Now for a bit of metal!
One way to work out what type of metal an object is made out of, is to work out what it’s use was. e.g. copper is a good metal for things like pots, pans and kettle’s but iron is a better metal for fences, gate’s, and shovels, Where as brass is a good metal for locks, hinges and door knobs. You can also identify a metal by any changes on the surface. This is basically because metals are mixed and fired at high temperatures to mould them. Over time, given the right conditions, the metal will react with oxygen and chemicals in the environment and contribute to an attempt to revert back to their metal ore form. Hence corrosion forms. Metal objects in a collection are not always as robust as they may seem, and may have fragile parts such as a handle or catch or functional fitting That if used too often will eventually deteriorate.
Gloves are always a must when dealing with metals as the oils from your skin can have an accumulative affect On the surface. When cleaning, it is best to avoid all but dusting on Bronzes as they have what is termed a ‘patener’. This is an effect on the surface of the metal that is produced by years of cleaning and wear and tear so if it was cleaned off a part of the objects history would be lost. Also to take into consideration is the presentation level of the object. Is it on show, and if so, is it in historical context for it to look ‘used’ or ‘as new’. As most metal work outside is made of sterner stuff such as iron, damage from the elements is inevitable and substantial. This can be removed to a degree with a few specialised products. ‘Peek’, ‘Autosol’, ‘Steel Wool – 000′, 3M- Bright pads’ and ‘Renaisance Wax’ all combined with a little elbow grease work wonders.