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May 26, 2022 - 9:47:02 PM


New Zealand

11443 posts since 6/29/2003

I have two spun-over banjo rims that I would like suggestions on polishing.

Pic 1 is a John Alvey Turner (British) one.

Pic 2 is an unknown make. It appears to be of non-ferric material (Tin perhaps?)

I have no access to commercial buffing equipment so whatever I use will be home based.

Any suggestions?

May 26, 2022 - 11:09:57 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


26041 posts since 6/25/2005

Soft rag and Formula 409. Polishes will abrade the plating. In other words: clean it; don’t polish it.


Edited by - Bill Rogers on 05/26/2022 23:11:51

May 27, 2022 - 5:24:21 AM

14590 posts since 6/29/2005

I agree with Bill, polishes like Brasso will go through the plating.

May 27, 2022 - 5:52:19 AM



309 posts since 4/11/2022

not to change the original subject, but what about the woods? What do you use on the wood for the banjo? Just a soft cloth and nothing else? I've seen some say lemon oil on the fret board, some say linseed oil on the other wood, or Renaissance Wax polish on the wood.

May 27, 2022 - 6:27:02 AM
Players Union Member



205 posts since 7/27/2007

If you have a bench grinder you can mount a cotton buffing wheel on it and apply a polishing compound. voila! You will still need to hit the fine details by hand but will certainly speed up the process.

May 27, 2022 - 6:43:31 AM



1115 posts since 11/8/2014

Check the metal with a magnet to see if it is nickel plated over steel. If #2 is not magnetic, you can do a fairly good job with a good bit of elbow grease using tripoli compound on a soft cloth with a bit of mineral spirits to loosen up the tripoli into a paste. There are other compounds already in a paste, such as Wrights silver cream, Brasso, and Simichrome. If the base metal is cupronickel, or nickel silver as it is also known, you won't have to worry about polishing through the plating. Follow the tripoli with rouge and a clean dry cloth or jeweler's rouge cloth.  #1 does appear to me to be nickel plated over something, and to me it has a good even patina that I would leave alone. If you do want to polish it, you should be prepared to have it re-plated in case you go through the nickel in places, or there are places where the underlying metal is exposed. This or any polishing is going to change the appearance of the metal considerably, so you might want to take that into consideration. If you want to go this route and get #1 back to what was the original condition, I'd recommend taking all the brackets off and polishing them separately with white buffing compound, for which you will need a cotton wheel mounted on a grinder or similar setup. You can do the same with the rim metal, which is going to be difficult to re-plate easily without damage because of the wood and bracket holes. As I said, I'd leave it alone, maybe a bit of rubbing with a polishing cloth on the brackets to tone down the spots.

Edited by - rmcdow on 05/27/2022 06:44:43

May 27, 2022 - 7:09:07 AM

13304 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by kd8tzc

not to change the original subject, but what about the woods? What do you use on the wood for the banjo? Just a soft cloth and nothing else? I've seen some say lemon oil on the fret board, some say linseed oil on the other wood, or Renaissance Wax polish on the wood.

I use lacquer-safe liquid polishes in pump bottles.

For years I used this stuff:

And within the last year I bought this in a package deal with a microfiber cloth:

Smells like the Smith Pro Formula.

If you're not polishing all the time, one bottle lasts a long time.

These are for the finished wood: neck and resonator. The rim never needs it. Don't think I've ever oiled a fretboard.

May 27, 2022 - 7:28:39 AM
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6912 posts since 9/21/2007

Pic 1 looks to be a much lower quality banjo than Pic 2.

I recommend that you do not "polish" Pic 2., Just clean. The common material that clad rims were made of is nickel plated German silver.

Do what you want to the cheap rim.

The nickel plating is extremely thin. The base metal, German silver, will polish up to a nice glossy luster--- then it will become dull like the examples you have. They plated them to keep them shiny.

"Polishing" is an abrasive process. All "polishes" are abrasive compounds and will remove some or all of the plating. Even the polishes that say "non abrasive" right on the label are abrasive. What happens is that at first the rim will shine all over, then as the bare metal begins to tarnish, the spots with nickel plating will began to tarnish.

Most polishes are aluminum oxide abrasive powder mixed with some sort of grease or drying solvent. You smear it on, let it dry, then buff it off with cloth. The cloth becomes basically sandpaper. Products like "Neverdull" are a solvent covered abrasive wadding material.

The fact is, it is okay for old banjos to look old. Just clean them up. I don't use solvents like 409. I use diluted dish soap to dampen a micro fiber cloth. Rub it till the dust is off and call it a day.

Below are examples of rims that were the victim of "polishing". Oh, I am sure they shined like a brand new silver dollar when the previous owners were done polishing them.

