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Want Dull grey finish on steel furniture

Q. I have several small metal furniture items at home (newspaper rack, cd rack, mirror, etc.) made out of bent and welded 1/4 in steel rod. All have a dull grey finish that certainly does not look like paint or varnish.

One of them, a set of shelves in my bathroom has rusted because of high humidity. I cleaned it with solvent and 00 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] but lost the finish as well as the darker spots around welds. The steel now has the silverish sheen of polished steel which I don't like. I don't want to paint the structure although I wanted to apply clear varnish to protect it against rust.

What do you think is the original finish and is it possible to recreate it myself. If not, is there another finish that I could apply that would be similar. If I need specific material for this what is the likeliest place to purchase it.

Jean Audet
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A. Hello, Jean.

It's hard to tell what a finish is just by eye, and super difficult from a verbal description, but my bet is that it's some kind of dull nickel plating. If the damaged area is small, aluminum paint probably would make it less obvious; but if you want it done right, they probably need to find out exactly what it is and a shop able to offer it Good luck!.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

How to give steel a dull appearance

Q. I am making cabinet fronts with HRPO steel because I like the dull appearance of the pickled and oiled steel. However the sheets have too many shiny scratches that need to be dulled or sanded/drawn then dulled because the sanding/drawing machine makes shiny scratch pattern.

Do I have any options other than blasting? What are the pros and cons to different blasting media for this app.


Greg Simons
- Portland Oregon
November 2, 2020

A. Hi Greg. Since you want a uniform scratch-less finish, blasting seems to be the way forward. But you can apply a black patina (gun bluing) which, if applied only once or two and for a short time, and with the excess rubbed off, and if the blasting media was relatively fine, should come out charcoal gray.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 2020

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