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How to dull brass

Q. I purchased a new cut crystal ceiling lamp with a highly polished brass rim. I want to dull the brass metal to a dark or aged tone. How do I get rid of the varnish that is on the lamp and what steps do I take to darken the metal?

Mary Ddeleted
- Lacey, Washington


A. Hi Mary. If the 'varnish' is brass lacquer it is removable with lacquer thinneramazoninfo. Then it can be darkened with Liver Of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Mister Art] (which is somewhat noxious stuff that you want to be careful with), or just left to slowly tarnish. Best of luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I need to know how to dull or age new brass plated hardware.

Peter Vdeleted
Retired - Atlanta, Texas


A. Hello Peter. Brass plated hardware is trickier because the brass plating is very thin and you may wear through it, and then the item will rust. What may work on solid brass may not be appropriate for plated brass. I don't think you will successfully "age" brass plated hardware. Maybe try a wax rub [linked by editor to Rub 'n' Buff product info at MisterArt]. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

 

Q. I have a lovely new range cooker for a 'show' kitchen. However, it has horrible shiny brass knobs and handles. I was expecting stainless steel or chrome. Could anyone advise me how to 'antique' these fittings or re-paint them. Would they take car spray paint or would a caustic soda solution dull them and how would it be best to apply the soda? any other ideas?

Jill Pdeleted
restoration and kitchen design - Via della Barca, Italy


A. Hi Jill. Getting paint to adhere to brass is problematical, but you can try a self-etching primer followed by the paint of your choice. You could also try a wax rub, or brass darkening solution.

A plating shop could certainly nickel or chrome plate them or you, if that remains your preference. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

 

Q. I RECENTLY PURCHASED BRASS HAND RAIL SUPPORT BRACKETS. THEY ARE A SOLID, SHINY BRIGHT BRASS AND I WANT TO DULL IT DOWN. ANY SUGGESTIONS ON WHAT I CAN USE TO DO THIS? I DO NOT WANT TO DARKEN IT TOO MUCH, JUST TAKE THE SHINY REFLECTIVE LOOK OFF.

THANK YOU.

DAVID Tdeleted
HOME OWNER - No. ATTLEBORO, Massachusetts


A. If you get the lacquer (or whatever clear coating is on them) off of them, David, they will tarnish by themselves very quickly (if they are indeed solid brass).

Readers: I'm not the "brass dulling expert"; I'm just the guy who runs the site. I try to answer if no one else does, so people's questions are not rudely ignored -- but please feel free to add your say.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

 

A. Note: if brass is varnished or lacquered you must remove the varnish or lacquer coating for this process to work.

1) Take a small plastic tub and fill 3/4 with common household ammonia.
2) Place pennies (copper) at the bottom of the tub, more is better. Leaving space for fittings (brass objects).
3) Place your brass fittings in the tub--not touching pennies. Cover.
4) Leave overnight--outdoors in a secure place--away from children or pets.
5) Your brass will darken from a little to a lot depending on how long you leave it in this solution.
6) Good luck.

Rebeca Mdeleted
- Nogales, Arizona


 

Q. I am currently like those mentioned above who are struggling with turning brass fixtures to more modern, antiqued-rustic looking fixtures. I have a huge, 3-tiered entry chandelier which I would love to look more rustic. I don't want to have to go through the trouble of having to take it down (it's 22+ feet up there!) or spending the $500+ to buy a new one...SO HELP IF YOU KNOW ANY SECRETS! THANKS!

Melissa Sdeleted
hobbyist - Algonquin, Illinois


A. Melissa, for that application you might want to try a wax rub. They are inexpensive and the brass is unlikely to get much wear up where people wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole :-) wax rub [linked by editor to Rub 'n' Buff product info at MisterArt]

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

 

Q. My table has a decorative brass sheet on the base. I would like to dull its finish. Is there a chemical or treatment I can apply to cause the brass to oxidize or dull quickly.

Thank you and I await your reply.

J Chua
designer - Makati City, Manila, Philippines


A. J,

Brass will dull and tarnish rapidly. The reason that isn't happening is probably because there is a clear protective coating on it: lacquer (which can be removed with Acetoneamazoninfo or lacquer thinneramazoninfo or something more durable which can probably be removed with methylene chloride based Aircraft stripperamazoninfo. The methylene chloride is really nasty stuff, to be used only outside, with protective glovesamazoninfo and gogglesamazoninfo, and only after other stuff doesn't work.

