comes from the zinc being eaten away by an acidic reaction leaving the copper behind. It doesn't go very deep. Acid reacts with the zinc long before it does the copper. This kind of leaves it up to the owner as to how far he or she wants to go with the clean up.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

So, Don, to be clear, are you saying that if I wanted to try some more to even the finish by doing more polishing with Simichrome that I would polish the pinkish area?

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scottorock
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by scottorock »

Simichrome will remove the pink...slowly...

Don Champion
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Don Champion »

A faster way that sounds more drastic than it is would be to use wet or dry abrasive paper and use it wet. Start with 400 grit, then 600 grit, 800 grit and last 1200 grit. You can get a couple of sheets of each at an auto body shop. Then a fine polish to finish it off. Work it with a clockwise motion and keep it wet. You won't remove much material, probably about .001" or about 1/4 of the thickness of a piece of newspaper. Any round parts such as the pillars and the edges of the end plates could be polished in a straight line around the outside. Try it on another piece of brass first. DO NOT use this on nickel plated parts.

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Paul M
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

Don and Steve:
Thanks. I got some 400 and 800 grit and experimented on the backplate thus far. The 400 is very aggressive even used wet but that removed the copper tone and revealed a consistent brass finish. I then used the 800 wet , followed by Simichrome but will need to polish a lot more to get the scouring marks reduced to an acceptable level without going to a buffing wheel. I guess skipping the 600 grit set me back a bit, so I will go back to the store and get that grade. It is going to end up more polished than I had originally hoped but it is heading back to a more even finish that I can happily live with.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by jimbofish »

Get the 1200 Don recommended too. I'd also suggest getting a sheet of a couple of higher grits, ending at 2000. 2000 puts an almost shiny finish that may be what you like if you don't want buffed.

It may seem tedious to go through all the grits but it actually takes less effort overall if you don't skip any.

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Paul M
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

Thanks. Will do!

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Don Champion »

You can even use the 1200 to 2000 grit to polish nickel plated reels if you don't get too carried away. Nickel plating is usually only about .002" thick or less.

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Paul M
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

LOL I need a nickel plating for dummies method to put nickel back onto worn NPB reels, without having to strip old plating and then re-plating.

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DONE! Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

Thanks all for the coaching. I finally bit the bullet, went through all the steps suggested and this is what it looks like now.

The Patina Gods will rain :bricks: hellfire on me but I am finally satisfied :yay

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It is hard to imagine this is the same reel that I started with. I didn't plan to go this far but it is way better than where it was at the beginning and in the middle of the process.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Don Champion »

And if you don't polish it anymore a nice patina will start in the next year or so. Only it will be more even and not as dark.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Ron Mc »

scottorock wrote:Not sure if you used a vinegar bath, but vinegar will pull out the copper in the brass. Almost like a copper "plating". I think if you use a vinegar and peroxide "bath" it will help bring it back to "brass". Don't remember how many parts of vinegar to peroxide but Im sure the all knowing "google" will direct ya!
this is not true.
Vinegar bath is not the cause for dealloying corrosion, it's the solution to it.
Paul's bath just didn't go far enough to remove the plated copper - there from long-term dealloying corrosion, not from the vinegar bath.
Final polishing to remove the last film of copper makes total sense, but the statement above is incorrect.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Ron Mc »

Don Champion wrote:The copper color comes from the zinc being eaten away by an acidic reaction leaving the copper behind. It doesn't go very deep. Acid reacts with the zinc long before it does the copper. This kind of leaves it up to the owner as to how far he or she wants to go with the clean up.
Both the copper and zinc are dissolved, the copper is replated where it gradually oxidizes red, and the zinc salts out white (oxide) or green (chloride).

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Ron Mc »

Image Image

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by big hoss »

I'm not sure if this was mentioned or not but finishing with a rubbing compound of the type used for paint restoration on cars can work wonders after 1200 - 2000 grit w & d papers. I use this when working with poly-carbonate plastics and with pewter. It does take a bit of elbow grease and I would do the work by hand and not with a buffing wheel. As someone said above, a supply of good movies helps.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by scottorock »

I can say from first hand experience, Ive left a few brass reels for a couple of days (by forgetting about them) in a 50/50 white vinegar and water "bath" and they turn salmon (pink). Im not a chemist, I don't know which metal does or doesn't do what, I just know what I know. Googled it (looking for a quick fix as opposed to rubbing it out for hours) and it is a common occurrence. One site mentioned peroxide and vinegar. BAM! Worked great! Didn't turn it to complete "brass" but saved me HUGE amounts of time with paste polish. Theres a science experiment for the grand kids...take your favorite brass (anything) let it soak in vinegar and every day record how the vinegar doesn't turn brass pink. And id assume the more vinegar to water, the faster the transformation.

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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Ray Hencken »

Soaking brass or nickle silver (German silver) in white vinegar for too long a period of time will cause them to become "pink". Brass is an alloy of 65% copper and 35% zinc and nickle silver is an alloy of 65% copper, 18% nickel, 17% zinc [the percentage of the metals can vary somewhat].
When I use the white vinegar, I check on the nickle silver parts about every 10 min. to try to ensure that the corrosion is removed and the "pink" coloration is kept to a minimum. I rinse them in clear water, scrub them with a soapy soft tooth brush, and soak for more time if necessary. I then hand polish them with simichrome.
If the reel has hard rubber plates, I keep it out of the vinegar bath and away from water, particuliarly warm or hot water. I don't want to chance the black hard rubber turning brown. which is possible.
I, personally, don't do anything to brass any more. I leave brass reels as they are found. I feel that a 100 yr. old brass just shouldn't be shiny. However, that is only my opinion. If an owner likes his brass reels shiny then I say polish away.
Here are some pictures of a reel before polishing the nickle silver with simichrome and after. The hard rubber was also polished very lightly with the simichrome. One has to be careful not to polish out the stamping in the hard rubber.
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Re: Tough to get desired results this time

Post by Paul M »

Ray:
That's a Beauty!

Thanks to all for the comments and sharing your professional knowledge and trial and error experiences. I learned quite a bit from this exercise and have a lot more confidence in cleaning and polishing old brass reels even if that is not what one is supposed to be doing.

I now have a large brass Farlow salmon reel in the process. It has already been cleaned and will be heavily but carefully polished because someone scoured / heavily scratched the side plates making it hard for me to look at. ( Maybe a fisherman dragged it in gravel/sand when salmon fishing but it looks more like an intentional defacing or poor attempt to clean the brass.) I think it was originally a leaded reel because the spool is quite black but the side plates were bare brass when I got it. I'm Ging to leave the spool the mottled black and just work on the faceplates. I serviced the reel. The constant check works strong and loud and it spins like a dream. Now I know how to carefully polish using the aggressive techniques that will be required to make the deep scratches disappear yet leave sharp edges on the maker name engraved/stamped areas.

I'll post pictures once it is completed to my satisfaction (with the warning that content may be too graphic for some viewers).

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