I am really tired of working on the living room woodwork, so I decided to work on a couple small projects instead. The first was to strip and restore the upstairs door hardware. The hardware is nickel and most of it was coated in multiple layers of paint.
I started by boiling the hardware in a solution of water and dishwashing liquid for about an hour or so. I have this technique is even more effective if you soak the hardware longer, but I am not that patient.
Next, I used a little bit of Zip strip to get any stubborn bits of paint, and cleaned the surfaces with furniture refinisher. Unfortunately, the hardware really didn't have a nice patina underneath the paint, It actually looked like someone had stripped the hardware previously and removed the tarnish in the recessed areas of the pattern.
To restore the hardware, I used Brass Darkening Solution (bought at Rockler for under $5). This stuff works on nickel and steel in addition to brass. Once the nickel was sufficiently darkened, I used Maas polish to even out the finish, leaving the recessed areas dark.
It actually turned out better than I expected and the nickel hardware really stands out on the white doors.
After that, I decided to try the brass darkening solution on one of the unlacquered brass switchplate covers in the dining room. While you can still tell it isn't original, I like the darkened look better, and it definitely beats the hole in the wall that was there before.