Before and after.
I’ve been collecting andirons for our someday working fireplaces. Yup, we’re still in the process of restoring them. Andirons are used for holding logs in an open fireplace so that air can circulate and allow proper burning. Decorative guards and log stops block the wood from rolling out of the fireplace.
Antique andirons are relatively easy to find and can be affordable. On the higher end you’ll find brass andirons, highly polished, matching tools, and original log stops intact—the log stops are on the bar behind the decorative guard. They start at about $400 and go into the thousands depending on their age, uniqueness, and condition.
On the lower end you’ll come across brass andirons full of soot, no tools, log stops removed for about $75 and up. The three sets I’ve bought came from salvage shops for about $100 each. Brass knock-offs are available for under $50 but they don’t have the same patina as antique andirons.
When I was up in Wiscasset, Maine this fall I spotted an exquisite collection at Lilac Cottage Antiques. I asked the owner, “How do you keep them so shiny?” Turns out he was rather fanatical about polishing brass and was delighted to share with me some tips and how to’s. Yay!
First, scrub the andirons with 000 steel wool or finer. Steel wool is available in different grades from fine (0000) to course (3). If you use a course grit you’ll scratch the surface and ruin the brass.
After a 1/2 hour or so of polishing with the steel wool my andirons looked pretty good. I was able to get the majority of the soot off which gave them some shine. To make them extra shiny you’ll need to use a brass polish. Lilac Cottage recommended using Noxon. His former favorite was Brasso but complained they recently changed their formula.
Apply the polish to a rag and rub all over the surface of the andiron. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and then repolished with a soft, dry cloth. You’ll notice the black soot will come off on the rag.
My andirons look a heck of lot better then when I first bought them. It gives me hope to start scouting dirty brass candlesticks that I could give new life with a little polishing too.
On the left: andiron polished using just steel wool. Right: steel wool and Noxon polish. I don’t notice a huge difference. The andiron on the right is brighter and looks less gray.
Noxon brass polish.