I'd like to hear some points of view on when is it appropriate to clean off
"crud" vs. "over-cleaning", which removes the "patina"
Case in point is a wooden machinist chest which is going to need some TLC
because somebody pried open every one of the individual drawer locks. There are crude steel plates covering the key holes. In
other words, it's already wrecked to the point where it will never be a display
piece, but rather a user.
It's got a grimy mess on the outside - one's fingers get blackened from handling
it. When I brushed it off, the bristles of the brush got dirty. This did remove
a lot of grinding wheel dust and fine metal shavings, though.
My intent is to first give it a wipe-down with mineral spirits on paper wiping
towels. I can't imagine that the oily mess has NOT stained the wood.
After a couple of wipe-downs, I expect the wood will still be deeply oil-
stained. I think that's as far as I will take it.
The next step might be a trip to the furniture refinisher's lye tank, to
saponify any remaining surface oil, but I think I'm not going that far.
I don't think I'm hurting anything when generally brush off any loose crud on an
old tool. Cleaning with mineral spirits, trying it on an inconspicuous part
first, doesn't strike me as vandalism either.
In snowy Metuchen, NJ.