The Little Brass Brush: Furniture Restoration Hack

I’ve found in life that the longer you work at something the better you get. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office or in the field, most of us look for ways to make our work more efficient, faster or better. Furniture care and restoration is no different. When my husband and I first started out refurbishing old furniture, we wanted to do it right. We read books, ordered videos and asked everyone for ideas, shortcuts and tips.

Like everything else related to antiques, the opinions were broad and varied. Choice of strippers were narrowed down to heavy bodied and non-flammable. The heavy bodied strippers were less mess to apply and didn’t run off vertical surfaces. The odor seemed to be less. For application we experimented, and found natural bristle brushes work the best because the stripper doesn’t dissolve the brush. You can get the inexpensive throw away brushes or clean better brushes with soapy water for reuse. Metal scrapers and coarse steel wool works well for removal of stripper. With a final wipe down with mineral spirits using an old t-shirt or towel.

Ornate Pieces – Hard Work and a Solution

As we attempted ornate pieces, we ran into a lot of problems. Pressed back chairs were our first challenge. Again, I asked around to find the answer. We tried everything from steel wool, tooth brushes, to nut picks. Nothing really did a easy thorough job. Then I obtained an oak side board. It had lots of ornate carvings and spindles. Weeks went by as I scrubbed with a lot of tooth brushes and nut picks.

Then one day, a product salesman stopped by our shop. I complained and showed him my side board. He said ‘Try a brass brush…Like the little ones used to clean grills.” “Brass bristles won’t scratch wood.” Excited I rushed off to the hardware store. Later to my amazement, it worked! I put stripper on and scrubbed in a circular motion.

The Problem with Brass Brushes For Restoration

Shortly my joy faded, as the brass brush became clogged with the gunk from the carvings. Back to the hardware store to pick up half a dozen more little brass brushes. By the end of the day, I had all the carvings and spindles nicely cleaned. My piece was ready to wipe down and stain. I had discovered the secret of the little brass brush. I kept thinking “This is a really great secret for stripping carvings and spindles, but there was still a problem. It cost a lot of additional expense for so many brushes.

A Quick Furniture Hack!

I needed to figure out how to clean the brushes for reuse. My husband suggested I cover the brush with a piece of nylon stocking over the bristles before I used it. Then I pulled it off when the bristles were full.

It worked!

This process removed large quantities of gunk, yet there was a small residue of gunk left in the deeper carvings. Next I tried a piece of t-shirt fabric over the bristles to remove the residue and moisture from the piece. Using both the nylon stocking and the t-shirt protected the brush and cleaned the piece fabulously. Finally I had a perfected the secret of the brass brush.

The cotton t-shirt fabric acted like a blotter, catching the gunk as the brush flicked them around. This secret also works with other Wood Restorers to clean intricate carvings. (Do this step only if you are restoring not stripping).

For restoring, the t-shirt over the brush works the best. After the piece is completely cleaned, apply another layer of the restorer over the piece with a soft cloth.

Always when you are working with chemicals use protective plastics gloves and work in a well ventilated area.

What was once a long, tedious and costly job was efficient and easy! Frequent changing of the fabric kept the brush clean and efficient.

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