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Chrome plated 1950s kitchen/dinette tables & chairs -- restoring & protecting


RFQ: I have some very old, tubular chrome furniture that is not in good condition (pitted chrome but it does seem to clear reasonably well when I used #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon] and chrome polish [on eBay or Amazon] . However, the job is exhausting. Can you, or do you know anyone who would polish these pieces for me? I have four chairs and one 3-cushion sofa. They are 1930s Kem Weber pieces that are near and dear to me.

Kem Weber chairs & furniture on eBay

Any ideas? Much thanks. Joel

Joel Oberstone
Retired teacher - San Francisco, California
October 2, 2021

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)


A. Try to disassemble your objects and then immerse metal parts in solution of 47,5 gms sodium gluconate [on eBay or Amazon], 47,5 gms citric acid [on eBay or Amazon] , 4,9 gms tartaric acid [on eBay or Amazon] , 0,1 gm nonionic detergent / 1-10 lit water (according to USPT4,264,418). Solution can be used hot or cold.
After at least 10 minutes you can rinse parts with plenty of water, then you can dry them with paper towels and hair dryer [on eBay or Amazon]. Polish and protect with Everbrite [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] or any other good metal clearcoat. Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia
October 4, 2021


thumbs up sign Thank you so much, Goran. Greatly appreciated. Joel

Joel Oberstone [returning]
Retired teacher - San Francisco, California
October 5, 2021


A. That solution is very good for chromium or nickel plated objects. Can be sprayed on objects too. Repeat process several times if needed. Good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia







⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩



Q. Hello,

I run a cafe on the beach in Sydney Australia and have many chrome chairs and tables which are showing signs of corrosion. I have cleaned them with detergent, which helps a little but doesn't slow it down.

Is there some way I can clean them and also a coating to put on to slow down or stop continuing problems?

Jason Whitton
- Australia
2001


Microcrystalline
Museum Waxes

museum_wax
on eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. Hi Jason. We in the plating industry hate to see letters like yours where the plating isn't proving satisfactory.

If you look at O.E.M. chrome truck bumpers, you know that really high quality chrome plating can easily withstand decades of service under conditions far more challenging than your tables and chairs face.

But the unfortunate fact is that while all chrome plating may look about the same, it is actually of highly varying quality to satisfy the anticipated service condition. We would have to get technical, and talk about micro-cracking, and duplex nickel and layer thicknesses to explain fully, but it appears that the plating on your chairs and tables was designed for indoor use, not the salty beach service condition they find themselves in.

Chrome polish [on eBay or Amazon] and frequent waxing ⇨
may be the best you can do. Chrome plating is highly 'non-wetting' so it's difficult to reliably clearcoat chrome, but try automotive clearcoat, or perhaps one of the specialists here about can suggest a lacquer that will work.

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


A. Chrome plating will tend to rust when exposed to the outdoor environment. This is due to the fact that the chairs may not have been plated with a process optimized for the environment you have put them in (e.g. use of duplex nickel, microporous chrome, etc.). You are correctly removing the corrosive materials by cleaning the chairs and can slow down or eliminate the corrosion by clear lacquer coating the chairs over the chrome with an aerosol material. A second approach would be repeated applications of old fashioned paste wax. When purchasing new chairs, you would want to find ones with a plated and powder coated finish or ones which are just powder coated.

Hope this helps Gene

Gene Packman
process supplier - Great Neck, New York




How to clean chrome on 1950s table

Q. Hello,

I know nothing about chrome or how to refinish/clean it. Can someone please tell me the best way to clean it, and where to have something rechromed, if this is possible. I have a 1950s formica table in need of an overhaul. It has some rust on it and some chrome peeling off. What can I do, if anything?

Thank you,

Jennifer A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
my hobby is refinishing 1950s housewares - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
2003


Is rechroming of corroded vintage chrome chairs possible?

Q. Can chairs that have corroded be re-chromed successfully?

Michael Bell
Architects - Sydney, Australia
2003


A. Beyond cleaning it with metal polish and keeping it waxed, there isn't much you can do yourself. The items can certainly be re-chromed by a plating shop. Press the 'Jobshops' button at the bottom of the page to find some shops.

