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Paint Removal from Copper or Brass?


I have a set of what I'll call casement windows with a simple twist handle. These are very brown with age dirt grime etc. I applied metal polish to one and it cleaned up to what looks like a shiny copper. But the metal seems sturdier than copper. Maybe it is a copper plate? Some of these have been painted over.

I need to know how to determine what type of metal this is, how to safely remove old paint (some of which could be oil based and leaded)and then how best to polish and whether to seal once polished (and what to seal with). The handle is attached to the window face by a square metal piece with four screws, the handle rotates on the square and is kind of guitar/modified pear shape. The tip of the handle fits into a "u" shaped bracket that fits on the frame of the window. I have ten of these windows which I am repainting and cleaning up. Any help would be appreciated.

Jim Edwards
- Denver, CO


Jim, use a sharp object and scratch on the back to see if you see the base metal through the copper (if it is plated). If it is plated on steel you can simply attach a magnet to see if it adheres, if it does..its plated.

Leaving the parts to soak overnight in a can of lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], paint remover, or Acetone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] will loosen up the paint enough to strip it off. You can hand polish them using a good over the counter polish like "SimiChrome [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]" and seal them with spray lacquer. The trade-off between lacquering and not is that lacquer will eventually yellow and wear and will have to be redone. Whereas not coating them will require periodic polishing. I prefer no lacquer myself. A polishing buff on a bench grinder would greatly speed up your polishing process if you have access to one.


Jim Waggener
- Cobbs Creek, Virginia


I have the same windows. They're Andersen windows from the 1940s & 50s. The dark color is a patina which comes off with Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Without a new finish they start darkening immediately, so I sprayed them with clear lacquer & they're still perfect 4 years later.

Ruth Edmonds
- Glenwood Spgs, Colorado, USA

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