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"How to Restore & Refinish National Cash Registers"

Current question:

November 23, 2021

Hi, I have an old National Cash Register. Would you know how to repair it, or who I could ask? Found it in a locked room in our garage years ago.

0757-2b   0757-2a  

Jamie Quadrado
- Ladybrand, South Africa

  ^- Privately respond to this RFQ -^

Ed. note: As always, gentle readers, technical replies in public and commercial replies in private please ( huh? why?)

Closely related Q&A's, oldest first:


Q. I'm restoring a National Cash Register with a case made of very ornate red brass. Being almost one hundred years old, the case is tarnished to the point where it is virtually black. Many polishes will remove the tarnish on the flat surfaces, however in the deep crevices the tarnish just can't be reached with polish. Is there some type of chemical solution in which I can dip the parts in order to remove the tarnish.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Tom D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
St. Albans, Missouri


A. Tom,

Get a bottle of Tarn-X [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. This is a chemical cleaner for brass that will remove the tarnish without damaging the brass. Just dip your parts into a bowl of this solution and use a soft bristled brush to scrub the recessed areas. Unless the surface is sealed in some manner (clear lacquer or polyurethane) the brass will tarnish again in a few months. Good Luck!

Tom S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Reading, Pennsylvania

A. We appreciate Tom S's help, but this information is not entirely accurate. The Tarn-X site includes this FAQ:

"Is Tarn-X safe to use on brass?
No, Tarn-X is not safe to use on brass. This is because brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and the acids in Tarn-X effect zinc."

However, there is a separate product called Tarn-X Brass Glaze.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Tom D: I have tried Tarn-x and have had little success except with silver...you might try liquid toilet bowl cleaner (toilet bowl cleaner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]) which contains Hydrochloric Acid...wash off as soon as you use it but it will definitely remove tarnish from Brass and copper. I apply it with 0000 steel wool [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] which won't scratch the metal. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) wear Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] and don't breath the fumes. After you remove the tarnish polish with a Cape Cod Metal Polishing Cloth [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] and watch the shine come out!

Good luck...

Glenn H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


A. It is possible that the original finish was a lacquer, which was thin on the flat surfaces, thicker in the textured surface. Soaking the part in a hot alkaline solution, or trisodium phosphate [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or Sodium Metasilicate or some solvent to remove this lacquer before attempting to polish it might help.

tom & pooky   toms signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


Q. I have a old National Cash Register with the same problem. I have tried everything as well.


Jim Decker


Q. I'm an ex NCR Tech from the old days and would like current news to help in restoring an old brass Class 452 I got for Christmas.

Thank you.

Jim R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Anchorage Well and Pump Service


Q. Any info out there about cleaning nickel plated brass cash register?

Sheila J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Long Beach California

Removing old paint from brass cash register


I have a National Cash Register Model 332 that I would love to restore. It was from my Uncles business. My problem is I'm not sure how to clean the case. I believe the case is brass but to appears to have had a grayish paint or something applied to it. This paint has either chipped off in spots or wore off. I'm not sure what to use to removed this and take it down to the brass. Thanks for any help.

Craig R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Frostburg, Maryland

Want to Remove Nickel from Red Brass Cash Register


Q. I just purchased a red brass cash register that has been nickel plated at one point in its long life. Most of the nickel has been worn off, and I would like to get the red brass look out of the register. Are there any suggestions on how to remove the plating on the register. To do at home? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Adam E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Haubstadt, Indiana

Copper Oxidized on National Cash Register


I am restoring a National Cash Register and I have seen the term "Copper-Oxidized" refer to the restoration process. I would like some professional advice on the best way to achieve a beautiful look to this classic Brass Register. Thanks!

David Buckingham



There were several different finishes used on those registers which had the cast brass cabinets. Some were bright brass, and some were "antiqued". I think antique is what you're looking for. Here's a process which will work, although it might best be done by a metal finishing shop.

