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SARGE

Cleaning & Preserving of a Sword

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Gents,

 

I thought I would start a thread on the cleaning and preservation of a sword. This tutorial is meant to include any edged weapon and not just swords. While this is the way I clean swords it is not intended to outline the only way to clean, preserve, or restore edged weapons. My purpose is to show the manner in which I approach these subjects so that readers might learn from my efforts and mistakes.

 

This sword is an Italian Fascist Colonial Police (PAI) Warrant Officer sword from the WWII time period. Notice the age patina and black spotting over the brass castings on the hilt and scabbard fittings. Also notice that there is old white powder residue from ages old polishing. There is no damage that needs restoration and nothing is missing that needs to be replaced. While there is no damage to repair the sword was in need of conservation and stabilization. Besides that, there was no gilt to worry about as the original finish was polished brass and the existing patina was unattractive. The black spotting was simply ugly and would never have been allowed to remain during the sword's time of use. I will also point out that the black spotting had already caused pitting in the smooth brass and it was quite difficult to remove.

 

Before I do anything, I first evaluate the condition of the sword and and decide how I want it to look when I am done. I decided that I wanted this sword to retain none of the rather ugly age patina and spotting and that I did want to polish it because it was never gilt and does not contain more than 50% of its original finish under the dirt and grunge. So, with that in mind, I decided to slowly clean the hilt to determine if any original finish remained and to remove the old cleaner/polish residue and dirt.

I cleaned the hilt outside with ammonia and a soft tooth brush. Only use ammonia outside and use a mask or you will have a sinus headache that you will remember for some time and your wife will continue to remind you to go outdoors for years. Did I mention that this stuff is also poisonous to humans? I start in an inconspicuous place, in this case the inside of the smooth D shaped guard, to test how it will look when clean. This way if I overclean the inside I can lighten up on the other areas. I clean a small area at a time before I move on to something else. I cleaned the inside of the guard then stopped. I then cleaned the outside of the guard and then stopped. I then moved on the backstrap, then the pommel, etc. I saved the grip for last because it was a different substance (painted wood) than the brass. This process usually takes days. I found that I have the best results if I stop between areas such as the hilt and the scabbard so I can examine the process and determine if I want to clean further or stop. These self enforced stopping points are necessary for me or I tend to get carried away and overclean.

 

After cleaning this sword I then polished the brass in the same order I had cleaned it. Polishing the brass will leave it bright and shiny but this "brassyness" will tone down over time. It has been a year or so since I cleaned and polished this sword and it is now very attractive with toned down, and spot free, polished brass fittings.

 

Below are some "before cleaning" pictures.

PAI WA sword.JPG

PAI WA hilt.JPG

PAI WA hilt 3.JPG

PAI WA obverse blade.JPG

PAI WA reverse blade.JPG

Edited by SARGE

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Below are some "after cleaning" photographs of the same Italian PAI sword.

 

Bear in mind that these photos were taken soon after polishing and that this "brassyness" has now faded.

 

 

PAI WA sword clean.JPG

PAI WA hilt clean.JPG

PAI WA hilt clean3.JPG

PAI WA hilt clean2.JPG


"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Some current photos of how this cleaned and polished PAI Warrant Officer sword looks today.

 

 

PAI WA sword 2.JPG

PAI WA sword hilt back.JPG

PAI WA sword hilt.JPG


"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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I want to add that collectors should know the difference in simply cleaning rust, grunge, or patina and repair or restoration. Cleaning removes something that was not originally on the sword such as dirt or grime. Sometimes it is best to leave old grime (sometimes called age patina) as that will give the best appearance to the object. My rule of thumb is not to remove any finish that is approximately 51% or more there. You have to ask if the appearance will be improved and if not I generally elect to leave it alone. The removal of rust depends upon if it is active (red) rust or inactive (black) rust. Active rust should generally be removed or neutralized in order to best preserve the item. Inactive rust has already done all the damage it will do and is no longer eating away at your blade or fittings when exposed to air. Some collectors of dug artifacts coat the iron or steel with something akin to micro-crystalline wax to seal the rust and corrosion away from air to ensure it remains inactive.

An example of not removing age patina is this Fascist Italian PAI NCO sword. While this NCO sword is similar to the PAI Warrant Officer sword above, I elected to leave the patina on this sword because it is even and not unattractive... at least to me. I know what it would look like cleaned up and I see no compelling reason to clean it.

