Cleaning Value Grading Hanging Storage
ABA Journal Article
on the Trayman
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Tools of the Tray Cleaning Trade
 How you clean a tray depends on its condition at the start of the process.
 Clean, with No Real Issues
A few tools of the tray cleaning trade.
The Trayman’s recommendation is to slap a coat of non-yellowing Car Wax on it. This will bring out the luster and provide some moisture protection to ward off humidity. The Trayman’s personal choice for a non-yellowing Car Wax is Nu-Finish liquid. Nu-Finish can be purchased in just about any K-mart, Walmart, Walgreens or Auto Parts store at a reasonable price. While you are buying the Nu-Finish, the Trayman recommends the terry cloth applicators and soft flannel polishing cloths.
Nothing special about the application technique, just spread it on evenly with a clean applicator, let it dry and polish with a clean flannel rag. Paste wax works too, but the liquid is a little easier to apply evenly. Parting words on a clean beer tray with no issues - treat it pretty much the same way you would a new car. Clean applicators, rags and a good non-yellowing Car Wax.
Dirty, with No Real Issues
The Trayman’s recommendation is to remove whatever substance is on the tray carefully. If the paint is in good shape then the cleaning process is pretty easy. A damp cloth usually works, but can scratch if there are large particles or debris. You may want to clean with a mild dish washing detergent and water or Windex if it is a little more stubborn. On occasion you have to go to 409, however be careful as this can damage a tray if you are too aggressive or you let it sit too long. If you wash with soap and water, make sure you dry it thoroughly, especially where the lip is folded over on the edge of the tray.
If it has a label or label residue, then Goo-Gone is what you need. Liberally soak the label with Goo-Gone, let it sit for a while, wipe or rub gently with a paper towel and it should come off. If the label is intact, make sure the Goo-Gone thoroughly soaks it. Typically the white label will turn a grayish color when it is ready. If you peel off the label, you are at risk of pealing paint too. If it is a 1950’s Hamm’s Bear Tray with good paint, you might try peeling it off. If it a pre-pro beauty you just spent several hundred dollars on, I would definitely go the Goo-Gone route. If the label or glue has been on there for 20 odd years, you may have to settle with what you have.
If it has any tar like substances or marks on it, the Trayman reaches for the Goo-Gone once again. Goo-gone is a great solvent and can be purchased at all of the same places you can purchase your other Tray cleaning materials. On occasion, the Trayman has cleaned the entire face of a tray with Goo-gone and been quite surprised what has been removed. Remember to rub gently, sometimes just with your fingertips.
Clean the tray first as recommended above. Then it all depends on how deep the scratches are as to how they might clean up. If they a minor in nature, often the protective waxing, with the non-yellowing Car Wax will do the trick. The next step up in scratch reduction is a great new product by Turtle Wax. It is there special Car Wax for scratches and swirls called Turtle Wax Scratch and Swirl Remover. It must have some extra silicon in it or something.
If the colors are primary colors and you are not the purest, you can use a Sharpie permanent marker to fill in scratches. Recommend you do any touch ups prior to waxing, as the waxing will help with any over touch up or smears. A purest will say you devalued the tray by touching it up. So it is your call - is this tray an investment or something to look cool on your game room wall? The Trayman’s rule of thumb is: If it is pre-pro, leave it alone and tell your friends a little maring adds character. If it is a favorite you want to enjoy, carefully, touch it up and never pass it off as not having been touched up.
Restoration by a professional artist is another option, however this typically gets very expensive. Sorry, the Trayman has never ventured into the restoration area and has no contacts.
Dull Finish
First thing to try is cleaning and waxing. If this does not work, you might try a mild rubbing compound. Don't rub too deep or you will have a real problem on your hand, called no paint. The Trayman has also heard rubbing a bit of linseed oil on the tray can bring back a bit of its lost luster. Others have tried, clear coating trays with various finishes, with varying results. When a brush is used with a clear coat finish, it invariably leave brush strokes in the finish. If a spray is used, it can leave uneven spots, drips, runs and pocking or orange peel effect. Clear coating is not recommended for any tray of value. If it is on its last gasp you might try clear coat, however very few of these experiments work out to the owner's satisfaction. The Trayman has only tried it once on a tray which was close to having some lifting paint. It worked pretty well, however it was certainly a last resort.
Humidity Marks or Crazing
Not much you can do here except try to keep them from getting to this condition in the first place. If they are already there, keeping them waxed and in a low humidity environment can certainly help keep them from getting worse or possibly slow down the process.
The worst situation you can have for a tray, by far. Unless it is only the lightest of surface rust, you are pretty much stuck with what you have. You can clean it up a bit and keep it from rusting further, however if it has rust, lifted paint or has left a pit mark, then that is pretty much it. You can certainly clean up the rest of the tray and it will most likely look a lot better. Getting too aggressive in trying to remove the rust can leave the tray looking worse than it did when you started. I have several very nice trays with some rust scars, which still look and display great. If you are daring you might try a mild rubbing compound to remove rust, however you must be very careful or you will rub off a lot of paint. You can also try WD-40 or a little liquid wrench to remove light rust. More than likely a scar will be left behind.
 There are some products which can be used to remove rust from getting any worse - Naval Jelly being the most common, however they leave a black spot behind, can damage paint and can be harmful to your skin.
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