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Refinishing brass & bronze table legs

(-----) July 1, 2022

Q. I have a bronze plated steel table base I would like to paint or powder coat to produce a medium blue color with a little shine. The base is old and the bronze plating is dull with a lot of patina. Do I need to strip the plating off or can I just clean it and paint? Would powder coating or paint work best?

Bex Richards
- Naples Fl


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A. Hi Bex.
I would suggest wiping with acetone first because brass and bronze are frequently lacquered, and lacquers might react with paint, and acetone is a fairly good cleaner. Nail polish remover may not be highly flammable because of its water content, but acetone is, so be aware.

Then I'd use any primer made for metal, then you favorite shade of blue lacquer.

Luck & Regards,

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

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Q. I have brass looking legs on my living room coffee, end, and sofa tables. These pieces are approximately 10 years old and have been subjected to many different environments (basement, out-door shed). The finish has peeled off in lots of places. How can I strip the remaining finish and then apply a new finish (brass-looking, paint)? We have just repainted all walls and applied laminate flooring. This is a project that I'd like to do to save the furniture. These tables all have detachable glass tops. I would appreciate any information you could share.


Judy Stober
- Los Banos, California

A. The best thing would be to send the parts to a plating shop that does brass plating as this is not something you can do at home, Judy.

Hardware and mail-order stores have brass paint (like Metallic Spray Paint gilded brass [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]), but it looks like brass colored paint, rather than true brass, of course. The items should be lightly sanded and, if there is rust on them, Rust Converter [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] should be applied before the painting. Good luck!

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

Q. I have tables like Jody, but they have always been indoors and are in great condition. I want to change the finish from bright yellow brass to a matte finish espresso or black. Is there a way for me to do that myself? Thank you.

Marcia Tuzzolino
- Alta Loma, California, USA
September 4, 2011

A. Hi, Marcia.

A. If they are still bright instead of badly tarnished, it is because there is a lacquer or clearcoat protecting them from the atmosphere. Although you are free to paint your tables, of course, if your preference is to use a darkening solution, you must remove that lacquer or clearcoat so the darkening solution can get to the metal.

Lacquer can be removed with lacquer thinner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or Acetone [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. If that doesn't work, the clearcoat isn't lacquer. Aircraft Stripper (methylene chloride) will remove just about any paint or clearcoat but is toxic, noxious stuff requiring goggles [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], and very good outdoor ventilation.

After the lacquer or clearcoat is removed, Brass Darkening Solution [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] should work.

If at all possible, however, try working on an inconspicuous area first because not everything that looks like brass actually is brass. Good luck.


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

Q. What if I want to remove that lacquer finish and the gold finish to get to the silver finish below, is there a chemical to remove this finish easier than sanding it off?

Barb Bonadonna
- Buffalo Grove Illinois
September 25, 2016

A. Hi Barb. I don't know how gold and silver got into the discussion of brass furniture legs :-)

Are you referring to brass plating or brass-toned lacquer but you're calling it gold as in "of a gold-like color"? And are you implying that you have reason to believe (such as from seeing a worn or sanded area) that there is a layer of "silvery colored" metal underneath the brass plating? Yes, it's quite possible that there is a layer of nickel plating under brass plating or brass toned lacquer.

See my previous response for how to remove lacquer or clear coats. You may luck out, and the color may be a tint in the lacquer rather than brass plating. It is theoretically possible to chemically remove brass plating from nickel plating -- see letter 8423 -- but you would probably have to send the items to a plating shop; it's probably not practical to do it in a residential environment, so you would be limited to sanding the brass plating off. Good luck.


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

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