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How to antique polished brass


Q. We have fireplace tools in polished brass that we would like to change to an antique brass finish. Can you please tell us what we must do to change the polished finish to an antique brass finish?


Lise M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Aurora, Ontario, Canada


Q. I am wanting answer to question how to antique brass. Is there a way to do it with everyday ingredients or does it have to be done with stains and kits?

Trudy C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Lyman, South Carolina


Q. Hi, I also want to know how to antique polished brass. My new house is full of it -ceiling fixtures, bath fixtures, outdoor fixtures, etc. Until I can afford to replace them, I'd like to know if there is a way to antique them, or at least make them less shiny.

Alicia N [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Parker, Colorado

A. Hi, folks. Many very similar inquiries were asked & answered on this site. The readers who previously answered are probably resting, so while we are waiting for them to recover and hit this letter, search the site with terms like "patina brass", "darken brass", "shiny brass", and "antique brass" and you will find lots of answers. Some of those answers included "Brass Darkening Solution [affil. link to info/product at Rockler]", which you might want to try.

Remember these points:
1). Everything that is brass-tone is not necessarily brass. Cheap shower doors are aluminum, "lifetime finish" door hardware isn't brass, lots of brass-look stuff is either reflective paint or nickel plating followed by a brass tint lacquer.
2). Most "brass" stuff is just a thin plating of brass on steel, which may not hold up to the antiquing treatments (you might perforate the plating and start rusting). Antiquing works much better on solid brass.
3). Brass tarnishes very quickly. If your item isn't tarnished, either it has a lacquer or clear coat on it (which must be removed before antiquing) or it's not really brass.

But if you are confident that it is brass, or if you are willing to risk that it is, let's carry on :-)


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Re-antiquing antique sconces? Does your technique need to be adapted for me if I want to antique brass sconces. Dare I use the same technique used for hardware or do you have another suggestion? When I purchased them the antique dealer cleaned the heck out of them and then lacquered them. I took the lacquer off but they still look brand new. Rats.

Thea Ledonne
- Missoula, Montana, USA

A. Hi Thea. These sound like solid brass.

If you are not sure that the lacquer is gone, test it with a meter -- brass is conductive, lacquer is not.

If the lacquer is off, it will tarnish by itself eventually, but you can quickly turn it brown if you wish with Brass Darkening Solution [affil. link to info/product at Rockler]. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 4, 2008

A. An air tight bucket with a shelf of some sort and place the brass to be antiqued inside. since brass introduced to an ammonia based atmosphere acquires a natural patina ... it is fairly obvious now that all you need is white ammonia in the bucket as well. the process can take as long as minutes or days depending on desired look.

p.s.: Ammonia evaporates fairly fast so replace when you can barely smell any longer. just don't take a big ole whiff might make you sick 'n burn your lungs.

Jeff Stover
- Cedar City, Utah

February 4, 2009

thumbs up signI tried the ammonia solution with some small jewelry charms I bought and it worked AMAZING! I just took some mesh/tulle and placed the charms in them, grabbed an old glass jar, filled it with household ammonia, laid the mesh over the top so that it was holding the charms above the ammonia, and screwed the lid on catching the mesh between the lid and the jar to hold it. I only let it sit for about 10 minutes and it did a great job. Check frequently as mine changed so quickly - the difference between the 5 minute mark to the 10 minute mark was substantial.

Good luck!

Heidi Busk
- Denver, Colorado

August 3, 2009
-- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

My Exterior Baldwin Brass Door hardware has aged over the last 30 years. I do not want to replace it because it has a mechanical feature that new hardware does not offer.
So when I refurbish the double oak doors, I want to either replate or even out to the worn aged look that is appearing. How would I age the remaining brass to look aged as well as aging the inside hardware?
Thanks for being there to answer questions.

Lizz Smith
- Missio Viejo, California

October 12, 2009

A. You can darken even bright brass "finished" newer hardware. Apply lacquer thinner to metal careful NOT to rub back and forth this will remove the finish we want to soften it. Apply black Leather Dye [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], it is thin and will [not] interfere with hinges, etc. This dye can be found at shoe repair or tack and saddle or leather shops, or online. It takes very little so unless your doing many, many pieces a small bottle will do. Cost is around $10 apply thin coat over the entire surface, let stand 15-30 mins. until it looks somewhat dry then with a clean dry lint free rag wrapped tight around your finger carefully wipe excess dye of surface until you get the coloring you want. You can also dab it with the crinkled-up rag for a textured look. When completely dry rub with your fingers or thumb (your skin texture should remove any fibers). You can try to seal it with a spray can of clear finish. CAUTION... very light coats for it may "lift" the entire finish off the metal Good Luck Scott.

Scott Crehan
- Abilene Kansas

thumbs up signDyeing the lacquer/clearcoat instead of removing it sounds like a cool idea for some situations, Scott. Thanks!


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 27, 2010

Q. I have an older brass bed that I would like to blacken, preferably without painting. I've read a few other posts on this site and decided I would try the lacquer thinner followed by liver of sulphur. Since the pieces from the bed are somewhat long, I can't really soak them in the lacquer thinner without buying more than I want to. So I basically brushed it on and let it sit for awhile. I did a few 'coats' of this in a small area to test. The liver of sulphur I have is in liquid form, so I mixed it with water and used the same technique to apply. From what I've heard, it should react relatively quick. My problem is I had no reaction. Would this mean I likely didn't get the coat off? How can I tell when it is ready for the liver of sulphur?

Or is there an easier way to go about doing this?


Adam R
hobbyist - Chicago, Illinois

October 27, 2010

A. Hi, Adam. You probably didn't get the coating off because the coating probably isn't brass lacquer (you should be able to tell with a meter; if you're down to brass it will be conductive). Aircraft Stripper will almost surely get any clearcoating off without harming the brass no matter what it is, but it's methylene chloride, which is really noxious, toxic stuff. So Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], goggles [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], and excellent ventilation (working upwind outside) are absolutely mandatory.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 19, 2012

Q. Hi, I'm looking to add some antique brass hardware (made of solid brass) to a jacket and I'm wondering how it will age. Thank you.

Joel Shapiro
- Wellington, Florida, USA

September 28, 2012

Hi Joel. It will probably turn brown over time if dry and not handled. If it is zippers pulls or other things that see perspiration, handling, and a lot of dampness, a green coloration is probably more likely.

Never owned a convertible top where the rear window zipper didn't get stuck with green corrosion :-)


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 11, 2013

Q. I have a Kohler birthday bath with bright brass feet. What would the best way to tackle darkening it down? Do you think the leather dye method would work?

Judy Bass
- Conway, Arkansas, USA

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