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What to do when brass lamps start to get black spots

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Q. I have 2 Stiffel Lamps and they are starting to get black spots on the sides .I have no idea why this is happening. I don't dust them often, but when I do it's with a soft clean cloth and I don't use polishes . We bought them 2 years ago at a Stiffel Lamp store. Could you please tell me what I can do with this blackening on this lamps. Should I take the lamps to a jeweler and have them refinished ?

Thank You,

Laura S deleted
- Michigan City, IN, USA


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A. We'd like to help, but unless someone is an engineer for the manufacturer in question, it is very difficult to even guess what a finish is these days, let alone suggest how to fix it. We don't know the substrate (brass, steel, zinc), we don't know the finish (brass plating, electrophoretic lacquer on nickel plating, vacuum finish with zirconium nitride or something on nickel plating), and we don't know what the black spots really look like.

So, how are we going to figure out what the finish is? Any further info available, Ms. Sischo? Thanks.

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

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A. Stiffel lamps are brass plated.The black spots are oxidation and pitting. The only way to remove it is to refinish the lamp.

John Diday
- Palm Harbor, Florida


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Q. If all Stiffel lamps are brass plated, what is under the brass, and will my brass cleaner hurt whatever it is? No magnet will stick to the lamp and it seems to have a silverish color underneath the brass in spots. Thank you for any advice and I hope this is the correct forum for my question..

Lori F deleted
- Damariscotta, Maine, USA


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Q. I understand that Stiffel "brass" lamps were plated brass over zinc, white metal, "pot metal", or some such. Clearly non-ferrous. Doesn't matter: your options are limited to accepting the degraded finish or refinishing.

The recommendation on some lamp stickers not to polish the lamps is a good one. I didn't know and when my initial attempts to improve a spotted finish didn't work, I just polished harder! Refinishing is what I intend to do, if not too dear.

I am getting quotes for refinishing of two lamps. Any suggestions from folks who have done this?

Thanks,

Jim Garfo
- Kennett Square, Pennsylvania


April 15, 2013

Q. I recently bought several lamps from ebay and they are all Stiffel lamps. For the most part they are beautiful and I would like to keep them that way. However, there is a little oxidation on one of them and I also would like to clean one of them of dirt. I was told to use WD-40 on the brass because the person said that when Ted Stiffel made these lamps their company did not use all brass it was a combination and that the best way to protect the shine on these lamps is to use WD-40. Has anyone ever used this and if so what results. There are so many different theories out here about the best way to clean a Stiffel lamp but I would like to have one true blue place to find the answer of what is the way that the Stiffel company recommended to clean their lamps?

DEBRA BAER
teacher - Harmony, Florida

April 20, 2013

Q. I have searched and searched but can not find an old Stiffel Lamp Catalog that list all the lamps they made while in business. Does anyone know where I can find a book or an old Stiffel Catalog that has this information?

Debra Baer
- HARMONY, FLORIDA

April 23, 2013

A. Hi Debra. They were in business for 68 years, so I can't imagine finding a catalog that covers all of their models over nearly 7 decades. But there are ads available on Ebay. And you may find an old catalog for some particular year if you are patient.

Regards,

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


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