Last time, I talked about the aspects of machine polishing, with compound and a powered buffing wheel. This time, it is all about elbow grease and clean rags. There are many different kinds of polish out on the market; we primarily use 3 different brands: Nevr-Dull, Simichrome, and Wright’s.
Nevr-Dull is a cotton wadding that has been impregnated with a proprietary mixture of mineral spirits, pixie dust and eye of newt. (Just kidding on the last two!)
Simichrome is a paste that has a fine abrasive in it, and therefore is more aggressive than Nevr-Dull.
Wright’s Copper Cream (they also have one for brass) does its thing mostly chemically, with less elbow grease required.
A required element in polishing is to make sure the item has no topcoat, such a lacquer or polyurethane; hand polishing will not penetrate these and there will be no improvement to the finish. If there is a topcoat, it must be removed using the appropriate method – we use a water base paint stripper here at CM&L. A good way to tell if here is a topcoat is to use a small piece of Nevr-Dull and rub vigorously on a part of the object – if the Nevr-Dull turns black, it is removing the oxides (tarnish) on the material. If it stays clean, there is some sort of coating on the surface.
Nevr-Dull is probably the polish I use most – tear off a small piece of the wadding and rub vigorously on Great-Aunt Lobellia’s candlesticks. The wadding will turn black and a oily film will be left on the surface. Wipe this off with an old tee shirt that has been washed for generations and you will see a lovely polished gleam.
Simichrome is called in when the front line troops can’t cut it. It is a mildly abrasive paste, so it can cut through heavier oxide layers – just add muscle. Cut out a 12” x 12” piece of that tee shirt, and dab a small amount of Simichrome on it. Rub even more vigorously on Mother’s Revere Ware copper pan bottoms, and wipe down with a clean cotton cloth – I would suggest a separate cloth for application and removal. When you are done, rinse thoroughly with water to remove all traces of the polish – otherwise a residue will form in all the tiny, inaccessible places.
Wright’s Copper Cream has a sponge packed inside the container – dampen the sponge, wipe a small dollop of the polish on it, and start rubbing! You should notice an immediate change in the appearance of the copper, as it lightens up as the oxides are removed. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, until Great-Grandfather Ebenezer’s copper boiler glows with warmth.
The reason I like hand polishing is that it removes the surface oxides, but does not bring forth a “new” metal finish. With machine polishing, a very thin layer of metal is actually removed, revealing a new surface. Hand polishing retains some of the patina and the age of the piece, without making it look brand new. It is also easier to control the amount of oxides removed to obtain the look you want.
Polishing non-ferrous metals isn’t really akin to witchcraft, but there are a few misconceptions about it. The one I hear all the time is: “ Isn’t there some stuff you just dip it into?” Unfortunately, there is no magic solution – only a small amount of compounds and a lot of muscle power.
The two methods we use the most are polishing by hand and polishing by machine. When you machine polish, you are using an fine abrasive compound applied to a rotating cotton buffing wheel – the object to be polished is pressed into the wheel and the surface layer of oxidized metal is actually removed from the part and deposited on the wheel . The short video below shows the process, and the before and after surface finish of the item.
The compound must applied frequently to the wheel, as it is the compound that does the actual removal, not the wheel. There are different kinds of compounds, with different levels of aggressiveness. With a heavily oxidized surface, we would start with a Tripoli compound for quicker removal of the oxides. Once done with the Tripoli, we would remove all traces of the compound and repolish with a compound called “pink”, which is less aggressive and leaves a highly polished finish. The pink and Tripoli are used on separate wheels, to avoid contamination If the surface. If the object was highly polished originally, and not heavily oxidized, we could just use the pink.
I keep using the word “oxidized”, so I should explain it. Oxidation is a process whereby oxygen in the air chemically reacts with the surface of the metal and forms a layer of corrosion over copper, brass, silver, aluminum and other similar metals. This layer of corrosion often appears as a dull film, with a brownish or blackish hue. If it is left too long, it can actually form pits in the metal, which are impossible to remove.
Next time, I will discuss polishing by hand, which will require plenty of elbow grease!
Okay, so this isn’t a repurposing post… But you should keep reading!
If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of home automation and remote control. And if you’re a lot like me, you don’t want to or downright cant afford a massive installation and expensive hardware to accomplish your automation goals.
emberlight is an adapter that screws into your standard medium base light socket, which you would then screw your existing dimmable light bulb into. emberlight connects to your home wifi and allows you to control the light from your smart device. It senses when you get home in the evening and will light your rooms as you approach. You can control your lights from anywhere, making it appear as if you are home when you’re really in the sand on your beach vacation. This is a truly remarkable device that will transform the way you live in subtle yet convenient ways, all the while giving you the opportunity to cut your energy consumption if you should choose.
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Ever wonder how anything you see nowadays is made? Of course you have. I would like to bring your attention to the field we specialize in: metal fabrication. Seems simple… we work with metal, and make it do what it is designed to do. We’ve got big heavy tools, and loud machines that can tear through steel and fold it like a napkin. Increasingly, the machines we use have become more complex, and the industries connecting them grow in concert. More often than not, the hardware and components of commercial and residential construction are made in specialized mega-warehouses overseas where the volume and efficiency of such an operation can scale down the cost. The result? The craftsperson slowly recedes back into the shadows, largely unrecognized by the world and scraping for a living in a highly skilled field. It is amazing, too, with the resurgence of items that “appear” handmade becoming popular; now the machines put dimples and scratches on work intentionally to fill the void of the disingenuous.
This week, I would like to contrast two amazing processes of metal fabrication. We will see how commercial metalwork is done in a high-end factory, and then we will see the pursuits of some old-way enthusiasts.
Call me biased, but there is something nice about “handmade” when it is really done by hand.
Ever heard of Houzz?!
It’s possibly the quintessential resource for inspiration, getting in touch with the perfect designer for your project, and even purchasing that perfect pendant for your new kitchen. We’ve been working on developing our presence on Houzz, and invite you to come check it out. We’d love to hear from you, so write us a review right in Houzz to let us know what you love and what you’d love to see more of.
Click riiiiight HERE to see our projects! Here’s a sneak peek:
Polishing By Hand
"Hand-Made" in the USA
Lighting up your Houzz!