Clean the brass panels back to "as-cast" new. This will require some combination of organic solvents, stiff brushes, brass polish and buffing wheels. When perfectly clean, dip in a 2% solution of Liver of Sulphur [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] until dark brown/black all over. Rinse, dry, then buff lightly over the high spots, leaving as much/little dark in recesses as you like. Finally coat with a clear acrylic.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina


You can use 50 gm copper sulphate, 5 gm potassium permanganate,1 lit water solution.Immerse oxide and grease free parts in cold(slow) or boiling(faster) solution. Good luck!

Goran Budija


January 21, 2009

A. I have been restoring brass cash registers for 20+ years and find that coating lacquered parts with 'Gunk' for about an hour before washing and scrubbing with a soft bristled brush in hot soapy water works great.

Paul Lamotte
- Winnipeg Beach,MB, Canada

November 25, 2009

  ^- Privately respond to this RFQ -^

Ed. note: As always, gentle readers, technical replies in public and commercial replies in private please ( huh? why?)

Want new Nickel plating for 1940's Cash Register. Currently is painted grey

Darrin Ciaschini
- Woodbury, Minnesota

^- Sorry, this RFQ is outdated
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December 16, 2009

A. I know where you are! I have restored 200 brass cash registers.
First buy some silica sand and blast them. won't hurt anything even the indicators.
After blasting them, buff them with a bar polish, them clean them with some soapy pressurized foam, then return to the polishing booth and polish it with a bar of red rouge. clean again then spray with a clear lacquer. works every time!

bill cunningham
- clinton twp, Michigan

April 3, 2012

A. I restore brass NCRs as a hobby and polishing them is not an easy and fast process. First, every piece of brass must come off. Next you have to get all of the dirt off by putting some water on it and Comet or Lime Away and scrub it with a tooth brush. Next you have to get the old lacquer off the brass by putting paint stripper on it and leave it on for fifteen minutes then pour boiling water on top of it and, instantly after, carefully grinding it off with a powered brass brush. I like to use a hand held grinder with a brass wire brush in place of the grinder. Do not press too deep into the brass -- all you want to do is take the lacquer off it. It will brighten up a ton, but that's not the end. Then with a bench buffer you need two different types of buffing abrasives. First buff the brass with tripoli then finish it with rouge. Both on different cotton wheels. Finish it all of with a thin layer of lacquer and there you go. Hope this helps.

Connor Kilmer
- Auburn, New York, USA

October 4, 2013

Q. I know that this site is primarily about metal finishing but you all seem to know so much about NCR's. I acquired an NCR and was able to un-jam one of the numbers but now the key is locked in place and won't come out and all the numbers are locked and won't move as well as the drawer I can not get the drawer to go back in and stay in place in locked position. I'm at a stand still. This is an old metal register not the brass one. It is model #FR-867635-TT. Thank you for any help that you can give me.

- Bushkill, Pennsylvania, USA

January 30, 2014

Q. Where can I go to find blueprints or something on rebuilding a cash register? My grandpa had a cash register that he took apart to clean but never got around to putting it back together. I have it now, but have no idea where to go to get it put together. I would like to finish what my grandpa started. Please help.

- North Carolina

March 16, 2014

Q. Hello, I too have a 1913 NCR that I would like to restore. Can someone tell me what it would cost to send in my brass pieces to be polished and coated?


Zack Methvin
- Arvada, Colorado USA

May 17, 2015

Q. How much does a National 311 Cash register weigh?

Charles Moore
Hobbyist - Wayne, Michigan

November 15, 2021

A. 311 312 313 All weigh about the same -- 85 Lbs

Joe Montello
hobbyist - Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

July 18, 2015

Q. Can anyone direct me to a site where I can purchase a national cash register model 332 Manual? I need help with my 332. When the keys are depressed the drawer will open but the key will not return. It requires me to lift the key by hand. It needs some kind of a spring. I sure a manual would be helpful. Also where will I purchase it.


