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"How to Refinish Brass Lamps"



A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2019

2001

Q. Dear Sir,

I have two brass lamps that I would like to make bright again. I think they have a lacquered finish that has worn off. Can I remove this finish with a good brass polish and put another lacquer finish on them? Would I use a spray lacquer or paint a finish on? Thank You, Marion.

Mrs. Marion S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Milton, Pennsylvania
^


2001

A. If the old finish is a varnish, yes, a polish will remove it.

However you might also find that the finish is removed a bit faster with a couple of drops of Ammonia added to the polish. The Ammonia aggressively penetrates most paints and varnishes and help loosen the paint or varnish. Do this in a well ventilated area and wear rubber Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. A Tooth brush might help reach into tight spots.

Do not soak the lamp in Ammonia or anything else that might make the electrical works wet.

After the lamp is polished, wipe the surface with a dampened cloth dipped in mild detergent water to remove possible waxes that the polish may have.

Wipe again with a dampened cloth having only clear water to remove the detergent.

Dry with a clean cloth and at this point try not to touch the brass with your hands, hold it with a clean cloth.

Now, you can apply a thin coat of clear spray-on varnish of a type that will dry in 1 or 2 hours (but do not touch them for about 12 hours so the paint is dry and hard).

Do not use the 'satin' varnish just the plain bright shiny kind. Try your hand on spraying something else first to determine how much to use for good coverage. Do not spray if the brass is very cold.

Remember when you paint metal the paint has nothing to 'soak' into and can pool and run easier than painting wood.

If the painting goes poorly, wipe all the varnish off immediately with mineral spirits [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] (paint thinner) and a clean rag and after it dries for an hour try again.

Thank you and good luck.

Jaye W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Burbank, California
^



2002

Q. Hi,

I have an old floor lamp that my grandmother has given to me. It is really old because it has cloth covered wire. It is a bronzy, goldish color but it has tarnished. How can I find out how to refinish it? How can I tell what type of metal it is or if it is a painted goldish color? Help!

Thanks to all who respond.

Jolene H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Wetmore, Michigan
^


 

A. The simplest test is a magnet; if it's magnetic, it's iron-based, that is, steel or cast iron. In that case it could be either painted or brass/bronze plated. If it's plated, it's unlikely you can restore it yourself because the plating is probably gone in spots. So if it's magnetic and you don't want the expense of plating you would probably have to paint it.

If it's not magnetic, then it's probably solid brass/bronze and you can restore it with metal polishes. Try a mixture of vinegar and salt on an inconspicuous area; this is a very aggressive tarnish remover. Then try finishing up that area with Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon].

It goes without saying that if you suspect an item is really valuable that an amateur shouldn't fool with it for fear of spoiling its value. Good luck.

There are hundreds of letters on line here about restoring brass and bronze items if you have the patience for a search.

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



2003

Q. I have 3 old brass lamps and want to polish them. However, the brass is pitted. One won't shine at all and I am using a good brass polish. Any help would be appreciated.

Also, one standing tall lamp has 3 places for bulbs (about 8") Can I do anything so I can put a Victorian shade on it? One one of them the bulb would hang down and I want a Victorian shade on it also. Thank you.

Wanda C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Roseburg, Oregon
^



2004

Q. Dear Sir

I have an inexpensive brass coloured chandelier that I want to refinish to make it look like antiqued brass or pewter. Do you have any suggestions how to go about doing this?

Penny Vine
homeowner - Delta, BC, Canada
^


2004

A. Hello Penny. We want to help, but it's complicated because these days things are not necessarily what they look like.

Your chandelier might be solid brass, but also could be brass plated steel or a brass plated zinc diecasting. There could be brass lacquer on that, or a polyurethane clear coat, or something else. But it also could be nickel plated, then coated with a brass-colored electrophoretic lacquer (organic finish), with no brass actually involved at all.

If you found a canister of white powder in your basement that you'd forgotten the origin of, experience would tell you that you can't mix eggs with it and expect to make a cake if you don't know whether it's baking soda or pancake mix or arsenic. Similarly, many things can look like brass, and there's no one chemical that can react with any and all of those possibilities and leave a predictable finish.

The good news is that both Krylon and Rustoleum (and probably other brands) now offer paint finishes that look quite close to pewter and antique brass. That's probably a good way to go on a relatively new and "inexpensive brass colored chandelier". Good luck!

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


2004

Q. I have two brass lamps that were in my parents house when it burned. I am trying to restore them, but have tried everything. Some of the finish is pitted. I think they have some type of coating, not sure. I've tried Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], but they still need a lot of work. Any help would be great!

Sincerely,

Terrie L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
teacher - Newnan, Georgia
^


2004

A. Try vinegar, with salt added and dip the offending objects in that, leaving for a while, then cleaning in fresh water. Continue until brass is clean. Also works on copper, etc..

