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Refinishing old hardware...

Posted by nursekathleen (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 27, 10 at 13:41

My 1920's bungalow has mostly beautiful old woodwork trim, unpainted. LOVE it. However, misguided (sigh) PO's have painted some of it in two spare rooms.

Imagine the nasty language I have used about it in the past two months while stripping it all and restoring the old shellac finish ;)

Anyway, right now, I have taken the two old doors off their hinges. The original hardware is intact, but the finish of them is in rough shape. At first we thought they were brass, which had oxidized. Upon closer inspection, the finish seems to be an "antiqued" patina that isn't meant to come up shiny and new. However, PO's have slopped several coats of paint all over them as the rooms had been painted over the years. I tried scraping, the stuff's like concrete. I am wondering if I could soak them in paint stripper? I dearly want to keep the old hardware. At one point, they probably had keys to go with them, as there are keyholes (keys long gone of course!).

Any tips? Thanks in advance!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

No need for strippers. Get the hardware out and put them in a pot and boil with baking soda for a while (20min maybe less). The paint will soften and it will get off really easily. Then polish with a rag and you are done. If the brass is clean then if you use a brass cleaner it will come really shiny. If the brass is "lacquered" after boiling it will still retain the old look. Mine were mostly lacquered (or shellacked or stained antiqued or whatever they used in 1903) and boiling did not touch at all that finish. One plate that I wanted it shiny, after boiling I used an abrasive type of scrub to take the finish off and then polish. But for most of them I kept the old look.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

I do similar to what alexia rec but boil w/ammonia


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

If you use ammonia have windows open or you could end up with chemical pneumonia.It's as bad or worse than regular pneumonia as the chemical strips lining of your throat & took me far longer to recover from using something they don't make any more. Friend had used ammonia to clean walls of house to get smoke off them & she nearly died from chemical pneumonia, she didn't open windows as she worked as it was cold out & heat not on yet. Hope you get them clean!!


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

I have done this for years,let the old hardware soak in a coffee can of stripper overnight, wipe it down, polish with brasso.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

If you accidentally throw plated hardware in and boil it the outcome can be less than desirable.

MEK, lacquer thinner, and paint thinner will not harm metals.

A glass container is safer than a metal can for preventing corrosion.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

Another approach, if you have an understanding partner and a slow cooker is to add dishwasher detergent to enough water to cover the hardware by at least an inch to the cooker. replace the lid , turn on to high to bring it up to temp and then reduce the heat to low , leave overnight and then gently remove any residue, rinse and voila ! Oh, and make sure you really clean the cooker well so you can sleep in the house that night !


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

A glass container is safer than a metal can for preventing corrosion.


Very true!


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

Now how about de-gunking old porcelain doorknobs without breaking or crazing the porcelain or detaching it from the black iron stem? (It seems to be held together with some type of adhesive.) Various POs did not bother taking off the door hardware before painting and so the knobs are splodged here and there with paint of various colors, topped with a fine spray of cream paint (some people should not be allowed to get anywhere near paint sprayers - most recent PO sprayed the walls and moldings all the same color, with plenty of overspray onto windowpanes, ceiling, and other equally irritating areas). Regular paint thinner and Goof Off - not together! - didn't take off any paint but the porcelain's intact areas looked dull afterward.

Nursekathleen, if your doors take skeleton keys, most locksmiths carry them. Hardware stores sometimes have one kind (at the key-cutting area, on a hanging card) that may or may not fit. Or if the more readily available keys do not fit your locks, you could pop one of the lock units out of the door (much easier than it sounds) and visit an architectural salvage company. In my house one key fits all the old interior motise locks. :-) Very low priority for spending money on but eventually it would be fun to have a key for each door - I remember always having a key to each room on top of the door casing


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

You can put them in a crock pot in just plain water.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

I have a similar problem. I'm in a 1920 Arts & Crafts house with what seems to be solid brass knobs and backplates that are beautiful and in great shape except for years of dirt.I don't believe they are lacquered, but am not sure how to tell. How do I clean them? I remember reading about a boiling solution, but can't locate the thread. Any help would be appreciated.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

"You can put them in a crock pot in just plain water."

This depends greatly on what kind of paint is on the surface.

Latex is not hard to get off, but alkyd (oil) paints can have a tenacious hold even on a smooth surface.

For porcelain surfaces careful use of a single edge razor blade should remove just about anything.


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

I just discovered my knobs/hardware are lacquered and what I thought was grime is actually old lacquer with the beautiful brass showing where the lacquer is worn off. How do I get old lacquer off or do I need to take to a metal shop?

Also, please tell me if I'm being rude to post another question on someone else's thread or is it o.k. since it's on the same topic?


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

lacquer thinner will take it off, as will your nail polish remover, which is basically lacquer thinner


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

Christophern: I have at least 12 doors with this hardware. I'm talking knobs and backplates? If I put them in a container and soak with the laquer thinner does it matter what the container is made of? and can I leave them in too long and hurt the brass? Also, will I need to put any sealer on them when finished?
Thanks for your help!


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RE: Refinishing old hardware...

More questions. Are acetone and lacquer thinner the same thing? Would one work better than the other? Also, do I need to use new thinner/acetone for each bunch that I clean? Thanks!!


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