how to refinish door hardware in six steps

before and after

When I moved into my 1925 Craftsman Bungalow, I just assumed I would replace the ugly brass doorknobs with pretty new knobs.  Then I counted my 12 interior doors and realized I was looking at hundreds of dollars to replace the mortise-lock hardware installed by the last owner. I decided refinishing the knobs would make them look better while I saved up money to replace them one-at-a-time. And giving the knobs an “oil-rubbed bronze” look made them more period appropriate.  Fifteen dollars spent on black spray paint,  polyurethane, and a tube of Rub N’ Buff in “Spanish Copper” gave me beautiful door hardware that matches the rest of the finishes in the house. It worked so well that I used the same process on air conditioner vent covers and switch and outlet plates! Here’s how it works:

1.     Remove all of the hardware you wish to refinish and take it all apart. In my case, I couldn’t remove the glass knob from its brass base, so I used painter’s tape to cover the glass completely.

2.     Clean the hardware using rubbing alcohol or a kitchen disinfectant. Let it dry completely.

3.     Spray paint all of the hardware with matte black paint. I used the 99-cent stuff from my local hardware store. Make sure you cover the entire surface. Let it dry completely before trying the next step.

4.     Put a small bit of Rub N’ Buff on a clean rag that you don’t mind throwing away. Rub the product all over the hardware, focusing on the edges and details like screw holes or designs.

5.     Let the hardware dry overnight before applying the polyurethane. I achieved the most even finish by using a polyurethane spray I found in the spray paint aisle. The more coats of polyurethane you apply, the better the finish will hold up to everyday use.

6.     Put everything back together and back on your doors. Admire your refinishing and money-saving skills. –Cassie D.

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For real brass I was able to obtain a patina by placing the part in a closed container with some crumpled up aluminum foil and a bit of ammonia. It comes out more on the green side: I like your finish better.


So you thought the original hardware didn’t look original enough? Very confusing.

Cassie D

Hi Hazel,

Actually the original hardware wasn’t “original.” It was replica hardware installed by the previous owners.

I love the look of the finished hardware. The glass knob is much more eye-catching against the rubbed finish.

ugh to shiny shiny brass – the after is sooooo much better. Way to go.


I really like what you did. And now the surprised face that I always see in this type of doorknob stands out even more!

When I was a kid, we lived in a scary old house, and the friendly face doorknobs were reassuring.

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Does anyone know how to fix the knob hardware when it gets stripped and the knobs keep coming off?!


Go to the store and get the cheapest lockset you can find and just swap out the parts. If you have an old fashioned hardware store, they will probably have the parts, too. As for the re-finishing, a light sanding helps the matte paint stick better, as the paint chips from use. To do the screws, just put them in an old nylon knee-high and shake and spray the paint.. Give it a quick blow dry with a hair dryer, while you are still shaking the knee-high and in two minutes you are done. After you have installed the screws, touch up with the buffing paste and a Q-tip.