Author Topic: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?  (Read 13978 times)

imarelic

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Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« on: September 24, 2009, 11:02:16 PM »
I recently picked up a late percussion halfstock, from a gentlman walking across a parking lot at a NE OH gun show. It clearly came straight out of a closet where it had been, for who knows how long.  It's is fairly plain, very dark curly maple stock, with original ram rod, brass furniture, brass cap box pewter nose cap and an unusually shaped (like a flying dove) side lock screw plate.  The screw plate and toe plate have some simple line engraving and the cap box has an engraved "folk art " American eagle with shield and arrows on the lid.  The barrel is unsigned, but it's probably an OH product by the look of it.  The rifle is in completely original condition and doesn't look like it was carried around or used much, in it's day.  The set triggers and the front bar, shotgun type lock are of high quality and work perfectly.  The brass looks to be untouched since the rifle was built, as it has the dark oilve patina.  My question is regarding the finish of the brass.  I've seen many high end rifles, where the furniture has been polished, yet once the patina's gone....it's gone!  Personally I like the look of polished brass against a darker stock, but can't bring myself to it.  I'm looking for other collector's opinions, regarding leaving the brass as is, or polishing.  Does polishing diminish the rifle's value?

Offline JTR

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 11:39:03 PM »
Personally I wouldn't buff up the brass, but that's just me!
One well known collector has cleaned his guns brass with Brasso for so long, that even after they're sold, you can still tell that he owned it once apon a time by all the white residue still around the brass.
Buffing up the brass probably doesn't affect the value, but to some might affect disirability.
And like you said, once the patina's gone, it's gone. Sure, you'll get that tinge of patina in a few years, but a good hundred year old patina takes about a hundred years to create.
John Robbins

Offline Fullstock longrifle

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2009, 11:44:21 PM »
I agree with John, if the rifle is in attic condition and has a pleasing look, don't clean it or polish the brass.  I'm sure it's a matter of personal preference, but I feel that an untouched gun is more desirable (and collectible) than one that has been slicked up.

Frank

Offline WElliott

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2009, 01:23:41 AM »
I'm also in the "leave the patina alone" school.
Wayne Elliott

Offline Bart

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2009, 05:55:20 AM »
I have the same opinion of the others; please do not disturb the original condition of the gun. It should be left as is, it will be much more desirable.

oakridge

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2009, 06:16:37 AM »
Ditto.  People have tried many different products trying to replicate a good patina on brass, etc., with varying results. When I'm lucky enough to find a gun with the natural aged patina, I don't dare touch it.

jwh1947

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2009, 08:35:36 AM »
It took likely 100 years to get that rich patina built up.  You can rub it off in 5 minutes.  I chime in with the chorus on this one.  Let it alone.  If one is fortunate enough to find a black and patina attic condition rifle, I would strongly recommend leaving it that way.  It will never become more valuable by shining or buffing. 

GrampaJack

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2009, 03:05:19 PM »
If you are from Geauga County you should be aware that there is a local ordinance against removing patina. The patina police will come and get you. If from Trumbull or Ashtabula they can still find you. Seriously, leave the brass alone. Like the guys say, the only way to put it back is to wait another 100 years. Of course, if your sentence for a violation of the patina law is 100 years you are good. Best Regards, Jack

Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2009, 09:07:25 PM »
I know of a guy who bought a cw musket, rare, worth about $40 G's. He polished the brass, and lost all the patina, and probably rubbed away at least a third of the gun's value. He had the money, didn't care about the historical value of the artifact, and shined her up.
Tom Curran's web site : http://tcurran.com/

Offline Majorjoel

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2009, 11:16:50 PM »
Just take a look at all of those rifles presented in the book "Steel Canvas". Someone put the polish to most of those patch boxes!!
Joel Hall

Offline Don Getz

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2009, 01:01:49 AM »
I don't think it hurts an old attic condition gun to clean some of the real crud from it.   I would mix some linseed oil with
some turpentine and gently scrub the gun with 0000 steel wool, just enough to bring back some life into the wood.  You
can also go over the brass, not enough to shine it, but to merely remove the crud.  If it were my gun, I would do this.
Don

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2009, 01:09:24 AM »
The thoughts on this topic have changed over the years.  In the past attic condition guns generated little interest and everyone wanted to see them as they were made by the maker if possible.  Virtually every gun in the Kindig and 99% in RCA have had their mounts shined and waxed at a minimum.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2009, 05:06:19 PM »
I agree with a gentle cleaning.

