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"Finishing a copper table"


Q. My friends and I are redoing our basement this summer and we want to make a table with a copper top. We found an old copper plate that was used to print a map (it's a large flat rectangle of copper with etchings that used to hold ink for the map). We want to use this plate for the top of a table that we're building. However, as copper is an active metal and will oxidize easily (especially with use), we were wondering if there was a good way to finish the table so that it will keep its shiny glow.

Another concern we have is if the copper will be easily scratched by use as a table- should we cover it with glass or will a laquer be enough?

We are also concerned with using harmful chemicals and would tend to shy away from substances such as polyurethane, but we're not completely against using it. It also seems that it may be better to leave the copper unfinished and periodically clean it with lemon juice, or some other cleaning agent.

What lacquers and/or cleaning solutions would you recommend for our copper table?

Becca Grace Weaver
Cooperative House - Saint Louis, Missouri


A. It's hard to advise on matters of taste such as whether you will be happier retaining the shine or allowing the tabletop to age. If I had the item I think I'd just periodically clean it with Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or other copper polish, but that's me. To retain the shine instead, apply brass lacquer.

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

October 2, 2014

Q. If I have a copper table that has little to no shine what can I use to give it a lasting glow? Is there anything that will last for an extended period of time like a polyurethane or not? Thanks for your thoughts, Adam

Adam proud
- Cincinnati, Ohio

Mothers Polish

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Mothers Polishing Tool

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October 2014

Hi Adam. When metal loses its shine there may be two factors involved: a tarnish layer, which is a metal oxide, and doesn't have the brightness of the bare metal, and roughness of the surface so that it doesn't offer specularity (it's no longer mirror-like).

The best way to attack both problems at the same time is with a fine buffing compound on a powered buffing wheel. Powerful buffing wheels are dangerous for the untrained if something gets away from you, but you can probably hold on to a 14.4 volt battery operated drill. Probably the easiest to use and most available combo would be Mother's Aluminum & Magnesium Polish (it works well on copper) and their buffing attachment.

After you have it the way you want it, brass lacquer can keep it that way for a reasonable period, especially indoors. Best of luck.


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

"Clearcoats/Lacquers for Brass from G.J. Nikolas"

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