But be aware that there is a tremendous amount of manual labor involved in stripping old parts, buffing them, and replating them one at a time. You will surely tell yourself that you could buy new legs for less if you could find them and you'd be right. When an O.E.M. plates new legs, one operator can chrome plate hundreds per hour with automated equipment; when old parts are refurbished it can take hours just for your parts :-(

It is very do-able, but expensive due to labor time. Figure an hour or hour and a half work on each chair, and that a plater needs to charge the same as a plumber or auto mechanic. If you think that cost represents highway robbery, buy new chairs instead. If you think it's reasonable considering the value of the chairs to you, it's no problem. Good luck!

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


A. We restore 50's chrome and Formica dinette sets. We get these sets with chrome that is very corroded. The well-produced chrome chairs have the capability to look close to the original condition. Removing the rust is the hardest part and involves a lot of time and work.

The process that has been successful for us is to use a good chrome polish [on eBay or Amazon] and a very fine grade of #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon]. Once the chrome is looking good again a coat of wax is applied.

The process takes about 1/2 hour per chair but lasts about 6 months before they have to have a touched up again. The good news is that the touch up process only takes about 10 minutes.

Robert Hoebel
- San Jose, California, USA




Multiple threads were merged: please forgive repetition, chronology errors, or disrespect towards other postings [they weren't on the same page] :-)



Q. We have just purchased a 50's table set. We would appreciate some information on how to clean the chrome. There is a lot of pitting and black color on the chrome. We tried a chrome polish for basically cars, but it didn't work with the pitting and all the black discoloration. If it can't be cleaned, what do you recommend we do. Can it be painted with a chrome paint? We would really like to keep it original. We also tried a fine #00 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon]. we would appreciate any help.

Thanks,

Pamela Van Duyne
- Wilmington, Illinois
2003


A. Hi, Pamela. Items like this consist of steel tubing which was plated with copper, then nickel, then chrome. The plating is now perforated in spots and you may be looking at blackened copper or rusted steel; there is no good way to clean bare steel to turn it back to chrome. The best you can do without replating it is to clean it with metal polish and very fine #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon], then keep it well waxed to deter rusting.

A plating shop will probably encounter no particular technical difficulty in stripping this tubing, re-polishing it, and re-plating it -- many plating shops would be happy to do it for you. Just pick a plating shop from our Jobshops Directory here, or your yellow pages, and find one that offers nickel-chrome plating to the public.

The issue is that it is very labor intensive and will probably cost significantly more than you would like to pay. When the dinette set was manufactured, hundreds of identical tubes were polished and plated simultaneously on automatic machinery, so the labor cost was divided over hundreds of parts. When you need one set done, and it takes a craftsman the better part of a day, you can't expect him to work for less than what a plumber or mechanic would charge for their time. In other words it's probably going to cost several hundred dollars, and most people aren't interested unless the item has genuine sentimental value or replacements are unavailable.

Our Introduction to Chrome Plating will help you appreciate what it's about (and why it's costly).

You can buy chrome paint [on eBay or Amazon] from inexpensive to quite expensive and applied by a specialty shop. The more you spend the closer it will look to real chrome plating. But anything in a spray can is not likely to look much like real chrome plating. Good luck.

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




Paint on chrome chairs looks bad

Q. I have a similar question. I painted the chrome on my chairs and it looks terrible. I have had a few people recommend sandblasting the paint off. Before I pursue this, I would like to know what my metal will look like once it is sandblasted. What would be my next step if I do this? I also spoke with a replating company and the guy wouldn't even give me a price. He kept saying that I should buy new chairs because having them replated would be too expensive. Any advice?

Carol Siler
- Richmond, Kentucky, USA
June 7, 2012


A. Sandblasting will leave a fairly rough surface and will remove or destroy whatever plating is under the paint.

A professional painter could likely do an OK job over a sandblasted surface, but if you don't want them painted...

The plater likely told you the truth, that it will be less expensive to buy new.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina


Q. I would appreciate any ideas about what to do. I have spent a fortune on upholstering these chairs so I need to figure out a compromise that doesn't involve buying new chairs. Painting isn't out as long as it looks professional.

Carol Siler [returning]
- Richmond, Kentucky, USA


A. Hi, Carol.

It is not impossible, in fact not even difficult, to chrome plate those chair legs. The point that Jeffrey and the plater are making is that it is labor intensive, so it will be more expensive than most people might expect. Call some more plating shops until you find a couple who can and who want to do it. Just don't think it's a conspiracy when you can't get it done cheaply; it may take an hour and a half or two of labor per chair, and (obviously) platers have to charge as much for their time as mechanics or plumbers :-)

Best of luck.

