Cleaning Metal Skirted Knobs


Anyone who collects the old black wrinkle receivers with skirted knobs comes across knobs with the yellow corrosion on them. Removing this is a surprisingly simple and fast procedure that causes no damage to the knob. The procedure requires no special equipment, no hard-to-find chemicals, and no special protection. All you need is a soft bristle toothbrush, a cotton rag, Liquid Ivory hand soap, and a small can of Brasso from either a hardware store or a grocery store. It shouldn’t take you more than 15-20 minutes to do the worst of the knobs.

Start the removal process by dabbing a little bit of Brasso on the toothbrush and then scrub the area where the Bakelite meets the skirt. This removes the corrosion from the most difficult part of the knob to get at with your fingers. After several minutes of scrubbing, wipe the Brasso off the knob and check your work. You may want to use a little bit of Liquid Ivory and another toothbrush to do a better job of removing the residue so you can really see your work. You can use the same toothbrush you are using for the Brasso; just use the Liquid Ivory to clean off the bristles before you clean the knob. Like this procedure, the Brasso will come out of the brush real fast. You should see the corrosion gone from where you were scrubbing; there should be no scratches in the Bakelite, and no paint removed. If you see an area needing more work and you are using one brush for the both the Liquid Ivory and Brasso, wipe the bristles on a paper towel to remove the extra water before reapplying Brasso.

When you are satisfied with your removal of the corrosion in the first step, dab some Brasso on the rag and start polishing the broader parts of the skirt. You will quickly see a black spot form on the rag. This is not paint coming off; it’s just the reaction of the Brasso with the corrosion. Every few minutes, wipe the residue off the skirt and check your work. When you are satisfied, remove the setscrew and give the knob a good scrubbing with the Liquid Ivory. Blow or use a paper towel to get out any excess water and set the knob aside to dry out before putting in the setscrew.

You may wish to try using only the toothbrush and Brasso instead using the rag and Brasso as a second step. The author just likes to use the rag because he believes it does a better job of polishing.


(Use your back button to return to this page)

One of the important points to notice in the pictures is there is no damage to the Bakelite. The other important point is that there is no apparent loss of paint. This is especially evident in the final photograph.

The knobs were washed before each picture series.

This shows the typically corroded knob that I started with.

This shows what to expect after one minute of brushing. Only this side of the knob was worked on.

This shows the results after two minutes of scrubbing with Brasso and the toothbrush. There is a bad spot appearing between the 3 and 4 and it looks like another possible problem 180 degrees from this bad spot.

This shows the polishing progress made with a rag and Brasso after three minutes. Notice the bad spots are not going away.

This shows what to expect the cloth to look like after a little polishing.

This shows the results after a total of six minutes with the rag and Brasso. After a couple more minutes of polishing, the knob was declared to be finished.

These pictures show the end result. I had to wait until the next day to take the head-on shot under natural light because the flash was reflecting off the skirt so much that the knob was obliterated in the resulting picture. (The yellowish color is only because of the photo in natural light.) The side views accentuate the defects/pitting in the skirt, but there is no magic to reverse this aging.


Contributed by Warren Anderson - W0WDA