Patina on brass?

OK, so I'm delving into an area that I know little about now... DECORATING. Weekend before last, SWMBO and I ran up to this salvage place and found a door for my bedroom closet, along with some doorknobs and rosettes to match the rest of the house. Now in the rest of the house, where I've been replacing wiring devices, I've been replacing them with white Decora, per SWMBO. However, my own personal tastes are a little more conservative; the little bedroom is MY ROOM and I'm doing it up old school, with an Oriental rug and as much as I can, fixtures roughly appropriate to the age of the house (1948.) I've already located some of the real deal .040" thick brass receptacle and switch plates with the nice crisp corners, and the wiring devices in that room will be brown as would be typical. (never mind that this particular house is, um, inexpensive enough that it would likely have had ribbed Bakelite or other plastic plates, I'm exercising a little artistic license here.)
Question is this. Some well meaning sort polished and lacquered the plates for me already, and the knobs will have to be polished before they are installed as they were lacquered as well but the lacquer wore off in some places and is crazing in others. The brass in the rest of the house (appears to have been originally unlacquered) has a nice brown patina which SWMBO says she likes better than bright brass, and I tend to agree with her. Is there some easy chemical means to acquire such a patina, or should I just strip everything and polish it bright, install it, and ignore it for a couple decades?
Sidebar question - the rosettes I picked up were brass plated steel. Is this something that one could re-electroplate at home, or would it be best to send them to a professional plating shop? I do have the capability to electrolytically derust them and also have the ability to buff them if a copper undercoat is required. The sum total of my knowledge of plating is due entirely to my experience restoring old cars, where I just send stuff off to the chrome shop (well, I did have two little emblems gold electroplated for my '62 Stude hardtop, as reproductions were not available, but I paid someone to do that as well.)
thanks,
nate
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Nate Nagel wrote:

A starting point:
http://www.caswellplating.com/kits/brass.htm
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Is there some easy chemical means to acquire such a

Yes. Do the Google thing and query a restoration shop, etc. Recently saw some reults a friend had done...really terrific.

No, definitely not. See above.

>snip<
Let the pros do that chore. Brass plating is pretty fussy, and I've been told there are a lot of closely guarded trade secrets, unlike commercial plating where you can buy all you need as a chemical package. Ask lots of questions and good luck.
Joe
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Next time (if there is a next time), you might want to just buy the finish you want to begin with. Lots of companies sell "antiqued" brass hardware - this one, for example: http://houseofantiquehardware.com/s.nl/sc.9/category.139124/.f
I've used them for window locks and sash lifts, as well as one door lockset and a set of hinges. I've never bought their receptacle or switch plates but I'm sure they're just as good. I don't ever think chemical aging looks really real (truly antique brass patinas unevenly, whereas the chemical stuff is always a little too perfect), but you're probably not going to do any better yourself than just buying something that's pre-finished. And you'll save the time and effort.
- Jeff
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On Feb 11, 11:41 pm, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

I'm sure you're right, but I think I priced the covers I wanted at rejuvenation and they were about $25 apiece; at less than $5 ea. on fleaBay for the real deal vintage ones I will accept a less than perfect finish :) A $5 box of screws from McMaster-Carr and I'm done...
I don't think stripping the lacquer will be a problem; I've got the technology at my disposal to handle that.
thanks to all for their comments, it looks like I've got some ideas to try.
nate
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You may have a little difficulty with the lacquer, but I put a nice brown patina on some cheap brass hooks by exposing them to vinegar fumes for a day or two.
Cindy Hamilton
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It only takes a year or two for the bright to disappear. Of course the patina will continue to develop for many years. I'd strip the lacquer, see how they look, and probably not polish except on the ones that were really spotty. The chemical patinas never look right to me. Sometimes they look good, but they don't look right.
sdb
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I'd like to know how to get that patina too. Have you tried anything yet? The only DIY suggestion I saw in the discussion so far is vinegar fumes. One other idea is to visit or call a stained-glass shop (one that sells supplies for making your own pieces) - they sell solutions for patina-ing metals, although I don't know if they would have one specifically to make the brass brown.
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Heathcliff wrote:

The Caswell site I indicated has finishing / patina chemicals in addition to plating ones. They also have a lot of tech info. Pretty much everything you'd want to know about metal finishing.
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I built a wine cabinet and ordered a brass grate for it and did not like the shiny look. So I took a sample and started rooting through the hoards of chemicals I had laying around for one project or another, and I also bought a patina chemical from Lee Valley. The patina chemical, which was not a very large quantity, was expensive.
But then I ran across a bottle of etching solution used for making your own circuit boards. The chemical is Ferric Chloride, and is probably available from Radio Shack. If not, check out www.digikey.com.
Using gloves I dipped a rag into the FeCl2 (or is it Fe2Cl?), and rubbed it on the brass. IMMEDIATELY turned dark. Once I darkened it completely, I rinsed under water to neutralize the chemical. Then I took a buffing cloth to give the brass highlights. Worked great.
You can see a b4 and after here:
http://www.areddy.net/wood/wine%20cabinet/index.htm
Scroll way to the right in the images and you'll see the virgin brass, then after the patina.
Or
Before:
http://www.areddy.net/wood/wine%20cabinet/images/DSC00713.jpg
After:
http://www.areddy.net/wood/wine%20cabinet/images/DSC00724.jpg
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