Hello again. I have disassembled my banjeaurine to clean it and put a Fiberskyn head on it. It is a spun-over rim and very badly tarnished. I tried Silver Cream, Copper Cream because I had them but neither did any good. Could someone recommend a cleaner that would make this poor banjeaurine look a little better?

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I like Flitz.   Simichrome is good too.

Thanks, Jody, I knew I could count on you.

Jody Stecher said:

I like Flitz.   Simichrome is good too.

I am one of those that does not polish.  I will clean with a damp microfiber cloth with some rubbing.  Sometimes even a dry microfiber cloth is all it takes.

I have also been known to scrub parts in the sink with dish soap and warm water (for example, all the metal on a Tubaphone I just bought, I also have done this to the three Hartnett tone bars to scrub off the finger crud).

The reason why?  Take your "non abrasive polish" of choice and apply per the instructions.  When you rub to polish you will discover a near endless amount of black rubbing off on the cloth.. The problem is that the black is actually the nickel plating and the clean shiny surface left behind is the base metal.

The German silver base metal will shine up very nicely but will tarnish in short time. All the good clad rim banjos were nickel plate over German silver.  The plating was there to protect the German silver or white brass (a metal that tarnishes).

All "polishes" are abrasive (even the ones that say the are not) that is how they work, by sanding off a layer of tarnish (or plating).

I recommend just cleaning it if it is of any value.  At the extreme, 409 cleaner on a microfiber cloth with a couple wipe offs with a microfiber cloth dampen with water.

These banjos have some age to them they don't need to gleam.  They earned their tarnish.

I think Ian is a specialist in this sort of thing and might be able to shed some more light on the subject.

Thanks, Joel. I know that I am removing and have always hated doing it myself. I will try 409 and microfiber and see if it cleans it up.

Joel Hooks said:

I am one of those that does not polish.  I will clean with a damp microfiber cloth with some rubbing.  Sometimes even a dry microfiber cloth is all it takes.

I have also been known to scrub parts in the sink with dish soap and warm water (for example, all the metal on a Tubaphone I just bought, I also have done this to the three Hartnett tone bars to scrub off the finger crud).

The reason why?  Take your "non abrasive polish" of choice and apply per the instructions.  When you rub to polish you will discover a near endless amount of black rubbing off on the cloth.. The problem is that the black is actually the nickel plating and the clean shiny surface left behind is the base metal.

The German silver base metal will shine up very nicely but will tarnish in short time. All the good clad rim banjos were nickel plate over German silver.  The plating was there to protect the German silver or white brass (a metal that tarnishes).

All "polishes" are abrasive (even the ones that say the are not) that is how they work, by sanding off a layer of tarnish (or plating).

I recommend just cleaning it if it is of any value.  At the extreme, 409 cleaner on a microfiber cloth with a couple wipe offs with a microfiber cloth dampen with water.

These banjos have some age to them they don't need to gleam.  They earned their tarnish.

I think Ian is a specialist in this sort of thing and might be able to shed some more light on the subject.

Hi Joel, well said, I think all the bumps and scratches are part of the banjo's history and as such I generally leave well alone. Whenever I restore a banjo, I concentrate on the mechanics and getting it into playable order rather than it's appearance. I give it a thorough clean but that's usually as far as I go. I have a very early Windsor where the Plating has all but disappeared, when lightly polished to bring up the brass, it looks the part....Steve.
Joel Hooks said:

I am one of those that does not polish.  I will clean with a damp microfiber cloth with some rubbing.  Sometimes even a dry microfiber cloth is all it takes.

I have also been known to scrub parts in the sink with dish soap and warm water (for example, all the metal on a Tubaphone I just bought, I also have done this to the three Hartnett tone bars to scrub off the finger crud).

The reason why?  Take your "non abrasive polish" of choice and apply per the instructions.  When you rub to polish you will discover a near endless amount of black rubbing off on the cloth.. The problem is that the black is actually the nickel plating and the clean shiny surface left behind is the base metal.

The German silver base metal will shine up very nicely but will tarnish in short time. All the good clad rim banjos were nickel plate over German silver.  The plating was there to protect the German silver or white brass (a metal that tarnishes).

All "polishes" are abrasive (even the ones that say the are not) that is how they work, by sanding off a layer of tarnish (or plating).

I recommend just cleaning it if it is of any value.  At the extreme, 409 cleaner on a microfiber cloth with a couple wipe offs with a microfiber cloth dampen with water.

These banjos have some age to them they don't need to gleam.  They earned their tarnish.

I think Ian is a specialist in this sort of thing and might be able to shed some more light on the subject.

