Just acquired these Samurai Kuwagata (Helmet Horns). They are made of brass and I'd like to clean them up to a point. I don't want to clean to a new polished finish but would like them to look like older tarnished brass but not long neglected like they are now. Anyone have any ideas? I want them to retain their legitimate aging and not look new. Before any one complains about the swastika, it represents a Buddhist symbol and also a Japanese family crest.
You could try to soak it for a few minutes in an ammonia solution of household ammonia and water, half and half. Try this on something similar first. If they get to light, you can darken them with a darkening solution available from lamp repair shops.
It's never a good idea to ruin the patina of a historical artifact such as yours. Cleaning it in any way would be an injustice to the piece and lower it's value not just in dollars. It looks supper just the way it is with all it's "historical being" intact.
Thanks for sharing it's a great piece. How old is the piece and how would it mount on a helmet?
Before you do any thing rash Howard ask around a bit and see if a cleaning would de-value them.
Howard...I'm no expert, but from everything I've seen on antique and picking shows and such, I think Charlie B is on the money about cleaning them maybe de-value-ing them. Inasmuch as I for one love bright shiney brass, this is one case where if it were mine, I'd leave well enough alone. I'd keep it in a nice glass case!
Japanese antique weapons and armor were usually restored after the battle, one of the reasons we have thousand year old swords to admire today. They would never allow anything to get this tarnished unless it was completely abandoned. This piece is probably late 19th or early 20th century and should not look this bad had it had proper care. The front of the helmet has a prong that fits on the back of this kuwagata.
This is the kabuto (helmet) I plan to mount the horns on.
My thoughts, leave the horns and the helmet alone.
Any cleaning would be a huge mistake that would hurt value significantly. Leave them alone, they look magnificent.
Having dealt in these items since the 1980's I know what I'm doing. Japanese antiques are a whole different field, they are either pristine or a candidate for full restoration. Their choice not mine, but it's their history so I don't argue. In this case I want the horns to look as if they were polished and allowed to tone done over a long period so they match the helmet better. Their value has already been hurt by the corrosion that has covered them. I know this goes against all things in the Western antiques market but not the country where these were made.
Use a buffer wheel and some jeweler's rouge then.
So it's your way or the highway? I said I wanted to retain some patina not destroy it completely, I already know how to do that. I was looking for some intelligent input, not smart-a$$ comments.
Howard, Sounds like you know your stuff about your collecting niche. See if this link will be of any help to you.
I'd love to see the helmet and horns wed together when your done getting the patina your looking for on the horns to match the helmet, good luck!
BTW, Is there a significance to the cut out heart shape at the top of each horn?
Thanks Jay, I appreciate that. The cutout is actually two-fold, it's a stylized artistic version of multi pronged deer antlers and it's also an artistic design called a boars eye that shows up in a lot of Japanese art.
"...I want the horns to look as if they were polished and allowed to tone done over a long period..."
With all due respect, isn't that what they've already done?
Jerry, I think Howard probably wants to nix the superficial scuffing by cleaning then restoring to a light toned patina like it was polished years ago and left to mellow unmolested so it will blend with the helmets patina.
Howard, try this Google search set of links.
https://www.google.com/search?q=adding+a+aged+patina+to+brass&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8& aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#q=adding+an+aged+patina+to+ brass&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&spell=1
Thanks Jay, there is a lot of good information there. I'm going to try very subtle removal of the corrosion and hopefully get down to the patina without going through. If I do go too deep it's good to know there are ways to reinstate a patina.
I've never seen a Japanese swastika with that orientation. Where did you find it?
I for one believe you're making a mistake. My parents collected very early American furniture through the '60's and dad stripped and refinished a number of them. Instead of having a home with a million dollars worth of nice looking furniture, he had a home with very pretty old furniture, worth thousands.
I do not know what the present fad is for Japanese antiques, and apparently you do (but I'll bet the fad changes in the future). Any antiquity loses its connection to the hand that created it when restoration occurs.
Since your intent is to restore, here is a good link:
http://blog.antiques.com/2011/02/11/care-cleaning-and-conservation-methods-for-a ntique-metal-ware-useful-tips-in-restoring-antique-lamps-clocks-ormolu-spelter-b ronze-etc/
Although I havent tried this, but somewhere I read
a soaking in ketchup suppose to clean with no
I really hit a nerve here by wanting to restore this piece to a different finish. Just to show you the difference in the two worlds I recently found a late 17th century inro a tiny multi-compartment lacquered box carried on the waistband. I paid $345 and have turned down $1100. When pictures were shown to experts they said it was a beautiful example, very high quality, likely commissioned by someone very wealthy. Shame about the few areas showing wear where it rubbed on the sash. They suggested I send it back to Japan and let a lacquer artist repaint the worn areas so it would reach it's full potential of $3-$4 thousand. Trouble is it would take over a year and cost a lot. In this case I'll live with it and care for it as it has always been. The horns on the other hand have been neglected and allowed to corrode, something that completely turns off an orientalia collector. They love proper patina but hate signs of neglect. Since this is their history and they have done it this way for many thousands of years I don't think the Western worlds view will change their minds.
I also was unsure of the swastika but was able to find online several examples like this on Samurai banners taken into battles and also in a book of mons or family crests.
The swastika is an ancient oriental symbol of good fortune or luck. The direction/orientation varies from culture to culture.
I can understand the oriental view on restoration and preservation of artifacts. They tend to honor their ancestors much more than most of our culture does. Items that have a special connection to their ancestors should have been maintained. It is disrespectful to have an item that looks neglected.
That is a great piece!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Thanks Wayne, finally someone who gets it! I myself wondered if the reason this item shows so much abuse is because after WWII this symbol was so hated no one dare display it and it was stored away improperly.
Are Japanese items such as this ever checked for radiation?
Why don't you contact Lark Mason (Asian art appraiser on Antiques Roadshow) to get his opinion?
On the Web:
With respect to cleaning and re-aging your brass article to the desired degree, I recommend the following. As with most situations like this, I also suggest first experimenting with a piece of sacrificial brass in comparable condition:
You can clean the piece with straight lemon juice washed over the entire surface for consistency until you've removed the desired amount of oxidization. This will work on its own to clean without having to resort to mechanical means that could damage the base metal by either leaving tool marks or removing material. Resist the temptation to scrub. At most, apply with a soft brush.
After that, you can expose it to dry chlorine like you use for swimming pools. Just take a scoop and put it with the article in a box and monitor its condition. The chlorine will accelerate the aging process in a natural way. Just be sure and do this in a well ventilated area and NOT near your Model T, as just having it in the room will affect its brass and bare metal parts!
Received my Kuwagata and found out they are gilded copper and NOT brass as I thought. The patina is VERY fragile so I decided to clean it with automotive cleaner wax and and leave it alone so the next owner can decide how he wishes to preserve it. Thanks to all here for their input and suggestions. Jay, here's some pictures so you can see how it looks together.
You know i never would a thought of radiation.
I do know the local scrap yard near Charlotte now has a big radiation detector to scan vehicles coming in.
Are these type antiques posted on ebay or something?
Strange how 1000's of our vintage guitars wind up over there and their antiques wind up here.
The helmet came from a site called Etsy and was mailed from Japan and the horns also came from Japan but were found on eBay.
Howard, Thanks! Very nice!