There are many things I would rather do than watch paint dry; polishing brass hardware for my campaign pieces is NOT one of them. I would rather watch paint dry. In fact, I would rather watch the paint dry for all SIXTEEN hours required between EACH coat of the orange campaigner I’m working on. The Benjamin Moore Alkyd paint is killing me, btw.
If you have been following my blog since the start (only 12 posts ago), you know that one of my first projects, a campaign dresser, almost caused me to quit the business. I wrote a post about how difficult it was to polish the brass hardware. I have learned a lot since then and have a new procedure for polishing brass (which is what this post is really about), but still, I pretty much hate doing it.
For my new readers, I’m going to rehash the trouble that first dresser caused me to put some emphasis behind the pun used in the title of this blog :).
In addition to the hardware being difficult (that’s a generous term) to polish, I had a missing hardware issue. When I picked it up at Goodwill in December, I knew it was missing the lower right brass corner, but I figured that would be an easy fix.
Well, not so much. I searched high and low for a salvaged piece or a vintage replica. I shopped Etsy and eBay for weeks. I dug through bins at the ReStore in Ballard and Second Use in SODO with Quinn strapped to my chest. I thrifted every store I could think of – Eastside, Westside, downtown….nothing! I found other options, but they were so prohibitively expensive, it wasn’t worth it. Finally, I posted a plea to Craigslist and my friend, Reeves (go “Like” her page), from The Weathered Door (go follow her blog), came to my rescue with a piece she stripped from one of her projects. It wasn’t perfect (the nail holes were a little bit larger), but it did the trick and I was SO thankful!
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my problems, I also had a problem with two of the pulls: the handles were loose and were beyond repair. My plan was to sell it “as-is” since it was only a functional problem. I was in process of negotiating with the person who eventually bought the dresser, but then I randomly came across an ad on CL for someone locally that was selling 6 pulls that were an exact match for my dresser. I contacted her to see if I could buy 2, she agreed and mailed them, and I was so relieved!
Two nights before I was scheduled to sell the dresser to a buyer driving all the way from Vancouver, B.C., I was re-polishing the hardware and attaching the two new pulls and then a THIRD pull fell apart in my hands. I just about lost it. I quickly dug up contact info for the lady who was selling the vintage pulls to see if she had any left. She had ONE left, and in order to get it in time for my buyer, I had to drive out to East Lake Sammamish the next morning to pick it up. SIGH.
The next day, which happened to be Valentine’s Day, my buyer drove down and purchased both of these dressers:
That grey dresser was probably my favorite as far as color/size, etc, goes – but I was SO glad to see it go and proud that it was in the best condition it could’ve been. With all the work and driving I did for that piece, I definitely didn’t make any money off the sale of it. Fortunately, the beautiful coral campaign dresser was a much easier project:).
So, with as much trouble as I had with that first campaign project, and for as much as I loathe polishing, you would think I’d move on and diversify my portfolio (borrowing terminology from my finance days) a little bit more, right? Well, not really …
Next, there was this:
And, now I’m working on this:
And, when that gets done, I’m doing custom work on this:
As I mentioned earlier, the point of this post is to share my NEW procedure for polishing brass. I’ve learned a lot since the first couple of projects and figured I should impart that knowledge to those of you who may be thinking about taking on your own campaign dresser restoration. The reason I had so much difficulty the first time is because BRASS IS LACQUERED! Duh! Well, most of the time it is. It wasn’t on that coral piece I did (that’s why it was so easy) but every other campaign dresser I have done had lacquered hardware. To polish the tarnish, you must first strip the lacquer off the hardware.
1. Strip the hardware from the furniture and save all the bolts/screws/nails/what-ev in a container (common sense instructions).
2. Place all or some of the hardware in a bin and drizzle some paint stripper on it, like this:
3. Use something, like an old toothbrush, to make sure the hardware is covered in the stripper. Let it sit for a few minutes. 10 is plenty.
4. Come back and rinse it off while scrubbing the gooey stuff off.
5. After all of the pieces are de-lacquered, you will easily, and I mean EASILY, be able to rub away the tarnish with a sponge and some Barkeeper’s Friend (a product tip from Reeves).
6. You’ll know when they’re polished, because they’ll have a beautiful bright gold look. If you have any stubborn tarnish areas that don’t scrub away with a little bit of extra elbow grease, it’s probably an area where the lacquer didn’t come off. You can spot treat the area and repeat the process and it should come right off.
7. Make sure and dry the pieces thoroughly shortly after you finish polishing to avoid water spots. If you get some finger prints or tarnish spots that show up after you reattach the hardware to your furniture, you can touch up with a soft cloth and a bit of Barkeeper’s Friend (no need to remove the hardware).
(Please help me, help others! “PIN” this post).
And that’s it! I had to polish 12 pulls for this orange dresser, along with all the corner, side, and t-brackets. But I’m done, thank goodness.
Now, back to watching that orange paint dry.