Taking Care of Your Puzzles

About Brass

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. The proportions can vary to achieve different mechanical properties. It has relatively low friction, and is reasonably resistant to corrosion which makes it an ideal material for puzzles.   If you take care of your puzzles they will give many years of enjoyment.

Machined vs "natural" finish (or unfinished)

The Monkeys Nuts being made

All our puzzles are machined from solid stock.  In most instances all surfaces of the puzzle are machined, for example Brass Monkey One, Two and Three. In some instance the original stock finish remains exposed, for example the outer hex sides of "The Monkey's Nuts!"  and the Nova Plexus.  In both cases there may be minor machining and casting marks.   We will always seek to minimise these marks but deliberately do not seek to remove them by sanding or tumbling parts. Our puzzles are designed to be played with and value a well toleranced puzzle over a shiny, smooth puzzle. We strive for both but the former is a slightly higher goal.

Avoid scratches, dent and dinks

The brass we use is relatively soft. If you fumble your puzzle, or spontaneously disassemble it over a hard surface such as concrete there is a good chance it could be dented or scratched. Don't drop your puzzle or puzzle pieces from a great height. If you do try and catch them!

Removing scratches and dents

If you do scratch, dent or dink your puzzle. First decide if it adds "character" to your puzzle and you like it. Next see if it will polish or buff out (see below). Finally if you want to try to remove it, first check that you won't substantially changing tolerances. Use 600 grade wet and dry to sand it out. Then use Scotch Brite (green scouring pads) until you have the desired finish.

Handling your puzzle

Finger prints are made from sweat. And sweat is made from fats, oils, salts and amino acids.  Contact with all of these can lead to brass becoming tarnished.  To absolutely protect your puzzles, wearing cotton, nitrile or latex gloves is the ultimate protection. For the risk takers and mavericks who buy our puzzles we'd recommend a good wipe with a lint free cloth after periods of prolonged play.  Some things can be overdone.   For those of you who are running a museum or treat your puzzles as display items put those gloves on!

We don't lacquer our puzzles

Lacquer is similar to varnish. It can be applied to brass and provides a clear protective coating. We don't use lacquer on our puzzles for a number of reasons. Firstly the appearance of lacquered brass doesn't appeal to us. Secondly lacquer can become scratched or damaged when moving parts are involved. Finally tarnishing can actually be harder to deal with. If the lacquer splits or gets holed, tarnishing will start at the hole and spread under the lacquer. As it's under the lacquer it can't be polished out without first chemically removing all of the lacquer.  Our only exception to this is a few HoKey CoKey locks where the "donor" locks came pre-lacquered.

Cleaning your puzzle

Tomatoes on the vine

Brasso will clean your puzzle. However if you don't have brasso you can improvise and use tomato ketchup to remove tarnishing (yes really). Apply ketchup or tomato paste over your puzzle. Leave for an hour. And then wash with warm water and a little soap. Leave the puzzle to dry before polishing.


Polishing your brass puzzles can really make them pop. The Nova Plexus with it's raw stock rods shows the striking visual difference polishing can make. About an hour of buffing can transform the appearance of this puzzle.

Nova Plexus - Polished and unpolished side by side

First make sure your puzzles is disassembled and the pieces are clean.  Almost any household brass polish is fine.  Our preference is Brasso "Metal Polish Wadding".  Apply the polish. Then buff. Buff as if your life depended on it. Then buff some more. A lint free cloth is best and cotton/nitrile gloves (see handling above).   


Renaissance Wax

Having lovingly cleaned and polished your puzzle, a very light application of microcrystalline paste wax will help protect it from airborne pollutants. We recommend Renaissance Wax, originally developed in the British Museum to protect their artefacts.   A tiny amount applied with a clean, soft, cloth and subsequently buffed with silk or nylon stockings will help protect your puzzle. Puzzles should be fully disassembled before waxing and complete coverage is the goal.