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Custom Hardware Finishes

By: Phil Huber
Here are three, simple recipes to transform the look of steel hardware.

Williamsburg Steel Pulls

Hardware adds the final touch to a project. The proper selection of hardware enhances the look and creates another layer of detail. The wrong hardware, on the other hand, draws your attention to the project in a bad way. For furniture projects, I spend a lot of time finding a good fit.

It’s tempting to take the easy route and pick up basic utility hardware from the home center and call it good. However, I find that hardware with a bit of class, and a story to tell, makes all the difference. The Williamsburg line of pulls from Horton Brasses is this kind of hardware. The look and functionality are inspired by the hardworking shops and factories of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. It’s defined by a clean lines and bare steel. The kind of simple, rugged hardware that would get used on all sorts places: doors, carts, windows, boxes, and chests.

To Protect or Not: The uncoated hardware can be used as is and allowed to gather its own patina from age and use. Just keep in mind that it’s susceptible to rust. To prevent rust and lock in the look, I like to spray on a couple coats of satin lacquer. But you can also consider it a blank slate to create a custom look.

Gun Metal Finish. You don’t have to stop there. The uncoated steel is the starting point for creating a layered, “gun metal” finish on your hardware. And here you can have a little fun. Get out a torch and pass a flame back and forth across the hardware. Take it easy here. Keep in mind that all you’re looking to do is just change the color of the steel.

For the next step of the process, I brush on a coat of oil-based finish. Then it’s back to the torch to “cook” the oil (not ignite it) and enhance the color even more.

If either of these two options won’t work for your project, you have another choice.

Blackened Finish. A third option is a little more involved but really takes this unique hardware to a whole other level. Start by filling a pot large enough to hold your hardware with hydrogen peroxide and a generous amount of table salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and drop the hardware (including screws) in. After a few minutes, a thin layer of rust will cover the surface.

When there’s an even coat of rust, replace the peroxide and salt with a boiling pot of distilled water. Again, plunge the hardware in and it should begin bubbling. Watch now as the rusty hue changes to a rich, dark blue-black. Using pliers or tongs remove the hardware and dry off any drips of water.

While the hardware is still hot, rub it with a block of beeswax. The wax will melt, deepening the color to nearly black and add a subtle luster. Once the metal is cool to the touch, it’s ready to be applied. It’s a look you can’t replicate.

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Published: July 31, 2020
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