A Process For Cleaning Drake Chassis
by: Ron Wagner / WD8SBB
Cleaning of copper chassis
is a matter of preference. I have a method of cleaning the spots
of a Drake chassis that has some advantages and disadvantages.
This process should be looked at and you personally determine if it is
what you desire or not.
This article will discuss cleaning and options to
make the cleaned area blend in with the rest of the chassis. Keep
in mind that the process and options use abrasives. The copper can
be taken completely off of the chassis if extreme care is not taken
while processing. Use the process at your own risk.
I ask many times via many avenues about cleaning
chassis spotting and corrosion. I never was given any really good
process. I was given many ideas, each of which had merits and
shortcomings. I finally found a method which works well for me,
and offer it to others for potential use. I will stress that "your
mileage may vary".
Ever since I video taped
the Dayton Drake forum "The Drake Engineers Reunion" I have been
watching the tape and finding new little tid-bits of information.
One major item that I picked up on was that the copper chassis were
lacquered. That makes a lot of sense then with what we see on the
deterioration. Obviously those rigs which were well cared for and
reasonably handled are still generally nice and shiny. If the
lacquer did not get damaged, the chassis more or less stayed "mint".
Over time, the lacquer can wear away, or develop minor pinholes and the
copper oxidizes and goes bad.
Give that information, here is some information
on experiments that I have done. Basically I clean the chassis
with polish and then recoat. Please read the entire article as
there are options listed further down that might be of interest to
assisting in matching the cleaned area with the original chassis color
Keep in mind that the copper coating is thin and can be completely taken
- Take the Dremel brush and mount via the
flexible shaft. If you need more information on this step, kindly see
your Dremel tool manual. And if that doesn't get you there, maybe you
should not be
touching your Drake's internals :-)
- Open the Flitz and squeeze just a bit up to
the top of the tube.
- Dip your nylon Dremel brush into the Flitz.
- Start the Dermal at a slow to medium rpm
(definitely not full rpm as that will throw the Flitz off the brush).
- Use the brush to slowly "scrub" an area that
is spotted or corroded.
- Watch so that you don't get too big of an area
- Watch so that when the Flitz starts to dry
slightly that you stop.
- Wipe away the remaining Flitz with a paper
- You should have a nice shiny area where you
just cleaned. Some times the Flitz leaves the area a bit dark. Take a
clean paper towel and buff the area to clean it good.
- Within a few hours, take a Q-tip and dip into
the airplane dope. The idea is not to let the copper get dirty or
worse yet your skin oils on before you coat it.
- Use the Q-tip to roll over the area you have
- Roll the Q-tip right/left, then up/down. You
want to get a nice coating.
- Make sure you have the cleaned area covered
and sealed with airplane dope.
- You have just repaired your spotted chassis.
- Let the airplane dope dry and inspect, a
second coating may be in order.
Obviously, for an entire chassis you will need
several sessions. Keep in mind that you are trying to clean and coat.
Don't get skin oils on the chassis!!! Don't let the chassis sit
too long, or it will tarnish. How long is too long, well I really
do not know.
Keep in mind that Flitz is a
mild abrasive, it will take the copper off of the steel if you let it
dry out while polishing, or polish too much.
The cleaned area is really shiny, so much so that
it looks strange, unless you do the whole chassis. There are ways to
make it look more like the rest of the chassis. The process is outline
in options below.
If you let the cleaned area "age" (tarnish) for a while, it will look
more like the rest of the chassis. In my pictures, I have a part
cleaned about a year ago that was not sealed with lacquer. The
part has tarnished into the correct "color". Flitz is a polish, so
the cleaned area will be more "mirror like". The tarnished area is
still mirror like. The tarnished area is color wise similar to the
original chassis color.
To make the cleaned area look more like the rest of the chassis, let it
tarnish on its own, it can take up to a year for color to match.
Now some may not like the shine of the spot even after tarnish.
That can be addressed if you desire with some 0 grade SYNTHETIC steel
wool. Synthetic is made of plastic. Do not use metal as it leaves
little conductive steel "hairs". Basically you want to
roughen up the area immediately after cleaning. Flitz is a polish
and shines with cleaning. After roughening, let the area tarnish on its
own. Over time, it will tarnish to a color that will match the
original chassis, at that time, seal with lacquer.
Please be aware that steel wool has a high
possibility of going through the copper plating.
Suggestion for your first attempt at
I suggest that you get a piece of copper PC board
to practice on before you try your Drake chassis. It would be really
good to do your testing on something far less precious then your Drakes.