The first three photos are of a Weaver rim. Notice that the metal gleams anywhere that they could not reach with the polishing cloth, everything that got polished is dull and ugly. In this example, when I took off the brackets I found that they were caked underneath with some kind of polishing compound.

The next is a Stewart rim. Notice that it is patchy where the nickel was worn away.

May 27, 2022 - 8:15:07 AM



4227 posts since 2/20/2016

Ditto that all commercial metal polishes will remove plating.
Polishing compounds that are meant for finishes are also abrasive and will remove plating.
Tripoli is also abrasive and will remove plating.

Water and dish detergent might remove the grime. But you must also constantly change the cloth, because the grime on the rag is also abrasive and can scratch the plating.

Rottenstone and mineral oil might not remove plating if you work slowly and gently.

May 27, 2022 - 10:16:10 AM



1115 posts since 11/8/2014

There are a lot of things to consider when polishing tarnished metals. I'll address a few of them here when it comes to polishing nickel plated materials. I'll start with the Mohs hardness of things you might use and what you will be polishing.

Material Mohs hardness
Nickel 4
Nickel oxide. 5.5
Copper oxide. 3.5 - 4
Brass or bronze 3
nickel silver 3
silver, gold. 2.5 - 3
Alumina 3.4
Zinc oxide 4.5
steel 4 - 4.5
Chrome 9

Baking soda. 2.5
fingernail 2.5
calcium carbonate. 3
plastic 3 - 4
Titanium dioxide 5.5 - 6.5
rouge 5.5 - 6.5
pumice 6
cerium oxide 6

Mohs scale is an inexact scale, but works well for figuring out how to polish something. When you are looking to polish an item, there are two things to consider, the hardness of the polishing compound and the grit size of the compound. Polishing compounds that are softer than the material being polished will still polish the item under some conditions. It depends on how firmly the material being polished off is connected to the material underneath it. In this case with nickel plated items, this would be the nickel oxide and the underneath layer of nickel. Rouge or titanium dioxide will remove the nickel oxide, and the question is how to do this without thinning out the nickel plating below the oxide. Nickel plating is typically .0005" to .0008" thick, unless it is heavy nickel. If a polishing compound grit that is finer than this thickness is used, the risk of polishing through the plating is reduced. If a polishing compound that is softer than the underlying nickel is used, the risk of polishing through the plating is also reduced. Very fine (1200 grit or preferably finer) rouge or cerium oxide powder is harder than the nickel oxide, so will remove it regardless of it's adhesion to the nickel underneath, so can be used once or twice to polish tarnished nickel. A better solution is to use very finely ground chalk and/or alumina, which is not as hard as nickel, but will remove the oxide from the surface without removing the metal to any real extent. This takes more elbow grease, but the burnishing action of the compound is going to give a nice finish to the metal without removing a significant amount of it, as long as the grit of the compound is fine. I prefer 2000 to 3000 grit compounds, as although they take more work, will not remove a significant amount of metal because of the small particle size.

Cerium oxide and rouge are softer than quartz (silicon dioxide), but cerium oxide will still give a completely polished surface to quartz, which is significantly harder (7).

When working with banjo parts that are nickel plated and tarnished, I have found that small parts polish/burnish up fairly quickly in a rotary tumbler with steel shot and rouge (steel is about 4 - 4.5 on the Mohs scale). I polish larger parts with rouge on a cloth buffing wheel, with care not to remove metal, only the oxide. If one is working only by hand, a combination of chalk and alumina with a cotton cloth and a lot of elbow grease can clean off most of the nickel tarnish. There will be some stubborn spots that are firmly connected to the under layer of nickel, and these might take scraping with a plastic scraper or your fingernail to loosen up the nickel oxide.

As I mentioned in another post, there are two types of jeweler's polishing cloths. I use both of them, as one might work better than the other in any particular situation. The rouge cloth is red, the other one is white, yellow, or gray. Both are available on ebay.

I hope this is not too much of an overload for this thread; polishing metals and stones has been something I have been involved with for about 50 years, and I think I have tried just about everything. As a parting suggestion, 50,000 diamond powder leaves a highly polished surface on metal, works relatively fast because of diamond's inherent hardness (10 on the Mohs scale), and because of the grit size, it is pretty difficult to wear through plated surfaces. I prefer rouge on gold plating (.0001" to .00005" thick) but I am very careful when buffing a plated surface that thin.

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May 27, 2022 - 4:29:51 PM

1848 posts since 5/19/2018

All the advice above is excellent. And all the advice above is correct.

My thoughts...Windex and a soft cloth. Clean them, don’t polish. If that gets you to where you want to be, job done.

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