Category Archives: Office

Kicked in the Brass

Hers.

If you would’ve told me a year ago, even a week ago, that I would be refinishing brass instead of antiquing it or painting it oil rubbed bronze, I would’ve called you crazy.  I’m a child of the 80s and have thus seen way too much brass in my day so I never thought I’d be embracing it so soon.

Until I acquired this desk.

And painted it blue (more on that here).

Once it was painted, the hardware looked really out of place.  The modern look of the blue was screaming for some shiny hardware.  And who was I to tell it no?

So, I set off on a mission to turn the naturally-antiqued brass hardware into their former gleaming selves.

Attempt 1

I researched a few proven brass cleaning methods using everyday household items to save a trip to the store.

I found a method that only required a mix of salt and lemon juice.

Materials Needed:

1/4 cup salt

1/2 lemon

Bowl

Toothbrush or old rag.  I used these set of Oxo cleaning brushes I had on-hand.

After measuring out the ingredients, the paste looked like this:

I dipped each of the handles in the paste, covered them, then scrubbed away.

Here’s how they turned out:

Yup.  It did nothing.  Onto the next option.

Attempt 2

I needed a stronger solution so I turned to an option that used vinegar.

Materials Needed:

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup vinegar (I used red wine vinegar because it’s what we had in the pantry, supposedly any type of vinegar would do)

1/4 cup flour

Bowl

Toothbrush or old rag

Here’s how the paste turned out:

And it proceeded to stink up the whole house.  I’m still gagging from the memory of the aroma.  I got to work scrubbing again.

Aaand… here’s the after.  Some of the tarnish was coming off but it also seemed to be turning red in spots.  Hmm… not exactly the goal.

Chris was convinced that we just needed to let it sit in the vinegar longer, which brings me to our next try.

Attempt 3

Materials Needed:

Vinegar

2 ziploc bags

We poured in the remainder of the red wine vinegar.

Moved the hardware to a ziploc bag (double bagged).  And let the bag sit overnight.

The next day, we were greeted by hardware that had now turned a salmon color.  Oooh boy.

At this point, I was ready to give up and just spray paint them back to a shiny brass state.  Obviously, our attempts were only making it worse.  Before I gave up, I had one last card to play.

Attempt 4 (seriously)

I had heard Brasso worked pretty well.  Then again, I also read that the lemon juice/salt paste worked just as well so I didn’t have much hope in this alternative but what did I have to lose at this point?

I picked up a bottle of Brasso from Home Depot and set to work for a fourth time.

Unfortunately, my camera and I are feuding at the moment and it seems to have deleted all the pictures I took of the process.  It’s not too hard (and is also written on the back of the bottle).  Just squeeze some Brasso onto an old rag then wipe onto the brass object.  Give it a few good rubs then wipe clean with a clean, dry rag.  Be sure to wear gloves!  A step I completely overlooked… I can’t seem to find any serious damage on my hands but they definitely tingled afterwards.  Oops.

Presto.  It worked and quickly at that!  I was shocked.  Why oh why didn’t I try the Brasso first?  Live and learn I guess.

There were still a few stubborn salmon-colored spots so Chris took out his Dremel and polished it out.

Look at those things shine!

Remember, they looked like this just a few minutes prior (shudders):

They completed the look of the desk perfectly.  Third Fourth time’s the charm!

And it looks great on the desk!

To see our transformation of the desk, click here.

So, to recap the results:

Lemon/Salt Paste:

Vinegar/Salt/Flour Paste:

Vinegar Left Overnight:

Brasso and Dremmel Polishing:

His.

I like to consider myself something of a metallurgy hobbyist- I’ve studied the properties of everything from your “everyday” metals such as steel and aluminum to the more exotic metals such as titanium. I can give materials-selection advice based on the requirements of strength properties, weight, and cost. I know all the best methods of adhesion (welding, brazing, soldering), corrosion protection, and care. The problem is that nobody uses brass anymore. At all. So no, I don’t know anything about brass.

When Julie came to me asking how to clean brass, I assumed I knew- vinegar is highly acidic and therefore an excellent cleaning solution. I don’t normally soak metals in anything, but the last time I soaked brass in vinegar, it came out with a really bright finish. What I failed to notice was the amount of tarnish on the brass- the first time, the brass was completely covered, and a good soak simply ate away at the buildup. This time, there was a limited amount of surface corrosion, and once the vinegar wore it away, it began eating into the metal itself. Oops.

