Rust Never Sleeps. No, Really.


Neil Young said it: “Rust never sleeps.” Vintage gear attracts rust like nobody’s business. Okay, I’ll admit to being a tad obsessive at times. At times. Some things bother me, others don’t. I’ll sometimes spend inordinate time looking for answers to trivial problems. But this time the answer came to me without any significant searching. I recently bought a ’66 Gibson GA-45RVT Saturn amp in a fit of nostalgia, and you can go over here to see about that particular fit of nostalgia. I spent a reasonable amount of time cleaning it up to look as good as possible and got great results except in one very obvious place. The logo badge on the front is held in place by two stainless steel screws. The heads of those two screws had darkened and slightly rusted in the intervening fifty-three years and I couldn’t figure out how to clean them. It bugged me.

Before: Note the rusty screws

I thought about just buying a new pair of screws but new ones would gleam brightly and that would both remove all of the patina and look out of place with the age of this amp. Then when I was investigating a modification for the amp on a YouTube video, the author, an amp tech, mentioned his method for cleaning up metal parts. He said to take a piece of aluminum foil and rub the tarnished item by hand. I really didn’t believe it would work, but what did I have to lose? Because aluminum is far softer than stainless steel, I figured it couldn’t even scratch the screw heads. I backed one out and rubbed it with a piece of regular old non-name brand kitchen foil. At first it didn’t look like much was happening but the more I rubbed, the better things looked. Eventually I was able to get the two screws looking like I wanted them to - not too bright, just right.

After: Much better!

That sparked another experiment. The knob inserts on the old amp had some rust as well. Rubbing with the foil lightened that. How about the screws on my old Les Paul that have darkened as well? The trick worked great there as well!

Soooo… Don’t discount these folksy fixes, folks. Some of them really work! This one foils rust, quite literally.