Nothing beats the solid bronze and brass window hardware you typically find on old houses. And the patina of antique bronze? Get outta here! It is solid stuff that can stand the test of time much better than the cheap plastic and pot metal stuff you find more common today.
Granted most of that amazing hardware has been covered by decades of paint and some of it has gone missing, but there are solutions to both of those problems to help you bring your old hardware back to life.
Problem #1 Paint
Lazy painters are no longer a problem! What you need to get decades of caked on paint off without damaging the hardware is nothing more than an old crock pot. Use an old crock pot that you don’t plan to cook with ever again. Fill it with water and just a bit of dish soap. Turn it on high and toss the hardware in for about 4-6 hours.
Put some gloves on and pull the hardware out one at a time and scrub them with a stiff bristle brush until you’ve removed all the paint. If the paint isn’t coming off with ease it may need another soaking for a couple more hours.
This works far better than scraping and chipping the old paint off because you can retain that beautiful old patina hiding under the paint.
Once it’s clean, give it a little buff with some 0000 steel wool and you are good to go. Check out the video below to see the process in action.
Problem #2 Missing Hardware
Yes, occasionally the good stuff is gone. Take a moment to mourn its loss then head over to House of Antique Hardware or VanDykes Restorers to find some new historical hardware.
These new items are made very well and can match the original stuff in construction many times, but what do you do about matching that awesome patina? Stay clear from any of the painted finishes because they inevitably chip off and fail unlike the real thing.
What you can do instead to match your finish almost exactly is use a product I created called The Patinator. This is something I developed to help age new hardware to look like the old stuff.
Why would you choose this over any other ager? Well, it is specifically formulated to work at the right pace so you can carefully match the level of patina on your hardware. Other agers you have to dilute to the right amount or they work so quickly that you blow right past mild patina into ultra-dark hardware. The Patinator gets you to the same place at a manageable pace with no complex mixing. Here’s another video of the aging process.
Here’s how you use it. Start with un-lacquered brass or bronze (the lacquered versions will not age because they are sealed). Pour some Patinator in a plastic container that will allow you to completely submerge your hardware. Fill another container with water and grab a couple rags.
Submerge your hardware in The Patinator and watch it closely (it starts working immediately and will likely need somewhere between a few seconds and a minute to reach the patina level you want.)
As soon as it’s the color you want, switch the hardware to the container with water to stop the aging process. Then wipe it down with rag and you’ll be left with a perfectly aged piece of hardware that has a natural living finish that won’t scrape away like the painted finishes.
You can find The Patinator in my store right here. Good luck and happy “hardwaring!”
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
3 thoughts on “Bringing Old Hardware Back to Life”
I must thank you for this amazing technique of stripping paint from window hardware. I’m restoring a 90+ year old heritage listed house here in Australia and your site has helped enormously, especially with the double hung windows. 90+ years and multiple layers of paint on everything. The sash sheaves where painted shut and the sash cords like sticks. The ‘boiling’ of the sheaves and fitch latches and other bits (door hardware) revealed brass, and after peeling the paint off, 30 seconds of 2000 grit wet&dry paper or the fibreglass brush wheel returned them to new.
I can’t recommend this process highly enough… even doing it with old motorcycle parts now, and the best bit.. no toxic chemicals and the kitchen only smells like I’ve done the washing up.
What metals does Patinator work on?
Bronze, brass and steel