Sometimes an old banjo is encrusted with filth and sometimes there are chemical reactions where there are areas of the metal that are green and others where they have rusted. A product like Flitz combined with "elbow grease" (vigorous movement) will remove all that. Because one is doing the cleaning by hand it is easy to know where to stop. I'm not recommending polishing so much that scratches are removed. I'm talking about removing crud. Soap and water sometimes are not adequate. If one tried a dry microfibre cloth in one of these situations very little will come off.  

Now, If we are talking about a barn/basement/garage/crawl space found banjo with years of mold, dust and rodent urine caked nastiness, then by all means use whatever you can.

If it is just a clad rim that is not shiny like new and has a little dullness to it then I leave it alone.

Fitz and similar products contain aluminum oxide with solvents like kerosene and ammonia.  Aluminum Oxide is the same abrasive that is used on most sandpaper.  After being applied and dried the polishing cloth becomes a very fine sanding cloth removing metal and plating along with the crud and tarnish.

I think it is deceitful for the makers of these products to call them "nonabrasive" because that is false.

The reason I bring this up is because most consumers take advertising copy at face value and do not read the SDS to find out what is really in the products.  Most people don't know that "polishes" remove metal.


Jody Stecher said:

Sometimes an old banjo is encrusted with filth and sometimes there are chemical reactions where there are areas of the metal that are green and others where they have rusted. A product like Flitz combined with "elbow grease" (vigorous movement) will remove all that. Because one is doing the cleaning by hand it is easy to know where to stop. I'm not recommending polishing so much that scratches are removed. I'm talking about removing crud. Soap and water sometimes are not adequate. If one tried a dry microfibre cloth in one of these situations very little will come off.  

Maybe in the future people will pay extra to have a banjo with UCN (urine caked nastiness). When I was an adolescent I often had holes in my jeans. There were two reasons. I couldn't afford new ones and the holes didn't really bother me. Now people pay extra money to buy and own jeans that have been "pre-stressed" and are full of holes. Do you think there is a future in Pre-Crudified banjos? Special imported mice can be used and artificial barns/crawl spaces can be created with controlled extreme humidity. A century worth of disfigurement can be done in a month!  

Seriously though, I agree with you Joel. A rim with a bit of dullness is no problem.

Joel Hooks said:

Now, If we are talking about a barn/basement/garage/crawl space found banjo with years of mold, dust and rodent urine caked nastiness, then by all means use whatever you can.

If it is just a clad rim that is not shiny like new and has a little dullness to it then I leave it alone.

Fitz and similar products contain aluminum oxide with solvents like kerosene and ammonia.  Aluminum Oxide is the same abrasive that is used on most sandpaper.  After being applied and dried the polishing cloth becomes a very fine sanding cloth removing metal and plating along with the crud and tarnish.

I think it is deceitful for the makers of these products to call them "nonabrasive" because that is false.

The reason I bring this up is because most consumers take advertising copy at face value and do not read the SDS to find out what is really in the products.  Most people don't know that "polishes" remove metal.


Jody Stecher said:

Sometimes an old banjo is encrusted with filth and sometimes there are chemical reactions where there are areas of the metal that are green and others where they have rusted. A product like Flitz combined with "elbow grease" (vigorous movement) will remove all that. Because one is doing the cleaning by hand it is easy to know where to stop. I'm not recommending polishing so much that scratches are removed. I'm talking about removing crud. Soap and water sometimes are not adequate. If one tried a dry microfibre cloth in one of these situations very little will come off.  

The old time banjo builders have sort of gone that way.  Many of them are offering "patinaed brass" hardware and stained calf/goat heads that make the banjos look nostalgically "old time."

"Reliced" banjos have not caught on like they did with electric guitars though I am not sure why.

I'll weigh in with my thoughts, which can be summed up in two words: "It depends."

I 'discovered' "Mother's Mag & Aluminum Rim Polish" does a great job on the thin nickel plating with vintage banjo hardware. Still an abrasive (there's that aluminium oxide again)...but a good bit less aggressive than Flitz or Simichrome polish. The petrol component is Naptha. Works nicely for me and it is easily found in most automotive parts/supply stores.

I prefer to start simple, "do no harm", etc. When I attack a decent grade vintage banjo, I tend to clean and not polish. On a cheaper grades, I often polish. Still, it simply depends.

I went to a 4-string banjo "bash" once and found that 4-string folk like "better than new" on their vintage banjos. One guy had a high-grade Stewart (5 string) that he had gone "full show" on. The pot and tension hoop had been polished and re-plated like a mirror (actually, I think he had gotten it chromed) and all the brackets, hooks and nuts were gold-plated. The neck had been re-finished (very nicely) but stained darker than 'normal'. Frankly, it looked like it belonged in a bordello. ;-) Waaay too shiny! He was trying to sell it for over $5k. =8^0

Try  Solvol Autosol it will clean and polish

Thanks, Pat. I ordered some today. Will let you know how it worked.

Pat Doyle said:

Try  Solvol Autosol it will clean and polish

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