How should I keep my polished brass from oxidizing?
Let it patina and quit polishing. It's all in the attitude.
While I do appreciate the amount of time and hard labor which are needed for a fine polishing job, I just can't spend my time that way.
Cape Cod holds up pretty well. I've just started trying Prism, so we'll see about that one. I'm also going to apply Nu Finish to some parts after polishing and see if that helps to delay the tarnish.
The best thing is covers for the brass. I found some material online that is the same as what the wife keeps the silverware in and it works really well.
The Mothers Billet polish has additives to prolong the finish as do others.
I've not heard of brass car owners applying lacquer to prevent tarnish. -That doesn't mean nobody does it; it just means I haven't heard of it. -The common sense bug in my head causes me to suspect that heat and lacquer may not get along very well together (because metal expands and contracts quite a bit when heated and cooled—so much so that you can hear it ticking and creaking in the quiet of your garage, after a drive), and radiators, kerosene lanterns and especially acetylene headlamps do get very hot, indeed. -For cars that sit in air-conditioned museums and aren't driven, lacquer is a viable option. -For traffic-jamming weekend drivers, I'm not so sure.
Some brass polishes contain wax and that's fine for tubas, trumpets and indoor dust-collectors that are kept relatively cool, but when wax gets hot—as it would on a radiator full of boiling water on an August day—it melts and goes dull, so for the purposes of a brass car owner, there's no particular advantage to having any wax content in brass polish. -And certainly, don't go out of your way to apply wax (be it Turtle-Wax, Simoniz or whatever) to any brass parts that will get very hot, because it'll just haze over.
Cars that are driven will encounter, humidity, pollen, smog, tree sap, diesel smoke, road grime and grease, etc., so no matter what brass product you use and how much elbow grease is invested in applying it, a retina-aching, super-shine simply isn't going to last very long—so don't bother going to that extent. -No fire-breathing Marine drill instructor will be inspecting your brass. -Live in the real world.
I do a three-hour polishing session about twice a year (with Prism Polish) and do constant little touch-ups during the driving season. -I think of that effort as just part of the constant tinkering, tightening, adjusting, oiling and greasing that are the warp and woof of owning and operating a Brass-Era automobile.
Daniel and Bob...actually I have used lacquer with great success in preventing patina and protecting from the weather for quite some time. I have a solid Bronze schooner design windvane on top of my cupola on the garage, and first, I'm not about to let a $400 beautiful piece of art like that go to green crap, and secondly, I'm not about to climb up on the roof to bring it down to keep it nice. So after 8 coats of lacquer sprayed on it, it's still looking good after 8 years so far!
As for my brass, I really don't mind polishing, I think it's part of the fun of the hobby, keeps me out of trouble (can't be buying cars while polishing!)and to me makes the cars look super. This winter I am experimenting with coating several of the smaller pieces, i.e. hubcaps, windshield frames, the brass strip around the firewall with clear gloss polyurethane. Goes on super with a good foam brush, so we'll know in a year or two how it will work. Right now, they look fantastic.
Years ago a fellow by the name of Bob Merlino on Staten Island had a process that he used to coat lamps. He did lamp restorations and baked something on that lasted forever. Unfortunately, I do not know what it was and he has long since passed on. While it did dull the shine a slight amount it never required any maintenance and it was well over 15 years before it started to deteriorate and even then only where it had been chipped. For what it is worth the only thing that would remove it was soaking in acetone so that might be a hint as to what it was. Anyone else know what he used and is it still available?
Bob -- I polished the brass on my '15 and coated it with a spray lacquer called "Permalac." You can google it for sources. It worked great on everything but the radiator. I tried that 3 times and never did get a good result, so I just stripped it off the radiator and polished it from time to time. All the other coated parts still looked great several years later when I sold the car. I didn't light the cowl lamps during that time; you're probably right about the heat issue there.
I've never cared for lacquer coating brass because of the hassle when it does eventually go south. I'd rather do some occasional polishing.
Keep it in an oxygen free environment
(picture by Neil Kaminar)
I removed some old clear coating on my brass side lamps with a product called "SOY GEL Professional Paint Stripper". You simply brush it on and after 20 minutes, I was able to easily remove the old coating using a hand scrub brush and water. A friend loaned me his bottle to try it out. It worked great.....I was amazed how easy it worked!
Several years prior to this, had tried soaking with Lacquer thinner and that did nothing. The old coating was on the lamps when I bought our 13 model T approx. 16 years ago. Do not know what the coating was....however do not think it was clear Lacquer.
