Aging Brass

Since I really started getting into design & figuring out my own style, I've really developed a love for brass.  When we moved into our old house (almost 4 years ago) my husband found an old brass bed on the side of the road and dragged it home where it became one of my favorite pieces.

  {our bed}

I love the warmth that brass brings to a home.  (And I'm not talking about the shiny "builder's brass" here... You know, the coated & lacquered shiny brass that feels almost plastic-y??  That still needs to go if possible.  )

{"builder's brass"... I know how common it is so bide your time patiently if you've got it.  I've had lots of it too.}

In our very first town home when we first got married, (7 years ago) our house was full of shiny builder brass door hardware.  Not knowing anything or doing any research, I bought a can of spray paint and "aged" my brass door hardware. hahahah  NOT a good idea.  My hands came away sparkly every time I opened my closet door.

In the next house, I never really got there.  We had projects upon projects and on my "eventually" list I planned to swap out the doors and door hardware but we ended up moving before we got there.

In our new house, I finally got the chance to get what I want as we had to buy new doors anyway because we changed the floor plan so much it didn't make sense to pay our contractors to put the old hollow core doors back in. SO...  I am finally getting a chance at that brass I've wanted.  (!!! yee haw!!)

I decided on black 3 panel Shaker-style doors & we had them painted in black.  (semi-gloss)

We've been collecting antique & vintage wooden warm orangey-brown door knobs for the doors:

And we took a leap on unlacquered brass escutcheons, deciding we'd attempt to age them ourselves.

We started slowly, with salt water to oxidize the brass...

My collection of beakers actually DOES come in handy for science experiments ;) 

Maybe I was supposed to completely submerge them in the salt water??  But apparently the brass- saltwater thing is for patient people.  (I'm not one of those.)  There was a bit of change to the brass but nothing big enough to warrant an "after" photo.

Next up, we tried BAKING the brass in the oven.  (** REALLY IMPORTANT WARNING!!***  We used unlacquered brass to do this so it's okay but don't do this if you have lacquered brass because the lacquer is flammable.  )  After we baked the brass, it became a bit more orangey but it still looked a bit too pristine and shiny for me.

We had heard about trying white vinegar and also that ammonia vapor is maybe the best way to age brass but not having either of those around, we were lazy.  Then, when posting some brass progress pics on Instagram, a couple of my friends mentioned Over Off Oven Cleaner.

It came in a spray can and my husband did it without me watching so I'm not quote sure how he applied it.  (The door plates have become kind of a joke as they've been hanging around for a couple of months and we do random things to them all the time.)  We let them sit overnight and here's how they looked after that:

You can see that they each do different things.

Here's a close-up of one:

{The shine is all but gone!!}

I'm completely new at this but I think my next step is to sort of buff them a little so it looks more natural??  I also might try applying it completely over the piece instead of spraying it (which gave it the speckled appearance.)

We went after our kitchen faucet too and I'm loving how it's looking:

There are some green spots on the pieces too, which I love.

The faucet is almost good to go but I'm going to need to work more on the door plates...  They are a little too spotty for what I'm looking for so maybe if I can get them fully submerged somehow?  I've also heard of gels??

ps- I came across this blog post which looks super-helpful
Yours Truli Blog on Aging Brass

Anyway, I'll keep you posted!!  I can't WAIT to show you how the pieces look when they're in!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


Laura Lynn said...

I love the timeworn look of brass. I also use it a lot. You can also find antiquing solution at antique hardware supply stores. It's really inexpensive or you can buy the chemical and dilute it in water to make your own. I cannot wait for your home to be published. I am dying to see it!!

An Urban Cottage said...

I found a beautiful brass door knocker I wanted for the front door of my antique house but it was new and I wanted it have a patina. I contacted the company to see of they had any suggestions for stripping the lacquer and aging the brass. The reply was as follows:

"Thank you for your inquiry about our door knockers. I'm sorry we don't any advice for aging our brass since no one wants to do this. People do contact us to refinish their brass and we can help with that service. Please let us know if we may be of additional assistance."

So thank you for making me think I'm not crazy.

Mothership said...

A few years ago when Brooke from Velvet and Linen wanted an aged brass faucet handle in her bathroom, her contractor soaked it in Drano over the weekend. I tried it with some smaller pieces of hardware and it worked like a charm. Pretty!

Lori said...

I would just leave it outside, covered or not, for a week or so. I bought unlacquered brass light fixtures for outside. It only took a week or two for them to patina nicely.

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

Very interesting! I've been hesitant to recommend unlacquered brass to clients because I wasn't sure how good that patina would really look over time. I hope you update us from time to time!

