Everyone with an old bike and an internet connection knows about Menotomy Vintage Bicycles at OldRoads.com. Their discussion forums, serial number charts, photo database, and price guide (among many other terrific resources) are invaluable to people who are researching and restoring old bikes. They also sell a "Vintage Bicycle Cleaning Kit" for $21.95 (plus shipping) that is supposed to be the product of years of hands-on experience working on old bikes. The kit is composed of two "spoke sticks," a single pad of copper wool, and a bottle of "Menotomy Mixture," a special formula for cleaning rust, grime, etc. off your vintage bicycle. I've had my eye on the kit for a while now, but didn't figure I needed it until working on the Runwell's rear wheel, which is badly rusted, although I don't think it's structurally compromised.
I ordered the kit a little over a week ago, and it came today. I immediately went out and started working on the rear wheel, following the enclosed instructions, but it was shortly apparent that I had been had. The flimsy "spoke sticks" (so-called because they are supposedly specially designed to get between spokes) are oddly reminiscent of tongue depressors or popsicle sticks, and are actually quite inferior. The copper wool, which you can buy at any hardware store, was shredded and useless after about 30 minutes of work, and the special "Menotomy Mixture" appears to just be a light oil (I don't doubt that it's got other stuff in the "mix," but the results were the same as if I had used only light oil).
The kit did remove some of the surface rust from the rim, but did not give me the deep clean or shine I had been led to expect. What's more, my earlier foray into cleaning a small spot of the rear rim with rubbing compound and fine steel wool was actually more successful than anything I was able to accomplish with this kit. In some areas of the inner rim, the mixture and the copper wool did produce results, but again nothing different than I was able to accomplish with rubbing compound and steel wool.
Let me be clear: I am not criticizing the Menotomy kit for failing to shine-up my rim (which was, admittedly, a tall order), but rather taking Menotomy to task for representing their product as unique and specially designed for this kind of work, when in fact, ordinary products that are inexpensive and readily available produced better results for an equivalent amount of money.
If you're working on an old bike, you don't need this kit. Go to the hardware store and buy some fine steel wool, a bottle of light oil, some rubbing compound, and maybe a can of Brasso or Barkeeper's Friend. Oh, and some popsicles, at least you'll get to eat them before using the sticks. I'm sorry, Menotomy, I love you, but you done me wrong this time.