Roger thomas
- Harrison township Michigan

July 22, 2015

Q. Hello, I am having almost the same issue with my NCR. I purchased my NCR from an Estate Sale and the previous owners painted the whole thing in multitude of colors. The paint is so thick the first panel I cleaned took me a couple of weeks just to get the paint out of the groves. Can anyone please tell me a way I can get the paint off faster with out damaging the brass? I would love to try the Vinegar and Boiling water, but can't get a pot big enough to fit each panel in. Thanks

Tom Szczepanik
- Barnegat, New Jersey, USA


Servicing NCR Drawer so it shuts

August 15, 2017

Q. I know I may need to join a club and pay a fee, but I am very new to this.

I just purchased a very rare fine scroll #5 National brass candy store cash register.

It was made in 1903 with a number #808206 on the face and under the drawer.

This machine is missing the top purchase plate and the drawer will not latch shut. Otherwise everything seems to work well.

I am looking for advise on how to service/fix the drawer so it works properly.

I know I will probably have to take the sides and back off to perform the fix, but am looking for advise to ensure I don't cause additional problems.

If you can assist me with this I will be very grateful.

If you require a fee please let me know.

Dan Ogle
want to repair NCR - Meridian, Idaho

August 2017

thumbs up sign Hi Dan. This is a free, no registration required, site. If any reader can help you, we're happy to post their response. It's just that our primary focus is metal finishing, not antiques repair, so neither I as the site operator nor most of our regular readers have much experience with your question. Welcome.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 8, 2019

Q. I restored my first NCR 20 years ago. It was lacquered and I was told to buy a Christmas wreath plastic container and fill it with water and a lot of Powdered Tide clothes detergent. Soak the piece like the back of the machine over night. To my surprise, it removed every bit of the lacquer without any scrubbing with no damage! Try it! It Works!

I can't seem to polish it without leaving dark residue in the engraving lines. I would love to find out how and I am so happy to pass along my tide trick!! No damage!

Where can I buy parts? I need key rings and money flags to change from British pounds and pence! Also what gets the green verdigris off? Thanks for your help and I have 5 to restore plus a nickel full size and nickel candy store. I also have 20 antique telephones to restore. I also have a valuable 19th century binocular microscope to restore that needs to be re-tarnished where the lacquer was worn off. Can I do this? I didn't realize that polishing this would devaluate it!

Mike Rattan
Retired Telephone Man - Tolar, Texas, USA

January 27, 2019

A. I worked for NCR in the 1960s and 70s. At that time the huge (25,000,000? sq ft) Dayton factory was full of obsolete parts. Millions upon millions of parts.

By the late 1970s mechanical cash registers were obsolete, having been replaced by electronics. The Dayton factory continued to make some other products, but was much larger than needed, so it was gradually demolished over the next 15-20 years. The need for replacement parts was all but non-existent, so AFAIK the parts inventory was sold for scrap.

An on line search will take you to some hobbyists who may have some spare parts yet.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

October 25, 2021

Q. I have an early, circa 1900 NCR cash register that is nickel plated over cast iron. Fortunately, the nickel is in good shape, but needs to be polished to match a reproduction top sign that I purchased to install on the register [the reproduction is nickel plating over brass, with a gloss clear coat]. I had to strip gold paint off the register when I bought it; the previous owner had spray painted the whole register gold to make it look like brass! Luckily, I believe this had helped preserve the nickel finish - which is now stripped, but has a non-shiny, dull silver appearance.


I have polished brass, stainless, and copper before, but have never polished nickel - I know it is plated to an unknown thickness, and do not want to over polish or ruin the plating - then need a gloss clear coat to preserve the polished finish. Advise will be greatly appreciated!

Gary Tackel
- Garland, Texas

Barkeeper's Friend 4-pack

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October 2021

A. Hi Gary.
That's a beautiful piece of equipment but I don't think it ever looked like your sign, and don't think it's possible to polish it to that look. For one thing, I'm not sure that sign is nickel plated & clear coated because it seems to have the slightly "blue-ish" tint of chrome plating rather than the slightly "yellow-ish" tint of even fresh nickel plating.

Before trying a more abrasive polishing or buffing compound, I'd suggest trying something like Barkeeper's Friend. It contains oxalic acid and a very mild abrasive. Mild acids like oxalic acid and sulfamic acid can dissolve nickel oxides (tarnish) without substantially dissolving nickel metal.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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