Restoring Vintage Lights
We wanted to keep some vintage feel in our remodel, and one place we could do that was with lighting. We had 2 light-restoration projects.
Project #1: Polychrome chandelier
I bought this cast aluminum fixture on ebay for $40.
Here's a drawing from a 1920's lighting catalog showing how they originally looked.
After disassembling it, I soaked the pieces in Dawn, scrubbed the dirt off with a toothbrush, and took a scotch brite pad to the white paint. Here's the blank canvas, with a few relics of the original paint providing clues to how it should look.
There were 2 steps in the restoration process: hand-painting the color back on and lacquering over top of the paint. I bought a set of acrylic paints from Hobby Lobby, and sourced tinted lacquer from a distributor that carried Mohawk Ultra Classic Toner. I purchased 2 shades and then experimented with them on a #10 can to see what they'd do on aluminum. I painted a few colors of acrylic paint, tried both toners in multiple coats to see what they did to the acrylics, and finally decided on the Medium Oak color.
I mixed up the colors to match as closely as I could to the remnants on the original fixture. I applied the yellow, coral, and green to the appropriate portions of the light fixture. Pretty bright! It would have scared me a bit if I hadn't already played around with the toners.
Then one light coat at a time, I sprayed the toner over all the fixture pieces. They gradually darkened. I also lacquered the chain links to brighten them back up.
Project #2: Glass chandelier
I started with this $47 light fixture, purchase again from ebay. The metal parts were rusty, the glass parts were dusty, the wiring was unsafe and outdated, and there were a few parts that were missing.
Steps to restoring this one:
- Disassembled the column and cleaned all the glass with soapy water and then ammonia glass cleaner to make it sparkle.
- Sanded/wire wheel brushed off the metal parts, and sprayed them with some toner lacquer to shine them up. I could have purchased replacements, but the innards aren't highly visible, so I kept them.
- Ordered vintage prisms and a crystal finial from ebay.
- Rewired the sockets, which was a bit of a pain since they required soldering.
- Reassembled everything and hung it from the ceiling.