Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New Brasso: Redux

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

Earlier I whined about the recent reformulation of Brasso. Wasn't the old stuff kind of pinkish in color? That would be the result of using rouge as the polishing agent. The new stuff is white. I suspect that the polishing agent is finely ground aluminum oxide - a much harder material than rouge.  But is this good?

Here's the thing.  With rouge (and tripoli, and several other polishing compounds), the polishing agent is designed to break down into finer and finer particles as you (or your machine) rub it.  This means that at the end, the finish can be absolutely mirror-like.  Of course, the polishing agent must be matched to the material.  Rouge, which is quite soft, does a wonderful job of polishing gold, silver and brass.  It takes much, much longer to polish stainless steel with rouge because that metal is so much harder.

But we were talking about brass, for which Brasso is specially formulated (with the inclusion of ammonia).   For brass, the new Brasso's polishing agent is too coarse.  And it is too hard - it doesn't break down.

So this morning I had an idea (probably a cosmic ray went thru my head):  Why not try some of the fiberglass polish/wax that we use on the hull on the brass?  It's polishing agent is designed for soft surfaces, and it does break down even when polishing very soft gel coat, giving a very shiny surface.

Here's the result:

Tho this doesn't photograph well, look at the difference between the top of the binacle, which has been polished with the cleaner/wax, and the bottom which has only been polished with Brasso.  On the bottom, the scratches from the coarse polishing agent are clearly seen; they're gone on the top.

Here's the polish I used:

This is no wipe on/wipe off job.  It takes more work than the Brasso because you get no help from the chemical action of the ammonia.  It takes elbow grease to remove the metal to make a shiny surface and to break down the abrasive.  If your rag is not turning black with the removed metal, then you're not working hard enough.  A power buffer would help a lot.

Oh, and there's a bonus:  the wax.  I have no data yet, but I suspect that the shine will last longer because it is waxed.

1 comment:

  1. Bob, I'm a trombone player by profession - well, retired trombone player (reverted to guitar, now). We brass players are always looking for a way to make our instruments play better, sound better, blow freer, etc. In fact, the perfect instrument, theoretically, would be so easy to play, it would actually play itself.

    In pursuit of a better playing horn, we often strip the shiny lacquer off the bell. Sometimes this coating is so thick that it seems to dampen the responsiveness of the instrument. However, when you strip the lacquer, you then have to polish, or let it go brown. Then green, then... I never liked that part of having my horn raw brass, so I would polish it occasionally - not too much, because polishing removes material, and if we brass players don't want a lacquer coating on the bell, we certainly don't want thinner brass for a bell section either. While trying to preserve a shiny appearance after cleaning with a salt and vinegar solution (this does a great job of removing oxidation), I applied car wax - and discovered that it made the bell finish more even, smoother, and shinier. It also does indeed preserve the shine for quite a while longer than raw brass.

    So the fiberglass polish with wax, I'm sure, does something similar to the brass that auto wax does - shines and protects.


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