Hints & Tips № 2 — Cleaning Tarnished Zinc Plated Parts

All of us have, I am sure, had the problem at one time or another of cleaning zinc plated strips and other parts that are looking a bit old and jaded. Zinc plate, after all, looks great on a model but doesn’t seem to have the staying power of nickel.

Various ideas have been floated: T-cut, metal polish, re-plating etc. Most of these involve some kind of abrasive effect, and of course something is lost from the surface as a result.

A method you may like to try, which has stood me in good stead for some years, is to use paraffin on a rag, and rub very hard. However this is pretty hard on the fingers. So, wrap an old blunt drill bit (about 5– 6mm Ø) in four of five turns of soft material (the girlfriend’s red flannel drawers can be cut up for this, but wait ‘til winter’s over!)

The material is then lightly soaked in paraffin (don’t smoke!) and the drill bit inserted in the chuck of a horizontal mounted electric drill or lathe. This is set going — fairly fast — and then you’ll quickly find out whether or not you’ve wound the material on the right way round.

Cleaning tarnished zinc plated parts
Cleaning tarnished zinc plated parts

If not, unwrap it from around your face, and rewind it. You then have a wide, small diameter, firm rotating spindle with a soft paraffin impregnated cover to run your strips etc. against with a firm pressure. This is far easier than-rubbing by hand.

This should clean off all but serious rust, and paraffin stays on the strips (even after wiping with a dry cloth) and this will help prevent future tarnishing. The zinc plates on my Tower Bridge display model were cleaned this way some seven or eight years ago, and haven’t been cleaned since. Get polishing!

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