Keys for Sale
As noted on our main for sale page, we offer our instruments "as found," that is, we do not clean or restore them, leaving that to the purchaser. This allows us to keep the price down, and offers the new owner the decision of how, or even whether, to restore it. (Some old brass hand keys, for example, should keep the patina gained over a century, and are more valuable to collectors in that condition.)
Fabio, IK0IXI, purchased a WWII Signal Corps J-36 from us in the spring of 2008. Like most of the bugs we sell, it was in good mechanical and operating condition. The chrome pieces and the black crackle painted finish were also in good condition, but after more than sixty years of neglect they had lost the sparkle they had when new, and were now dull and lifeless. Fabio did what he called a "quick restoration," and after some "hard cleaning" and polishing, followed by oiling, he turned the old bug into a nice showpiece. Details are below the photos.
I asked Fabio about his restoration methods, and he said "I simply cleaned the base with hot water and soap two or three times. When dry, I oiled it with a gun oil MIL-P-116-G. All metal parts of frame, screws, arm cleaned with a jewelry cleaner named Duraglit (it is from UK)."
I have used WD-40 on some of my black wrinkle-based bug finishes, but next time I will try my Outer's gun oil. And a fine chrome polish - maybe Simichrome - might work on the plated parts.
In May 2008, Fabio told me he had found in Italy what most of us would consider a junker Lionel J-36. He gave it the same treatment -- cleaning and oiling -- and replaced the typically bad plastic Lionel nameplate with a reproduction from Tom Perera's website (see no. 7935 on this page). Here is the rather incredible before and after:
August 2008: IK0XI continues to amaze me with his "restorations" of keys most of us would pass by on a flea market table -- because the keys do not require painting, or machined parts, or even many replacements. Just, as Fabio says, a thorough cleaning. For this one, a 1938B Mac-Key found at a flea market, he used a soft brass brush on a Dremel tool to remove the hard oxidaton around the screws and shorting lever. They were very old and dirty, he said, too much to do by hand. The photos speak for themsleves.