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    My much loved vintage 1943 – 1948 Style O42 came to me as a well-worked albeit carefully used chest which had probably been through two or more generations of tool makers/machinists who must have taken the customary professional pride in what they did.

    My philosophy in ‘restoring’ beautiful pieces of industrial art such as this chest is to ‘conserve’ rather than restore, so as to retain the patina and ‘story’ and at the same time, give it the cleanliness, shine and attractiveness that it deserves. You can restore anything but you can never un-restore it.

    Concerning the original hardware – All of it had the usual accumulation of grime. There was relatively minor surface corrosion but none of it serious enough to merit the prospect of using a (worryingly) aggressive chemical corrosion remover.

    Below are the cleaning and polishing procedures which I’ve followed and I’m very happy that the result is successful and that the methods are non-destructive.

    1. All off the grime was removed with the use of Liberon furniture cleaner.

    2. The surface corrosion was removed with a copper wire wheel in a Dremel tool. Gentle but with just enough mojo to do the job well.

    3. Each piece was then polished with AUTOSOL Metal polish using, variously, buffing wheels on the Dremel tool, a stiff detailing brush and cloth as necessary to uniformly polish all surfaces. That result was then further refined with silver polish.

    4. Finally, each polished piece was coated with microcrystalline conservation wax. I used Renaissance Wax. This wax formula is said to have been developed by the British Museum for the conservation and preservation of metals and many other materials. I swear by it and use it all the time. It is a very effective barrier coating which will prevent tarnishing.


    WOW!! I had a box that was in horrible condition. The (nickel plated) hardware was rusty, grimy, you name it. after trying diifferent methods, I found the best method for what I was dealing with was soaking the rusty hardware in white distilled vinegar for a few days. 5% acidity. 10% if you can find it, would probably work better. It eats away the rust and loosend the grime without damaging the metal. From there it was a little time on the buffing wheel and looks beautiful. I did the same process with the hardware on another chest that was in better condition and the results were the same.


    Most of the time, the hardware on these chests and cases is dull or oxidized when I get them. The original hardware was nickel-plated steel and subject to developing a brown outer surface which can be easily interpreted as rust. However, it is just the oxidation of the nickel plating. This is not to say that rust does not exist on these pieces. Quite to the contrary, the nickel plating can be worn off and the steel beneath can become rusted and pitted.

    In order to see what is going on, I remove all the hardware from the box that can be removed and store each lot in a separate zip lock bag. I am not particularly concerned with the screws, since I will be replacing them with new nickel-plated steel screws. I also don’t usually remove the hinges but polish them in place.

    I have an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner that I use just for the purpose of cleaning hardware. I fill it with Evaporust and allow it to run through several cycles, at least overnight. The Evaporust lifts any grime, oxidation, and rust off the pieces.

    When ready, I rinse the pieces under hot water while I gently brush them clean with a brass wire brush. I dry them and set them aside on a paper towel to dry completely.

    Then I don gloves and buff each piece on a motorized buffer with a spiral sewn cloth buffing wheel and red polishing compound. This usually brings back the luster to the nickel plating. Even if the plating is gone and just the steel remains, it allows me to buff the steel to an acceptable luster. After all the pieces have been machine buffed, I polish them further by hand using Simichrome polish and buff them with a microfiber cloth. A final coat of Renaissance wax adds another level of protection.

    I find this process allows me to keep the original hardware on 99% of the boxes I restore and retains their patina and originality. I find that brand new hardware on an old box just looks wrong. Of course, if the hardware is badly rusted and pitted, substitutes must be made.

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