Q: We renovated our kitchen 10 years ago in a French country style. One of my favorite details is the "jewelry" we chose for the cabinet knobs and pulls. Over time, the antique-looking finish has worn off, especially on the most-used drawers and cabinets. This reveals a silvery metal underneath. The hardware is no longer available, so I can't replace it. Is there a way to restore the finish?


A: There are several ways to perk up your hardware’s finish, depending on how much you want to pay.

For a new finish that nearly matches the original look, you could hire a company that does custom plating and refinishing, such as Metal Magic in Walkersville, Md. (301-845-4056; metalmagicrefinishing.com ). The owner, David Sisson, looked at the pictures you sent, and said the shiny metal where the finish wore off indicates that the hardware is plated, rather than being solid bra ss or another metal. Virtually all modern cabinet hardware is plated, he said, because solid brass is too expensive.

Unfortunately, recreating an antique finish involves more steps, and thus more cost, than simply replating with a shiny metal. Sisson said he would need to prepare each piece by sanding off the old finish on a buffing machine. Then it would go to a plating tank to get a coat of copper, as a primer, followed by a coat of the final metal color. In your case, that would be brass, but it’s also possible to plate hardware with a topcoat of nickel, copper, silver or even gold.

“It doesn’t come out of the tank looking beautiful,” Sisson said. He would do more buffing and polishing, then immerse the piece in an oxidizer to give the brass a brown patina. The final steps would include more polishing and applying a clear coat to prevent fingerprints from blemishing the finish.

Hardware manufacturers have equipment that efficiently creates a realistic antique look, Sisson said. But refinishing small hardware is a custom job that requires a lot of work, piece by piece. Sisson estimated the cost of an antique finish at $60 for each of your pull sets, which are more intricate than most, rather than his typical $50 fee. If you skipped the antique treatment, you could save around $10 a pull. Refinishing each of your knobs in an antique finish would cost about $25.

Kitchens often have dozens of handles and knobs, so at $25 to $60 per piece, the price could really add up. If you need a less expensive option, you might be tempted to get a can of spray paint in a metallic color and do the refinishing yourself. You can find lots of tips online about how to do this, but be forewarned: The rare Web pages that include follow-up results after a year or so show that paint wears or flakes off heavy-use hardware. Sisson said it isn’t worth the effort.

But something close to that could be a good, cost-effective option: Have the pieces powder-coated, rather than replated. Powder-coating is a finish treatment that deposits tiny bits of paint on a surface using electrical charges; it results in a uniform finish and is far more durable than regular paint. Preparing hardware for powder-coating costs less than prepping for plating because it’s not necessary to remove all of the old finish. The surface just needs to be smoothed, usually by blasting it with a grainy material. Powder-coated finishes are available in many colors. If you picked a color such as dark bronze, you’d still have the intricately shaped hardware you love, and it would have a fresh finish. But the new finish would not look antique because powder-coating results in a single color. If Metal Magic did the powder-coating, Sisson estimated the cost of refinishing your hardware at $30 for each pull set and $12.50 for each knob.

Or, if keeping the antique finish is more important than keeping the existing shapes, you could buy new hardware. Lee Valley Tools, which has an extensive online catalogue at Leevalley.com, shows suites of hardware so that you can see coordinated handles and knobs. Styles with handles similar to yours include 17th Century and Triple Bead Suites I and II. The critical thing is to make sure the new handles have the same distance between screw holes as your current handles. Triple Suite II handles come in two sizes, 64 millimeters (just over 2½ inches, which is clearly too small) and 96 millimeters (about 3.8 inches). If the larger one works, each new handle in an antique brass finish would cost $11.30, or $9.60 if you order 10 or more. Each knob would cost $3 to $5.80, depending on the size and number you order.

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