The Lamp Experiment

Back in November, I was making a quick pass through Goodwill and saw this brass lamp.  There is a Goodwill store right down the street from one of my favorite fabric stores.  When I have a minute, I like make a quick run through.  Notice I didn't clean up in the garage for this shot (gotta keep it real).  I think I paid $15.00 for it.

I had been looking for a brass lamp to try out this product - Rub N Buff on to give it that antiqued brass look for less. 

I saw a couple of great posts, one by Andea of Oak Ridge Revival and the other by Centsational Girl using this product with amazing results.  One post used Grecian Gold and the other used Antique Gold, so I grabbed both.  

My first step was to get rid of the less than attractive color of the base. 

I taped off the brass and used the primer and paint I had left over from my shutter project.  

I did this back in January and got busy with other projects and totally forgot about it.  My very neat husband (smile here) put the lamp in the attic - so out of sight out of mind.  Then last weekend I was up there rummaging through to find our beach bag and saw it.  I brought it back down and got busy on the "antiquing" phase of the project. 

I first tried the Antique Gold - did not work.  It made it look like copper.  Then I tried the Grecian gold - not the look I was going for.  It made it even more brassy than the original.  Lastly, I tried a combination of the two.  All three attempts were a total bust.  They looked like a bad faux finish.  The reason I'm telling you all this is so you will know that DIY projects don't always work out like you plan.  It's trial and error, and least you think I've got it all figured out!  After re-reading every post I could get my hands on about rub n buff, I finally came to the conclusion that it really works best on smaller areas that are more ornate and include details for a patina to form or in the hands of someone who is better at applying it than me!  My lamp is super smooth - so it was impossible for me to get the finish I wanted - thus the bad faux finish effect.  

So, I went back to the drawing board on how to "antique" the brass.  After a bit of blogland research, I discovered my lamp was solid brass.  You can figure this out using a magnet.  If the magnet sticks to the lamp, it is brass plated.  If not, it's solid brass.  

Why is this important you ask?  Well, if your lamp is plated, you have to be very careful which technique you use to age or tarnish the brass, as you could totally strip away the brass finish.  Now, this may sound like a bummer, but you can still get some pretty cool results by completely striping the brass.  Like this mercury glass finish . . .  - click here for details on this DIY.

My lamp is solid brass, so I did not have to worry about this.  So, I used paint thinner to remove all the rub n buff from the surface.  Then I used acetone (finger nail polish remover) to remove the lacquer finish.  Lacquer was widely use to preserve the shiny finish of brass - it prevents the brass from tarnishing which is exactly what I want on my lamp.  

Then I read about several quick ways to speed up the tarnishing process on brass.  You can wipe it down with a salt water solution or even vinegar (if it's solid brass) or you can use a spray bottle for a more even application.  After reading up on the options,  I decided I would be patient and wait for my lamp to tarnish naturally.  I really don't want a contrived pattern.  I just want that antiqued look. 

 I purchased a new shade (which I will be discussing in a different post - how to select the right shade), and found a home for the lamp in our breakfast room.  

Now, we wait.  I tried to research how long it would take and could not find any details - so we are going to do a little experiment. 

 I am going to periodically photograph the lamp to see if we are there yet (notice Lottie guarding her toy basket - little dogs have the strangest quirks).

 Should be interesting to see how long it takes.  Any predictions? M.


  1. DIY is definitely trial and error- thanks for sharing the process. I'm a sucker for shiny brass so think it looks pretty fabulous as is.

  2. Hey Mandi! I posted about my brass lamps today too! I like the shape of yours. I have no idea how long it will take to tarnish but I have a solid brass bed that hasn't been polished in at least 15 years and it has that mottled, aged look you're going for.

  3. It looks pretty, but cant wait to see it works.


Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.