How to Restore Antique Hardware

2 Materials
2 Hours

Hi, I'm Liz from Simple Decorating Tips, a DIY and decorating blog. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty in antique or vintage hardware when it’s thrown in the junk drawer covered with rust and yuck. But once cleaned up and restored just a little, antique hardware has such character, it’s hard to beat!

But how to get it restored and cleaned and working, that is the question.

Here are my answers…

First for cleaning, I put on some rubber gloves and get out the steel wool. It doesn’t usually take too much to get the pieces smooth and loose bits taken off. (I’m not trying to go for a brand new or perfect look here, I just want the pieces to be smooth feeling, clean and work well)

All of the pieces I’m showing you today are from my ‘junk drawer’.

It started about 25 years ago… at my favorite, a summer country auction… where I bid on and got a box of junk full of all sorts of old hardware and odd pieces… (that box of stuff eventually got transferred to a salvaged old drawer from a discarded desk), over the years I’ve added to and picked from that old drawer of junk.

And all these pieces I’m showing you today are antiques, and going onto the same antique cupboard I bought a week or so ago. (Wait till you see the whole project! You’re not going to believe the transformation… especially the top! ) (I realized, thanks to the reminder of a reader, it’s a commode, not dry sink! )

Ok, back to the hardware…

Once the pieces were cleaned up enough with the steel wool, and then wiped clean with a rag, I oiled them with some mineral oil.

On a side note… I don’t know what mineral oil is made from, but it’s actually referred to on the label as both a lubricant and a laxative… um… what?

Pouring a bit of oil onto a clean rag and wiping the hardware made a huge transformation on the hardware finish.

It brought out the parts of brass or copper that was exposed from the old paint wearing off, and just gave the pieces a wonderful soft sheen. I also worked the mineral oil into the back of the latch with the spring, it worked wonders… before oiling the piece stuck, but after I got done oiling it, it works like new!

So that’s how to clean the hardware…

Now on to getting it to work on the cupboard…

As you can see, this antique cupboard had either inappropriately dated hardware, or like in the picture below, completely missing hardware. That’s where the latch I oiled is going to be used.

However, when I put the catch part of the latch on, it set too shallow and the latch couldn’t catch in it, so the door wouldn’t lock shut.


To fix that, I needed a thin extension to get the catch to stand a little proud of the latch… and a paint stick that happened to be next to me at the time would be the perfect depth for that.

I carefully traced the catch with an x-acto knife.

Then, and always cutting away from myself, (I learned that the hard way many years ago… ‘hello’, or should I say ‘goodbye’ missing part of my thumb! OUCH!!) I kept going over the lines with the razor knife, patiently cutting in a little deeper each time, until the piece was cut out.

Even though most of this little extension piece of wood will be covered with the catch, there will be the edge showing, and it’s amazing how even just a little edge like that, if a different color, is so noticeable…

So I quickly painted it the same gray I painted the antique cupboard it’s going on.

After the latch part was screwed on, I ‘dry fitted’ the catch part with the little wood extension…

Yay, it worked perfect.


I pre-drilled the holes, or (again, I know from experience) the screws going in for sure would crack this little piece of wood in a second. Also, pre-drilling helps to keep the screw placement go in exactly where it should.

Then just simple screw the appropriately sized screws in and perfect…

The door stays closed and the latch works wonderfully.


well, not so perfect looking…

Eww… the screws didn’t look too good all shiny in their chrome finish with this wonderfully dark patina hardware.

Yes, I know phillips head screws aren’t appropriate either, but it’s what I had, and honestly regular single slot screws can strip so easily, I hate using them.

So these phillips head screws are what I had and I used them on both the door latch and the pair of pulls… the shape of the screw head is correct, see how they fit into the divot on the hardware, and basically sit flush with the face of the hardware? That type of screw head is called a countersunk or flathead.

Now to fix the mismatched screw color…

With a dab of black paint, (dark brown would have worked well too, but I found the black 1st)

Then once that was dry…

I got a little gold paint and dipped the small paint brush in it, then dried most of it off on a paper towel, then ‘dry brushed’ the black screws with the gold.

By leaving some of the black base paint showing on parts of the screw, it makes a mottled look and blends in perfect!

There, now the antique cupboard has the appropriately aged and styled hardware on it…

Plus now with a quick paint treatment, the new inappropriately aged screws aren’t too noticeable.

And everything works well.

Restoring antique hardware doesn’t have to be a daunting task… just take it one step at a time and with these simple tips I showed you, you can feel more confident to use some of those treasures lurking in the bottom of your junk drawer too.

Be sure to visit my site to see many more projects, house renovations and gardening tips.

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Liz at Simple Decorating Tips
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