Poppin’ and lockin’ (and polishin’)

Note: Uh, yeah, so we had our baby just a few hours after I wrote this post but before I could get to the photos on my camera to finish posting it. The handful of photos of brass locksets and plates for this post were on the camera with the first photos of our daughter in the delivery room just a few short hours later. 5 days later, I’m finally finishing the post. We’ll have a little picture and announcement up here shortly.

I have no idea why I decided that this should be the thing to spend a solid day working on while I had a sleeping porch, roof hatch and nursery door all unfinished and begging for my attention. But after testing out the crockpot with the nursery door hinges last week, for some reason I took off every single door knob, strike plate, lock cover and lockset in the entire house Friday night to remove the paint and polish ’em up and restore the brass.

(We joked about how funny it would be if we had the baby this weekend and came home to a house with no door knobs in it.)

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum here, great care was never taken anytime things were painted in this house.

Paint was just slathered all over the place with no regard for the antique metal hardware. So every door in the house looked at least this bad, and in some places (like the bathroom) they were just painted over entirely with intention. Ugh. The trim and doors upstairs look terrible already right now and the painted hardware just made it worse. Here’s the door to our bedroom before I got started.

Door hardware before

Once I got everything taken off, there were so many pieces of hardware to strip that I couldn’t even fit all of them in the crockpot at one time. Here’s the second load that went in on Saturday morning after the first batch came out and got scrubbed down.

Cooking up the hardware

Mmm! Lead paint rust stew! Just like mom used to make.

The recipe here is a bit of dishwashing liquid (the stuff you put in the dishwasher, not soap), water and your soiled metal items. I cook on low overnight but you can definitely do it on high and get lightly painted stuff ready to strip in just a few hours. And if the paint isn’t quite ready to let go, just get off what you can with a brush and then put ’em back in a fresh pot of clean water with new detergent unti they’re ready.



It’s important to remove the paint right when you get them out of the water and it’s all warm. And then once you scrub them completely clean, give them a rinse of cold water to get all that residue off and wipe them down as best as you can and let them dry. Set them out somewhere in such a way where they’re not laying metal on metal (can lead to corrosion) and they’ll get some air to dry off quickly and avoid rusting.

Once they’re dry, then you can work on polishing them, which was no more complicated than putting on gloves, squirting some Brasso onto the piece, and rubbing it vigorously with a rag until it won’t polish anymore. Maybe there are other ways to polish, but that worked for me. For the doorknobs, it works really well to put them back on the pole that connects knob to knob, put Brasso on the top knob, and then you can grab it with the rag in your hand and twist it back and forth in the palm of your hand like you’re unscrewing a jar. Far easier than trying to rub back and forth with your fingertips like you might on a long flat plate.

We have a total of nine doors from which I removed all the locking hardware. And each door has two lock cover plates, one strike plate, one lockset (with 4 pieces inside), two doorknobs on a post and about 15 screws per door that need to be replaced. That makes for a lot of pieces. Forgive the out of focus cellphone picture here but you get the idea. And this isn’t even everything.

Hardware all lined up

Those are the deadbolts and lock slides on the left, and the locksets right above them. Note that some things have already been polished in that photo, which are pretty easy to pick out. Some plates still came out looking worse than others after everything, but I tried to save the best plates for the front of doors that will be seen and use the worst for inside of closets and then the back of doors.

I might end up looking for some solid brass replacements online somewhere (Lowe’s and HD sell crappy painted brass color versions), but I did get enough to put really sharp, clean plates and knobs on almost all the doors in the hallway upstairs and the door to the kitchen from the foyer.

It took the better part of a 6-8 hours or so to polish everything I had. And I think I have a few plates left to do that needed more time in the crockpot and haven’t been polished yet.


The difference in the appearance of our upstairs hallway is striking. Here’s a couple before/afters with old and polished lock plates.

Door hardware before/after

But the strategy backfired! These nice locksets and knobs make the doors look even worse than they did before  — all the crappy paint and paint jobs and brush strokes all over them are even more noticeable now. So now I’m chomping at the bit to take all the doors off their hinges and strip them bare, like I did with the nursery door, which will be the subject of a different post this week. But at least the door hardware matches the great brass switchplate that our dear friends Stan and Susie had on hand and gave us before they moved from DC to Richmond. (Amazingly, it was a perfect fit for our one old barrel tube switch in the hallway.) The 5 locksets and brass switchplate in the upstairs hallway look fantastic together.


But stripping the other doors are going to have to wait. Because we’re about 9 days out from Rachel’s due date, though after seeing the doctor this morning, there’s a good chance that this baby girl could come early. She’s “dropped” and right where she should be, so could be any day now, we’re told.

So I’ll be frantically finishing up all the other projects and cleaning up and getting things organized from here on. No more new projects, I’ve been commanded!

Leave a Reply