Painting the Hardware

  latch before     latch after

metal knobs before    metal knobs after

wooden knobs before     wooden knobs after

I use the term “hardware” to include everything that can be removed from the piece I’m working on… meaning handles, knobs, hinges, screws, magnets, decorations of any sort. It can be wood or metal or plastic or something completely unknown.

It’s tantalizing to leave these where they are and consider painting around them. THIS. NEVER. WORKS. It just makes a mess. Removing a piece of hardware allows you to clean it up and refinish it any way you want. And the spot it came from can then be stripped, sanded and painted without concern. Besides, a beautifully painted handle or hinge adds a nice touch of class to the end product.

Remove the hardware carefully, including all its screws, bolts, buttons, caps, etc., and set them all aside in a container, labelling it if you need to. I use the small plastic bins that fresh mushrooms come packaged in at the grocery store.

containers holding hardware

The screws can easily be reused, and if it doesn’t offend you to spend a little time cleaning each, it makes for one fewer piece of waste tossed away. If undamaged, each screw will obviously fit perfectly in the hole from which it came. You can throw in a bit of wood glue before reattaching if you are concerned about it not holding quite as well.

I often don’t get around to painting the hardware until close to finishing the furniture… because my opinion of what might look good often changes as I go along.

At any rate, once you’re ready to upgrade the hardware, follow these steps for each piece:

Remove paint and varnish. This is easily done by letting the piece sit for a few minutes in a dish of paint stripper. Use pliers or tongs or rubber-gloved hands to hold the piece when you remove it and wipe/scrape/sand the original finish off.  This may be very easy, or it may take a little effort getting everything out of the corners and details.  I use sandpaper, steel wool, cloths, scrapers, and my trusty seam ripper to remove paint. Sometimes sticky residue may require an overnight soaking in the stripper solution, but I have always been able to get everything pretty clean.

This painted hinge is soaking in an old kitchen bowl. The paint slid off easily; then it was sanded and wiped.

painting hinge soaking paint slides off easily nearly ready for primer

 I made the mistake, however, of soaking these hinges in their plastic mushroom container.  The stripper melted the container (of course it melted the container!!)… so I used an old lid.

hinges soaking in plastic container plastic container melting hinges soaking in lid

Remove rubber or plastic coatings.  This is a bit harder than paint or varnish.  The stripper solution will soften the coating appreciably, allowing you to pare or scrape it away with a knife or paint scraper.

plasticized handle soaking plastic is harder to remove

Wipe it thoroughly with a clean cloth, removing any of your stripper solution, which itself functions as varnish if allowed to dry.

Lightly sand it with a sanding sponge or fine grade sandpaper. This removes any leftover debris and gives some traction to metal parts when applying primer.

wood and metal stripped

Prime it.  If metal, I sometimes spread it across two pieces of wood or on a piece of plastic and use spray primer in a smooth light coat.  I use a small paint brush for wooden pieces. You can tuck a toothpick into a rotating handle to keep the “handlebar” upright as you paint beneath it.

handles across wood before with toothpick supports primed with toothpick supports

Paint it.  This cannot normally be done in one step.  You usually have to hold it to get in all the corners and curves. Then you have to let that part dry so that you can hold it to do the spot left over.

handle painted hinge painted wood and metal painted

Protect it. Use the same Varathane you use for the furniture.

finished handles across jars

Drop the screws or hinges in some stripper solution and wipe them clean.  I usually paint the tops of the screws after I’ve used them to reattach the hardware.  A little drop of paint on a screw head hides it completely.  Don’t forget an additional drop of Varathane!

screws soaking screws lean

Working with hardware can be a bit fiddly but you can work at your table in a small area, which is kind of a nice break from painting the furniture itself!  And it always looks so nice when completed.


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