I remember that phase where all the brass was buffed to a high shine. That was the thing to do, back in the sixties and seventies; back when I couldn't afford to buy a good original. Funny, I still can't afford a good original!  ;D
Tom Curran's web site : http://tcurran.com/

Offline T*O*F

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2009, 08:29:11 PM »
Any question that asks for an opinion invalidates the question unless you are seeking a consensus from a particular group of people.  Even then, that consensus may be totally different with other groups.
Dave Kanger

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2009, 11:07:19 PM »
There is one rifle up on my wall, (ask JTR about it) which is truly an attic/closet piece. It stood in the closet at a house in Allentown, PA for 130 years and it has all of the crud and gunk you can imagine on metal and wood, alike.
When it came into my hands, the only thing I did to it was to apply a good coat of Goddards English Cabinet Makers Wax to the stock and metal. I have never cocked it, nor have even removed the ramrod. To my warped mind the wax coat seals it up real good and protects crud and rifle for many more years to come.
It will be up to someone else to scrub it off, but if they do, I hope they develop a permanent rash, or some other malady. They will have to wait awhile to do it, too (I hope).
Several folks, including a prominant dealer/collector have advised (and suggested) that it might be nice to clean up the box and the silver so it would improve the appearance. Funny how deaf I can become at times.
So, point here is this: leave it alone, and if bright, let it go dark.
Dick

Offline JTR

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2009, 11:23:28 PM »
There is one rifle up on my wall, (ask JTR about it) which is truly an attic/closet piece.
Dick

Being it's Your gun, why don't you just tell us about it,,, or better yet, why not post some pictures of it for all to see?  ;D

And you can even tell the tale that if I hadn't been such a tightwad over buying a book, instead of just borrowing it, how that gun would be hanging on my wall, instead of yours!  :'(

John
John Robbins

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #16 on: September 28, 2009, 01:55:47 AM »
Quote
And you can even tell the tale that if I hadn't been such a tightwad over buying a book, instead of just borrowing it, how that gun would be hanging on my wall, instead of yours!  Cry

John
Ok Dick, you have his permission please tell the story, it sounds like a good one!

BTW, please don't polish the brass! Some say it might not hurt the value but I can assure you that it does cut down on the pool of potential buyers! (don't ask me how I know)
Dennis
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend" - Thomas Jefferson

Offline JCKelly

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2009, 02:58:36 AM »
Some of us really like it when we can get an antique that has not been Improved or Cleaned by some earnest fellow. I got an 1864 Springfield rifle-musket from a guy who saved it from the trash. Well, someone did feel he had to put oil or varnish or something on the stock. But the sling is more or less original except for a small patch. The barrel has not been "Professionally Cleaned" & it is pretty much like it was when the original Ohio soldier brought it home from the war.

Many, many fine Kentucky rifles have been made to look like new. Or at least some $$$$$$$$$'s collector's idea of new. As for myself, if I want a new gun I'll get a new gun. Cleaning removes the gun's history. Well, a little wax or a rag dampened with wax or turpentine probably hurts nothing. From what I see, more damage is done to antique arms by collectors and even by well-respected dealers than by simple age, storage conditions and heavy use.

BGC

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2009, 06:47:46 PM »
The gun is yours. Do what pleases you. Light polishing with soft cloth and non abrasive polish will enhance the gun. Don't give it a mirror shine, just enough to show contrast against the stock. If you photograph the rifle, dark colored brass or nickel will only blend in with the color of the wood. Unless you look really close, you could miss seeing that the rifle even has a patch box or cap box. These old guns are works of art and need to be admired for the workmanship that went into building them. You can't admire it if you can't see it. The old gun smith that made that gun didn't let it leave his gun shop with a dark patina on the brass. The gun doesn't have to look brand spankin new, but should look like what it did around the time when it was made. As for value, go to any gun show and look at the price. You will notice that the price isn't discounted because the brass has been polished.

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2009, 08:15:28 PM »
There are now more than 225 guns in the Museum section of this web site. Take a look and see what the collectors consensus is. These guns have probably been contributed by more than 70 collectors.
Hurricane

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2009, 10:59:28 PM »
BCG, with the rights of ownership also comes the responsibility, i.e. that of a caretaker of an historical item, for future generations. You are right, ownership does confer privileges and if someone wants to saw several inches off of an original Beck, that owner has the right to do what he will with it, BUT!
 I know several high end collectors of rifles who must own stock in the Brasso Company; they order industrial quantities to polish any brass and silver on their guns. The lighter engraved lines are beginning to disappear from the patch boxes as a result. Sorry, but I don't look at shined guns, or see them the same way that I do attic guns.
Too, ask any military collector, having found two 1816 muskets, one scrubbed and one dirty, which he would buy. I'll bet it wouldn't be the scrubbed gun. 
Point here is: you often times never know when you cross the line with cleaning or trying to brighten the brass and/or silver and the less you do, the better for the gun.