Regards,

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




Q. I have a dinette set I bought 20 years ago. I have had it in storage, and through no fault of my own have had other people store it for me, of course not caring about the value, sentimental or otherwise. I've cleaned it 3 times over the years with S.O.S. pads. I have just recovered it after 6 years of bad storage and about 20% of it is to the metal base and needs to be replated, but the other 90% that was pitted and had rust cleaned up just fine and is still as shiny as it was when I bought it!

Steven Hefner
- Tulsa, Oklahoma


A. Hello,

My husband and I have been selling fabulous and unique 1950's era chrome dinette sets for many years now. We restore tables and chairs as needed and have always had exceptional results using the process of applying chrome polish to buff out areas after removing any rust or corrosion, albeit we tend to avoid any chrome in this condition. However, where needed we find that it just takes a lot of elbow grease to obtain optimal results restoring these wonderful tables, chairs and dinette sets to their original state.

Roxanne C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- San Jose, California, USA



A. Roxanne: chrome polish and elbow grease is an affordable and practical approach to removing the rust in many cases. But once there has been rust, it means the plating is perforated--and polishing it may make it look passable but doesn't repair it: it remains a high maintenance issue where only regular polishing and frequent rewaxing will limit the rusting. Although replating is quite expensive, that's the way to truly restore the set to original condition. Since you are in the business and thus may have reasonable production volume, you might want to align yourself with a local plating shop so that between you this option can be offered at a more reasonable price than individuals are encountering.

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




Where to get replacement legs and feet for vintage chrome dinette

"How to Make Money with 3-D Printing"
by Jeffrey Ito
3d_printing
on AbeBooks

or eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)


3-D Printers
3d_printer
on eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

RFQ: I would love to know where we can buy replacement feet for our 1950's chrome dinette set, especially the table legs. They are the double legs that are curved at the top and joined at the bottom, so we need something similar to a figure 8 to place at the bottom of the chrome to protect the floor. Any help will be appreciated.

Thanks

Kimee L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Orangevale, California
2005


RFQ: I have a 50s metal table with straight legs that come together at the floor, I can't find double connected glides.
Any ideas where to find them?

Bob Rekstad
- Bonners Ferry Idaho
March 23, 2024


A. Hi Bob, with some searching we found them [double leg caps on eBay or Amazon] . But you'd expect that with today's 3-D printing that any and all such old plastic replacement parts should be readily available :-)

Luck & Regards,

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


thumbs up sign Wow thanks, I have searched every site I could find but didn't use "double" in my search, thanks very much.

Bob Rekstad [returning]
- Bonners Ferry Idaho
March 25, 2024

Ed. note: Shameless plug: I spend quite a bit of time trying to find stuff that is mentioned here, and offering direct links to it, in hopes that by me spending the time once I can save dozens of readers from having to spend that searching time ... and that in return when they follow the links I'll get a small commission to keep the site going :-)



RFQ: I have a 1950's Retro Chrome red metallic dinette set (I think a Douglass) with curved legs and I am missing one of the 8 legs. Where can I get replacement legs?
Thanks,

Janice M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bellerose, New York, USA
2007


A. Hi Janice,
I doubt that anyone stocks such a thing, but a metal fabricator can make it and a plating shop can plate it.

Alternately, talk to a company that does custom boating accessories. They make bent tubing like this all the time for T-tops, covers, ladders, etc., for boats. They probably will want to make it from electropolished stainless steel tubing rather than chrome plated tubing, but even professional chrome platers and electropolishers say you won't be able to see the difference (if you buy two legs, so the different materials are not attached directly together in plain sight, you certainly will never be able to tell the difference).
Luck & Regards,

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




Q. I have a vintage 1950's chrome leg kitchen table. One or two of the legs has localized rusting. What is the best way to remove the rust? Or restore the legs? Thanks so much.

