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Cleaning brass items

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I recently restored a Lachenal with brass reeds. A couple of the reeds were in really bad condition including this one. I bought some clock cleaning fluid. It is incredibly expensive and toxic, and I am scared stiff of it. But I followed the instructions and here is the result. I have only washed the reed and plate, not touched it otherwise except to handle it.



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It is designed for brass clock movements. A lot of brass clock parts have steel axles in them, so I guess there might be some tolerance of steel. It didn't appear to damage the steel screws on my reed plate, but it could have weakened them, I don't know. It is very stong alkaline/ammonia based.

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"It is very stong alkaline/ammonia based."


There are strong admonitions against using ammoniated products to clean brass in the Pressure Lantern (Petromax, Coleman, etc) collectors community and in the bullet reloading groups because it changes the brass and leads to cracks.  This may not be much of a problem for the reed shoes which are relatively thick and unstressed, but if you had brass reeds, this may be putting them at risk.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've used clock cleaner for clocks for years, I also used it to clean all manner of brassware. Clocks have some fine parts in them but I've never had a cracking problem though for clocks I use an ultrasound cleaner which does it much more quickly. It doesn't have to be too expensive as you can buy small quantities for well less than £10 and enough to clean up the odd item. I've very recently cleaned a pair of mandolin key blocks using some spent clock cleaner (I keep it in a separate bottle and that's OK for cleaning the odd bit of brass). They were black when I put them in but nice bright brass when I took them out afteran overnight soak. 


The art of using it is to wash it off with water immediately you remove it from the cleaner, dry it of as much as possible then spray with WD 40m the cleaner to remove any dampness. Never leave it laying around with cleaner on it, it will remove the zinc from the surface and leave it looking coppery.

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