Hardware is the jewelry on any piece of vintage furniture; the elegant details add just the right amount of sparkle! Sadly, the hardware is usually a bit worse for the wear; oxidized or rusted, or a sad shade of brassy gold. Metallic spray paint offers a quick solution, but even with a casual glance, spray paint looks like, well, spray paint. Sure, some brands have a better finish than others, but there is a solution that allows you to create a true metallic finish when renewing that great vintage hardware: metal leaf. Metal leaf comes in a variety of finishes including gold, dutch gold, copper, variegated, and silver. My favorite is silver leaf, and I always have it on hand. Periodically, I’ll gather up the old hardware I have and leaf it all so its ready for a project when I need it. Today, I have some knobs, and a few different kinds of pulls that I’m going to be using on a vanity.
You may notice that one of these is painted already, but silver leaf will stick to pretty much anything, so it doesn’t need to be cleaned. If I really wanted to get to the original details, I could soak the pull in stripper for a few house to get the paint off. But the detail is still pretty good, so I am going to silver leaf over the paint.
Silver Leaf Supplies
The supplies needed to do this project are pretty straightforward: silver leaf, Metal Leaf Adhesive Size, a brush and a soft towel. These are readily available at hobby stores, or through amazon.com. The leaf is between $8 and $12 depending on the color, and the adhesive is around $6. This will be enough to do several pieces of hardware; I usually use 1-2 leafs per piece of hardware, and I have a 25-page silver leaf pack.
Silver leaf step-by-step
Once you have gathered the supplies, clean off your hardware, if needed, and make sure it is dry. Apply the leaf adhesive to the hardware. The adhesive is milky and runny, so put something down to catch the drips. Be generous with the adhesive application, then wait until it has dried to a clear, tacky coat on the hardware. Dry time is usually 30-60 minutes, and depends on the humidity. Be sure to wait until its all clear; the silver leaf won’t stick to wet adhesive.
One the adhesive has dried, it’s time to apply the silver leaf. There is no set way to do this, just pull the leaf out of the book and stick it on the hardware. As you work it, small bits of silver leaf will fall off. Use these to fill in crevices and crannies. Continue to add silver leaf until the piece is completely covered. There will be bits and pieces of loose leaf, so the hardware needs to be burnished using a paint brush or a soft cloth. Be sure to use something soft so the leaf doesn’t scratch off. Once it cures, in about a day, it will be much more durable, but initially, it will scratch. Once the hardware is burnished, the edges of the leaf will no longer be visible. At this point, the hardware can be used. However, to bring out the detail in the hardware pieces, I usually glaze them using an acrylic paint, usually black, but sometimes with a verdigris or gray color. To do this, simply paint the entire piece of hardware black, and then use a slightly damp cloth to clean the paint back off of the piece. The paint will remain in the crevices, but will clean off of most of the silverleaf, thus highlighting the details. For pieces that don’t have a lot of detail, painting the edges will make them pop off of your furniture piece a bit more. The last step is to add a clear coat of spray-on poly to protect the finish on the renewed hardware. Now I have a nice traditional hardware pull, with a more modern silver color, and it looks great! I silvered all three of these pieces in about an hour, including dry time for the adhesive. It’s not quite as quick as spray paint, but it doesn’t take long, and offers a more authentic, and more durable finish for my vintage furniture restoration projects. Let me know what you think!