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Brass Ratchet and How to Polish Metal

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I had been looking for a brass ratchet for a while. How is it possible not to love a brass ratchet? It is not possible for me, I can tell you that.

One day not too long ago, our own Redvise (Brian) sent me a note and said the one he had lost for a long time turned up and did I still want it? Of course, I was overjoyed!

But I wanted to find something he would want too. Well it turns out he is interested in trying to restore/customize some Perfect Handle tools.

So I went through about a million scraps looking for just the right material to start. But I'll get to that later. The ratchet arrived and it was a beauty. A 1/2" drive, ready to rock.

When they make these, they mostly bead blast off the worst of the casting residue, and call it a day. There is a little grinding cleanup, but its coarse grinding, and just left that way. Here it is stripped, but as issued.

There were ratchets and other tools made of solid beryllium copper alloy in times past. These you can't do much with. Beryllium is poison if you grind it. The tool is fine but the dust can be very bad, they say. But most "safety tools" you see now are made of aluminum/bronze, for the past 50 years.

Aluminum or Bronze or aluminum/bronze alloy are pretty safe to work with. This ratchet proudly had the al/br marking. The drive plug looked a little coppery though. Beryllium suspect. So I wouldn't touch that part, with a 10 foot pole!

The concave "neck" portion was going to be the hardest to polish. I started with a dome shaped coarse grinding wheel. The kind they sell in the auto parts houses mounted on 1/4" shafts for porting heads and such. Since this was essentially brass I just used a drill motor to turn it. I will sometimes use a Roto-zip motor if I need more speed.

A few deep passes hard cutting passes on each side, and I had most all the casting scale off the neck.

Then I needed to rough polish/shape it. The Klingspor company makes these delightful flexible sanding mops. They will flop into odd shapes and sand them smooth. But I can't afford them. So I make my own out of belt sander belts. Rip up strips of belt and run a 1/4" arbor through. They aren't quite as flexible and don't last as long, but they are cheap, and they work, so what can you do?

Here is a 320 grit "mop". It flattens out as its spinning. I make 80, 100 and 220 grit mops as well.  From 4 to 10" diameters. Use different speeds for different materials. For metal its pretty fast - over 2000 and probably 3000.

This got me the neck roughed out well. Next was all the rest of the flatter portions.


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