Practical Guide II – How to Clean and Polish Weapons & Armour

Dada a extensão deste artigo, achei por bem publicar as versões inglesa e portuguesa em separado. Para a versão portuguesa, cliquem aqui.

Caring for weapons and armour was a constant worry in the Middle Ages. To have armaments was to have to protect them from the elements, which implied constant vigillance in detecting early signs of humidity or rust and frequent visits to the nearest armourer or cutler, to have pieces cleaned by professionals. Nowadays, it is up to each reenactor or collector to clean and take care of their own equipment. The question facing many newcomers is, how does one go about it? I took advantage of the fact that one of my daggers has been suffering a bit from recent bad weather, and I prepared this guide to try to help those who do not yet know how to eliminate rust and keep their pieces clean and shiny.

This step-by-step guide includes some expert guidance by my friend, reenactor and armourer Peter Kalkman (Dutch Armour), to whom I leave my sincere thanks.

How to Clean and Polish Weapons & Armour

Materials:

  • weapon or piece of armour with rust/patina
  • rubber grinding blocks, one medium grit (GR 120) and one fine grit (GR 240) (not to be confused with paper sanding blocks)*
  • polishing paste
  • small sponge
  • cloth (preferably microfibre) OR chamois leather
  • soft cleaning cloth (preferably cotton)
  • maintenance oil

01Make sure you have everything ready before starting. From left to right: maintenance oil (Ballistol); polishing paste (Unipol); rubber grinding blocks (fine grit at the bottom, medium grit at the top); sponge, and microfibre cloth.

Note: Be careful in choosing grinding blocks. Most grinding blocks look rather like sanding blocks (a sheet of sandpaper glued onto a sponge), which are too harsh for metals and will leave them scratched even in finer grits. An alternative to grinding blocks are scouring pads for cleaning metallic surfaces (not kitchen scouring pads!). A good brand of these is ScotchBrite.

02Begin by making sure the weapon or piece of armour is clean and dry, free of dirt, oil or dust, before identifying the areas most affected by rust.

03Different grits may be required, depending on how rusty the weapon or piece of armour is. Mild rust usually requires only a mild grit (GR 120) to remove most of the surface. When using the grinding blocks, grind in one direction, slowly, and then change direction several times. This avoids creating a ‘track’ in the surface, from grinding too much in one single direction.

04Most of the rust should be cleared away by the medium grit block. The fine grit block should be used in the same way, grinding in several directions, with particular care over any spots that may still show a bit of rust.

05After removing the rust, it’s time to polish the metal, to give it back its proper, uniform shine. Before applying the polishing paste, clear away any leftover dusts or particles using the cotton cloth. Apply only a small knob of polishing paste onto the surface.

06With a lightly moistened sponge, spread the polishing paste over the entire surface. It is important to ensure that the metal is thoroughly coated with a thin coat of paste.

07 Now for arguably the dullest (!) part of the entire process: polishing the metal. Using either a chamois or a clean and dry microfibre cloth, rub the paste against the surface, vigorously but slowly. The idea is to rub only a small section of metal at a time – a stretch of 5-6 centimetres perhaps – until the desired finish is obtained. Then move on to the next section, and so on, until the entire surface is polished and homogenous.

08/09 After making sure that the polish is uniform across the entire surface, use the cotton cloth to clean possible excess paste from any corners. Finally, once the weapon or piece of armour has been cleaned, just apply a couple of squirts of maintenance oil. Spread and clean it with the cotton cloth, so that only a thin protective layer remains on the surface.

10 The polishing paste can also be used to clean other types of metal, such as the brass discs in this rondel dagger.

11 And it’s done. The dagger is ready to rejoin the rest of the collection! Always take careto store metal pieces in dry places. In the case of cold steel weapons, it is preferable to keep them outside of their scabbards or sheaths, as leather and wood can retain bits of oil or moisture and help the spread of rust.

I hope this little guide has been helpful. For any questions regarding the process or materials, just send me a message. Happy reenactment!

* It was somewhat difficult to find grinding blocks in Portugal, so I ordered them from the Netherlands from the good folk of Zwaard en Volk (http://shop.zwaardenvolk.nl/). If you find it tricky to get your hands on grinding blocks in your local area, just pop over to https://woo.zwaardenvolk.nl/en/product-category/miscellaneous-en-default-category-en-default-category-en/onderhoud-en/ , where you can find blocks in three different grits, as well as Ballistol oil.

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