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Cleaning Hardware - Tumbling


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Months and months and months ago, we had discussions about cleaning up and / or replacing the hardware as part of the restoration. Not just the nuts and bolts, although a major portion, but the little metal bits and pieces that hold the car together and fasten things. Hose clamps, brake parts and fittings, linkage and such. At some point all the golden cadmium plated stuff is going to have to look absolutely clean and georgeous. Some guys tried to buy new hardware and we found that a lot of it is not the same as the piece we took off the car. At least that is the case for me. You wouldn't believe all the odd little peculiarities about the first cars.

I didn't want to replace everything. I think it defeats the point of "restoration" and to me, a little bit of the original car is lost when parts are replaced. Then there is the whole thought about a peculiar piece that is no longer available or in my case, peculiar to my car(s). Cleaning up and re-plating my original hardware became my choice. I located a plating company and started to experiment with the task. I soon found that the quality of the surface is directly related to the quality of the plating. Plating does not fill so if you want your hardware to have a mat finish, bead blast it. Wire brush marks show so use a brass wire wheel. The smoother the metal - the smoother and consistant the plated finish. This goes for zink plate as well. Zinc doesn't show pits and scratches as much. Basic rule of thumb is the cleaner and smoother the original piece, the better the results.

One thing I really dreaded was the idea that I wouldn't know where all this stuff went after I got it all back from the plater. A big bucket of beautiful golden nuts and bolts! I will say that this is a huge task and meticulous organization is required. But armed with a couple of parts books, service manuals, photographs and drawings, I'm not anywhere near as afraid as I was! I highly recommend taking notes and pictures - good pictures. A tap and die set is a big help measuring things as well as cleaning threads and I recommend at least a cheap Harbor Freight set. Take Notes!

So after looking at a number of different methods for cleaning all this junk up and seeing what I needed to get the results I was looking for, I bought a 2 quart rock tumbler from Harbor Freight ($30). Then I bought "green pyramid" tumbling media from Eastwood ($17). It is small plastic pyramid shapes just the right size to clog up your sink drain. After a few experiments, the mixture is one and a half cups green pyramids, one cup hardware and one quarter cup "Simple Green" cleaner / degreaser. Tumble 24 hours. I'm very satisfied with the results. The metal finish is smooth and even. Most of the rust is removed and the pitting is quite minimal. Hard to reach areas are, shall we say, hard to reach. Even for green pyramids. A little hand work is necessary some times. Threads don't clean up very well and I run a die on the bolts and a tap in the nuts. The nuts fill up with grime from the tumbling process anyhow and have to be cleaned. The "Simple Green" takes off all the grease and the whole mess cleans up easily with water. I puched holes in a large coffee can to strain the mix after tumbling. The liquid is black and filthy.:lick:

So far, I'm having good luck and happy to report that Her Majesty the 26th will be sporting most of her original hardware - restored.




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I used the tumbling method with dry walnut shell media-it removed the powdery oxidation, but nothing else.

On the NLA original parts(and those that have been superceded with visually different parts) with pitting, I glass beaded the rust at as low a pressure as worked, dipped/soaked in Metal Ready, rinsed, then used the Caswell plug and plate system (http://www.caswellplating.com/kits/plugnplate.htm) to copper plate(fill in the pits), followed sanding and buffing, then by Zinc plating and Yellow chromate (http://www.caswellplating.com/kits/zinc.htm) to get the cadmium look back. You can tell a difference between the oem pieces and the restored pieces when they are side by side, but more than a foot apart, you can't tell. Fortunately, there weren't that many pieces that needed that much work. The plug n plate system has also proved useful in other areas aswell-I bought the workshop kit.


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