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How do you stop brass tarnishing

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Bob Wild17/11/2021 22:54:31
86 forum posts
63 photos

Spent many hours polishing the brass bits on my FK Fire Engine. But after a while they tarnish and lose their lustre. This must be a common problem, so I was wondering what other members do, if there is a solution.


David George 117/11/2021 23:11:30
1871 forum posts
505 photos

I use Solvol Autosol metal polish. I has a protector wax and lasts quit a long time.


Paul Lousick18/11/2021 00:26:40
2071 forum posts
725 photos

Just one of the never ending jobs when you have a steam engine Bob. You spend as much time cleaning and polishing the engine than you do driving it. After polishing, I give the brass a coating of lanolin which seems to protect it for a while.. Then a vigorous application of elbow grease prior to driving it again.


Werner Schleidt18/11/2021 07:19:19
148 forum posts
179 photos

Hello Bob,

the shiny surface of the brass is very difficult to hold over the year during the driving session. At the moment I had my Fire King disassambled for the transport from the garage to the basement. So I give all the steam parts a polishing and a control of function. At the boiler there are many pipes and things installed, it is not feasable to polish there over the year. In winter I take all off and then i can polish it. And it is a hard job to get the dirt of espacially in the area of the chimney. By starting of the cold engine and if i am not patient enough there is condensend water with oil comming out of the chimney . This oil burn in in the cover and this is hard to remove.

From me i accept to polish ,because I have fun to drive with the engine.

By the way your fire engine looks very good!


James Alford18/11/2021 07:23:30
465 forum posts
79 photos

Try Renaissance Wax. I did a lot of work with copper a few years ago and it was highly effective at delaying any tarnishing of the surface. It is apparently used by museums, but whether that it just advertising exaggeration or not, I cannot say.


pgk pgk18/11/2021 07:37:30
2594 forum posts
293 photos

There are guys on here with more practical experience, but at one stage I refurbished a saxophone - stripping it right down, cleaned up and polished and sprayed with clear lacquer - came out well and no polishing needed. A check on the web finds high temp clear lacquers to 800C in rattle-cans...


roy entwistle18/11/2021 09:04:00
1551 forum posts

Brass musical instruments are lacquered. As are clocks


Circlip18/11/2021 09:08:05
1524 forum posts

Sixty years ago, any Brass bits we made at skool were polished and liberally coated with clear dope (Cellulose lacquer)

Regards Ian.

Bob Unitt 118/11/2021 09:48:31
222 forum posts
33 photos

I used Rustins Metal Lacquer on a cannon I made about 15 years ago, which sits on the mantelpiece. Neither the ferrous nor non-ferrous parts have lost their finish since then, despite frequent handling.

Derek Lane18/11/2021 10:04:36
788 forum posts
175 photos
Posted by James Alford on 18/11/2021 07:23:30:

Try Renaissance Wax. I did a lot of work with copper a few years ago and it was highly effective at delaying any tarnishing of the surface. It is apparently used by museums, but whether that it just advertising exaggeration or not, I cannot say.


The correct stuff also prevents fingerprint when handled. I have used it on some of my woodturning and it does what it says on the tin.

It is this ONE I use you can buy it from HERE but how good this one is I have not tried it as the little tin I have seems to last for ages a little goes a long way

I hope the links are not breaking any rules

noel shelley18/11/2021 10:19:51
1436 forum posts
23 photos

Polished brass that has been laquered is fine so long as, A the laquer is a good one able to take the conditions. B it is handled VERY carefully ! The polished surface offers no key, so the slightest knock and it will chip, then it WILL tarnish, looking worse than if it had NOT been laquered and the only solution will be to strip the laquer off, repolish, and decide whether laquering is a good idea ?

I used to make brass nameplates, I offered 3 options ! A,polish from time to time, B, let it aquire a patina, or C laquer and be dammed ! Good Luck. Noel.

