Getting all the bits of hardware to match on a project is a critical detail for me. I go to great lengths to ensure the hinges, pulls and other assorted metal bits look like they came from the same family.
For example, for the blanket chest on the cover of the Summer 2008 issue I wanted to get the brown steel stays to match the black iron chest hinges. I ended up painting the steel stays black, then lacquering them and rubbing them out until they looked like the powdery black iron.
This might seem excessive, but every time anyone (even my kids) opens the chest for the first time, they comment on the cool hardware. It’s definitely worth it.
One of the biggest problems with getting your hardware to match is dealing with shiny brass. I really dislike the way it looks for some reason. So I usually end up aging all the brass bits until they look like they have seen about 100 years of use.
Here’s how I do it. First I strip any lacquer off the hinges. I’ll pour a little bit of lacquer thinner into a Mason jar, drop the hardware in and shake the jar for a few minutes. Usually the thinner gets a little tinge of color (sometimes green).
I discard the thinner, dry off the hinges and clean out the jar. Then I drop the hardware back into the jar and add a tablespoon of liquid gun blue (I use Perma Blue made by Birchwood Casey). I shake it around until the brasses and screws are colored. Then I pour the gun blue back into the bottle and pour cold tap water into the jar.
After rinsing the hardware, I’ll dry it off and let it sit out awhile. The instructions say you should allow the stuff to cure overnight. I haven’t had any problems installing the hardware almost immediately.
I really like the color that gun blue imparts. It’s always consistent, never streaky and doesn’t look like a dye job.
There are other ways to go about this process. You could install the hinges and wait 100 years. You could use ammonia, which is the process Senior Editor Robert W. Lang uses. And I’m sure there are even more out there. If you have a favorite one that you think is even easier, post a comment below.