Trevor P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kent, England
^



adv: Krylon Brass Metallic Paint [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]
Krylon Spray Enamel - pewter gray [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]
Rustoleum #7277 Brushed Nickel Metallic [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]

2004

Q. I have two large barrel shaped brass lamps that do not match my decor. I would like to age them to look either like old copper or aged brass, but I am afraid of the electrical cords and any process that is toxic or messy due to the fact that I have a young child in the house. Any information you can offer would be helpful.

Thank you

Theresa Kucuk
teacher - Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
^


2004

A. Get the lamps up to a high shine, make sure that the lamps are clean, then it's time to make the patina. Boil water, add salt until it doesn't dissolve anymore, let it cool, then brush it onto the metal let it dry overnight and apply the next day, continue until you have the color you want, then seal it with a clear spray lacquer.

Good Luck

Marc Banks
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina
^



"Renovating a Bathroom"
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2005

Q. My name is Nancy. I am a homeowner from Raleigh, NC. I have bathrooms that have been outfitted with "brass look" fixtures including the shower door. Glass and brass. I would like to treat these surfaces to change the look to nickel or pewter or silver. Can anyone help me learn the products and or someone who can perform the service. My home was built in 1996.

Also I would like to know how to change my solid surface counter tops that are blue. Can they be covered with a metal product such as an industrial brushed steel? Thank you for your interest.

Nancy Armstrong
homeowner - Raleigh, North Carolina
^


2005

A. If the shower doors were very expensive they might actually be lacquered real brass, but it's far more likely that they are anodized aluminum with gold or brass colored dye. The case with dyed anodized aluminum is that the dye was absorbed into a honeycomb like structure during manufacturing, that was later capped off, and there is no practical way to do anything with it except replace it. It could be painted, but the paint may not stick really well. Get it spotlessly clean, then prime with a self-etching primer for good adhesion.

A plating shop could refinish the plumbing fixtures, but it's unlikely you do do anything with them yourself except paint them (which isn't promising considering the wet and difficult environment). The reason you don't read much about how to refinish faucets and fixtures in renovation and handyman books is that there probably isn't a practical but robust way to do it. Sorry.

Industrial brushed steel will be very prone to rusting. Some people strip the paint off of old steel desks and clearcoat them, but they often have rusting issues even in an office environment. Clearcoats probably won't be enough rust protection for the humid environment of most bathrooms.

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



2005

Q. Is there a product that can be used on brass to change the look to a silver/pewter look finish?

Patty Collier
wedding chapel - Abilene, Texas
^


A. Hi Patty. Yes, there are paints for such cases, and there are wax rubs, or the parts can be sent to a plating shop. Other approaches might work as well. But it's hard to offer you a useful answer to an abstract question. Please try your best to describe the actual situation. Thanks.

Regards,

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



2005

Q. The brass frame and hinges on my glass shower are tarnished and have black spots on them. I want to paint the frame and hinges white. What is the best way to do it and have it last, since there is frequent contact with water and steam. Thank you.

P.S. I have read how to paint a brass light fixture and a large brass bed in your advice section - However, I think my problem is different size-wise (smaller than a bed - bigger than a light - and stationary, too) with an added problem of water exposure.

Elaine Zucchi
consumer - Briarcliff, New York
^


A. Hi Elaine. See answer to Nancy A, just above.

Luck & Regards,

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


2005

A. Dear All,

I really feel great to be here with you, with all your questions regarding finishes, please note that the simple lacquered brass polished, pewter, can be easily refinished thru Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] I hope this is easily available in your all countries. Regarding other finishes, please note that these type of finishes can be refinished thru washing, such as patina, bronze, antique brass, etc., Well, besides this if you would like to know more about your articles I can always be happy to reply.

Thanks & best Regards,

Rizwan Shakil
exports of all Indian Artistic Handicraft Items - Moradabad, India
^



2006

Q. I have tried to refinish an old brass lamp using Brasso. So far I have used 3 cans of Brasso but can't seem to get the finish to look shiny & clean as I want it. Am I just beating my head against a wall or is there another product I can use to get better results. A friend suggested using Muriatic Acid [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] . I tried it but was frightened of the "instability" of the acid--smoke, fumes. I would appreciate any suggestions anyone might have.

Sincerely,

Susan Seitter
consumer - Corpus Christi, Texas
^


2006

A. You are right to be frightened by muriatic acid, and it's inappropriate anyway. As previously noted, you must first make sure there is no lacquer on the brass as brass polishes are not designed to remove lacquer; you need lacquer thinner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] for that. Then you might try vinegar plus salt in an inconspicuous area; this is very aggressive and will leave the brass looking "raw" but should be correctable using Brasso. You might consider going to the hardware store and getting a buffing wheel for your electric drill to make the polishing quicker and easier on the hands.

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


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