Started attempting cleaning this saber - did I destroy the value?

Joined
Sep 20, 2021
I started attempting to clean the brass guard. I didn't use any sort of abrasive or heavy pressure, using a brass polish. I pretty quickly stopped when it looked like this. Is this repairable? The photos make it look worse than it is in-person, there aren't any scratches. What can I do?

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bobinwmass

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If this was the Millard saber you recently posted about, the condition of the blade had already decreased the value quite a bit. I wouldn't have tried to clean the brass as it will never match the condition of the blade. While I usually do give the blades of my new swords a light cleaning to remove surface rust and dirt, and then coat the blade with Renaissance Wax to prevent future problems, I never touch the patina on the brass. There are things you can do to make brass look aged again and maybe other members will have suggestions, but doing it to only one portion of the hilt will likely mean it will never match the rest. Overall I would not worry too much about value given the condition. I guess what is important is what do you want it to look like?
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
If this was the Millard saber you recently posted about, the condition of the blade had already decreased the value quite a bit. I wouldn't have tried to clean the brass as it will never match the condition of the blade. While I usually do give the blades of my new swords a light cleaning to remove surface rust and dirt, and then coat the blade with Renaissance Wax to prevent future problems, I never touch the patina on the brass. There are things you can do to make brass look aged again and maybe other members will have suggestions, but doing it to only one portion of the hilt will likely mean it will never match the rest. Overall I would not worry too much about value given the condition. I guess what is important is what do you want it to look like?
I'm surprised the patina came off so easily. I barely wiped it. It's tough because on one hand, I like the patina look, but it also looks dirty. I'm assuming the cleaned section is how it looked when it was originally in the hands of a cavalry soldier, so part of me likes the idea of it looking that way, but on the other hand, I can't really tell what's patina and what's just old dirt and grime that has no historical significance - like the old varnish and dirt layer on old paintings, it's not what it was intended to look like. But I agree, in hindsight I would've just left it alone, but for some reason I felt obligated to do something, considering it seemed so poorly mishandled and treated at the flea market when I found it.

I guess the plus side is I was so gentle with it that I'd be surprised if I removed any of the actual brass.
 

bayonet

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Well if you were British you would polish it until it shined regardless of age but we Americans leave the patina old age look on. Well it looks like you finished polish/cleaning half of it so you might as well go and finish the rest of it. Value I don't think it effects the value either way, but that's just me.
 
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Re the brass parts on my 1853 Enfield and Colt revolvers (which I shoot), I noticed that blackpowder fouling does a great job of tarnishing brass really fast, and gives it a rather aged look. If you don't have any, ask a buddy to put some on a rag for you next time he cleans his blackpowder guns. I suggest you test it on a spare piece of brass to see its effect first. Gun bluing/barrel browning solution will also tarnish the brass but again I suggest you test it on something else to see if you like the effect.

Matching the one section will likely be impossible but you can try, and if it doesn't match then you are faced with cleaning it all, and keeping it that way, or treating it as suggested above to get a consistent look. Sorry, but I have never attempted to age brass to "antique" it, so there may be better options....the above are just things I have observed in the use/maintenance of the guns I shoot.
 

James N.

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... I wouldn't have tried to clean the brass as it will never match the condition of the blade. While I usually do give the blades of my new swords a light cleaning to remove surface rust and dirt, and then coat the blade with Renaissance Wax to prevent future problems, I never touch the patina on the brass. There are things you can do to make brass look aged again and maybe other members will have suggestions, but doing it to only one portion of the hilt will likely mean it will never match the rest. Overall I would not worry too much about value given the condition. I guess what is important is what do you want it to look like?
I'm surprised the patina came off so easily. I barely wiped it. It's tough because on one hand, I like the patina look, but it also looks dirty. I'm assuming the cleaned section is how it looked when it was originally in the hands of a cavalry soldier, so part of me likes the idea of it looking that way, but on the other hand, I can't really tell what's patina and what's just old dirt and grime that has no historical significance - like the old varnish and dirt layer on old paintings, it's not what it was intended to look like. But I agree, in hindsight I would've just left it alone, but for some reason I felt obligated to do something, considering it seemed so poorly mishandled and treated at the flea market when I found it.

