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Newby: restoring antique hand mirror of potmetal and silver

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  • Newby: restoring antique hand mirror of potmetal and silver

    Hi everyone,

    we just got an old, antique hand mirror to restore. It was silver plated but is now dull and dark.
    I have no idea what the base metal is but we want to polish and replate it.
    So, what are the best procedures and the best kits to get for this task.

    Thanks Everyone

    Stefan Elie

  • #2
    Pot metal mirror


    Sand down the plating with #400 sandpaper. If the base metal is gold-ish colored, it's probably brass. Brass can be easily restored by polishing, cleaning. and replating. If the base is silver colored, a Q tip of muriatic acid can tell you if it is pot metal. If it fizzes and turns black, it's pot metal. If not, it's steel. Another big clue: If there is rust on it, it's probably steel. Assuming it's pot metal:

    Check out two posts here on plating pot metal: Mine (dadkar2) and 48Buick. My experience is with antique clocks and household items. 48Buick's (as the name implies) is with restoring automotive parts. The processes are very similar but somewhat different.

    Pot metal is a tough first project. This is because it requires tanks and a sandblaster, and lots of TLC to get anywhere. Many folks want to brush plate it, but that doesn't work. Often, one ruins parts in the process of learning. So if you can find some old pot metal parts to experiment with, you will have an idea of what you're up against before a valuable part is damaged.

    If it is steel, you must remove all rust and previous plating, plate with copper flash, polish, then nickel plate and finally gold or silver. The process is well described in Caswell's manual and fairly good results can be obtained with some care. If it is necessary to fill and smooth over rust pits, etc. then it could get more involved, but it is still relatively straightforward.

    Best of luck in your endeavors. Questions welcome.

    Kind regards,