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Cleaning methods

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:08 pm
by Julia
Most reenactors I know seem to use simple polishing blocks to clean their Armour/weapons, but these are of course entirely inauthentic, and result in having to get the kit clean before the public arrive. I am wondering partly out of curiosity, and partly out of wanting to eat breakfast without having to polish a helmet at the same time, what the authentic methods are for cleaning Armour/weapons?

Primarily I am interested in the period 850-1250, but I am curious about other periods too.


Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 2:05 pm
by Colin Middleton
In your mail period, things are tricky, your primary method is to not let it get rusty. Beyond that you're looking at moving it against itself to clean it.

For plates, I use a method that I got from here, some years back. Place some wood ash into a mortar, along with some olive oil. Grind it up a bit and then use a cloth to apply that and polish it off. You can also use sand in a similar way, but I think that it might be a bit more corse.

There are 15th C pictures of armourers with a wooden 'bar'. I'm guessing that there is a leather pad on it, with a polishing compound like jewelers rouge, or even chalk dust on it. He's got one hand on each end of then and is working it over a helmet (I think) on the bench where he's sat/straddeling. Presumably this is one of the later polishes to make it really shiny.

Best of luck


Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:59 pm
by gregory23b
"but these are of course entirely inauthentic"

See Colin's comment.

Polishing to a high shine was expensive, I have that from an armour curator, he reckons it was a significant portion of the price of a good set of harness, ie high polish = high cost = high status.

Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:33 pm
by Colin Middleton
It's a significant amount of effort even today.

Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:49 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
It also being fair to ask if you intend to do this as a LH display in which you need to follow Colin's route, or take a hint from Jorge and follow his lead by getting some menial to do the job. If what you want is the job done fast then go down the modern path.

Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:40 pm
by The Peddler
There's a common story that putting maille in a barrel of dry sand and rolling it downhill was used, can't back it up with any historic evidence though.
I do know that Horse Grass was used from the 10th Century, it's a very coarse high-silicon strain of grass which today is very much a weed, but it's rough like sandpaper and can take the surface rust off metal as well as the skin off your fingers if you're not careful.
Another way is to grind pumice in a pestle / mortar and add some olive oil...after that it's elbow grease so best have a lackey available.
Dried and crushed cherry stones were used by jewellers in a paste for a very high polish on parade armour and jewellery (used today on the metal parts of the Rolls Royce), but you'd need quite a few and have to be well off.

Re: Cleaning methods

Posted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:45 am
by Mark Griffin
For an accurate period cleaning paste you need some thing abrasive, somethin that cleans chemically and something to bind the lot together.

I use sharp sand for initial abrasion and then varying grades of powders. Pumice flour and rottenstone (available from Liberon) have been used for fine polishing by jewellers for centuries, good for the fine stuff.

To my mix I add ash, sometimes vinegar if its non ferrous. Then a fat or oil.

RA were importing olive oil in decent quantities throughout their operating period and I doubt it was for salad dressing.

I just rub it on and polish away but you could apply it to a leather strop or even a leather belt on a grinding wheel. Records from a few mills show income derived from allowing cutlets to use grindstones for sharpening. Can't remember seeing anything about polishing but you never know.