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How to paint brass beds, lamps, and fireplace doors

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Q. I am building a house and a friend of the family is remodeling hers and she gave me her old Brass light fixtures. I would like to spray paint them and put them in the hall and closets. How do I go about that so the paint will last?

Amy Wdeleted
- Griffin, Georgia


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Q. I too am curious how to properly paint brass. I have an old brass bed that was mine as a teenager and want to use it when my now 1 year old is ready for a bed. However, it is badly tarnished from being in my mother's garage and although I've cleaned it, it still doesn't look the best and brass with a small child won't stay clean anyway. I'd like to paint it with a pewter finish but I want to make sure I do it right and that the paint stays. Can you help?

Christy Mdeleted
- Duluth, Georgia


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A. To the above folks in regard to finishing brass: For a project as large as a bed/bedframe, it might be advisable to take this to an auto body shop or commercial spray/powder refinisher. These objects are simply too large to obtain an attractive, durable finish at home. Most people wouldn't attempt to paint a large automobile part at home due to the equipment and hazardous materials required. I think you will be very pleased at how a paint shop will make your project look. Remember to give it reasonable care when transporting - even special, professionally applied finishes like epoxies and Polyurethanes may be soft and easily damaged for some time until they are cured rock-hard.

Smaller projects like the light fixtures might be appropriate home projects with pleasing results. First, is your project REALLY brass? Many products with an "antique" brass finish are actually coated steel. Test for steel with a magnet - it may look a "rusty" brown. To recoat with a durable finish for indoor use, these projects can be treated like any other indoor refinish, most easily with common "rattle can" paints at minimum cost. Always clean your work with a detergent of some kind - remove dirt and obvious corrosion. Surface prep including removal of corrosion and lightly sanding and scuffing the intact finish will pay dividends in the final product. Use a compatible primer before the color coat, following manufacturers directions and try to cover all aspects of your project top, bottom, sides with both coatings. Plan the order of your painting with the most visible side being painted last.

Finally, consider applying a compatible clearcoat over the color, spraying the most visible side (bottom of object for overhead light fixtures) last to avoid any "stick" marks from your project's resting spots, which you can minimize by using clean cardboard or newspaper. Finally, minimize handling the object until these sprayed coatings are dry and hard, which might be up to a few days.

Mark Perhot
Human Being Gallery Intl - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia



+++appended

Q. Does anyone know HOW TO paint plated brass? I have the opportunity to purchase a beautiful full size bed for only $15.00, but the finish has been damaged, probably by someone using brass cleaner on it. I hope someone can help!

Thanks,

Linda Rdeleted
- Pikeville, North Carolina


Thank you, Mark!

Linda, the other people here were talking here about painting a brass bed -- not about replating the brass. It isn't clear to me if you want to restore your bed to look like brass, but if you do, that would be a bit different because it must be replated. Brass electroplating is a job for a plating shop, not something you can do yourself.

If you just want to paint it, whether with a paint of a brassy tone or another color, Mark's advise it that it will probably be too big for you to be happy with; but he offers good advice should you decide to do it anyway. Compatible primers are usually "self-etching". Good luck.

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


July 3, 2008

!! Yes, you CAN plate brass yourself. I have done it. Go to a 'hobby plating' site and there are kits you can purchase for doing this. It is tedious but can be done.

Linda Rich
- Apache Junction, Arizona


July 2008

thumbsup2Thanks, Linda from Apache Junction. Yes, anything can be done, but let's not ignore practicality.

You can dig a foundation for a small doghouse with a potting shovel, and you can theoretically use the same tool to dig a foundation for a skyscraper. You can brass plate a charm for a charm bracelet with a hobby kit, and you can theoretically plate a brass bed with the same tool. But Linda from Pikeville will surely find it unrealistic to brass plate a bed herself :-)

Regards,

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



+++++appended

Q. I have brass hinges on my interior doors and would like to paint them white. What do you recommend to keep the paint from peeling?

Doug Sdeleted
homeowner - Dillsburg, Pennsylvania


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A. What quality do you desire in that finish? Most folks will just use common interior latex or acrylic emulsion paint on a project already assembled. For the average project like that indoors, unless "perfect" or "show" appearance is really a priority concern, as long as the surface is clean and the paint whether sprayed or brushed isn't loaded too thickly, ought to stick and look just fine for years to come.

If you wanted to take a little more time and that door happens to be either on an exterior wall or in a high-humidity area, you might consider using the processes described above, or, clean/etch the parts in a weak acid or caustic detergent solution like "purple stuff" or Greased Lightningamazoninfo degreasers, rinse thoroughly, prime and paint with higher-quality spray can paints. Let them dry thoroughly before installation.