But you need to be aware that everything that looks something like brass may not be brass. Some lamps and other stuff are nickel plated then coated with a brass-toned lacquer. If you remove the lacquer, you remove the brass color.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

----
Ed. note, Feb. 24, 2012: Per www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/02/24/bathtub-refinishing-deaths.html
"Methylene chloride ... has been linked to the deaths of 13 workers refinishing bathtubs in the United States...
To use products containing methylene chloride safely, work areas must be well-ventilated, and when levels of methylene chloride exceed recommended exposure limits, workers must use protective equipment ...
The finding has prompted the CDC to warn ... public health agencies, manufacturers and trade groups to 'communicate the extreme hazards' of the use of the chemical -- also known as dichloromethane -- to employers, workers and the public."


 

Q. Copper acid wash? I am a new homeowner. We installed copper valances in our kitchen that are too bright. Can anyone recommend a product that acid washes copper to look more like oil rubbed bronze/more aged? We are not looking for a verdigris patina, just a more aged, oil-rubbed bronze look. Thanks..

Judy Kdeleted
designer - Truckee, California


++++++

Q. We built a log home in 1993 and installed $6000 worth of shiny brass bath fixtures. I now hate the shiny finish as it is dating the house. My problem is that we purchased high quality fixtures and I cannot afford to replace them. Is there a way that I can refinish these to be dull or antiqued that will work?
thanks

Ann Mdeleted
hobbyist - Spencer, Indiana


++++++

A. I discovered a product for darkening brass and giving it an aged look. It is simply called Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler].

Victoria Fdeleted
- Asheville, North Carolina


+++++++

Q. I am trying to finish a golden brass bowl which I will convert into a sink. I need a solution with which I can make the brass bowl into an aged brown-patina. It will also be in water. Any solutions? No one in town plates this anymore. Is there anywhere I can send it to be plated? It is not lacquered. I have been trying to leave it outside to the elements to age but it's just starting to show signs of rust. HELP! Any leads would be useful. Thanks.

Shyamala Adeleted
hobbyist - Baton Rouge, Louisiana


A. Brass cannot rust, Shyamala -- only ferrous metals like cast iron, steel, and stainless steel can rust. So if it is rusting it is not brass; it is probably brass plating over steel. If it is brass plated steel it will be unsatisfactory as a sink anyway. Check it with a magnet (steel is magnetic, brass isn't). Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

+++++++

A. I just tried this on a shiny brass doorknob and it worked great. Spray brass with Easy Off Oven Cleaner and leave on for 24 hours. Rinse well with water. Dry and then spray and shine with WD-40amazoninfo. A friend of mine told me about this. Hope it works for you.

Dena Mdeleted
- Texas


+++++++

Q. Are there any techniques to darken plated brass that is on top of steel?

Frank Cornwal
hobbyist - Wilmington, Delaware


+++++++

A. The problem is simply the impossibility of giving any assurance that it will work well, Frank. The liver of sulphur and brass darkening solutions are applicable to brass whether it be cast or plated. But if the plating is thin or porous then the solution is also acting on the underlying steel or nickel. The answer may be that if the item doesn't satisfy you the way it is, try darkening it, knowing that you may then decide to either throw it away or send it to a plating shop for refinishing.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 23, 2008

Can you tell me how to darken brass plated doorknobs? I'm willing to take the loss if I don't like it. I just wanted to darken as much as I can with household ingredients if possible.

Sean

Sean Watson
- Pittsburgh Mills, Pennsylvania


December 9, 2008

Hi, Sean. If you have removed any lacquer or clear coat, you can put the knob in a large zip lock bag with crushed hard boiled eggs, a good source of sulfur. This hint was first proposed by our reader James Watts.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 7, 2009

Q. Hello,

I have read the previous replies regarding brass chandeliers but am still unsure about the following:

How much of the Brass Darkening solution is required for darkening the brass of a medium sized (about 14" x 20") fixture.

Please also advise how one can achieve good results with a chandelier, since it can't be dipped in the solution.

Thank you in advance,

Vivian

Vivian Tengberg
- Göteborg, Sweden


June 25, 2009

A. To darken brass, you must first strip any varnish on it.

Surprisingly, one of the most commonly available household chemicals you can use to darken brass is Palmolive Dishwashing liquid. Look at the label and see if it contains sodium bisulphite and other sulphur derivatives. These are very similar to the chemicals in Liver of Sulphur.

