Cleaning Brass

Being decidedly against the “patina” look on the tools that I actually want to use, I decided to clean up the brass adjuster and knob hardware on the #6 plane that I bought last Saturday.

Brass is a soft metal that doesn’t really rust; it tarnishes instead, sort of like silver. In any case, I had never cleaned it; all I knew is that people seem to be able to do it. So I used the amazing power of the intarweb to discover that most people use Brasso to clean brass.

Like many cleaners for restoration work, Brasso is one of those really awful poisionous cocktails that you’d rather not touch, smell, or lick. It has silica microabrasives in ammonia to scrape off the crap caked on the metal. I donned latex gloves, turned on all the ventilators, ripped up an old piece of clothing to dab some on, and followed the instructions to rub around a bit.

It works. Here’s a before and after of the hardware:

The tops of the screws really cleaned up. Notice how the Brasso also ripped off all of the rust on the steel rods and otherwise cleaned them up nicely. The cleaning also revealed a lot of dings in the knob’s screw head; this corresponds to all of the dings on the knob that are probably due to a wedding band or something.

Here is a close-up of the depth adjuster:

Notice how well it gets into the more detailed parts like the ribbing and cleans them up. One thing I did discover is that you have to dab a little more Brasso on your cloth if you find that it’s becoming less effective, probably due to some really grotesque chemical reaction.

Encouraged by this result (and having everything set up), I decided to try it out on the brass nuts from my “Warranted Superior” ripsaw:

I used a (newly sacrificed) toothbrush to get into the detail on the medallion. Not too bad there. This was also the first time I took the handle off the saw; I was very pleasantly surprised to find that there was very little rust in there.

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