By the way, most interior hinges today are actually plated steel, a gold-zinc colored plating applied to resemble brass and stop rust.

Mark Perhot
Human Being Gallery Int'l - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Greased Lightening Cleaner


sidebar ++++

I'm a very inquisitive artist and architect. I run two successful sheet metal welding establishments in Tennessee. I just want to know about this "Mark Perhot" where is he from originally, again? -thank you

Joseph Gdeleted
architect and sheet metal artist - Jansbourough, Tennessee



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Q. How to repair black, damaged small spots of the brass bed? I have a very old brass bed and there are 2 small areas where the shiny brass is gone. I need to "repaint" it but cannot find any appropriate brass paint. Can you tell me where I can obtain some paint to cover the spot?

Michel Rondeau
buyer - Hayward, California


+++++++

A. The brass electroplating is not paint, Michael, it is a plating which you don't do yourself but is done by a plating shop. While a brass-tone paint [ Krylon Premium Metallic Spray Paint gilded brass [linked by editor to product info at MisterArt]] will not really match the brass electroplated finish, it will hopefully be less conspicuous than the black spots. Remember, though, that you must apply a Self-Etching Primeramazoninfo first, because regular paints will not stick to brass.

Another possible option is Amaco Brush 'n Leaf [linked by editor to product info at MisterArt], although I haven't tried it. If you try one of these, please let us know how it comes out! Good luck.

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



March 5, 2008

Q. I am a trombonist and I want to spray paint my instrument black but I don't know what would happen if I did so.

kane thomason
- Pueblo, Colorado


July 15, 2008

A. About painting the trombone, I know that the type of plating affects the tone (brass vs. silver, for instance) so that might be a concern. Also, I would assume you would have to strip the lacquer off the brass before painting it. Sounds pretty risky. I don't think I would attempt it unless you can talk to someone else who has actually done it.

Melanie Pierce
- Salem, Oregon



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Q. We just moved into a new home built in the 1970's. It has a wonderful fireplace in the living room but the fireplace front is brass and I would like it to have more of a cast iron look to it. Is it possible to remove it and paint it black? I know that you can buy paint that is heat resistant but would it cover the brass or just run and or peel off such a smooth surface.

Lyndsey Stuart
Home Owner - Spokane, Washington


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Q. I would also like to know the best way to spray paint shiny, brass, fireplace doors. It looks very dated in our living room. A magnet sticks - so if I'm correct, it must be brass coated steel? I was going to use Weber grill spray paint since it's heat resistant. Should I use heat resistant primer, too - which I'm not sure if they make. I plan on roughing up the surface with course steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler], first. we do use the fireplace a lot so I need the paint to stay on.

Wendy Scholler
hobbyist/artist - Milwaukee, Wisconsin


October 11, 2008

Q. I have brass on my vented gas fireplace. I want to get rid of the brass. (A magnet doesn't stick to it). There is brass at the opening vent and two other decorative strips. Can I paint this?

Anne Curry
- Richmond, Virginia


October 23, 2008

A. Hi, Lyndey, Wendy, Anne. A Self-Etching Primeramazoninfo made for metal, followed by high temperature paint should do well on brass. High temperature paint is not the equal of porcelain enameling, though, so I wouldn't guarantee everything will be fine, although I suspect it will in most cases. Good luck.

Regards,

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

Self-etching primer

High Temperature BBQ Paint



December 16, 2008

Q. I am trying (in vain it seems) to repaint a 1961 pull-down dining room lamp. It was a shiny brass, but due to age needed help. I used Rustoleum, primed, sanded, painted all according to instructions, and it was awful. The paint is NOT shiny, which made me have to paint all the parts including the ceiling track, to match. Then I found out you can NOT clean or even TOUCH the painted surfaces without it coming off, even after weeks of dry time, even scratched using a light micro fiber cloth just to dust. Contacted the paint manufacturer, and sure enough, you can't touch it, so forget cleaning/dusting all together, let alone handling the light. Now I am on the search for something that I can hopefully hand paint on, in a brass color (I don't care if it is shiny at this point), something that I can actually clean. The chore of taking the lamp, weights, cord, pulley system, and track down takes forever, I'm SO frustrated~! After repainting 6, yes 6, times, and every time I even look at the lamp it scratches, marks, etc. HELP! Is there a paint on enamel out there that I can use? I can't believe the nightmare this has turned into. :o(

Thanks,
Skyla

Skyla Stewart , ADA
- Boise, Idaho


December 16, 2008

A. Hi, Skyla. I am distressed that you are having such bad luck with this, but amazed as well. Are you sure some of this stuff isn't brass colored plastic?

