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topic 12010

Antiquing Polished Brass


I am ready to install a carpet runner on my main staircase in the section of my home which has antique brass and satin chrome lighting and hardware. I would like to add stair rods as well but can only afford to install polished brass rods which will clash with the desired affect. Cost is a major concern. I will need approx. 22 rods & pairs of claps/finials. The rods I can afford are between $8-$10 in polished brass whereas the antique brass rods are going for $45-$70. I want to change the look of the polished brass to an antique brass look. I can only find products for antiquing unlacquered brass.

How do I change the polished brass (which is lacquered) to an antique brass? Is it worth the trouble?

Thank you,

Nancy Martinez
- Cliffside Park, New Jersey

Hi, Nancy.

If they truly are lacquered brass, you can easily strip the lacquer with lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], and then your antiquing solutions will work.

Rust-Oleum Antique Brass

However, it is less expensive for the manufacturer (and safer for him, because brass plating is cyanide based) to make such parts by nickel plating them and then applying a translucent brass-toned electrophoretic lacquer than to actually brass plate them. Consequently there is a good chance that inexpensive "brass" rods don't have any real brass on them so antiquing solutions won't work.

Since these are not expensive heirlooms, and since they already have some sort of organic (lacquer, clearcoat) finish, I'd probably try a spray can of Rustoleum or Krylon "antique brass" paint =>

But you could buy one set and try removing the lacquer before committing to how to handle 22 sets. Good luck!

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 16, 2010

So Ted, if one does have, say, a lamp which is electro-somethinged rather than brass, would lacquer thinner go through that finish? Thanks, Jennifer

Jennifer Cowell
- Portland, Oregon


I am buying a home that has brand new expensive brass handles on the front door as well as kick plates. They are very shiny and are not our style. How could I antique these?

Julie Albracht
- Amarillo, Texas

August 20, 2011

Hi, Jennifer. Try lacquer thinner in a non-obvious spot, like the bottom of the lamp if possible. It seems unlikely that they would do different finishing treatments in different areas.

Hi, Julie. If they are shiny instead of tarnished, there are two possible explanations. Either they have a clear coat of some sort on them (hopefully, brass lacquer which is easily stripped with acetone or lacquer thinner; but equally likely a tougher coating which will require a very noxious methylene chloride based stripper); or the finish is not brass, but a "lifetime" PVD finish of zirconium nitride. I hate to be a broken record, stuck in a groove of bad news, but with today's "miracle finishes" it gets less and less likely that anything new is actually solid brass that is amenable to traditional brass patina treatments.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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