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Thread Number: 68705  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
How to remove lacquer from brass lamp
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Post# 914869   1/9/2017 at 23:51 by scoots (Chattanooga TN)        

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I have an old brass lamp that was lacquered some time in the 50s. The finish has become rough and unsightly and needs to be removed.

Any suggestions what solvent/technique to use?


Post# 914943 , Reply# 1   1/10/2017 at 11:33 by sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden)        

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I would try Naval Jelly, if you can find it. Wear rubber gloves and do it outside, if possible. However Naval Jelly has phosphoric acid in it, and may attack brass if left on too long. It is however recommended for removing heavy tarnish (like verdigris, if you don't like it).

There are also less toxic methods, if you can immerse the object in a pot of boiling baking soda solution, or hot vinegar. That might work if you can disassemble the lamp and have a pot big enough.

Another option is paint stripper. Check the ingredients to make sure it won't corrode the brass.


This post was last edited 01/10/2017 at 11:52
Post# 914949 , Reply# 2   1/10/2017 at 12:01 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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As with any cleaning I'd start weak and progressively get stronger. Alcohol, then lacquer thinner, then MEK then acetone etc.. If none of those work then a commercial paint stripper should do it. The good news is that you aren't likely to hurt the brass other then perhaps discolor it a little, but you are probably going to polish it afterwards anyhow.

You will need to reapply a clear protective coating if you wish it to remain shiny.

Post# 914954 , Reply# 3   1/10/2017 at 12:32 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        
This is very strange

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within mins after this thread was posted yesterday I posted that I would try rubbing alcohol as I know that lacquer can be thinned with alcohol. Now this post has been mysteriously deleted? Whats up with this? And if it were me, I would try the alcohol first, as its the least damaging and not expensive and most of us already have it in our homes. I used it a couple of years ago to take the lacquer coating off of our brass door knocker and it worked perfectly.

This post was last edited 01/10/2017 at 13:12
Post# 914955 , Reply# 4   1/10/2017 at 12:36 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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I have posted a number of times and not had my post get online. I think in my case I typically hit the preview button, proofread the post, then close the browser... d'oh! Typically they are always my most brilliant thoughts too lol

Post# 914957 , Reply# 5   1/10/2017 at 12:45 by dermacie (my forever home (Glenshaw, PA))        
great post

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Please take photos always wondered how this was done.

Post# 914959 , Reply# 6   1/10/2017 at 12:55 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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But Phil, IT was posted and showed all day yesterday, and no one else posted anything else on this thread until this morning. I watched because I wanted to see what other ideas there may be on this question. So, somehow or another it was deleted by someone? But thanks for the input.

The reason I know that alcohol ia a solvent for lacquer is because right out of high school I went to beauty college on a scholorship, and cosmetology was my trade for the next 15 yrs, even though I also worked for the phone company from 76' thru 78'. When I started beauty school in 1969 teased hair and hairspray were the rage. Even though hairspray had been out for about 15 years at that point, the beauty school considered it a luxury that they wouldn't provide. They did however provide the students with free, old fashioned lacquer, which was dispensed very poorly by using these archaic black rubber squeeze atomizers. In order to get it to dry faster we cut it with rubbing alcohol. It was a hot mess! And consequently, almost no one availed ourselves of this freebee. Instead, since we were all pretty poor, we bought either Safeway Truly Fine for .29 to .39 cents a can or lived it up an bought Aqua Net for about .49 to .69 cents a can. Good times, LOL.

When I used it on the door knocker, after the lacquer was removed, there were still a few areas of tarnish, I rubbed those areas with ketchup and that took the tarnish off.

Post# 914963 , Reply# 7   1/10/2017 at 13:24 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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Eddie, no offense intended, my point only was that I have often thought I had posted when I hadn't. In my case I never saw a reply number on my post. I have never seen a post that just disappeared, but doesn't mean it couldn't have happened. Something you should mention to Robert.

I first Bill's initial post a bit after midnight, but I didn't comment till this morning. I didn't see any responses at that time. Wonder if the CDT witching hour could mean anything hmm

Post# 914965 , Reply# 8   1/10/2017 at 13:34 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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Hey Phil, there was no offense taken! I know you were only trying to help and I appreciated it. I will let Robert know though. Thanks.

Post# 914975 , Reply# 9   1/10/2017 at 14:30 by Sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden)        

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I suppose it would depend on the nature of the lacquer. Older ones might be from real lac bug secretions, with an alcohol based solvent. Newer ones might be more like a clear coat, with a synthetic base and therefore resistant to removal via alcohol alone.

As has been suggested, it's always a good idea to start mild and ramp up the chemical arsenal until the desired results are achieved. Also, testing on a hidden area of the object is also a prudent measure, as it is with most cleaning methods.

Post# 915977 , Reply# 10   1/16/2017 at 21:24 by sfh074 (atlanta)        
Non toxic

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I used WD-40 SPECIALIST RUST REMOVER SOAK on an old candle stick telephone. It removed the lacquer finish and also removed all the dark tarnish as well. Bright as new actually. This stuff is advertised as non-toxic and bio-degradable. Even down into the crevices and stamped lettering was clean and bright. Took about 6 hours to get all the really dark areas to come clean. Over night should be fine. Only thing I would be concerned with is to check to make sure that you are not cleaning something that is brass plated. Might take the plating off if you left the part too long in the solution ..... maybe. If you read the back label, it says it is good on brass and copper and will remove tarnish. It took the lacquer off within 30 mins on my old telephone.


Post# 916014 , Reply# 11   1/17/2017 at 05:43 by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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Well, as one who occasionally strips and restores old trumpets and French horns, I have removed lacquer a few times.  My current horn was so horrendously scratched up I didn't even want to try to buff it.  But I had to remove the old lacquer before I could epoxy it with black appliance epoxy enamel.  I tried everything...lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, stripper, aircraft stripper...nothing worked.  Then I came across a post online about someone taking washing soda and submerging the piece into a washing soda bath.  So I removed all the removable parts and filled the tub with very hot water.  I then dumped in a whole box of Arm & Hammer washing soda and let it dissolve.  Placed the horn in the solution and let it soak.  About 30 minutes later I came back to find all the old lacquer peeled off and floating in the water.  Scrubbed the inside with Dawn and rinsed very well.  After it dried I had to re-solder  the pinky finger ring and I enameled it.  It really looks awesome with the polished nickel keys and valve covers.

Post# 916069 , Reply# 12   1/17/2017 at 11:38 by kd12 (Arkansas)        

Try Brasso metal polish first. It's good at removing lacquer from brass without damaging the metal, though it will probably take a lot of polishing to remove the stuff. I remember a LONG time ago having to use it to remove Quartermaster lacquer from new brass insignia in the Army.

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