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Vintage Kerosene lamp: cleaning Copper Plate & Japanning

Q. Assistance please with sharing any experience w/ a similar finish, as found, on an "Angle" kero lamp, circa 1900.

Mild soap and water shows no significant "dirt" on the surface. Stronger degreaser type does remove some ? dirt or possible japanning. Alcohol, Naptha Acetone do little, Xylene leaves a little grayness on the cotton and appears to "soften" the japanning/paint.

61659-1b   61659-1a  

Any suggestions on this approach? My next trial would be to test with an aqueous stripper/soap (citrus or safe stripper) but this may be too far. The burner units (wick housings) appear to be either japanned or covered w. deteriorated lacquer etc.. and I'm curious as to the color of the metal underneath ... if brass then it was originally japanned, etc.!

Doe anyone have an opinion here? Thanks!

Dolph Druckman
- Baltimore, Maryland
April 16, 2024

Angle antique kerosene lamps on eBay

A. Hi Dolph.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with what metal this lamp would be made from, nor what finishes would normally be applied. But to me it looks like it was copper plated, not japanned, and the copper has severely tarnished over time. A similar lamp but with original glass globes is on eBay for $7499, so yours may be reasonably valuable, although some are more like $150-200.

Please try to find an inconspicuous but blackened area and try a mix of vinegar & salt -- this is an aggressive copper tarnish remover. Still, sooty carbon deposits may be impossible to completely remove without a lot of abrasion/buffing/polishing. A soft buffing pad in a low power cordless drill [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] and some jewelers rouge [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] should get you down to the copper plating -- but you would need to watch for buffing away the copper plating or losing some detail.

Luck & Regards,

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

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