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Home > Articles > Professor Handbell digs up The Dirt on Polish

Professor Handbell digs up The Dirt on Polish


    All those polishing choices have you bewildered?  Dumbfounded?  Befuddled?  Don’t know your Shino from your Cape Cod from your Simichrome?  That’s where I come in!  Professor Handbell here, back to help clear up the sometimes confusing, but always amusing, world of handbells.  This time, we’ll look at polish: why to use it, when to use it, how to use it, and the differences between all those different polishing items.

    The “why” of polish is relatively simple.  Your bells get dirty every time you use them.  All manner of spit, spittle and sputum (gross!) get on them and can cause spots, dots, splotches or worse.  Also, bells are made of bronze.  Bronze tarnishes.  This is a result of oxidation between the surface and oxygen (and other) ions in the air and in the oil produced by our skin.  Tarnish is actually a chemical defense mechanism to slow corrosion.  So to keep your bells looking and sounding their best, they need to be polished regularly.

     That brings us to the “when” of polish.  This will depend, of course, on how often you use your bells, but a few general guidelines should work for most every group.  First of all, bells should be wiped down after every rehearsal and performance.  This doesn’t have to be a big production; you just want to get rid of fingerprints and other signs of handling.  Shino cloths (#1001) are useful here.  To use these, simply rub the bell’s surface with the inside of the cloth (that’s the side with the jeweler’s rouge) and use the outer cloth to remove the rouge and give the bell a final polish.  A final helpful hint for my ringing friends: the rouge can stain, so keep them away from your new gloves and good table covers!  If dodging rouge spots is not your style, Sunshine cloths (#1003) might be a better choice.  They are made with non-scratch micro-abrasives that will bring your bells to the perfect post-practice shine.

     The Cape Cod polishing cloths (#1108 & #1109) are great for removing tarnish.  These are not necessarily used for deep cleaning, but they work well for a good quarterly polishing (every 3 months or so).  Each cloth contains a liquid polish that is applied to the bell and then buffed off with a separate soft cloth.  The cloths can be used over and over – although they may become discolored - and a few drops of mineral spirits or vegetable oil can bring a dry cloth back to life.  Plus, they smell like vanilla ... or bubblegum!

     Even though you take care of your bells (you do… DON’T YOU?), wipe them down after each use, and polish them at least quarterly, they still need to be deep cleaned every so often.  This will help remove those hard-to-get stains and those spots, dots, and splotches we discussed earlier.  Deep cleaning requires a heavy-duty polish, like Simichrome (#1102, #1103, #1104) or Blue Magic (#1143, #1144, #1145), and much like a famous hair product, a little dab will do ya.  Our cleaning cloths (#1011 & #1014) are the perfect partner for Blue Magic or Simichrome; in fact, that's what our handbell service technicians use everyday!

    To use, scoop a little polish from the can onto a paper or plastic plate.  Apply the paste to the bell using a small circular motion.  Use a clean cloth in the same circular motion to remove the polish until the surface is clean.  Buff till your bells shine as desired.  Repeat as needed.

Other special notes regarding deep cleaning polish:

Simichrome and Blue Magic are both ammonia-based, so use in a well-ventilated area.

Once the polish is out of the can, don’t put it back in.  It can pick up dirt that could end up scratching your bells. Ouch!

Polish will keep for quite a while.  If it separates in the can (much like paint), simply stir it until it returns to its normal consistency.

Don’t let polish dry before buffing it off.  Trust me on that one.

    Take care of your bells, and they will take care of you.  (Okay, not in the literal sense, but you get the point).  It seems like a lot of work, and it can be, so make it fun.  Get your ringers together and have a polishing party - as if you needed an excuse for a party!  And don’t forget to get your bells serviced every three to five years, depending on usage.  Your bells, your ringers, and your audience will thank you.