Polishing Ferrules on Bagpipes

by Alex Jakubik
The metal that the ferrule is made of determines how to polish it.

The metal that the ferrule is made of determines how to polish it.

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Bagpipes use ferrules as metal caps or bands at various locations on the pipes that extend from the soft body of the instrument. They are made of various metals, depending on the decorative needs and budget of the player. Like other metal objects, ferrules require polishing to maintain a shiny, reflective, and uncorroded appearance. Polishing methods and supplies are dependent on the type of metal from which the ferrule is made.

Polishing Broze Ferrules

Bronze is an alloy made of copper and tin. It will oxidize when exposed to air, resulting in a green accumulation called a patina. Commercial bronze polishes are effective, but in their absence, homemade ones will work as well. Bronze polishes are usually pastes that you apply, let sit and then remove with a rubbing action. Follow the instructions on the container if using a commercial polish. Homemade cleaning pastes can sit for 20 to 30 minutes before removal. One homemade bronze cleaning paste consists of baking soda with lemon juice added until it reaches a toothpaste-like consistency. An alternative recipe mixes equal parts of flour and salt with vinegar added until it reaches paste consistency. Cleaning the bronze before polishing helps remove dirt. Drying the bronze after cleaning or polishing is essential to prevent quicker oxidizing. Bronze is a soft metal and therefore vulnerable to scratches or marks if over-polished

Polishing Aluminum Ferrules

To clean aluminum ferrules, begin with simple dish soap and water applied with a soft cloth to remove any dirt buildup. Dry promptly thereafter. Then apply a cleaning paste, either commercial or made of cream of tartar and water. Spread the paste on the aluminum with a soft cloth, using circular movements. For embossed or carved designs, use a soft toothbrush for detailed cleaning. Rinse and dry and then finish by applying an aluminum polish. Aluminum, like bronze, is a soft metal and vulnerable to scratches. To prevent streaks or discoloration, do not use baking soda or cleaners that are alkali-based.

Polishing Nickel Ferrules

Nickel-based ferrules respond well to a variety of cleaning substances. Commercial nickel polishes are always a safe bet. In their absence, solutions of one part vinegar to four parts water or 25 percent ammonia to 75 percent water are also effective. Individual substances such as cola or oven cleaner also yield positive results when applied and removed like a polish.

Polishing Silver Ferrules

Silver ferrules require special care when polishing or storing due to the delicate nature of silver and its reactivity to various substances. Commercial polishes or cleaners are the safest option. Follow the instructions on the container carefully, as over-exposure to certain cleaning substances can have extremely negative effects. Silver reacts to phosphates and sulfurs, including those found in plastics and rubbers.

About the Author

Alex Jakubik began his writing career in 2000 with book-cover summaries for Barnes & Noble. He has also authored concert programs and travel blogs, and worked both nationally and internationally in the arts. Jakubik holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University and a Master of Music from Yale University.

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