Bob Stevenson18/11/2021 10:57:17
579 forum posts
7 photos

just a few points to add;.....

If you use laqueur be absolutely sure that you prep carefully and fully, so no fingerprints etc.....don't use petrol as final wash....don't use brake cleaner either.....Meths is as good as anything after hot detergent etc.

Remember that the silicone polishes such as 'Renaisance Wax' while they work well as specified can be virutally impossible to remove completely if you later wish to either laq or silver/gold plate and can really muck up the job!

If you use laq don't just get the first one you see on the shelf at around and ALWAYS do a test first on a carefully prepped piece of similar scrap.

Some laq gives excellent results but has some difficult handling features...clockmakers have lists of recipes that go back into the mists of time with weird and wondrful 'pros and cons'..such as the famed 'dragons blood' etc

A very excellent laq that I have found is 'Le Tonkinois' but it has savage cons for the inexperienced....I used this on my first clock and was pleased with the great working characteristics such as superb smooth finish and easy application. However, one week after application the clock developed purple streaks!......I won't describe my anguish! Then I noticed that the parts whxih had been heated to red heat for silver soldering had not streaked.....I now still use this laq but never of parts that I have not annealed/heated.

Roderick Jenkins18/11/2021 11:32:40
2201 forum posts
616 photos


I think you are mistaken about Renaissance Wax containing silicones. Renaissance Wax was developed by the British Museum as a conservation grade (therefore reversible) material. It is basically a micro crystalline version of a high grade paraffin wax.



pgk pgk18/11/2021 11:38:55
2594 forum posts
293 photos

'Twas a long time ago that I sprayed the saxophone. For advice, I went to a specialist paint place in Uxbridge that may well no longer exist. It was probably a cellulose based lacquer and had an almost invisible gold tint to enhance the final colour.


JohnF18/11/2021 12:01:59
1172 forum posts
193 photos

Plus one for Renaissance Wax, it certainly offers a good level of protection to all metal parts, works well on leather as well. I have used it on display firearms for many years as well as other items around the home. How heat from say a steam engine affects it I have no idea, maybe other have ?

For longevity I think lacquer may be the way to go. Each has advantages and disadvantages !


Grindstone Cowboy18/11/2021 12:22:24
893 forum posts
64 photos

Another big fan of Renaissance Wax here - I'm sure it does not contain any silicones. About six months ago I polished up an old brass oil lamp (didn't get three wishes, though) using Autosol, then gave it a coat of Renaissance Wax, nothing done to it since. The bright mirror finish dulled very slightly immediately the wax was applied, but has remained exactly like that since with no further dulling. Stored indoors, no heat applied, so can't say how it might react on, say, a working boiler, but I'd certainly give it a try.


Clive Hartland18/11/2021 14:02:16
2837 forum posts
40 photos

There is a product called Frigiline, mainly used on silver. Look it up, quoted at £17.00 or so per can.

Sprayed or brushed and is very thin.

Bob Stevenson18/11/2021 18:26:53
579 forum posts
7 photos

Rod Jenkins et al,......I do believe you are correct about Renaisance Wax being parafin based,..a slip of the fingers on my part!

However, my word of caution stands,.....some musical instrument repair specialists will not take bare brass instruments for plating if they have been treated with Renaisance Wax or similar because removal (and thus good plating) is extremely difficult.

Tim Stevens18/11/2021 20:21:29
1622 forum posts

Avoid heat, and fumes of any sort. Particularly fumes of animal origin, and any veg containing sulfur*, such as onions, leeks, chives, garlic.

* the spelling Sulphur has now been abandoned to avoid confusion. I await with interest the attack on our honour, along with colour, jewellery, axe, etc etc.

cheers, Tim

Paul Lousick18/11/2021 21:13:44
2071 forum posts
725 photos

Avoiding heat and fumes is very difficult on a fire/steam engine if you want to drive it.


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