Metal care at Stoneywell

A close up of the metal sconce at Stoneywell

Conservation work is taking the least invasive method to care for an object, which means cleaning can take longer to achieve good effects. We use gentle products to look after our objects rather than polishing them up quickly. Our copper objects need gentle care in order to ensure they look as good as new for generations to come. In our cupboard you will find all sorts of tools that come in handy to do this, such as brushes, dusters and cotton wool, but one thing you won’t find is Brasso. That trusty cleaning polish that every household used to have is something you won’t find in any conservation cupboard within the National Trust.

Metal work on the fire irons at Stoneywell
Patterns on the fire irons at Stoneywell
Metal work on the fire irons at Stoneywell

Brasso is an abrasive cleaner that will lift of all that grease and grime, but will also remove a thin top coat of metal at the same time. Over many cleaning cycles, this can permanently remove fine details from the surface of your object which may lose the character of it at the same time. Instead, here at Stoneywell we use Peek, a soft polish that removes tarnish without abrasion, applied using cotton wool. It brings any object up to a lovely shine and it’s quite satisfying when you have a pile of filthy cotton wool balls and a lovely shiny object in front of you!

The Stoneywell Conservation Metal Kit
The Stoneywell Conservation Metal Kit
The Stoneywell Conservation Metal Kit

We dust our metalwork about once a week, more if it is needed, using a soft pony hair brush and a cotton duster to catch the particles flicked off. It is polished typically every 6 months, but items like our beautiful sconce (right)can only be cleaned once a year because of the fine detailing work on there. Cleaning this beautiful piece can take up to an hour to do properly due to the intricate cutwork and candleholders – but it is worth every minute!

Stoneywell metal cleaning in action
Stoneywell metal cleaning in action
Stoneywell metal cleaning in action

We have other tricks up our sleeve too. If you have copper or brass, have you got green bits of ‘gunk’ stuck in the crevices of your objects, just like on our copper bedpan handle? This is historic Brasso that has been left behind, and is really difficult to get rid of, unless you know a handy trick of the trade! All you need is some cotton wool, some methylated spirits and a tub of cocktail sticks. Make a cotton bud by rolling a small piece of cotton wool around the cocktails stick, dip it into the methylated spirits and squeeze out any excess, then rub into the green areas to remove the gunk. The methylated spirits helps loosen it and also evaporates really quickly, and the cocktail stick allows for some good rubbing in the corners without scratching the surface at all. It’s time consuming but the results are great!

Close up of the metal work on the warming pan at Stoneywell
Close up of the metal work on the warming pan at Stoneywell
Close up of the metal work on the warming pan at Stoneywell

One final thing to remember, always wear some gloves. We use nitrile or latex gloves as these are thin enough to allow us to feel the object but with good protection from the grease and moisture on our fingers. You can pick these up from most outlets. We don’t use white gloves as moisture can seep through, and so can the object you are holding! Best protect your precious copper items from fingerprints and keep them looking spick and span for future generations of your family to cherish.