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

I have wanted to age my builder brass but I am too lazy to take it all down. Wish I could do it in place, LOL!

*Tara said...

I use a Brass Aging/Darkening solution and it works super fast. You just put it in a little bucket or bowl and watch it closely. Take it out when it's done and rinse it off. It's also reusable (not forever but multiple times) so I just pour it back into the bottle when I'm done. I've done wall sconces and hardware and love the look it gives. Check it out here if you're interested..

Fiona said...

I like your door. :)
Some other blogger (can't think who) was debating three vs five panel doors--but her three-panel door was that sort of beveled edge, which I personally hate. (It looks very model home to me.) I love your three-panel door.

Karen at Home Sweet Hollywood said...

I too love antique brass...nothing beats it in my opinion. It's warm and so pretty. I have searched the internet so much for unlacquered hard to find.

Your plates and faucets are looking great!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

So many interesting techniques from readers on how to age brass. I hope that you find the right look!

Love your new light!


Windlost said...

Aged brass looks so lovely. I know Trina over at Country Farmhouse bought something at the hardware store for aging her brass. It was a one-step product I believe. Our house is full of it. I have gotten rid of much of it but since we have not replaced the doors yet (eventually, unless we move), the handles are all builders brass. UGH! I hate it too.

I think your science experiment technique is wonderful.

xo Terri

Windlost said...

Here's the stuff.

It is called "Brass Ager" funnily enough.

I can be used on unlacquered brass:

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Anonymous said...

Two years ago I had to struggle to find unlacquered brass pieces that weren't a fortune (i.e. Waterworks) for my bathroom renovation. I've left them to age naturally and it has happened pretty quickly, but the spottiness on some of them isn't ideal. I want to try "smoothing" it out somehow, so I am really curious to see how this goes for you.

And Steve, I too had to argue with everyone I met that I actually wanted the brass to age. There were constant warnings about needing to polish and how nobody else wants their brass unsealed.

The reno is here - if you want to see it. More recent posts show how quickly the brass has aged.

Anonymous said...

Excellent choice on the doors. That black door is truly stunning! The right brass hardware can be tricky - I also love the look of worn. aged brass - I think you are getting awfully close! Can't wait to see these installed.

Melissa said...

Lauren, I own a furniture re-sale business (we buy, lacquer and reupholster furniture from the 1960's-1980's) so I've seen A LOT of brass. We get in campaign pieces with really gunky (or super shiny) hardware, and I've had to figure out how to make it shiny but also aged... here's my "recipe." Get a pot you never plan to cook in again (I buy big stock pots at the thrift store, because after a few months this eats through the bottom.) I completely submerge the hardware in the pot, fill with water, and dump in a good bit of white vinegar. Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Using tongs to pull the hot pieces out, and old towels (and gloves-- it will turn your hands black) rub Barkeeper's Friend on the hot brass (I like the liquid better than the powder form.) If you want it to get speckly, rinse it off but don't dry it completely. It will get water markings all over it. If you want it to age out, just dry it thoroughly and wait about a month... the brass will naturally start to darken and mottle, since you've removed the clear topcoat (this doesn't work for lacquered brass, but most of the unlacquered stuff does have a kind of sealant on it that you see peel right off under the hot water.) it also looks beautiful and rich freshly polished-- glow-y.

I've used Easy Off to STRIP brass plate-- hope that's not what happened to your plates. It eats off the layer of plating, leaving whatever metal is beneath (usually chrome or polished steel.) If a magnet sticks to it, there is some sort of base metal and brass plate-- real, solid brass is not magnetic. I always test before I clean it up because you can easily removed thin layers of plate, leaving the silver-y base metal exposed.

Anonymous said...

My painter soaks the lacquered brass in some kind of acid and all the lacquer is gone! I love it when the doorknobs that get used the most often stay shinier. I don't like anything even, anyway! Patina!!

Great post!

pve design said...

you are too funny, aging your brass....I love how you make things have that loved look.
If only people could age as gracefully as brass. There is a japanese company with brass that I think you would love.....I shall find the name for you.

Lane McNab said...

I know you are going to get a bazillion comments giving you advice on this but I thought I would join the club! As a fellow brass-lover I just went through this aging process with a kick-plate I bought:
I used something called "brass ager" that I bought at a salvage store here. It was very fast. I actually went back with steel wool and buffed a lot of the patina off and evened it out and am really pleased with it. Here is the link for Ohmega Salvage (where I bought it) and I bet if you contact them they would send you a bottle of the ager: Also, Martha Stewart has a great video tutorial out there using ammonia I think.

