Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing.
Cleaning a 117 year old brass bell
I am working on my Eagle Scout project, and part of it is to clean a large brass church bell. I have tried ketchup, vinegar, toilet bowl cleaner, and many types of commercial brass cleaner. Some of this has worked somewhat, however on the inside of the bell there are what look to be machine marks, hairline cracks, and some pitting. I am looking for some sort of brass cleaner that will be able to get into these little nooks and crannies.Tim F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hebron, Nebraska
I ALSO HAVE A FAIRLY LARGE BELL OFF OF A TRAIN THAT IS PRETTY OLD. IT IS BRASS AND I HAD A FEW ESTIMATES WHICH WERE
500.00 TO 800.00 TO CLEAN THE BELL UP. THESE WERE QUOTED OVER THE PHONE. I ALSO WAS TOLD IT WILL TARNISH AGAIN IF NOT KEPT OUT OF THE WEATHER ELEMENTS. I WANT TO CLEAN IT UP AND MY DAD WILL MOUNT IT IN A POLL OUTSIDE SO WE CAN RING IT WITH A ROPE. WHAT CAN I USE TO REMOVE ALL THE GREEN COLORING AND WILL IT TARNISH REALLY FAST BEING OUTSIDE AGAIN? THESE BELLS WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE SO .....
IT ALL THIS WORK A WASTE?
HOME OWNER - North Olmsted, OHIO
I am trying to restore a U.S.Navy bell for my Father-in-Law right now and having a little trouble with it. When I was in the Navy, we used Brass-O, with great success. That might help you two out. I have also heard that using Tabasco works to shine.
There are a couple other things that might help out...
Stable or painted surfaces should be kept dust free. Vacuum-clean all stable artifacts regularly, using the nozzle attachment with a brush. A bristle brush or a toothbrush may help to raise dust from crevices.
Sometimes surface grime can be removed satisfactorily with soap and water. We recommend a plain soap such as "Triton X-100" or "Vulpex"; both are conservation approved, in a 3% solution in water. Any wet cleaning should employ deionized or distilled water only, and rinsing is a very important step. If the dirt that you want to remove is very greasy, "Vulpex" may be used in mineral spirits, in a 3% solution; rinse with straight mineral spirits [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. It is especially important to remove old polish residues, which appear usually as dark green, gray or white deposits in cracks.
Calcareous (lime or hard water) deposits may respond to a 10 % solution of regular "Calgon" (sodium hexametaphosphate) in distilled or deionized water. Allow the solution to soak into the crust and then remove by scrubbing with stiff brushes. Then rinse thoroughly in distilled water.
Hope this helps.
- Reno, Nevada
I have an old brass train bell that I have polished but I am not happy with the results. It is pitted and the brass cleaner does not seem to get the bell as polished as it should be.
Once I get it polished the way I like it, is there anything I can do to preserve the finish with he bell kept outside?
- Gainesville, Florida
October 2, 2009
You might try a baked-on epoxy lacquer, the same as they do with brass musical instruments.David Cox
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
August 22, 2011
To the person working on his Eagle Project. I have polished brass for over 15 yrs. I do it part time. Check out my FB page. "Bell's Brass Polishing." It sounds like you need access to a polishing wheel. If the bell is badly tarnished, hand polishing will not work. I wish I had continued in scouting but the beach at the time was more important. I camp a lot at Cape Lookout, NC and most of the guys I grew up with are Eagle Scouts that go with me.
- whiteville, North Carolina
March 25, 2012
Hello everyone. I am currently restoring a 100+ year old ship bell which is constantly out in the elements of North Carolina. Salt, sand high winds, intense sun... This large bell has not been polished in several years and I am determined to shine the old girl. I have tried the subtle approach of some polishing compound and a softer pad. Then I tried bowl cleaner and a green pad ... no luck there. Is there any other tricks to removing heavy tarnish other then sanding and refinishing the bell again?John Kiely
- Hatteras, North Carolina
March 28, 2012
Try 5 % ammonium citrate solution (50 gm citric acid+1 lit water, pH must be corrected to 9 with ammonia ). Spray it on or you can gel it with wallpaper glue (cellulose based). Rinse it well and then try to polish it - last but not least, most bells are made of bronze ... Hope it helps and good luck!Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia
April 4, 2012
Citric acid is excellent for cleaning up tarnish on brass and bronze. Let us know if we can help.
Stellar Solutions, Inc.