Okay Dennis; the story: about 15 years ago we had planned a Christmas ski trip to Vail, CO for the holidays. About a week before we were to go, I came down with a raging case of influenza and was sicker than I can ever remember. The trip was canceled and for two weeks I was kept in the thrall of the virus.
Somewhere along the way, a good friend phoned me, I didn't take the call and a week later he called again to ask if I had seen the Kentucky Rifle at the XYZ gun shop down on Main Street. I asked him some questions about it and his answers made me feel progressively better; so I made the promise that a trip would be made the next day.                 Still sick, I went down to see the elephant, entered the shop, looked around and saw this looong barreled gun upright in a rack with many other pieces. The gunsmith permitted me to pick it up and look it over.
Here is what I saw: the barrel is about .50 caliber and is 46 inches long; octagonal, rifled and has engraving; the stock is a very nice striped maple; the wrist is checkered; there are 10 engraved silver inlays; the patchbox is fully engraved and has the 'tobacco leaf' finial; the forestock has a fine incised molding and scolls; the bas relief carving behind the cheek rest is some of the wildest I have seen; the gun is in original flintlock state and has a Sharpe lock; finally, the top flat is beautifully signed 'J. Gonter'. All Original!!!
The price was " make an honest offer" which we did and carried the rifle home with us.
When well, once again, I was able to contact the gentleman who had consigned the gun.
He was 90 years old, had no heirs that wanted the gun, so on their advice, he put it up for sale even though it had been in his family for 175 years.
The rifle had belonged to his grandfather (many times removed) who had been a land surveyor in Berks County, PA in the 1830s. He bought this rifle and carried it on his jobs.
David Graffin worked at surveying for a number of years and then gave it up to work as a telegrapher. He was also known as a very good fiddler. The rifle went into a closet as a family treasure and was retained until the last owner could claim it and put it on the wall in his new home up in the mountains. It stayed there for 40 years until it came out.
It is real, real dirty and as stated earlier, I haven't touched it.
We made the effort to locate the bag and horns to no avail. No one even remembered them. Well, you don't win them all, but the rifle is up on my wall.
JTR's part is that he wanted a 'Blue Book of Gun Values' (or some item), and phoned the gunshop for a price. It was more than he wanted to pay, so he went to another shop to buy it. This was prior to my learning of the availability of the rifle and had he gone into that store he would have certainly seen it, and bought it.
Point here? Sometimes being sick isn't as bad it seems to be. Never did get to go on that trip either. Stayed home ever since, just rubbing that Gonter.
More that you wanted to know, I'm sure, but you asked. No photos yet, but will get them and post them here in the Antique Gun Collecting section.
Regards-Dick

Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2009, 11:19:00 PM »
Wait, wait, now, just wait a minute! To rub, or not to rub! That is the question! Dick, you advise us not to, and here you are:

Quote
...just rubbing that Gonter.

With your eyes only, of course.  Great story. Thanks for that.
Tom
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Offline JTR

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2009, 11:40:09 PM »
Yep, that's pretty much the story and I have to admit that that gun is one fine looking Gonter!
But to my way of reasoning, I think it should actually be mine!
Since I'm not generally a tightwad I would have normally gone to the little hole in the wall shop to buy the book, saw the gun and bought it! But since for some reason I had a momentary lapse of generosity, choosing instead to buy the book from another store for 2 bucks less. But since the lapse was only momentary and I would have normally gone to the little hole in the wall place.
And since that would have been the natural thing for me to do, and since I would have beat no gold to the punch, I think he should give the gun to me because of my normal good nature and generosity!
Now this all seems like a perfectly good reasoning to me, although after all these years, I still haven't been able to convince the tightwad no gold!
Currently, I still have the well outdated 'Blue Book', and he still has My rifle! ;D
Although he does let me look at it once in a while.
John  
John Robbins

jwh1947

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2009, 01:14:38 AM »
The professor of bluster, iconoclast par excellence, and omniscent advisor now speaks, so be silent and behold.  Only the Great Pinyone or Oracle of Delphi need comment, if so inclined. As is written in the testaments of common sense and endorsed by the scribes and prophets above, thou must abstain from polishing the brass, as it is best and just.  And they sayeth unto the sage, but how can you, oh wise one, know this beyond certain?  And he sayeth unto the masses, "behold, because the next guy can always polish if, if he is so inclined, but the next guy can never replace the oxidation and character of ages."  And the masses stood, as if shocked by thunder, at the reason and grandeur of the infallible words of the prophet, blessed be his name, and finally, the simplicity of the horse sense sank in.   

Online Dennis Glazener

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Re: Brass, to polish, or not to polish?
« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2009, 04:36:45 PM »
Quote
More that you wanted to know, I'm sure, but you asked. No photos yet, but will get them and post them here in the Antique Gun Collecting section.
Regards-Dick
Dick,
No, not at all! The stories are an important part of our memories. Great story and I am glad you got the rifle. Glad to hear you are giving JTR "visiting" rights!
Dennis
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend" - Thomas Jefferson