Good luck!


Kristen said...

i'm still waiting for the day i drive by some piece of amazing vintage goodness just sitting on the side of the road for the taking. a brass bed or maybe a pristine eames chair would be nice. : )

Loretta Fontaine (EcoHappy Blog) said...

Lauren- Great post, I really enjoying the responses, especially Melissa's "recipe" which sounds really cool.

Have you thought of liver of sulfur? There are two chemicals I use to darken and age sterling silver in my jewelry, and I think they would work nicely with brass, too. One chemical is Black Max which uses sulphuric acid and I avoid, because it is an instant deep black with no interesting colors in between.

Liver of sulfur (I get a tin of solid pieces) can be used very very diluted in hot water, like the color of pale pee, and you keep dipping until you get a hue you like. If you want to keep the hue, you can seal with Rennasaince Wax, which will change the color a bit but protect the patina from changing.

Your doors are gorgeous! I'll be painting the doors on my first floor BM's Wrought Iron and haven't decided on the hardware yet. I am adoring the black doors in Thom Filicia's home in American Beauty...

Vel Criste said...

Thank you!!! We have the same shiny brass on all our doors, and i've been contemplating on paintint them, but I was afraid the paint might flake off easily because of how frequently their used, you just gave the perfect idea. THANK YOU LAUREN!

Julianna Farmer said...

I bet if you asked Brooke Giannetti, from Velvet & Linen, she could tell you because they aged some brass for their new home. She didn't give the specifics of how on her blog, but there's always the phone call or email.

Unknown said...

Its a nice piece of information,Aged brass looks so lovely.We have the same shiny brass on all our doors, and i've been contemplating on paintint them, but I was afraid the paint might flake off easily because of how frequently their used, you just gave the perfect idea.Painter and Decorator Balham provide services other than just decorating aswell, so why not contact us to see what we could offer you.

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for all of the suggestions everyone!! I will be back here a lot. I'm going to give one of the ready-made brass agers next because I'm thinking there's less a chance I'll mess up :)
Will keep you posted!!

All Things Domestic said...

All these chemicals sound so awful and cancer-causing! (Having a 3 year old niece with leukemia has made me very careful/cautious about what we use in our house.) What about taking the easy way out and buying door hardware that has that antiqued look already? We used Emtek's French Antique finish and have been really happy with it in our 1920 Colonial, at least on our interior doors (the front door exterior hardware hasn't worn well, though -- I need to take that up with Emtek). Not sure it's exactly what you are looking for but maybe some of your readers will want to check it out.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

at work we frequently strip the lacquer off of lacquered brass (when a window or door manufacturer doesn't offer unlacquered brass). We're doing this at one job site right now so that the hinges match the baldwin handles we spec'd. I'll ask the contractor what they used to strip the lacquer and email you - they simply dipped it into something. Paint thinner maybe?

LindsB said...

This is so friggin awesome! I LOVE what you are doing to all of those and I cant WAIT to see how they come out- they are going to be soo perfect and beautiful!

Unknown said...

Still this brass pieces will have a chance to have second shiny look. Might be needing some re-polishing,
and chemical treatment just like etching of Interior Glass Doors.

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Amy Rodriguez said...

We just moved and our house is filled with ugly "builders brass" door knobs. Its strange bc many of the hinges seemed to have darkened over time while the knobs are still so shiny? Can't wait to get rid of them! Love this post and all of the comments/suggestions!

kara said...

Hi, I was wondering where your faucet was from? make/model? i love it and have been looking for something similar!! Did it come unlacquered?

thanks, kara

Spring time in Georgia! said...

I think I am addicted to brass- so much that I had to open my own shop. It brings some age to a room even if its completely modern! Its amazing what a little brass bowl or lamp will do to a room. Stephanie Fig at The Enchanted Fig Tree on ETSY

Unknown said...

That brass looks almost like gold and can be used in
Glass Doors. Have you used any chemicals?

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mrsben said...

Lauren, was going through my favourites and had a site which I titled 'aged brass' that you may be interested in.
Do a U-tube Web search: changing vintage chrome faucets to aged brass (mox construction)
The video is very self explantory as it shows the steps involved to get the required finish shown.
Hope this helps. -Brenda-

countmein said...

Can you please share the black paint color you used for the door! It's perfect!

Unknown said...

I remember once trying to clean my hardware with swimming pool cleaner and I got similar result to your aged brass. I think It contained a lot of chlorine. Thinking maybe bleach would work similar? Just an idea, but perhaps worth to try?