After using this product, I was able to buff the brass, looks great now. Used a buffing wheel for most areas and Prism for areas that are too scary using the buffing wheel.
On the bottle...it is written that SOY GEL is "made with 100% American Grown Soybeans". Does not have a strong smell and did not burn my hands.
Franmar Chemical, Inc. is listed on the plastic bottle. www.franmar.com
There is a warning listed..."This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm".
Beings I am 75 yrs. old....don't think I have much to worry about at this point in my life.
Years ago, I coated the lamps on our 10 REO with clear Lacquer. It lasted for approx. 10 yrs. before I striped it with Lacquer thinner. You could check with Restoration Supply on coatings. They may have a product that works well. My big concern is getting the stiff off later.
At this point, I'm using Prism on all my brass. It seems to last for 6 months and re-polishing is not that difficult.
Just paint 'em.
That's what they did back then!
I am making this comment relative to the brass polish/coating routine you may use and the heat generated by the "hot" brass lamps in real operation. Of course, if you don't drive at night and use your original equipment it doesn't matter.
For the last several months, I have been running the kerosene and acetylene headlights of my 1914 Touring on a routine basis and I am not trying to change the subject of the thread.
The hottest brass on it after a drive is the radiator. I am running a flat tube Brassworks radiator, 2013 install, and it will not boil sitting.
The acetylene gas headlights will get hot as the radiator only IF you:
1. light them and just sit still = hot. Poor operator technique.
2. run 3/4 cfh burners with a maximum fishtail flame and sit still = real hot. Unnecessary.
What works best for me is to set a medium fishtail with a slight arch about 3/4" wide with either 5/8 cfh or 3/4's. Then all I have to do is turn on the B Tank and light them. They do not need to be set again. They are less trouble than the mixture adjustment.
I suggest you light up the acetylene lamps AFTER you are ready to drive. Light the kerosene lamps first. Then fire up the acetylene and go. Like the radiator, the gas headlights are air cooled.
I turn the gas off on the headlights when I drive the car in the garage or stop. If I am just making a pit stop or something, turn off the gas and leave the kerosene lamps burning. A re-light on the headlights is less than 60 seconds.
The John Brown 16 headlights, 110 side lights and 115 tail lamp do not get near as hot as the radiator if used as I describe above. Just according to my palm & my 2c worth and be careful.
It seems like the chance of getting too hot for lacquer is very likely present though. The bonnets and lamp tops are the easiest brass to polish on the whole car....the radiator is the most work.
I made a 55 mile run Sunday a week ago at night and all lamps going. Speed of 25 to 35 mph on the drive. I could put my palm Briefly! and I do mean briefly, on any of the John Browns lamps on the car. I cannot do that with the radiator. Also, they do not blow out at 35 mph even with a headwind.
Royce, I did it and they do look cool. Try the Prest-O-Lite tank and you will use the generator as a piggy bank.
Ken in Texas
Thank you for the great suggestions!
I worked for a plastics manufacturer when I had my speedster with lacquered lights. To tie in with what Steve said, when the brass under the lacquer started going south it was quite an ordeal. I used DMF (Dimethylformamide) - nasty stuff and nicknamed "Da Mudder F*%#er, to strip the lacquer. After polishing, went with Gene's suggestion of using covers but living by the Pacific that only lasted so long. Going back to my plastics experience with evacuating ambient air and moisture, I started covering the lights with plastic bags, displacing the air in the bags with nitrogen, and sealing the bags "airtight" while on the car. They never needed polishing again as long as I took the time to go through this process. The radiator still needed polishing but the nice flat panel surfaces were much easier to deal with than the nooks & crannies presented by the lights.
Here in Canada I use Weiman brass polish, our brass has been polished since 1960 and to polish with brasso 6 to 8 hours to do all the brass, with Weiman 1.5 hours to do every thing. With the use of covers it only gets polished 2-3 times a year, she used to be polished every time she went out.
Read on this forum sometime back that spray gasket remover takes lacquer off easily. Have tried it and it instantly removes lacquer. Try it on a small place first to be sure you get the same results.
Thanks for mentioning Bob!!!
I miss that fellow!!! Tremendously!
Bob did great work!!! I still have a few of his lights. Most are gone on past cars of mine.
Question, Where did his stuff go? Dies and processes? Who makes his lights now?
You are very correct about his finishes.
Joe in Mo.