Making Hardware Look "Period-Correct"

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Making Hardware Look "Period-Correct"

Post by MochetVelo » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:33 pm

Bolts, nuts and screws from the hardware store and most other sources are plated these days, mostly to keep them shiny in the store, The plating won't last long exposed to the elements. Before about WW2, however, hardware wasn't nickel, zinc or cadmium plated. Nor were bolts marked on top with maker names and strength marks. When replacing hardware in pre-war cars, you can make it look original. First, file off the bolt-head markings. You can then remove plating by media blasting or with a wire brush in a rotary tool. Here are some tips for coloring:


Old-time hardware was often blackened to retard oxidation. This look can be mimicked in various ways. I've had success with Eastwood's Metal Blackener ("Black Oxide Metal Finish"). You clean off the steel part and dip it in a liquid, then rinse it off and apply a clear sealer. I find this product also blackens hardware-store zinc-plated hardware as well. Spark plugs can also be blackened for an authentic look. They were not plated until the 1950s.


Here, I've had good results with Birchwood-Casey Perma Blue Paste Gun Blue (used by gun restorers). This is in a small tube, and repeated applications with a cotton swab gives bare steel a nice blued look. Again, a clear coat is applied. I used this on a set of rusty spark plugs after I wire-brushed them clean. Several coats gave them a very dark blue color; almost black, which looked correct.


Of course, much hardware (like on engines, frames and drive trains) was painted. Usually, this was done after assembly. However, a restorer may prefer to paint the hardware separately so things can be taken apart without damaging the finish. In this case, hardware can be painted with a rattle can or even powder coat. You can buy plastic socket liners that won't chip your paint, or use a larger socket with some duct tape inside.

Other Ideas

I've seen black Magic-Marker used on hardware. I doubt it's very permanent, but it looks OK. There are a number of other ways to blue and blacken metals. Check YouTube under these subjects and you'll see some clever methods. Caswell sells a 2-part solution for blackening stainless steel. I've had only partial success with this. Some stainless blackens nicely and others not at all. Other metals, suck as brass and bronze, can be darkened chemically. Jewelers and sculptors use these chemicals for different patinas, and you can find them at jewelery supply houses. sells some chemicals, also.

Finally, you can still purchase blackened hardware in some sizes from McMaster-Carr. I've been collection washers and other small parts with this finish.


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