Many headstones and historical plaques are made of bronze because of the metal's durability and traditional look. If bronze headstones are not maintained, however, they can become discolored over the years, making them difficult to read. Especially when the headstone lies horizontally on the ground, it can soon look old, weathered and neglected. When deciding whether or not you want to take on the job of refinishing a bronze headstone, consider the time investment, which is minimal, and whether or not you can maintain it at appropriate intervals.
Especially when bronze headstones lay horizontally on the ground, water pools on them and eventually deteriorates the writing and design. Falling debris, such as foliage and wood, may also cause chemical reactions with the bronze that compromises the headstone's integrity. For maximum preservation, shield the bronze headstone from water and falling debris as much as possible. When environmental damage is already done, headstone refinishing is recommended.
Do It Yourself?
For most bronze headstones, a simple cleaning and application of paste wax will accomplish the refinishing job. A rotary tool with polishing accessories allows you to polish into deep engravings. If you don't feel up to doing the job, there are professionals who will do the job for you. However, cleaning and applying paste wax to a bronze headstone is a job you can do in an hour or two for very little money, so if you have the time, give it a try. You may find the work very satisfying.
Water and mild biodegradable soap are two of the most important supplies needed for refinishing bronze headstones. Use biodegradable soap because you don't want to disturb or harm the plants around the headstone. To bring back the original shine to the headstone and protect it from further deterioration, apply paste wax to the headstone. The paste wax is clear, so it won't discolor the headstone, but it will deflect water and prevent chemical reactions with the bronze.
Regular care and maintenance will ensure that bronze headstones remain in good condition. Metal care experts such as Walker Metalsmith recommend that bronze headstones be cleaned and waxed every six months. A new application of wax every six months will ensure that water and other environmental factors don't compromise the bronze.