If it is brass (or another non-magnetic metal), you really should be able to successfully prime it with Hammerite Special Metal Primer, or Phoenix Precision Paints etch primer, or basically any "etch primer".

I would suggest that after etch priming it, you try to rub the primer off. If it doesn't come off you have good adhesion, and as long as your finish coat doesn't react with the primer you should be all set. If the finish coat does react with the primer, the problem is resolved with a different finish coat. Good luck.

Regards,

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


December 17, 2008

Q. I'm not quite understanding your response, sorry. The lamp and all parts will take a magnet if you put it to them. I would like to find something (preferably in the USA), that can be paint brushed on, in a Brass color, IF that is possible? There is a fair amount of lamp/parts to be done, so it will take a bit of paint. I'm afraid now to try any spray on paints, what with my experience with the Rustoleum products. :o( Not to mention it would be sweet if I don't have to remove the whole darn thing, yet again, from the ceiling.

Thanks,
Skyla

Skyla Stewart , ADA
- Boise, Idaho


December 18, 2008

A. Hello again. Apparently the fixture was originally brass plated steel, Skyla. Brass plating is a factory applied process of putting real brass on the steel, and a brass colored paint cannot approach it in shininess.

But your major problem is the paint not sticking. There are two possible causes: either there was a lacquer or clear coat on the brass plating that is causing you adhesion problems, or you didn't get adhesion onto the brass plating with your primer.

I understand that you painted it six times and don't want to take it down, but a chain is no stronger than it's weakest link. There exists a chain from the brass surface to the outermost paint layer, and the paint will fall off based on the weakest link in the system. You have to get off everything that you put on. Then you must remove the lacquer from the brass plating (if there is any) or the clear coating (if there is any). If it's lacquer, it can be removed with Acetoneamazoninfo. Although this is flammable, you might be able to do it without taking the fixture down. But if the clear coat is something else, you'll need Aircraft stripperamazoninfo (methylene chloride) and this is noxious nasty stuff that you can't apply without removing the fixture and getting really good ventilation (outdoors).

Once you are down to the brass plating you must use an "etching primer" as previously detailed. Because brass tarnishes, regular paint and even most primers will not stick to it; the primer must have chemicals in it that etch into the brass. Once you have an etch primer on it you should be able to apply any brass-toned paint you wish.

Yes, it sounds like an impossible amount of work, but you can't "shrink wrap" paint onto the lamp; each layer must have good adhesion. Sorry.

Regards,

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


December 18, 2008

thumbsup2Okay, now I understand...yoikes. THANK YOU for the help!

Skyla --off to take down her lamp ... again

Skyla Stewart , ADA - Boise, Idaho


sidebar December 19, 2008

At least Twitter and Facebook will be effortless, Skyla. Every time the page badgers you with "What are you doing now?", you can just paste in the same answer: "taking down the lamp ... again" :-)

Every once in a while I have read of people who simply could not get adhesion to brass (or what they believed was brass) --but these were typical hobbyists/home owners, rather than professional testing labs, so exactly what the heck was going on was not determined. Sorry.

Regards,

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



January 26, 2009

Q. I am trying to paint a fireplace screen made of a polished brass (lookalike) finish. A magnet does stick to the surface. Is there a way to paint the surface with a black matte finish? How do I prep the surface first. I am a total novice at all this...
Thanks in advance for your help!

Donald

Donald Popejoy
- Houston, Texas


January 27, 2009

A. Hi, Donald. Apparently it's brass plated, and it's hard to get paint to adhere well to brass. You need an 'etch primer' for metal. Once that is done you should be able to pick any color you like, including black, for the finish coat. But temperature can be a concern for a painted fireplace screen if it's functional. Choose a high temperature paint and keep your fingers crossed. Good luck.

Regards,

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



May 19, 2009

Q. I have an old lamp which has part brass pieces and brass plated pieces which I have cleaned with by boiling vinegar and salt then cleaned with steel wool and sandpaper.
What type of paint should I use to refinish (not a brass shine finish but a flat color), and should I use a primer first before final painting ?

Harry Lockwood, PE
- Atlanta, Georgia


September 19, 2009

Q. Hi, my ugly brass fireplace doors do not allow magnets to stick. I did sand and paint them with a nice oil-rubbed bronze spray paint. It looks pretty good, but it scratches easily. I want to put a matte clear coat on it but there is some concern since they are fireplace doors. Lady at Lowe's told me that the polyurethane I bought could release toxic fumes if it gets too hot. The doors don't get super hot, I tested it last time we had a fire, but they aren't room temp either. Any suggestions on a good clear coat (really want it to be not-shiny)? Thanks!

