Sherwin Williams Black Magic | hardware
Our Tree House has a handful of original doors and windows throughout, and they lend so much character to every room. The house was built in the 1930s, and over the last almost-century, some of the windows were replaced, but to the credit of the previous homeowners, the replacements don’t detract from the charm we fell for. That said – and this easily falls under Old House Problems – all of them have been painted over countless times. This is always so baffling to us, but with every paint job, drips were rarely (if ever) corrected, hinges were lazily painted over and the glass was slopped with heavy brush strokes. Why?!
A goal of ours is to correct these issues, slowly, room by room. You’ve seen that we’re painting our windows (and some doors) black, and with that comes a lot of prep work! Scraping paint. Removing hardware. Patching holes. Taping off glass. It is so much effort – a labor of love, no doubt – but we think it yields big results. For example, here’s a window in our guest room, before we added thicker trim and beadboard:
The original casement latches were replaced with eye hooks (more of this: ?!), and those hinges are typical of every last hinge throughout. As a part of our guest room makeover, we took the time to correct these issues, and now the window looks like this (this was taken before the room went green):
We’ve already shared most of our painting process in these two posts, but today we want to talk about that brass hardware! We boiled, de-lacquered and aged the brass, and it wasn’t without a little bit – okay, a lot bit – of trial and error. Here’s a simple breakdown of what we wanted to do:
- First, we wanted to boil the paint off of those pretty brass hinges
- Second, we purchased these casement fasteners to replace the eye hooks. The fasteners were part of a lightning sale (for $5 each!) if we purchased them in a lacquered brass finish. We took a risk and scooped them up, with the intention of de-lacquering them. A lacquered brass will always look shiny and new, whereas an unlacquered brass will patina over time. Our preference is always the latter.
- Finally, we wanted to accelerate the patina process by aging the brass fasteners. This would better match the brass tones throughout Tree House.
Okay, now let’s dig in even deeper with our methods, including what worked and what didn’t. Our hope is that we can save you time by putting popular methods to the test. Let’s go!
Testing for Brass
Before moving any further, there’s always a simple test we do beforehand, and that’s testing to see if what we’re working with is real bass. So, how do you know if what you have is brass? It’s simple: Magnets don’t stick to brass. If you have an item that looks brass and a magnet sticks to it, it might be brass plated.
Cleaning Painted Brass by Boiling
We started by removing the windows from the jamb altogether, and then we removed the hinges. We’ve heard a lot of success stories of removing decades of paint layers by boiling the hardware, but we’d yet to try it ourselves. Spoiler: it works! Like, really well. Because we don’t yet have a working stove, we actually did this on this hot plate (ha!), and we picked up a pot from a thrift store for this purpose only. (Long gone are the days where this pot will see pasta.) We boiled the hinges for 30 minutes, and using a pair of tongs, we took them out of the water to allow them to cool. Most of the paint slid right off, and any stubborn bits were easily removed with a toothbrush! Note: Our hinges were still a little rusty, but we liked this. If that’s not for you, we’ve heard that soaking them in Coke will remove the rust. Has anyone tried this?
De-Lacquering Brass: Part I
Moving onto the lacquered casement fasteners, we wanted to try a natural method for de-lacquering first. Here they are in their shiny (and still very pretty!) lacquered state:
Similar to the method above, we dropped all of the pieces into boiling water, but this time, we added about 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 quart of water. After 15 minutes, there were areas where the lacquer was bubbling up, but a quick scratch test proved that it was still tacky. We continued to boil them for another one hour with little success. The smell of metal was overwhelming, so we flung open all the windows and turned on the stove vent, too. Every 20-or-so minutes, more water and baking soda was needed as it slowly evaporated.
As we neared the one and a half hour mark, we decided enough was enough. Using tongs, the hardware was removed. Each piece was ran under cold water, and I used a piece of steel wool to remove as much remaining lacquer as possible.
Our results were patchy, at best. In fact, most of the fasteners took on a haze! Below, you can see where the haze settled onto the latch, whereas the base of the latch was lacquer free. Not thrilled with the results from the natural method, we moved on to the bigger, stronger method …
De-Lacquering Brass: Part II
… Acetone! A few swipes of acetone removed 99% of the haze and remaining lacquer. I don’t have photos of this process, because I was wearing gloves, and this stuff is strong. Basically, I soaked a cotton pad with the acetone and rubbed it into each fastener. Each one took an additional 2 minutes to de-lacquer, which is muuuch better than the length of time the boiling method took! Note: Open the windows, and wear a mask and gloves when using acetone.
Finally, it was time to age our de-lacquered hinges! Wearing gloves and using cotton pads again, we had a lot of luck with Brass Black. Like the name suggests, this solution literally turns the brass black, but a quick rinse under cold water and a soft scrub with steel wool will scale it back. I allowed the Brass Black to sit on the unlacquered brass for maybe 15 seconds before rinsing it with water, at which point, I’d rub off the excessive black areas with steel wool. If I took off too much, I’d rub on a little more, rinse, remove. Rub, rinse, remove. I repeated those three steps until we were both satisfied with the look!
We’re so happy with how this window turned out, and luckily, this is the only window in Tree House with eye hooks – ha! The remaining casement windows in the home have the original latches, so they’ll likely get a quick boil to remove paint, followed up with a rub down with Brasso or Barkeeper’s Friend. (Or Coke?!) We’ve got a whole home of windows and doors to go!
Have you tried any of these methods? If so, which of them worked for you? Or maybe you’ve tried another with good success?