Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Operator Rod Knob, You Say?

Last night I had an idea:  Wouldn't it be nice to strip the layers of paint off the transom window hardware so that it shows up against the trim?  I've seen reproduction transom hardware in brass and thought I just might have something like that under the paint.   I decided early on, though, that if the paint didn't come off easily or if the metal underneath didn't look pretty that I was going to abandon this little project.   After more than a year of feeling chained to the house while I was tearing off shingles and painting the exterior, I have limited patience and a short attention span.  The paint did not come off easily.  What metal showed through here and there looked like steel or iron, so it's not pretty anyway.  Abandon project!  Abandon project! 

But wait...check out that little knob that tightens against the operator rod to hold the window open...under that blobby paint there might be something...

So I took the knob off the operator rod and soaked it in Goo Gone for half an hour.  Goo Gone is yucky stuff.  It smells like a mixture of gasoline, ethyl alcohol, and nail polish remover.  If you get it in a small cut on your finger you will almost pee your pants from the pain before you can run to the sink and wash it off.  I'm just sayin'.  Thirty minutes later, with rubber gloves and a mask on, I fished the knob out of the Goo Gone and scrubbed on it with a toothbrush.  (The only toothbrush I have, so remind me to go buy another one.  Soon.)  Almost no paint came off.  This is the first time ever that Goo Gone has failed me.  So I scrubbed some more, and put the knob back in the stuff, and left it there for another 30 minutes.  I repeated this process six more times.  Somewhere in there I went to my Mom's house and borrowed her nutmeat picker thingy so I could scritch and scratch paint out of the little nooks and crannies of the knob.  (And please don't tell her I used it for that, okay?)  Three hours or so later, the blobby little knob looked like this:

Is that not the most beautiful little operator rod knob you've ever seen?!  (Okay, so maybe it's the only little operator rod knob you've ever seen...) Solid brass.  Gorgeous.  Kudos to Mrs. Kelly for picking it out.  She could have chosen something that looks kind of like a modern-day binder clip, which was much more common then, but she chose something beautiful instead.  Bless her heart.  Now, standby for rant in three...two...one...RANT.  Who in their right freaking mind paints over something like this?!  Someone looked at this beautiful workmanship and thought, "I believe I'll paint over it with lead paint that's nearly impossible to remove."  Then some other idiot came along after them and said, "I think I'll further obliterate the detail on that little knob by doing a really crappy job of painting."  And after that, some color-blind fool painted it turquoise, so you almost can't blame whoever put the final coat of paint on it.  Seriously?!?!  Who does something like that?!  Oh yeah, sucky previous owners, that's who.  (And the worst part is, the first coat of paint at least was probably put on there by Mrs. Kelly's son Aub, who turned the house into two apartments and owned it until 1951.)  As my friend Michelle says, "Jeez Louise!"

But it's all better now.  There are six more knobs just like this on the other transom windows, and I'll strip the paint off them, too, as I go along.

Oh, and I have one more photo.  This one's for Karen Anne:

Thirteen double rolls of paper.  It's mocking me.  I distinctly heard it say, "The dining room's already kicking your hiney and you haven't even started papering!"  Then it laughed.  Or maybe I just hallucinated that after inhaling Goo Gone fumes for three hours.


  1. It always amazes me to see the amount of detail that comes out when items like this are stripped. It really is gorgeous.

    Question - would it be easier to strip if you did a soak in boiling water (various recipes include adding vinegar, dish soap, baking soda or ammonia) or would that ruin the brass finish? I honestly don't know, I've never needed to try it. I just remember reading about it on other blogs. I love Goo Gone, but you're right, that is some nasty smelling stuff!

  2. I dumped my painted hardware in a glass loaf pan with some stripper whose brand escapes me, let it soak quite awhile and the paint all came off easily with a toothbrush.

    I can sort of vaguely understand someone who paints over door hinges, given that old doors weight a ton and it is non-trivial to get the hinges off and then get the door back in place. Well, not really, because the payoff for doing it right is significant.

    But I have no comprehension whatsoever of people who paint over other hardware that is so easy to remove.

  3. LOL, you might try the soaking in a crock pot method. Less painful than the goo gone. Not sure if it would work with the paint you're trying to remove though. Glad you unearthed that little treasure. Sometimes it's the little things that make it all worthwhile.

  4. God bless Mrs. Kelly, indeed! And you … for you have the patience of Job. (By now I’d have picked new reproduction hardware out of the catalog.)
    And Goo Gone? That stuff works (especially on road tar) but its’ truly a product of the devil. Last BIG bottle I bought of it, somehow got punctured and slowly leaked out under the kitchen sink where for more than a week after I’d discovered it and tried to clean it all up, its fumes still tortured our entire household.

  5. The previous tenant in my old house apartment had painted all the hinges and handles (even the screw heads!) on all the kitchen cabinets (with spray paint, no less!) I took them all off and soaked them for a few hours in a mixture of boiling water, baking soda and vinegar. The paint peeled off easily, except in the grooved areas, where I had to use a toothbrush to gently coax it out. It wasn't too bad, though. MUCH better than smelling Goo Gone for hours! I haven't decided if I want to try taking the door hinges off to fix (yes, they painted those hinges, too! Thank God they didn't do the doorknobs!)

  6. I keep the under the kitchen sink stuff in a couple of Rubbermaid mini dishpans in case of leakage.

    I'd do that with the bathroom under the sink stuff too, but the door openings are too narrow.

  7. Beautiful little knob. Your post reminds me of all of the work I have to do on the mountains of hardware in our house.

  8. Kate and Marley, Boiling water?! Really?! I'm gonna try that with the other 6 knobs!

    Karen Anne, Don't even get me started on the door hinges...they're also covered in blobby paint and look like they might have Eastlake detail on them...but Mare and I have a plan. :)

    NV, That story reminds me of something that happened last week to a friend of mine. His cat sank its teeth into a box of chicken stock in the cupboard...which slowly leaked out all over the cupboard all day long while everyone was gone. It's only funny cause it didn't happen to me.

  9. At a work auction I won a box of painted brass 'things' that were scavenged from old seattle buildings before they were demolished in the 60's and 70's. Small items with bad paint on them. I dumped them all in an old pan and poured boiling water over them and kept them hot for an hour. Then let them soak it out until I got around to them. the paint peeled off like... well like really easy paint peels. They were lovely underneath. I think I got that from the old house restoration website. The brass was fine and still glowed underneath.

  10. I have to agree with some of the early comments, overnight in a crock pot worked well for me, just don't ever use the crockpot again for food. I managed to get years of paint off interior doorknob hardware in just 1 soak. You still had to scrub it a little, but much less than what you just did. That knob looks beautiful, it was worth the work!

  11. You might want to keep your eye out for a crockpot on sale or even Goodwill/Thrift shop cheapie. I remember seeing some at Walmart a few months ago for $10. It might be the best $10 you ever spent.

  12. Baking Soda and Boiling water.
    Kate is right.

    We have casement windows with painted hardware. Make it easy on yourself. Boil your hardware for 30 minutes, sometimes longer if there's alot of layers. Use an old toothbrush. I swear the paint comes right off.