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Author Topic: Cleaning/polishing old keys...help!  (Read 13898 times)
AI0F
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Posts: 40




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« on: December 27, 2011, 08:58:16 AM »

Have obtained a few older keys, both straight and a bug or two. I've looked through a lot of info on how to go about cleaning/polishing them...I read one post and the next one says no, don't do that, it will ruin the key!! So, whether it's bakelite, brass, chrome or a combination of all...what is the best and safest way to clean them up?? Tnx in advance, I know many of you have actual experience with this and know how to do it :-) Also, how would you clean up a J-38 base and then reapply the white to the J-38, TEL, LINE and arrows???
« Last Edit: December 27, 2011, 12:48:40 PM by KF0K » Logged
K3STX
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2011, 08:09:11 PM »

There will be a million suggestions. Here is what I do (see my cleaning of bugs on my website www.k3stx.com ). There are before and after pix of all keys.

1. I do NOT use ammonia at first!! I simply take everything apart and clean with soap and hot water using a fingernail brush/toothbrush. Rinse off soap WELL in hot water and dry THOROUGHLY!! Really, THOROUGHLY otherwise you might get rust. A soak in alcohol will ensure it is dry. (If it is really grungy I will use an ammoniated cleaner later, but that will REALLY polish it up (and potentially take of plating!!!!!!)

2. If you want to polish use something really mild, I use Maas metal cleaner one piece at a time.

Collecting/restoring/using old keys is GREAT fun!! Of all the bugs I own my 1923 Original sends the sweetest, as much as I want my BEAUTIFUL 1959 chrome Lightning bug to be my favorite, the old Original still has the best spring and sends the best code.

paul
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WA2ONH
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2011, 04:31:06 AM »

For cleaning J-38 Keys go to the K6IX site at:
LINK: http://k6ix.net/J-38/J38Clean.html

All info on the J-38 keys you'll ever want to know.
LINK: http://k6ix.net/J38Keys.html

Good Luck. Happy New Year!
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73 de WA2ONH   ... Charlie
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"There is no shame in not knowing; The shame lies in not finding out"
AI0F
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Posts: 40




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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2011, 07:54:54 AM »

Thanks fellows, all good info..I'll check out the websites as well! Paul, I just recently aquired a 1959 original deluxe bug...it's not in terrible shape, but could use a good cleaning/polishing. So, the info on chrome is very helpful..it has a lot of it :-) The Lionel J-38 is also in pretty good shape, but in cleaning the white that indicates J-38, etc. was pretty much gone...couldn't figure how to get it back on there without it being spread all over the base! I'm sure the J-38 sites will mention something about that. As I mentioned in the original post, I was told once that soaking them overnight in ammmonia was the thing to do..looks as if that's the last thing to do :-)
Tnx again.....Have a super wonderful, happy and safe New Years!!
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W4HIJ
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2011, 02:53:57 PM »

This thread struck a chord with me. I have a McElroy ball bearing "stream key" that belonged to my Dad.  It was chrome but a lot of the chrome has worn off over the years.
 I've always thought I'd like to get it re-chromed. Is this even possible? Where would someone look for info on doing something like this?
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AI0F
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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2012, 04:58:17 PM »

Thanks one and all, lot's of good info! Now, one other thing I would like to know!! Let's take, say an old J-38 straight key. How can you restore the arrows, the TEL and LINE, as well as the J-38 back to being nice and white, while not getting the rest of the base white as well??? I know there is a well-known procedure for this, but I sure don't know what it is :-) Can anyone help with this?Huh
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K7KBN
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2012, 06:18:49 PM »

Thanks one and all, lot's of good info! Now, one other thing I would like to know!! Let's take, say an old J-38 straight key. How can you restore the arrows, the TEL and LINE, as well as the J-38 back to being nice and white, while not getting the rest of the base white as well??? I know there is a well-known procedure for this, but I sure don't know what it is :-) Can anyone help with this?Huh

Try this:  take everything off the base first.  Then use denatured alcohol to remove grease and detritus from the areas you want to whiten up.  Next, get a paper towel pretty damp with paint solvent for the type of paint in the next step and put it on a table with a good flat surface...

Now, find a little white paint and touch up the letters and arrows quickly.  Then turn the base over (upside down) and swipe the newly painted area over the paper towel with the solvent on it.

Used to make switchboard label plates that way when the spec called for brass.  Black, white, red or whatever.  Works really well - I'd imagine that might be the way the key was built in the first place.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
K3STX
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Posts: 1580




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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2012, 06:45:05 AM »

Thanks one and all, lot's of good info! Now, one other thing I would like to know!! Let's take, say an old J-38 straight key. How can you restore the arrows, the TEL and LINE, as well as the J-38 back to being nice and white, while not getting the rest of the base white as well??? I know there is a well-known procedure for this, but I sure don't know what it is :-) Can anyone help with this?Huh

What you want is called a "Lacquer Stick" and is available from Antique Electronic Supply http://www.tubesandmore.com/ It is part # S-F229 and costs $2.50.

It is sort of painty goo you rub INTO the grooves, then after about 15 seconds wipe everything off with a clean cloth. The white lacquer remains in the grooves and the bakelite is clean clean clean. We used this for restoring the numbers on old TRF radio dials.

paul
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AI0F
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2012, 07:16:41 AM »

Thanks Paul, sounds like a winner to me! I'll give it a shot...after checking out what you've done with the keys in your collection, I'm more than confident you know what does and doesn't work :-)
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K8AC
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2012, 05:53:46 AM »

I second Paul's comment on the lacquer sticks.  They're available in both white and gold.  When using them, I've found that I get the best results if I use a relatively smooth cloth stretched tightly around a finger tip to remove the excess - something like an old tee shirt, and definitely not terry cloth. 

73, K8AC
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AI0F
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2012, 06:07:12 PM »

Tnx K8AC...I will start on an old Lionel J-38 straight key. It's in really good shape right now, just need to return the arrows, LINE, TEL and J-38 to a nice white color! I guess it will be a trial and error thing to begin with since I haven't tried it before! Hope it turns out as I hope...
Tom, KF0K
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K3STX
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2012, 07:54:21 PM »

The lacquer stick is not permanent, it just fills the groove. Can't hurt a thing to try!

paul
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