Monday, 18 September 2017

My Knobs' Patina

One of the eternal debates in restoration is "how much". We have all seen over-restored buildings which have lost their character. On the other hand, one would rather that one's restored building is distinctly distinguishable from a ruin. Where is the happy middle ground?

This, in microcosm, is the same debate when polishing brass. Too much polishing and it looks like new brass; too little polishing and the metal looks too tarnished.

Anyhow, I am currently polishing a job lot of brass door knobs. I have completed the 5 on the right stopping before I reach an overly polished look - which is often the flaw with modern brass items. The 4 on the left have some remaining lacquer coating, which accounts for the "gold" colour with brown regions where the  lacquer has worn off. In fact, I initially interpreted this look as gilding coming off and I avoided polishing to stop the loss of more gilding to expose the underlying unattractive surface, which I though might be iron.

The two in the middle have the full brown patina that brass develops over time: not unattractive but not the gleaming surface the Victorians aspired to. My personal preference is to have shiny highlights where human touch would naturally keep the surface shiny and tarnishing in the hollows. This combination celebrates the range of finishes and provides contrast.

In some people's eyes, I have over-polished the knobs. However, in time these will tarnish, so you can't really get it wrong. 

You can see some of the knobs have an appealing "rose brass" colour, where there is presumably a larger copper content.

And to end with a tip: wire wool is better and infinitely faster than Brasso to polish brass. :-)

polishing of my door knobs in progress


  1. funny how brass , once polished, can look like copper! Meaning to come up with the operating lever for the mahogany cistern I donated couple of years ago( wtf did that time go?)

  2. Yes, it's interesting how polishing the tarnish/lacquer off has taken the colour towards the copper. However, the polished knob on the extreme right is more golden than the others.

    Many thanks again for that wonderful cistern. It should be officially installed in the first bathroom at the castle for 40 years very shortly. I have my poshest reclaimed Victorian "Waverley" WC to go with it. :-)

  3. How to delacquer brass = haven't tried it ,,