I have inherited an early 1900's antique oak Side-by-Side Secretary. We are having it restored and refinished. We are receiving mixed information regarding our options for the antique hardware (pulls, escutchions, etc) which are brass. We do want to continue to use the existing antique hardware (not reproductions).
Are there any recommendations you would make to polish the hardware? Should it be brought back to a shine, or just dusted and cleaned? With what? Some pieces are extremely weathered and I suspect most will not come back to a total brass shine. (And I am not even sure if a new brass shine would be the optimum choice).
Re: Polishing Hardware
Always use original hardware, even if it is worn. By having the original you preserve the original components and are willing to show off the use and wear that has taken scores of years to accomplish. You also retain more value to the entire piece.
The piece in question has hardware that may not be solid brass. The best way to test this is to polish the hardware with a good metal polish like Simichrome Metal Polish. You don't have to go to extremes when polishing. You only want to polish the high spots and leave some tarnish in the grooves and background. This gives the hardware an old but cared for look. So don't use a toothbrush, just a soft cloth wrapped around your finger. Dip your finger into the polish and begin to rub until you begin to see tarnish coming off onto the cloth. Then use a separate cloth, like our cheesecloth wipes, and buff to a shine. If it's brass you'll know, if not you'll have some bright iron or nickel, use it anyway, it's the original. If the brass is spotted real bad just do your best and let the spot show, it's part of it's antiquity. If your really into it you could have any non solid brass hardware replated.
Even if this costs more than replacement it's better because you have the original!