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This articte from the Annapolis Capital Gazette tells it all...

All is not lost for tarnished pieces

By ELLEN M. SCARANO, Staff Writer

"All is not gold that glisteneth"
Thomas Middleton in "A Fair Quarrel"

A grandparent's copper tray, a mother's silver candlesticks, the bargain antique brass headboard too good to pass up at the flea market -- all discolored and filmy, dark with tarnish. Polishing and buffing didn't help and they just look hopeless. They might as well go up to the attic. But wait!
A teapot is not just a teapot -- especially to Douglas Palmer.
When the owner of Brass Artcral~s Company considers a piece for refinishing, he looks at the type of metal, whether the old lacquer has worn offand even the type of solder used.
If you think you own a candidate for refinishing, the first thing to do is let Mr. Palmer see the piece.
He will be able to discover if it's solid metal or plated and whether it can be polished back to its original sheen.
"1 like to get to know a piece," before the buffing begins, says Mr. Palmer. "Different alloys have different construction." There are different kinds of solder used to put spouts on teapots or handles on trays, for example. There are also different kinds of plating. So he buffs a small area on the bottom of a piece with his whirring buffer machine to see a clear spot of the cleaned metal.
"One great thing about our business is that real silver, copper or brass can be refinished several times," he advises.
When air and moisture meet natural metals, that's when tarnish begins to form. For pieces that won't be used for food. a lacquer finish is sprayed onto the metal after it is buffed to help prevent new tarnishing.
Mr. Palmer lets the customer decide whether to lacquer a silver piece, based on the kind of use the item will get at home. because lacquer can change the finish on silver a bit, so he usually doesn't apply it.
If a piece will be used on occasion for a food server, he recommends using a doily, which will prevent damage to the metal and lacquer from adhering to the food and being eaten.
Brass is an alloy, or combination, of copper and zinc while bronze is made of copper and tin. They will tarnish, but will not disintegrate like iron will when it rusts.
Mr. Palmer recalls a porthole that was salvaged from a ship that had been under water for many years. The brass frame of the porthole buffed to a like-new shine, while the iron that had held it was turning quickly into a rusty powder.
It's a good idea to refinish things like brass door hardware or drawer pulls. Chances are the screw holes for new hardware won't fit the spot exactly the same, or the freshly exposed wood will be a different color. Also, Mr. Palmer notes, the quality of older metal hardware tends to be better than today's. New brass door handles, for instance, may look good for a short time. but turn out to be of lesser quality.

Besides the porthole, Mr. Palmer enjoys the different historical items that come to his shop. He sees everything from a telescope to a microscope to the transits used by old-time surveyors before lasers became common, to a samovar, and each one has a story.
A samovar is a large pot with a spigot that has been used historically by nomadic people or in homes when there were no coffee machines to keep the coffee or tea warm between cups. It has a metal "chimney" down the middle into which one puts hot coals and then the coffee or tea is added to the pot surrounding it. Pop the lid on and the glowing coals keep the drink hot.
A brass chandelier at the workshop was taken apart, each piece was buffed to a high shine and then lacquered to keep it in tip-top condition. It will he put back together after the lacquer dries. This particular piece needed to be rewired, so after its cosmetic makeover, it will he sent to a lamp store.
Mr, Palmer says it can cost up to seven times more to replate a metal piece versus polishing it back to its original shine. He adds that it's very rewarding work, to he able to save a treasured item to pass down to children. "For a special gift, like a wedding, why not share something that's been in the family and means a lot more? It teaches people the value of things -- not to put it in the corner or put it away," he says.
Also available at the shop are new Christmas stocking hooks that sit on the mantle as well as brass, copper or silver flea market finds for sale.
"Our goal is not to have something brand new but to have some thing that's cared for," says Mr.
Visit Brass Artcrafts Company at 143 Gibraltar Ave. in Annapolis or call more information.
410-263-9254 or
If you have an idea for a story about your own project or you have a subject you'd like to see a story
about in the Home and Garden section, please call Ellen M. Scarano at or e-mail [email protected]
410-280-5969,ext. 3502
Published 08/22/03, Copyright © 2008 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Reproduced herewith by permission of The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

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