Polishing/treating brass and copper

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Forum topic by Clarence posted 05-02-2011 05:46 AM 8732 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Clarence's profile


125 posts in 3342 days

05-02-2011 05:46 AM

I have several projects on the drawing board that include the use of brass and/or copper. For instance, I have a large number of 1920s vintage glass door knobs with brass bases , as well as their brass escutcheons, that I intend to turn into coat racks by mounting them on oak boards.

My question: how do I remove all tarnish or oxidation from the brass (and copper) and how do I treat it to keep it off without having to go back periodically and polish it?

-- Getting old is a good thing, but being old kinda stinks.

12 replies so far

View ChefHDAN's profile


1227 posts in 3085 days

#1 posted 05-02-2011 05:56 PM

I collect copper fire extinguishers and some of them don’t have any patina on them per se so I keep them bright polished. There are many commercial polishes that will do a good job but it can be exhausting if it’s a big piece. Since you’re dealing with smaller pieces, you might try a buffing wheel in the drill press to work the polish. After polish you can spray a lacquer coat to seal the part and prevent return of the oxidation tarnish

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3619 days

#2 posted 05-02-2011 06:04 PM

I use Brasso metal polish. I’ve used it to polish my brass when I was in the Army and use it now to polish up my old sink fixtures, an old light switch cover, and quite a few other things around the house. If you spray clear poly over the brass after polishing, it will preserve the shine and keep it from oxidizing.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3116 days

#3 posted 05-02-2011 08:38 PM

Another option to make it go even faster is to sand the brass with a really fine grit paper. You can sand brass rather well without damaging it. I usually sand tarnished brass with 800 grit paper then 1000 and after that I will use the brass polish. After its polished you can sand again with a 2000 grit paper for a super shiny finish.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3187 days

#4 posted 05-03-2011 12:22 AM

Brasso would be good to get the brass and copper bright again. However, with those old doorknobs, they usually have a lot of decoration which means lots of recesses and such. Although I haven’t done one of those specifically, I had the same issue with other items. I used Brasso to remove most of the patina. To get in all the crevices and such, use a Dremel tool with a felt tip polisher bit. Dip it in the Brasso and work it in to those small areas. Be dilligent and it will work. Make sure you wear eye-pro, Brasso hurts in the eye (ask me how I know!).

-- Mike

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#5 posted 05-03-2011 01:10 AM

Brasso or rubbing compound for automotive work they also sell little buffing pads that fit on the end of your drill that you can put the rubbing compound on. after their clean some clear lacquer will keep it shinny until it wares off.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View mrg's profile


849 posts in 3235 days

#6 posted 05-03-2011 03:00 AM

Ketchup or vinager will clean them up.

-- mrg

View peteg's profile


4435 posts in 3059 days

#7 posted 05-03-2011 03:12 AM

After polishing them up you can use a good wax polish (furnituer polish will do fine,) all you are realy trying to do is seal the surface to stop exidation

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3302 days

#8 posted 05-03-2011 03:28 AM

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3619 days

#9 posted 05-03-2011 03:39 AM

After looking at Dan’s blog that Chelios just linked and the metal polish that he used, I see now why Dan said above to use 2000 grit sandpaper after the metal polish. With Brasso, that would not be necessary because unlike those other polishes, it has a suspended silica abrasive. Using 2000 grit sandpaper would actually be a step back because the Brasso is actually way finer than that, somewhere around 12,000 grit I believe. I know it is way finer than jeweler’s rouge and finer than 8000 grit micro-mesh just by the difference in the surface it leaves.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View auggy53's profile


159 posts in 2915 days

#10 posted 05-03-2011 06:00 AM

i tryed ketchup to clean a copper pot rack a few years ago and the ketchup stained it so bad i had to toss it . i tried everything i could find to get it off but nothing worked . the closest i got to cleaning it was some stuff called wizard used in auto body shops.

-- rick

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3016 days

#11 posted 05-03-2011 02:09 PM

Autosol , available at automotive supply shops (and Lee Valley) Works very well.. for the fine decoration, the recesses etc, a soft toothbrush with whichever cleaner/polish you choose, will
work very well.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2929 days

#12 posted 05-03-2011 02:13 PM

I like brasso and a cheap $10.00 WalMart automotive buffing pad. We used to polish brewery brewkettles in this way. I don’t miss that job. :)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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