I am looking for a solution regarding the tarnished brass hatches on my boat. Once polished, the brass shines beautifully, but maintaining this finish is more work than I am prepared to do on an ongoing basis. What do you suggest?
Tom Wood responds:
Welcome to the world of brass. Nothing looks more nautical and "shippy" than bright brass and bronze fittings, especially if they are surrounded by a sea of highly varnished teak. Now, let's talk about the maintenance! If your goal is to have a museum-quality boat, keep polishing—if the goal is to do more sailing and less work, then a coating over the brass is a good idea.
The choices are:
- Clear-coating. Lacquer is the method of choice and it is widely available in spray cans. Its life is very limited—less than a few months in the tropics if there is a lot of salt spray. I would not recommend varnish or epoxy because they lack the flexibility and/or UV inhibitors to deal with metal. A clear polyurethane might be worth a try.
- Paint. Yes, brass and bronze can be painted, using the same directions for painting most metals—sanding, etching, and priming first. When you are finished, the parts are indistinguishable from painted aluminum.
- Plating with other metal. Hard-coat chrome would be the avenue of choice here, using a copper underlayment for adhesion. There are many levels of quality in chrome plating and you want the very best for the marine environment.
- Let it go a nice, nautical green. This is easy, low cost, and it makes you look like an old salt.