Wednesday 19 June 2019

Spit and Polish

A spot of polishing
June 2019

I am not a great fan of the practice of polishing brasses. I concede that they look lovely when they are all bright and shiny, but in my book the effort outweighs the result.

A  spot of mushroom polishing on the move
However, it is important to keep the butty looking its very best for festivals, and almost exactly two years ago another boater came up to me at the Ware festival and commented than my solitary mushroom vent was letting me down.

I had to agree that the tarnished blob on the roof of the butty was not great, but countered that I had tried to buff it up on several occasions but the best I achieved was a slightly less dull surface, and had therefore concluded that I had a naff bit of brass. Not so, he proclaimed - but what you need is a metal polisher. Yeh, great - like I have such a thing on my boat.....  Well, he reflected, I happen to have one aboard mine - would you like me to have a go at it?

Shiny knob
Of course, my answer was yes so I set to with a screwdriver and removed the whole assembly from the roof. Brett disappeared and 20 mins later he was back with this amazingly polished orb glinting in the summer sun, its body still warm from the process. I was delighted and quickly reattached the vent. Since then my focus on brass polishing has ebbed and flowed but I always make an effort for show days, maintaining that the cleaning process unleashes the magic genie of commerce. 

The unlovely portholes
But as you fix one problem you tend to create another, and no sooner was I the proud bearer of a glorious shiny knob (bear with me - I am a chid of the Benny Hill generation), my portholes started to attract disparaging comments like "nice knob, shame about the portholes". Periodically I had a go at the portholes, trying Brasso, specialist polishing creams, even tomato ketchup, but nothing lifted them above the dull gleam that used to be the lot of the mushroom vent. What I needed was, of course, a metal polishing machine!

Fast forward two years and we are once again heading down the Thames aware that Karen and Bret are heading upstream in dutch barge Edith, carrying with them the elusive machinery capable of revitalising my tarnished rims. We compared notes and timed our travels so we would meet at Beale Park where we could enjoy a BBQ beside the river on a balmy summer evening. We did indeed meet but the weather took a turn for the worse and we enjoyed our long awaited barbie in true British style - under a gazebo with the rain hammering down!

Polishing in the rain
In between the showers I removed the portholes from the sides of the butty, taking extreme care not to lose the screws or the rim as I worked upside down on the river side of the boat. As a precaution I gaffer taped a bin liner to the gunwhale to catch any errant metalwork. Oddly, one pane of glass stuck firmly to the side of the boat but on the river side the glass was firmly attached to the rim.

It took more than a downpour to stop either our meal or the brass polishing and as the rain cascaded perilously close to the electric motor, Brett buffed and polished away, restoring the portholes to a level of magnificence that they probably havn't enjoyed for over 30 years. 

Happy shiny portholes!
Then is was time to put them back on the butty. The side next to the motor boat was pretty simple with the porthole slotting in easily and the brass screws bedding down neatly onto a bed of silicone adhesive. The river side was, predictably another matter altogether. I took a long look at the rim and decided which side was down, tied a bit of string to the bottom screw hole as a back up in case I dropped it, applied the adhesive sealant, and inserted the top screw. Great. The second one at the back went in ok as well, followed by the one at the front which was a tad off centre but went in with a bit of persuasion. Then it came to the last one at the bottom - the one which is really hard to reach. I poked and prodded but the hole in the side of the butty was nowhere to be found. Clearly I had applied the porthole the wrong way up and the holes were not evenly spaced.

Now I could have removed the whole thing and found the right orientation by trial and error but the sealant is horrible stuff to get off and every time I hold a screw over the water there is a greater chance of losing it. I therefore figured that as the sealant is mega adhesive and ultra waterproof, the porthole will be fine with three well seated screws and the fourth can be drilled and tapped in the winter when I am at home with the proper tools.

I think that you will agree that I am now the proud owners of some lovely portholes all topped off with a knob any chap would be proud of. 

The innuendo and smut could continue all day but I think is best to leave it there.


stevefree said...

Like yourselves we tried all sorts with no success. Then found Brass Brite at Crick and it worked. It’s an acidic cleaner and when you brush it on it looks like it’s destroyed the brass as it goes pink. But wash it off then polish it and it made grey coloured brass shine like new.
Once clean we have used Rylard clear lacquer on all our brasswork. Not needed to polish anything for about 3 years and still looks like new.
Steve NB Tumbleweed

Andy Tidy said...

Good tip - thanks.