How to Refinish Brass Musical Instruments

Written by amber hemmer
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How to Refinish Brass Musical Instruments
You can remove tarnishes and refinish the polish on brass instruments. (Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Brass, a metal that is created by mixing zinc and copper, is used to make several different musical instruments, including the tuba, trombone and trumpet. There are many kinds of finishes that are applied to brass; however, without proper care and cleaning all brass finishes eventually tarnish. Tarnishing happens when the polish is handled often and begins to wear down. After a musical instrument has become tarnished, it is possible to refinish the brass.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Water
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • Soft cloth
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Paint brush
  • Paint stripper
  • Wire brush
  • Fine abrasive polishing compound
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Very fine abrasive polishing compound
  • Lacquer

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Instructions

    Remove Old Polish

  1. 1

    Mix a solution of water and liquid dish detergent. Thoroughly clean the brass instrument. Clean off any built up debris and dust from the small spaces. Dry the instrument with a soft cloth.

  2. 2

    Dip the instrument in vinegar for a few minutes. Larger instruments are more difficult to submerge, so dip sections of the instrument into the vinegar. The vinegar eats away and dissolves the tarnished polish. Remove the instrument from the vinegar when the finish no longer shows tarnished areas and the finish looks even.

  3. 3

    Rinse the instrument in water to remove the vinegar. Dry the instrument with a soft cloth.

  4. 4

    Sprinkle the entire instrument with baking soda, which works as a buffer to neutralise the acidity from the vinegar. Rub the baking soda over the entire instrument.

  5. 5

    Clean the baking soda from the brass instrument with water. Dry it with a soft cloth.

  6. 6

    Apply the paint stripper to all areas of the instrument with a paint brush. The paint stripper finishes breaking down the old polish and tarnished areas. Leave the paint stripper on for approximately 5 minutes.

  7. 7

    Wash the musical instrument with water to remove the paint stripper. Submerge all or part of the instrument in a mixture of liquid dish detergent and water. Use the wire brush to scrub the brass instrument clean and remove all debris and old polish.

  8. 8

    Rinse the instrument with clean water, and dry it with a soft cloth.

    Polishing

  1. 1

    Apply a fine abrasive polishing compound to the musical instrument. Use a soft cloth to vigorously rub the compound into the brass. Read and follow the manufacturer's directions to use the compound.

  2. 2

    Rinse the instrument with a lacquer thinner to remove any leftover compound.

  3. 3

    Apply a very fine abrasive polishing compound to the musical instrument. Use a soft cloth to vigorously rub the compound into the brass. Read and follow the manufacturer's directions to use the compound.

  4. 4

    Rinse the instrument a final time with the lacquer thinner.

  5. 5

    Apply a lacquer to seal the polished brass instrument. Follow the manufacturer's directions to apply the lacquer. Allow the instrument to dry between coats, if applying more than one coat.

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