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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


Can I Refinish a Trombone?

Q. I am refinishing a brass trombone. As the article about the brass lamps pertains, would this process also apply to my trombone. I would like to polish it to a very high gloss finish before re-painting it. Do you think that "jeweler's rouge (polishing/buffing compound) [affil links]" would do the trick? What products can I use to polish it to a high gloss by hand without jeweler's rouge?

Would a spray paint work such as "Krylon" or something like that? What would you suggest?

Thanks, I'm looking forward to your suggestions.

David Watts
- Amarillo, Texas

Brass Lacquers
on eBay or


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A. Yes, David, you can polish it with any metal polish, like Nevr-Dull [affil links], for example, I think the rouge will work for scratch removal, but the "by hand" may not :-)

Removing a scratch actually means removing all the metal around it so the scratch becomes a gentle gradual valley rather than a canyon. And you are trying to remove all that metal with an abrasive that is so fine that it cannot make deep scratches itself. A buffing wheel on your electric drill may require patience and experience, but allows more hope of getting the job done in this lifetime.

I would suggest brass lacquer rather than spray paint. For one thing, it's made for brass. For another, it's easily removable with acetone [on eBay or Amazon (affil link) ] , whereas removing paints and clearcoats can be problematical. Good luck.

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

Q. My son is in his first year of band and has decided to play the trombone. He goes to a private school and the instruments are provided by the school. Some of them are in need of repair including the one he is borrowing. I would like to do something nice for the school and refinish it. It has many deep scratches and rub marks along with tarnishing and discoloration. How do I go about this and is it a long process? My funds are limited, is it an expensive process? Any assistance you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance !

Patricia Campbell
mother of up and coming musician - Puyallup, Washington, USA

A. Patricia,

Generally you will need to polish the metal with something such as Brasso [on eBay or Amazon (affil link) ] ; however you must first determine if the metal has been sealed with some sort of clear sealer such as lacquer (a common metal sealer). If the metal has been sealed you must remove the sealer prior to polishing unless you want to work really really hard (as opposed to just really hard) after removing the sealer with a solvent such as lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon (affil link) ] ) and a towel/T-shirt type cloth.

The deep scratches are another matter altogether. I would recommend you take the instrument to someone familiar with instruments and find out if the scratches must be professionally removed (sometimes what appears to be really deep/bad isn't all that bad if you know some professional type tricks of the trade or have the proper equipment -- buffing wheels, etc.)

Once you have polished the instrument seal it with a clear lacquer (fast drying) such as Krylon clear [Krylon 1301 [affil links] ].

Stephen Mann
- Palm Springs, California, USA

Trombone Maintenance Kit on Amazon or eBay

(affil links)

Q. I see trombone refinishing was the subject of a previous question. Should it be done? I would love to remove the tarnish and apply a new lacquer finish. However, I have been warned against using metal cleaners on a brass instrument (possibly due to some intact lacquer finish?). Can anybody give me the benefit of their experience?

Lonn Jay Bradley
- Charleston, South Carolina

A. Should be done by a pro - easy to ruin your horn - both cosmetically and possibly mechanically.

Jon Bone
- Chicago, Illinois, USA
December 9, 2012

"Clearcoats/Lacquers for Brass from G.J. Nikolas"

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