Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing.
Taking an antique brass bed apart
Q. We found an old brass bed and would like to restore it. There doesn't seem to be any way to get it apart. On the headboard and foot board, there is a center section that must have been assembled first and then added to the main structure of two vertical bars and two horizontal bars. There doesn't appear to be any bolts on the outside. It wasn't welded anywhere. How did they put it together and how to you get it apart. It would be much easier to clean and refinish it is was in pieces. It is also a "puzzle". Any suggestions.
I hope someone who was also refinishing old brass beds might have run across the same kind of problem. We need to refinish it, but can't get it apart. The head and foot boards are too large to soak in anything we have at the house. We have to get it apart.
There appears to be small levers inside the main posts at the top and the bottom which attach to the main horizontal bars. They are about 10 inches down and cannot not be reached by any tool I have. The pieces are not welded or glued. The whole head board and foot board almost strike you as a puzzle. If I were to get it apart with damaging the metal, I don't think I could get it back together.
By reading the other letters, I know we can get it cleaned up if we can get it apart.Susan Burnett
- Glendale, California
A. Have you just tried unscrewing the pieces from each other? The fitting itself may be the screw into another part. Any chance of contacting the previous owner for advice. Any info about who or what company made the bed - they may have assembly/disassembly advice. Sounds like a job for a good furniture detective.Dan Brewer
chemical process supplier - Gurnee, Illinois
A. Why break it apart when you can clean it fully assembled? Contact me for directions.Bill Coffie
Q. We have recently come into possession of a brass bed that has been very badly weather-damaged. The posts were brass electroplated and the end, connecting pieces are solid brass. What is the best way to remove the damaged electroplating if you want to do this at home? We don't want to damage the solid brass pieces, but we don't know how to take the bed apart. There are no welds, but it is almost a puzzle on how they put it together in the first place. Any suggestions?Susan Burnett (returning)
- Glendale, California
Q. I have a bed identical to the one in the picture. I also thought of taking it apart but it looks like a lot of trouble. Mine is tarnished, badly. We have tried Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] but this takes a LOT of time. Is there another solution that will clean it faster?Shane Brown
- Henderson, Tennessee
A. I have a Brass Spool Bed, it is solid brass, I had good luck using Tarn-X [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] For Brass & Copper Then Using Brasso to follow up & polish. The company specifically recommends against using its cleaner on brass plate.. After cleaning the whole bed in pieces then reassembling I applied a coat of clear Polyurethane. I obtained enough Tarnex to immerse small pieces for a short time then rub with a soft cloth before washing with clear water. Larger parts were washed using a cloth soaked in the solution then washing with clear water. Before starting on your bed test the solution in an inconspicuous place to see if this works with no ill effects.Jim Corley
- Smyrna, Tennessee
Q. We have a brass bed that we have taken apart, cleaned and put back together (well, most of it). This brings us to our dilemma. The bed is antique...probably about 60-70+ years old. The bed rails are iron (headboard & foot board rails are attached across bottom of each end) and the side rails fit into a slot at each corner of the bed. The problem is: the "L" shaped rails at the headboard and foot board are upside down when you have the slots upright for the side rails, which should be "L" shaped so the box springs will fit in. This makes the space approximately 1.5" too short header to footer. So...If you turn the headboard and foot board rails around to face the "L" up, then the side rails are inserted from the bottom up with no way to hold them in, but the "L's" all look correct and the box springs will fit in the space properly. If you face the side rails flat like the headboard and foot board rails in the first scenario, then the box springs will sit flat on all the rails but the mattresses could possibly slide off as there's no support. Please help. My husband and I have put 3+ hours into the thought process of how this is supposed to work, bolting, fitting, unbolting, etc., and we would like to get the bed put together properly. Has anyone ever heard of this problem or how it's really supposed to be assembled?