Matt Jenks
- New York, New York
2006


A. Try 5% ammonium citrate (mixture of 50 gm citric acid [on eBay or Amazon] /1 lit water + add some ammonia [on eBay or Amazon], pH must be 3,5). Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia


Microcrystalline
Museum Waxes

museum_wax
on eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. In addition to Goran's fine suggestion, chrome polish will remove the rust, and wax will deter its return for a short while. But the purpose of the original chrome plating was both decorative and to keep the air from reaching the steel of the table legs. Once the plating is perforated, rust is inevitable. If the table is of value, real or sentimental, sending the legs to a plating shop for replating is the right answer. It's just expensive :-(

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


A. Take a piece of regular household aluminum foil, fold it two or three times for thickness, wet it with a little water and scrub away! Have a soft rag handy to wipe away the residue that you're removing and to shine the chrome.

I was skeptical when I first heard this idea, but decided I didn't have anything to lose except a cheap piece of foil. I cleaned up my 'new' retro table in no time at all. It was almost miraculous. GOOD LUCK!

Marchelle Brown
- Centerville, Iowa, USA
November 9, 2008




Where to find wide chrome trim for a 50's table?

Q. For a couple of years now I have been collecting 50's - 70's furnishings for my daughter. I found a 50's chrome & formica table in decent shape, wishing to keep it in good shape I stored it in my workshop. My husband used it for a cutting table. Needless to say it is no longer in good shape.
The chrome is slightly pulled away from one edge and the formica surface now has a razor knife cut about 2 1/2" in length.
I can resurface it with arborite but will need to remove the trim which will cause irreparable damage.
I had thought of using automotive paint to resurface the table leaving the chrome trim intact but I don't think it will stand up to daily scuffs and scrapes.
Do you know where I can find replacement chrome trim or do you have any suggestions that I can apply to the table top?

Gramma

Theresa Smith
Hobbyist - Nanaimo, BC, Canada
2005


A. Theresa,

I would try looking at a local sheet metal shop or a metal fabrication shop, they maybe able to steer you in the right direction or possibly even make you something up. Then you would probably need to have it rechromed -- again you would have to find a plating facility in your area. That's about the best advice I could give you.
Regards,

Brian C. Gaylets
- Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Ed. note: Although Theresa called it 'chrome trim', odds are it's actually anodized aluminum.

A. This site might be of some help.
www.barsandbooths.com/bandbmetalbanding.htm

Derek Duffield
- Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Ed. note: Thanks Derek. Although that link from 2005 has broken, barsandbooths.com is still around and they still sell that metal banding at: https://barsandbooths.com/metal-banding-2/




Q. How do I clean the chrome on the drop leaf hinge? Also the hinge is a bit creaky. Would three-in-one oil help? The underside of the table has brown spots too. Should I just paint underside?

Theresa Kelley
Owner of table - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
February 8, 2014


A. Hi Theresa. To clean it, try superfine #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon] and chrome polish [on eBay or Amazon] per previous responses. 3-in-1 oil would probably be fine, but I think WD-40 [on eBay or Amazon] would be fine too. I'm not quite understanding what you are painting since people normally don't paint the bottom side of tables, and I'm not sure if you are talking about the underside of the formica, or the bottom of chrome rails holding it together, but I don't see harm in it. I'd suggest the paint before the oil because you'll have a mess trying to paint anything that got oil on it. Good luck.

Regards,

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




Q. We have recently purchased a Vintage Dinette set. Formica tabletop with chrome legs and chairs with leather like fabric seats. Made by Virtue Brothers. We want to have it on our covered deck which is open on two sides. We plan to cover the set when not in use and bring inside in the wet winter months. Is there some way to protect it in the months that it is outside from rusting, or is this a problem? Thanks for any help you can provide.

Judy Rund
- Astoria Oregon
May 14, 2021


A. Hi cousin Judy. I hate to be a broken record but the truth is that chrome plating can be an outstanding corrosion resistant finish as can be seen on the chrome plated grills of virtually all current cars and the bumpers on trucks, and can withstand the worst that the weather and the roads can throw at them for decades.

But chrome plating will also be shiny when it's so poor that it already has barely visible rust as it waits for sale in the big box stores which are selling it for bathrooms (our Intro to Chrome Plating FAQ explains it all and includes close up photos showing the rust on bathroom fixtures for sale).

Unfortunately, the chrome on your dinette set is probably closer to the bathroom fixture chrome plating quality than the truck bumper plating quality. Regular application of paste wax to try to keep water and vapor off the chrome plating is probably your best bet.

Luck & Regards,

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


Please see also --

Topic 12615 "Repairing/re-plating Chrome kitchen table legs"

Topic 35639 "How to paint chrome table legs"





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