Sometimes it is best to simply leave well enough alone. If you over-clean or over-polish you can irreparably degrade the value of your edged weapon.

 

PAI NCO sword knot.JPG

PAI sword hilt.JPG

PAI scabbard.JPG

PAI scabbard ddrag.JPG

PAI blade crest.JPG

PAI blade eagle.JPG


"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Thanks for the kudos Tony. I appreciate it.

 

So, continuing along this path I wanted to show a private purchase Imperial Baden M71 style Bayonet that I decided to clean and polish. When I got the bayonet it was nice but had some spotty patina on the brass and some active rust on the blade. The blade was fully etched with the unit designation in a blued panel on the obverse of the plated blade. I typically clean blades with 0000 fine steel wool and then polish them with semi-chrome. The semi-chrome polishes plated, or un-plated, blades and leaves a light protective film that I like. Other polishes will do much the same thing but I have found that if semi-chrome will remove bluing from motorcycle pipes it will clean up dark spots on sword blades. It will also remove gilt and the bluing from that nice panel on my M71 bayonet so I had to be very careful not to let the semi-chrome polish touch the blued panel.

 

After cleaning and polishing the blade I felt it was adequately preserved with no remaining rust. So, I then decided I would polish the brass to match the condition of the blade since there was never any gilt finish on the brass. By polishing the brass I was able to return the bayonet to its original condition since I was removing nothing but the age patina.

 

Here are some "before" photos of the bayonet taken prior to cleaning.

Baden S71 bayo.JPG

Baden S71 hilt .JPG

Baden S71 hilt back.JPG

Baden S71 blade.JPG

Baden S71 blade  back.JPG

Baden S71 markings.JPG

Edited by SARGE

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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I followed the same protocol with cleaning and polishing this bayonet that I outlined on the Italian swords above. There was nothing that was broken that needed repair so this cleaning activity was conservation rather than restoration. It should be pointed out that there was a belt frog on the bayonet when I got it and I added an appropriate Imperial Troddel so that addition of something that was originally there but is now missing could be considered a restoration since the addition of the bayonet knot restored the bayonet to its original condition.

 

Here are some "after" photographs of the cleaned Baden Artillery bayonet. I will note again that the "brassy" look has toned down over time.

 

 

Bad S71 clean.JPG

Bad S71 clean hilt.JPG

Bad S71 clean blade.JPG

Baden S71 horse.JPG

Baden S71 horseman2.JPG


"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Sarge

 

I will have to really try that sometime! It does seem to work wonders.

Thank you

 

Tony

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I am told that Flitz polish (the one in silver and blue tube) works well to lightly remove rust without removing bluing. Polishing with a finger is usually enough to clean. Any rusted areas will be white underneath. After cleaning, I like to coat with a good microcrystallin wax like Renaissance. Be sure to test on a small area and watch the type of Flitz polish you get. Some are safe for blued finishes and some are not.

 

Ron

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for the feedback gents.  I have used Flitz and it does work well with cleaning and polishing edged weapons.  It seems I can find Semi-Chrome more easily in my local antique mall.  Renaissance micro-crystalline wax works very well IMHO and you are quite right on your warnings on use of both products.

Here is another example of cleaning a sword.  This sword is a Thuringen Polizei sword by WKC and it came to me in the rather dirty condition seen in the photos.  Nothing was broken or missing that needed to be fixed or replaced so cleaning, polishing, and conservation were what was called for.  The bright finished  blade had old dried grease on it and some light rust that needed to be removed with 0000 fine steel wool and Semi-chrome polish was then applied to the blade to polish and seal it.  The black leather scabbard only required cleaning with a damp cloth and an old soft tooth brush.  The nickel fittings had years of patina and grunge that needed removal and I also shined the solid nickel fittings on the hilt and scabbard with Brasso.  The undamaged black celluloid grips and wire only required cleaning with water and a tooth brush.  

Below are some before photographs of the work.

 

Thur Pol sword uncleaned.JPG

Thur Pol sword hilt uncleaned.JPG

Thur Pol sword blade uncleaned.JPG

Thur Pol sword rev unceaned.JPG

Thur Pol sword drag unclened.JPG

Edited by SARGE

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Here are some after photographs of the results of the cleaning.

 

 

Thur Pol sword clean.JPG

Thur Pol sword close clean.JPG

Thur Pol sword hilt clean.JPG


"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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