- Tualatin, Oregon
A. The rails are fitting the way they were supposed to back when the bed was first produced. The old coil type springs had a lip that sat inside the rails just the way they are even though they seem upside down to us now. We just brought my grandparents old brass bed home over the holidays for my daughter to use and my mother told me all about it. She suggested that we get wood for slats and nail or glue a 'chuck' piece inside each slat just inside the rail on each end to keep the slat from shifting before placing the box spring on top. Hope this helps.Kathy Daugherty
- Sale Creek, Tennessee
November 27, 2009
You are right about the rails being upside down. I used three six inch pieces of steel and short carriage bolts to make stops to keep the box on the frame. clean with Naval Jelly [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] in a small spot and rinse well. If it doesn't hurt the patina you're looking for; do the whole bed assembled. rinse well, dry, spray with a clear lacquer to keep it that way =>tim stinski
- appleton, Wisconsin
A. I have problems with my hand and hand strength so rubbing our antique bed was too much for me. I'm using a Black and Decker Scumbuster [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and it works GREAT. Bed should be solid brass though, not plated.R. Ciocca
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 16, 2008
Q. I have the same bed that is being discussed regarding the springs. There was originally a flat spring that fit over the L rail of the bed. The springs had a frame of L rail that fit over the existing rail. I remember seeing it at my mother's home but do not know where it is now. I am trying to locate a spring.R. Cooggins
- Sanford, Michigan
June 12, 2009
Q. Does anyone know where we can buy new slats for an existing single brass bed. The metal runners which run between the head board and base have no pre-drilled holes and I am wondering how a mattress can sit on these?Anastasia Male
hobbyist - U.K.
A. Hi, Anastasia. I don't know what your runners look like. but if they are angle iron rather than brass tubing, you simply run three or four 3/4 x 6 wood slats across them.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 27, 2009
A. Some old brass beds, like the one I used to have, are not bolted together but held together via a peg on the end of the side mattress supports that goes into a slot near the bottom of the headboard and footboard.
One decent way to clean brass is with McLean's toothpaste, works better than Brasso or anything else I've ever used. Dry thoroughly afterwards.
You can also use jewelry cleaner, it does a remarkable job.
- Aiyansh, BC, Canada
A. Your dilemma is a common one. And I solved mine by dis-assembling the bed and creating mandrels to allow me to spin the tubes in my drill press. Granted, this sounds rather bizarre but think about it...all you have to do is spin the tube and hold your Brasso-soaked cloth around it. The drill press does all the work! By turning the drill head around backwards and placing the press on an elevated surface to allow for the longer/horizontal to be suspended I was able to clean my king-size in four evenings and I attained a #10 finish. My capitols are identical to yours and we may have the same mfr. A gizmo inside the tubes called a "spider" is the "nut" that screws thread into. It is a spring steel grappling hook. See ya!!!James A. Brown, Jr.
retired - Charlotte, North Carolina
September 17, 2011
A. I have one of these antique beds. I think it was made by Kimball and Chappell based in Chicago in 1910. The bed rails have the same fitting ... cone shaped. I also wondered if they were upside down. I had slats cut for me the width of the frame and then I screwed L-shaped braces to them that hung over the edge of the rails.
Re cleaning, I used 1-tsp salt to 1/2 cup of white vinegar solution to cut the worst of the tarnish away. I rinsed it quickly and dried it and followed up with Noxon metal cleaner (green bottle). I used a Dremel rotary tool with brass brushes to remove corrosion and followed with rubbing Noxon on to smooth it out. Looks great.
- Charleston, West Virginia USA
April 3, 2012
Q. I just took an antique brass bed out of storage after 35 years. All the brass parts are there but loosely joined. I see that the horizontal and vertical tubes are held together by threaded rods about 1/4 inch in diameter that are threaded into a fitting that sits in the end of each "tube". What is the proper name for these little buggers? They are like eared washers in which the ears fit into slots in the tube. Then rods are threaded into the hole in the center and protrude enough to fit into matching holes in the corresponding horizontal or vertical tube. Do these eared washers have a name? Are they standard parts in brass beds. I am missing about 4 of them. Do I have to have them machined or are they available somewhere? It appears that the whole headboard and the whole footboard are puzzles held together by screws that hold the two main globes at the intersection of the main horizontal and vertical tubes. Sound familiar? I want to get this thing back together and put it on the market. It was a bed from my first marriage and the new wife isn't thrilled about using it, even though it's been cooling off since 1977.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, US
October 8, 2012
Q. How do I tighten a spindle that has become loose at the top of the headboard. Brass Bed.Tami Cumming
- carmel, California usa
October 24, 2012
Q. I have an antique brass bed that I have taken apart to clean. The problem IS getting it back together, like the previous writer I have most of the parts but not sure how to get those washers into the middle of the long side posts.
I used Brasso to clean and it turned out wonderfully. You have to shake those cans for a really long time, until it comes out more as a paste than an oily liquid. I put a coat on and let it dry and then began to buff it out. When you are done cleaning put on a coat of car wax. I was told by an antique dealer that that is the best way to keep the finish and slow the tarnish. I would not suggest using a spray coat of varnish.
Still trying to find picture instructions on how to put it back together.
- Ukiah, California, USA