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topic 16808

Remove paint from bronze sculpture


2002

Q. I found a really nice bronze bust, but someone painted it white, how do I go about getting the paint off without losing that great patina that is on it.

Please help me.

Elaine Jones
- Jonesville, Virginia


2002

A. Hi, Elaine. Maybe the patina is only on the areas where the paint has worn or chipped off, and there is probably no way to know there is a patina underneath the paint. Just so if someone suggests a method, you recognize that maybe there was no patina, rather than their method removed it :-)

I'd try removing the paint with a strong non-aqueous solvent like turpentine, mineral spirits [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], or if necessary "Aircraft Stripper" (much more noxious), rather than a water based citrus solvent (which might dissolve the patina), and with as little rubbing as possible (not that I've actually done it though).

If you do end up needing the methylene-chloride based aircraft stripper, be extremely careful: you need not only goggles [affiliate link to product info at Amazon] and Protective Gloves [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], but outstanding ventilation. Do it outside, standing upwind of the work.

In the worse case you may need to restore the patina or let it restore itself. Good luck!

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


2003

Q. I too have a bronze covered in paint [black]. I wondered how Elaine got on with stripping her bronze. Or, if anyone else has done the same. Do's and don't would be very much appreciated here as I do not want to ruin what looks like a superb figure.

Thanks,

Joy Duggan
- Somerset, UK


2003

A. Hi, Joy. Avoid "caustic" strippers, plus the patina may not be fully adherent and may be slightly soluble in water, and certainly in acid, which is why I would minimize rubbing and avoid citrus solvents, which I suspect might tend to dissolve the patina.

The Aircraft Stripper is very noxious to humans, and requires goggles and rubber gloves, and excellent ventilation -- but should prove harmless to bronze. Good luck.

Regards,

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

----
Ed. update March 2020: Amazon and some other places no longer offer any methylene chloride based strippers. It is possible that they are no longer available to non-professionals due to their toxicity.



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2003

Q. I bought some great 100 year old bronze bookends (the antiques guy assured me they are bronze) but they have been painted, and a pretty poor job too. Can you recommend a product that might get the paint off? Will I damage the finish? Is there a type of company that does this sort of thing?

Peggy [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
-Maryland


2003

A. Turpentine (mineral spirits [affiliate link to product info at Amazon]) can perhaps do it, Peggy, and I see no reason to suspect that it would damage bronze. But if that doesn't work, what almost surely will work is "Aircraft Stripper".
But this is methylene chloride, and really toxic -- so goggles [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], Protective Gloves [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], and really good ventilation (outside and upwind) are required. Good luck.

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


August 29, 2011

A. Several years ago some well-meaning, but uninformed, member of my church painted our 128 year old bronze church bell with aluminum fence paint. I managed to remove the paint (it was only on for a few days) using Easy-Off heavy duty oven cleaner [affiliate link to product info at Amazon] and a soft scrub brush. (Several applications.) Doing it outdoors it all "washed away" with the hose, so no paint stripper to deal with. Also, it didn't destroy the original patina of the bronze bell!

Paul Snyder
- St. Louis, Missouri USA



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2004

Q. I have an old bronze statue that was painted many years ago. The painted surface is matte so I don't think the paint was enamel. I believe it was painted in the '20's or '30's. I would like to remove the paint and restore the statue to its original finish. Can you tell me how to do this?

Thank you very much,

Lucy Stephenson
- San Francisco, California, USA


aff. link
Acetone

2004

A. You can use any solvent base paint stripper( MEK / methyl ethyl ketone or DMF based)!4 parts Acetone [affiliate link to product info at Amazon] /1 part ammonia(25%) mixture is usable too. Cleaned object must be well rinsed and then dried with acetone or pure alcohol.

Good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia


2006

Q. The suggestion is interesting. We have a huge bronze bell that is 160 years old that was painted with silver paint. We would like to remove this paint so as to retain the natural patina. Will your method also work with this?

Patrick Harris
- Aurroa, Oregon, USA



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October 26, 2009

Q. We have a man-size bronze sculpture outdoors. Years back, it went dark due to pollution, acid rain, etc. So, it was painted over with metallic paint. :-(
Right now, we would want to restore it to its original finish. How could we remove the paint without using metal scraper or chemicals that would further destroy the brass?
Help please. . .

Beejay Javier
Designer - Daly City, California


October 27, 2009

A. Hi, Javier. If we rule out mechanical removal and chemical removal, we are left only with wishing it away :-)

You must pick one or the other or both. I believe you will find that organic paint strippers, like methylene-chloride based Aircraft Stripper, will have no bad effect on the bronze. But try it in an inconspicuous place first, of course. But methylene chloride is really noxious stuff, so a full safety protocol is in order, including goggles [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], Protective Gloves [affiliate link to product info at Amazon], and excellent ventilation (outdoors, working from upwind).

Regards,

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


simultaneous October 28, 2009

A. That is job for professional metals conservator. Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia


October 28, 2009

A. Hello Javier, most likely a bronze sculpture. You can use heat as with a paint removing gun or torch which will blister the paint. This is perhaps the best idea then follow with a high pressure water spray to lift paint. Thanks

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
BarrysRestoreItAll
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California
barrysrestoreitall


March 2020

A. Barry's idea is a good one that I didn't think of! Just make certain that your stuff really is solid bronze first. I don't like to even think what a torch will do to plaster or fiberglass, or maybe even a bronze plated zinc die-casting.

Regards,

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



March 11, 2020

Q. I have a 15th century bronze buddha and somebody repainted it.

16808-1a   16808-1b  

Can I get paint off without ruining Buddha. And get old patina back?
Regards, Isi

Isi Janssens
hobbyist - Kapellen belgium


March 2020

A. Hi Isi. How tall is this statue? If you're confident that it's actually a 15th century bronze casting ... and you're planning on a hobbyist playing around with it ... when one recently sold for $558,000 USD ... count me out :-)

As Goran noted, this kind of stuff is for a professional metals conservator, not internet advice based on a pic or two.

Regards,

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

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