18th Century Living History

To Clean the Brass of your Arms

In Research on September 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Last week we looked at the idea of cleasiness in the British army in the mid-18th century. Having concluded a soldier did indeed attempt to clean his accoutrements and uniform on home service and large periods of inactivity. We will take a look at how a soldier cleaned himself and his uniform and accoutrements.

A useful books called the “Private soldier’s and militia man’s friend” by Henry Trenchard provides us with much information about this was achieved. A soldier would clean his brasses and buttons using a mixture of “whiting or rottenstone, mixed with spirits” (1786:20) this would in turn be rubbed with leather until clean.

Private Walsh clean his musket using a mixture of oil, brick dust and an emery cloth.

The stock of his musket was also to be waxed and any “the scratches, dents, holes, &c. should be filled with beeswax” (1786:20). The cost of the whiten ammounted to 2 1/2 d per year for the private soldier according to our un-named soldier of the 68th (175).

As side his musket barrel, brasses and buttons. A soldier also had is other accoutrements in the form of belts holding his sword and cartridge box. These were coloured ochre, these was attained by mixing water, pipeclay and ochre to form a mixture which was firstly brushed and then sponged onto the belts. This occurred around once very month, the colour was maintained by rubbing with a ‘ochre ball’ a mixture of ochre pigment, water and pipeclay dried into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27).

To maintain his firelock he carried worms, keys, pickers and brushes the combination of which cost another 3d from his meagre wages (unknown:175).

Finally he would polish his cartridge box and shoes, this he achieved using black balls, a mixture of wax and lamp black formed into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27). Again shoes and cartridge boxes could be rubbed with balls or melted down and rubbed onto his black accoutrements. The cost of black ball alone amounted 2s 6d a year for the private soldier.

Finally his jacket and hat would be brushed. A soldier carried around 3 brushes, one for his clothing and two for his shoes. The shoe brushes cost another 6d from his wages in way of nessecaries (Unknown:175).

We have seen the business of looking clean and soldier like was an expensive, next week we will have a look at the 18th century monetary system and cost of living.

  1. Excellent. I have added a new forum to our site for UK groups & links, & have posted your blog address there, as well as posting it in the resource forum.
    Regards, Keith.

  2. Great work fellas! I have been doing F&I for about 20 years now with these two fine units:



    Cheers and please join our pages so we can help each other out!
    Pvt. Fielding

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your comments, I’ve joined you on facebook. Look very good chaps, I think I’ve seen some of your videos on youtube! Also the Fort looks fantastic, we’d don’t really have anything for our period akin to that in the U.K.

      All the best,


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