Resetting the Patina on Your Brass Razor
One of the really neat things about brass is that it forms a rich patina over time...your brass razor effectively ages along with you.
However, a deep desirable patina requires time and special conditions to form properly (namely exposure to air and a small amount of humidity). Since your brass razor also needs to be wet for every shave (wetshaving, right?), there are plenty of reasons why patina could form in a way that isn't desirable and make you want to reset the patina.
The best method we've come up with to reset patina is to use a combination of vinegar dips and dabbing (NOT rubbing) a metal polishing compound, like Flitz Metal Polish.
But first, here are a few guidelines:
- Do not use harsh chemicals. Good results can be achieved with mild products.
- Wear gloves.
- Wear goggles.
- Work in a ventilated area with plenty of light.
- Not only do the gloves protect your fingers, they also keep your finger's natural oils out of the process, which only makes things more difficult.
- Do not use mix chemicals. It is impossible to predict how mixed chemicals will affect your razor. We've heard horror stories of homebrew cleaners that irreparably damage the parts.
- You need to start with a clean razor. Remove any grime and soap-scum with a soft toothbrush and dish soap (something mild like Sunlight or Dawn) or isopropyl alcohol. Do not use dish soap and IPA at the same time.
- When using the metal polishing compound, DO NOT RUB. The abrasive particles will polish your razor and it will remove the matte finish (unless that's what you want). Remember, you are using the metal polishing compound for its tarnish removing properties.
- When exposing your razor to chemicals, err on the side of too short of a duration. You can always do it again. It is impossible to revert the process if you have go too far, other than by letting the patina form naturally. And long exposures, like leaving it overnight, will likely lead to undesirable and irreversible results.
- Immersion in the vinegar needs to be complete. If a portion of the part is above the surface of the vinegar, accelerated corrosion may form at the surface of the vinegar (because you've created an electrolytic cell with atmosphere).
- One of the best ways to ensure that your razor forms a consistent patina is to ensure that your razor remains dry between uses. Rinsing your razor and shaking it off after your shave is usually not enough. You will likely need to disassemble your razor and dry each piece individually.
- Isopropyl alcohol is very helpful for drying a razor because it will displace all water and is safe to use regularly (we clean with IPA during the manufacturing process).
The images below are provided as an overview of the process. Each dip in vinegar lasts about 1 minute. The labels indicate the total dip time to that point.
Please note, the electricians tape was added to show the contrast between the untouched areas and the cleaned areas. Do not add tape unless you want to prevent cleaning in an area.
Also, I'm not wearing gloves in the pictures to illustrate what your finger's natural oils can do. In picture 12, you can see my oily fingerprints from touching the part, especially along the left edge near the top of the picture. Fingerprints created during the process, like mine, may take more effort to remove.
Remember, resetting the patina with chemicals (and beadblasting) brings the brass back to it's virgin state and it will be susceptible to stains. After you complete this process, you may consider storing the razor for about 24 hours to allow the first bit of patina to form without interference.
We tend to let the parts sit for at least a day after beadblasting before we ship them to give the patina a chance to start uniformly.
This process has not been tested on copper yet.