I guess the plus side is I was so gentle with it that I'd be surprised if I removed any of the actual brass.
Well if you were British you would polish it until it shined regardless of age but we Americans leave the patina old age look on. Well it looks like you finished polish/cleaning half of it so you might as well go and finish the rest of it. Value I don't think it effects the value either way, but that's just me.
As bayonet has noted this is largely a matter of opinion and personal taste unless you're looking to resell soon - and what he says about the British is true of the French as well. Twice I've visited what may be the finest military museum in the world, the Musee d' l'Armee in Paris where all the suits of armor and many sword and firearm displays look like the pieces just came from the armories. (The armor at the Tower of London's like that too.) I polish some of mine but not others. I have a couple of French Revolutionary/Napoleonic pieces I love for the olive patina of their brass hilts; others that look like what you say I've polished the pi** out of! A particular epee's hilt was covered in some kind of crusted crud I carefully scraped off so as to not disturb the beautiful olive luster of the patinated brass. Also, remember that since something brass turned dark it eventually will do so again!

One type of sword I would generally say to do NOTHING to however are Confederate pieces, other than, as Bob has said above, remove any active rust. This is mainly because of the fakery involved with these pieces and sometimes the grunge helps authenticate them. Confederate brass had a high copper content and can age to a pleasing orangey color, whereas most India/Pakistan/China modern brass is high in nickel content and seldom looks "right" accordingly.
 
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bayonet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
As bayonet has noted this is largely a matter of opinion and personal taste unless you're looking to resell soon - and what he says about the British is true of the French as well. Twice I've visited what may be the finest military museum in the world, the Musee d' l'Armee in Paris where all the suits of armor and many sword and firearm displays look like the pieces just came from the armories. (The armor at the Tower of London's like that too.) I polish some of mine but not others. I have a couple of French Revolutionary/Napoleonic pieces I love for the olive patina of their brass hilts; others that look like what you say I've polished the pi** out of! A particular epee's hilt was covered in some kind of crusted crud I carefully scraped off so as to not disturb the beautiful olive luster of the patinated brass. Also, remember that since something brass turned dark it eventually will do so again!

One type of sword I would generally say to do NOTHING to however are Confederate pieces, other than, as Bob has said above, remove any active rust. This is mainly because of the fakery involved with these pieces and sometimes the grunge helps authenticate them. Confederate brass had a high copper content and can age to a pleasing orangey color, whereas most India/Pakistan/China modern brass is high in nickel content and seldom looks "right" accordingly.
True the French are the same. 2 of my Rev War Pistols I got overseas 1 French and 1 English they shined up. German & Italian auction Houses are hit or miss on items shined up. I got a nice Linstock that is about 250-300 years old from an Italian Auction House. When I got it to my horror they painted the metal with silver paint. I'd remove it but it's attached to the original wood and I'm not up for running the risk of damaging the wood.
 

bayonet

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Not in your or my life time:D It take a long time for the patina to turn on brass. Might as well bury it in the back yard for a few years.
and pee on it too :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: while you bury it. Actually I got a Polearm from an Auction House that damaged the metal but the wise Shipper took pics showing it was damaged when they got it so not their fault. I was not going to return it since it was rare and I wanted it. Took it to a Metalsmith to repair (2nd time doing that on another) and he did a good job only you could see the repair spot (shiny vs patina). He said lick your thumb and wipe the moisture on the repair spot daily on more. Over time it will match the rest of the blade. He was right and it looks good, took about a month or two.
 

Jeff in Ohio

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Oct 17, 2015
To me, "patina" is just dirt and corrosion. I would clean the rest of it. The soldier it was issued to would agree, I think.
Now,Jim, "Patina" is in the eye of the beholder.
Perhaps a better way to say what I am thinking is that some folks will call dirt and rust a "patina finish."
But that's not a patina - that's rust.
Brass doesn't rust, but it does over time react to the atmosphere and develop a toning color.
I had an old time collector who told me that he cleaned old metal by lightly rubbing with olive oil - evidently that's a traditional way to clean old coins.
 

Jeff in Ohio

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Oct 17, 2015
In this case, I understand that this is not a family sword connected in any sentimental way to the poster or any known persons.

I might repeat my view of cleaning efforts:

  • Collectors often say they value untouched, intact items.
  • Grooms often say they value untouched maiden brides.
  • Once a collector gets control, he just can't resist messing with it.
  • Once a groom gets control, he just can't resist....well, you know.

One result in both instances is that NEVER AGAIN is the coveted object untouched, ever again, it is changed for all time
.

So, it is wise to think carefully before starting.
 

Stone in the wall

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Now,Jim, "Patina" is in the eye of the beholder.
Perhaps a better way to say what I am thinking is that some folks will call dirt and rust a "patina finish."
But that's not a patina - that's rust.
Brass doesn't rust, but it does over time react to the atmosphere and develop a toning color.
I had an old time collector who told me that he cleaned old metal by lightly rubbing with olive oil - evidently that's a traditional way to clean old coins.
Good suggestion. Back when I was just a kid the older man next door got me into collecting pennies (only thing I could afford) and showed me how to clean them in olive oil.
 
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