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Pewter cleaning, finishing & polishing Problems & Solutions
Current question and answers:February 25, 2021
Q. I've just received a brand new brooch made of pewter. It has a satin finish and it is quite dull. Is it possible to make the finish on this piece shiny/lustrous, and, if so, how?Jill Donahue
- Newport Beach, California
^- Reply to this post -^
February 26, 2021
A. According to pewtersociety.org website: "In daily use, pewter was kept bright and polished and some collectors prefer this ... clean with an all-purpose metal (not silver) polish will keep it looking bright."
Hope it helps and good luck!
- Zagreb Croatia
Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:1998
Q. We are craftspeople making hand shaped pewter ware, and some castings.
We are looking to receive information: technique, equipment for mechanical finishing and polishing.
merci beaucoup.bernard chaudron
- val-david, Quebec canada
A. Not sure what final result you are looking for but I've done perhaps 100 pieces including plates, mugs, pitcher, etc. in the past decade. These were old, distressed pieces which were picked up at flea markets and antique shops around the world. In most cases I've hand sanded them working up to at least a 400 grade paper followed by machine buffing using at least two grades of rouge. The result is a blemish-free surface which is mistaken for all as polished silver. Indeed in Victorian England pewter was known as "poor mans' silver". I certainly would not do this on a valuable old piece since the value would disappear with the patina. It also takes a heck of a lot of hours so the reward of turning what was viewed as a piece of junk into a beautiful shining object must be sufficient for you.
Q. As a hobby, I make pewter figurines. The metal I use is a mixture of tin and lead. I'm interested in plating these molded figurines with copper, brass or bronze. Just to give them a different look. I would like to use stuff found around the house or at the local hardware store. I'm not looking to put a lot of money into this right now.
Also, any suggestions on cleaning and polishing these pewter figurines would be most welcome. There must be an easier method, than a lot of brushing and rubbing by hand. The piece needs to be very clean before being dipped into acid, to give an antique finish. Then some brushing, 0000 steel wool [affil. link to info/product at Rockler], and polishing cloth. Must be a simpler method out there...Harvey Hazelett
- Saint Cloud, Florida, USA
Q. Hi there,
I am Spin casting large quantities of figurines, etc. in both pewter and zinc. I am looking for a method(without plating) to give these products an antique silver finish where the silver will have a high shine showing through the black. How is this achieved? I have a mini vibrator as well as a tumbler. Which is the best medium to use for polishing these figures after I have blackened them. And should I use some sort of polishing compound.
Thank you,Andrew cartwright
- Durban, South Africa
A. I read somewhere, but have not tested for myself, that Caustic Acid will blacken the pewter and age it.
Thank you.Rony Ben-Nachum
Freelance sculptor - Mizpe Hila, Israel
To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)
Finishing pewter buckles2002
Q. I'm making a belt buckle from Pewter in my technology a level course, and need to find out the best ways of finishing the model. What with and how do I polish it?Natalie Morgan
- Rochford, Essex, England
A. Hi Natalie,
Pewter buckles? ... but ye olde dark pewter with lots of lead or the modern shiny so-called pewter?
If ye olde, which have a dark patina, then try Silvo [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], brass and chrome cleaner. That's what I used but I forgot which gives one the best shine! You'd never get it to be shiny. For 'modern', I guess chrome cleaner or silvo. Go & try them yourself.
As far as acid cleaning is concerned, I just don't know which would be best ... but then you never posed that question, did you !
But to get your buckle to a smooth state, you'd have to use fine emery (or sand) paper, then super fine and finish off with ultra fine. Then get a drill with a polishing pad and use whatever 'grinding' paste you can lay your hands on ... ie. jeweler's rouge [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], for instance. That should make your pieces nice and smooth prior to polishing them properly.
Hope this helps.
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada
(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).
A. Hiya, I hope this doesn't come too late, but the only way to polish pewter is to tumble it in steel BBs. That's what they use in the industry. Also, they plate it with various "shiny" metals. Pewter is rather porous and fuzzy, compared to the finer metals, that's what makes it resist a rouge wheel polish. The friction just causes it to "fluff up" and the rouge becomes impregnated in the soft pewter. You can try Baking Soda and a Qtip, I've gotten nice results that way.
Good Luck!Deon Allen
- Mesa Arizona USA
Q. I'm trying to achieve an antique type finish in my pewter, with a predominantly high(silver) shine and some black showing through the small detail. At the moment I am blackening the pewter in Nitric acid and then hand buffing it with a scotchbrite, and finally polishing it in a vibrator. This method does not give me the high quality finish that I am looking for and makes the pewter look very "black" with a little bit of shine.
And buy the way it's definitely not my vibrating method, because I am able to achieve a high shine on non-blackened pewter.
Please could you help in this regard.Tina Faherty
- Durban, Kwazulu-natal, South Africa
Q. What can I use to clean tarnished pewter that has lots of detail i.e. if I use a silver polish, when I rub it off with a cloth, some of the polish remains where the cloth cannot reach it.
Thank you,Tina Faherty
- Durban, KZN, South Africa
A. Precipitated chalk(finest!) mixed with some water is also good for cleaning of your object. When finished rinse thoroughly!Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia
A. If your pewter is antique-and it sounds as though it is, it is probably lead based... It is not meant to be shiny like silver so don't overdo it! Mix Rottenstone [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] with boiled Linseed Oil [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] to a paste and rub your piece with a soft cotton cloth dipped in the mixture.(Rottenstone is used in the regular 'Brasso' but is mixed with a more volatile carrier.) Rub in one direction only and the smooth bits will have a beautiful satin finish. When you are done, wash it in hot soapy water to clean all the stuff out of the crevices then dry it off. Finally buff it with a soft cloth to reveal all the detailing. I just did it with an Indian flower patterned napkin ring and it looks beautiful.Clive Hollins
- Cambridge, UK
Q. I am new here, but I was just wondering what size steel ball bearing to use to tumble polish lead-free pewter, and approx. time it would take.
Thanx in advance,Fred Dufort
- Ontario, Canada
Q. I need to clean and polish to a shine modern pewter. Who would supply me with rotten-stone or can I use Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] without damaging the objects? These are everyday articles that you would use for dining and food preparation.Renette Kumm
- South Africa
Ed. note: We've now hotlinked the previous posting to a source for rottenstone, Renette.
May 16, 2012
Q. I was looking at necklaces and I was wondering what the quality of a pewter finished necklace is?
- Great Bend, New York, United States