Jen Wilton
- St. Louis, Missouri


September 20, 2009

A. Hi, Jen. I hate to say it, but I don't think the softness of your spray paint is the main problem that is leading to the scratching, but its minimal adhesion. If you didn't apply a self-etching primer before the spray paint, I think it will still scratch easily even if you clear coat it, because a chain is as strong as its weakest link and the paint isn't sticking well to the brass.

Regards,

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


March 8, 2010

Q. I too want to paint my outdated, ugly brass plated fireplace doors. I would like to paint it black to look more like iron. I am wondering about painting the track where the doors slide open and shut. I don't know if the paint would chip off there. Is there any thing that would work in the track like a rubber coating, etc.

Lisa Scott
- Midland Texas


May 16, 2010

Q. I have several brass knick knacks, e.g., vases, figurines, etc that I would like to be able to spray paint silver. Will the etching primer and then a silver spray paint do the trick?

Ann Bruns
hobbyist - Leawood, Kansas


May 18, 2010

A. Hi, Ann. As you read above, getting adhesion on brass can be problematical. But the self-etching primer is the way to go and I would guess that the adhesion will be sufficient for this purpose. Good luck.

Regards,

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


May 26, 2010

Q. I was curious about spraying an outdoor light fixture. Will etching paint and then spray painting it in an oil rubbed bronze finish work? or will weather, such as rain and snow, quickly wear the spray paint away?

Betty Bdeleted
- Arlington, Virginia


August 23, 2010appended

Q. My husband and I recently purchased a home built in the early 60's. I'm sure it was upscale when it was built, but it definitely needs some TLC. We're in the process cleaning it up. I have taken these wonderful interior panel doors down all over the house to strip several coats of paint off the wood. We thought all hardware was brass - a few pieces were, and they look good now that all the paint has been removed, but is there anything I can do with the hinges and pins that are now bare metal? I'm guessing they were only plated...? How can I make them look brass again? We're talking lots of hardware. Thanks!

Bert Bozarth
new home owner - Dillon, South Carolina
December 5, 2010appended

Q. How would you suggest painting/treating a steel fireplace screen to give it a brushed bronze look?

16430

Curt Longacre
Home owner - Concord, California



March 1, 2012

Q. Hello,

1. I have a brass figurine, which I want to paint or make dark blue or black.
I tried with self etching primer and black car spray paint. But when decorating the figurine, the paint comes off again.
I heard one can blacken the brass directly or even make it bluish. I am totally inexperienced thus any explanation should be really easy to understand and possible to make at home without expensive equipment.

2. As well I have seen a brass figurine painted partially with beautiful red and pink colours, which where more transparent or as well metallic? The look was as if the brass was shining through the colour, this looked really good. How can I achieve this effect?

Thank you very much for any help

Nameda K.
Hobbyist - Munich


July 2014

A. Hi Nameda. You can get commercially available Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] or "Brass Black"amazoninfo. Many other colors are achievable with various chemicals, but you'd probably have to consult a book on patinas like "Colouring, Bronzing & Patination of Metals" [link is to product info at Amazon].

Regards,

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


March 23, 2012appended

Q. I have two brass (magnet does not stick) and glass display cabinets. The brass strips seem to be attached in some way to the wood and is very secure. The look is very dated but I need the function of storage for my glass collection. I would like to paint these, perhaps white or a color. Please give me the products and techniques, as detailed as possible so I can convince my husband this is an option!
Thank you,Nancy

Nancy Burns
- Naples, Florida


March 24, 2012

Q. I want to paint a brass gramophone horn, a magnet doesn't stick to it. Thing is, I would like the possibility to have the horn return in its brass state if I get tired of the color. Is this possible, and if so, how would I go about doing this?

Adrik Sokolov
- Breda Noord-Brabant, Netherlands


July 2014

A. Hi Adrik. Please determine if the horn is solid brass or brass plated steel. A magnet sticks to steel and will usually provide the answer.

Although it involves highly toxic chemicals which require protective glovesamazoninfo, gogglesamazoninfo, and good outdoor ventilation, methylene chloride based Aircraft stripperamazoninfo will strip most paint off of metal without harming it. But brass plated steel gets perforated over the years, and the steel rusts through the porosity and pinholes, which will be aggravated by the painting and stripping. Good luck.

Regards,

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



July 10, 2014appended

Q. My mom has offered to give me the solid brass head and footboard I used as a child. It's the shiny yellow brass finish. I would like to refinish so it goes more in our decor. Not sure if/how this is possible. Can I spray paint it and achieve good results? I did find one company online that is not anywhere near Texas and they wanted nearly $1500 to refinish a head and footboard!

Nicole Souther
Hobbyist - Frisco, Texas
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

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