Anyway, lesson learned- don’t waste your time with home remedies. I had to bust out my Dremel and polishing wheel to buff out a few pink spots, but ultimately we ended up with some nice, bright handles.

Also, I’m sticking to steel from now on.

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Filed under Before & After, Easy DIY Projects, Office

Our Latest Campaign

Hers.

While most Americans spent their Fourth of July swimming, grilling, watching fireworks, and relaxing, we took on our latest project.  We just wouldn’t feel like our normal, American selves otherwise!

Our office has been lacking storage for awhile.  I was a big fan of sawhorse tables a year ago and snatched one up on sale at IKEA.  I later realized it offered nothing in terms of storage and was not the best solution for housing our computer and its mess of cords.

Get ready to see the terrifying before shot of our office.  Ready?

What a mess.

Something had to be done and I knew it would all start with a new desk.

So, I’ve begun to feel a little political lately.  And, no, not because Washington’s gearing up for the next election, but because of my new furniture obsession: campaign desks.

There’s been a recent resurgence in these glories from the past.  I’ve seen a lot of these desks painted in bright colors, which is just the thing to juxtapose the shiny metal hardware, classic to this desk.

Sources from left to right: 1) Modernhaus, 2) Dayka Robinson Designs, 3) Centsational Girl

Yes, this would be the solution.  I descended upon CraigsList and soon found this beaut for $50.

I brought her home to Chris’ immediate disgust.  In his mind, I wasted $50 for someone else’s garbage.  He couldn’t see past the outdated wood, tarnished brass, and a bottom that wasn’t quite adhered all the way.

So, it wasn’t perfect but I knew it was just the diamond in the rough that our office needed.

Now the question was what color to paint it.  At first, I thought white.  Then black.  Then kelly green.

We ended up going with a gray-blue color, after Chris and I spent 30 minutes in the aisle of Home Depot debating green vs blue (he won that round).

We bought 2 cans of Rust-oleum’s Primer and 3 cans of Rust-oleum’s Satin Slate Blue spray paint and set to work.

We’ve walked through how to spray paint furniture before but thought we’d break it down into 8 easy steps for you all (note: steps 6-8 are simply to stress the necessity of several coats- we used three).

Materials Needed:

  • Sander
  • Sanding Block (to use in tight corners that the sander can’t reach)
  • Damp Rag
  • Vacuum or Shop Vac (optional but helpful to clean dust from tight spots after sanding)
  • Primer
  • Spray Paint
  • Mask (important to wear for spraying safety!)

His.

Julie has come home with some pretty odd items in the past, but this was the first time she ever showed up with something that may have been better-off used as an anchor. After all, it weighed close to a full ton and had clearly already been submerged at least once. The worst part is that she was convinced $50 was a good deal, while I was convinced she had just wasted $50.

After arguing for awhile, I decided to just give up, which apparently included giving up my entire 4th of July, too. I was sentenced to a day of spray-painting, and I hate spray-painting.

The first order of business was to repair the wood. I very seriously think this desk may have been in a flood at some point, as the bottom trim has some pretty nasty water damage. The wood/particleboard was warped and half the trim was falling off, and it looked terrible.

First, I had to remove all the trim and sand/chisel the swollen wood off so that the trim could sit flush again.

Next, I had to reattach the trim. I used wood glue to ensure a nice, tight bond between the desk and the trim.

Finally, I drove a few finishing nails in and patched the holes.

After priming and painting one coat, I let the paint dry for a few hours. Before laying down another coat, I sanded out all the rough spots, drips, and bubbles:

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I eventually sprayed three coats, and now I can’t feel my right index finger. Since we don’t like to worry about furniture much, I brushed one coat of urethane on the top to waterproof it and to help keep wear and tear to a minimum.

This desk made me give up my day off, but it also allowed me to have a desk that I didn’t have to trip over to get to the patio. And Julie has another piece of furniture to put on Pinterest.

After (hers… if you couldn’t guess).

And every drawer deserves cute liner.  I’m not sure where all the awesome shelf paper has gone but there is definitely a slim market nowadays.  After being let down by Target and Container Store, I finally found the perfect option at Home Depot of all places.  It’s called Talisman Gray by Con-Tact Grip Prints.

I have to say, I’m pretty happy how the blue turned out, even though I was convinced I would only be happy with kelly green.  Just don’t tell Chris he was right.  I’ll never hear the end of it.

Stay tuned for our adventure into the world of polishing brass.  It was quite the disaster adventure.

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Filed under Before & After, Office