Aging Brass Doorknobs DIY

What a cool DIY project to make your brass doorknobs look aged! Love the vintage look!

Submitted By: The Creek Line House


Hi Everyone! Courtenay here, from The Creek Line House. Last year, my husband, our seven-year-old daughter, and I left our tiny town house in the city and moved back to my husband’s home town. We moved into a big old 1900 farmhouse on an acre and a half and it needs a lot of work. A lot. We’ve been working away at making it a place where we will want to stay forever, putting in very little money, and probably even less time. Life is busy! Follow along if you’re interested in cheap traditional style, real-life farmhouse living, and adventures in decorating and renovating.
Do you have any of those shiny yellow-brass circa 1993 doorknobs around your house? We have a whole assortment of different eras represented on different doors around here, but the one in my front hall was the lame-o shiny kind.But I fixed it up good. Yes I did.

Originally I had thought about maybe just spraying it with a little Oil Rubbed Bronze, but then I remembered that warm metals are awesome.

Someone had installed a little slide lock on the door at some point and it was made from some kind of cheap brass. I guess because of its cheapness, it had tarnished quicker than the door knob and it was exactly the kind of old-looking finish I was looking for.

OK, maybe pretty isn’t the right word for it. But it’s more what I’m looking for to add character and stand out against my crisp new paint job.

Here’s how I worked my magic!

The first thing that needed to happen was to remove the clear varnish that was keeping the brass from tarnishing.

I read that a little vinegar mixed with salt and applied with a scouring pad does the trick. I’m not totally sure if it worked, but I did notice the finish becoming less shiny and yellowy and more raw looking. It was a bit of a lighter color as well. So it must have done something.

Next I rubbed the whole thing with a bit of sandpaper. At first I felt like I was doing something terribly wrong, but in the aftermath, I see if really did help the look overall.

So at this point it just looked like a scratched up, slightly lighter-colored 1993 brass door knob.

I read somewhere that heating the brass up with a flame would help it tarnish quickly.

I grabbed my candle lighter and got to firing that brass knob.

At a certain point it occurred to me that what I was actually doing was holding a flame up to a part of my beloved house and heating that part up more and more.

Um, no.

As usual, I didn’t want to wait to see the results of the natural tarnishing so I grabbed my trusty dollar store craft paints and did a little faux magic, instead of you know, setting my house aflame.

-Wipe on a dab of black everywhere, including in the nooks and crannies. Wipe off.

-Wipe on a dab of burnt umber everywhere. Wipe off.

-Wipe on a dab of gold. Wipe off a little bit, but leave it on mostly.

So that got it half-way there. Over the next couple of days, the natural tarnish filled in and the fake and the real came together in perfect harmony.

So what started out as an experiment and a maybe sorta OK temporary solution ended up being one of my very favorite parts of the room.

Now I just wish I had more brass knobs!

Check out these other cool DIY projects to try!
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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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  1. Love the look! I would like to do this on all my brass paddle knobs…but from where I am sitting I can see 6 doors = 12 paddles = lots of work! And that is just 1/2 the downstairs…perhaps this will go on the “to do oneday” list! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Well, you’re just lucky to have so many rooms, Laura! 🙂 Look at it this way: if you get the undeniable itch to change all your doorknobs one day, ageing them will be a lot less work than taking them all out. Still a lot of work though. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi everyone!

    I just removed the high gloss brass varnish from a lamp and the easiest way is to spray the No Heat Oven Cleaner on the item. Let it sit, the longer the better. The protective coat will peel right off with a cloth and a fine steel wool with clean it up nicely. A nice patina will be left on the brass. If you prefer to get rid of the patina, you just apply some brasso and it will have a cleaner look. Either way the dated shiny finish is gone!

    It’s so easy!

  3. I did a similar project on my doorknobs and cabinet knobs a few years ago, except we wanted the oil-rubbed bronze finish. Used craft paints–even on hinges–and then sealed with clear polyurethane and they haven’t scratched or worn.

  4. Sounds like a good idea. However I have a large double pendant light ….. too big to dip into this solution! Any ideas???

    1. hi- try rub n buff in one of the gold colors…Grecian gold looks antiqued. I’ve done this on doorknobs and it looks nice and a lot less work.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous! I used paint with a swiping motion to “back date” one candelabra to match an older one. I never thought about doing the door handles. Love it.