Apply the dishwashing liquid with very little water to the bare brass and keep rubbing till you get the colour you want. This will take only a few minutes. When you get the colour you want, wash off the dish washing liquid.

Hong Lim
- Avondale, Arizona


August 23, 2009appended

Q. I recently purchased a solid brass lantern style light fixture for my home. It has a shiny brass finish. I would like to oxidize the brass to attain an aged (almost black) appearance. I've throughly searched the web for ways to achieve this finish. There are many methods that will seemingly work. But most, if not all, are geared to oxidizing small objects, like jewelry, that can be submerged. None that I have found specifically refer to a lighting fixture that is too large to submerge. And I do not want to rewire the thing if not absolutely necessary.

I understand the first step to oxidizing brass is to make sure any lacquered finish is removed. Suggestions on this process are also welcome. The lighting fixture does have a few places with a fairly intricate design. Though I don't mind expending a bit of elbow grease, I would LOVE to avoid scraping lacquer out of these crevices with a dental pick.

I know you're thinking "why not just buy a light with the finish you want?". I've heard that one from my dear husband. My answer to that question is: I simply could not afford this light at full price. I lucked up and found it at a clearance center... I'm thinking it was a customer return. Or the retailer could not sell it because shiny brass is out of style.

Thank you! Margaret

Margaret Headley
interior decorator - Newnan, Georgia


August 24, 2009

Q. I have a 13 year old fireplace insert with shiny brass edging. While at a fireplace shop I shaw a oxidized brass sample. It looked antiqued and dark and I loved it! Can I take my existing glass doors and and put something on the brass to "oxidize" it?
Thanks,
Nancy

Nancy Mayo
- Kansas City, Missouri


August 23, 2010

thumbsup2Okay, folks, I have read all of this and today, I will start attacking my brass hinges and kitchen knobs. (Wanted a stainless steel finish, but that color looks bad with the wood color, believe it or not. We need some sort of darker brown/bronze/black, and I'd like to save money, so transforming solid brass knobs seems like a good idea!)

Besides wiping acetone on the brass object to remove the possible lacquer, I haven't seen an easier method.

I will then use the ammonia bath to darken (outside, well-ventilated, wearing rubber gloves and eye protection.)

Wish me luck, give me any hints you have, and I'll post the results...even with pictures, if I can manage! :)

Lori Putnam
- Flower Mound, Texas, USA


September 19, 2010

Q. I have a bathroom full of shiny brass that would be extremely costly to replace; including a large soaking tub with brass jets, faucets, toilet handle, shower, etc. (circa 1995). Do the techniques described for dulling brass fixtures apply to these items as well?
Thanks

Dana Hunter
homeowner - West Caldwell, New Jersey, USA

June 4, 2011

A. For all those that think finding some of the mentioned chemicals is hard, fear not; your cat produces most of them every time it goes to the litter tray -- cheap and convenient

Ross Dootson
- England

June 10, 2012

Q. My fireplace doors have a solid brass perimeter that is shiny and is lacquered and that we wanted to return to natural brass that would darken. I carefully brushed on acetone using a plastic scrubby to remove the lacquer as best as possible in hopes the dulling, darker tone of the brass would begin to appear. In order to remove the residue left by the acetone, I did rub Nevr-Dull polish on the brass to clean the brass. It has been 3 weeks and although the high shine is reduced, the tone of the brass is the same. Any next steps that I can take in order to get these doors to a more antique or natural finish that will oxidize would be welcomed.

Thank you

Bill Bellano
- Springfield, Pennsylvania, USA


August 11, 2012

A. Years ago I found an article on how to age new brass and tried it and it worked great! From a sporting goods place, buy some Birchwood Casey instant cold Blueing for guns and rub it on the brass well. The more you use and rub, the darker the brass gets. Then neutralize the chemical with water. I used it on a new brass framed rifle and it looks a hundred years old!!

jesse fox
- cody wyoming usa

Birchwood-Casey Gun Bluing


June 8, 2014

Q. Hi. Just wondering, after dulling my brass, do I re-lacquer to reinstate the protection that was removed in step one during this process? If I don't, will it not tarnish and turn colors? thank you

karen gionet
- santa monica California usa


June 2014

A. Hi Karen. Yes, brass tarnishes if not lacquered.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Brass Lacquer

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