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Bronzing Steam Radiators

Well I finally did it- I bronzed a pair of radiators using info gleaned from the Wall.
Let me preface all of this by saying that the basic procedure came to me through a post here by Mike T. of Swampeast MO who- as I remembered it, picked it up from researching the Dead Men.. The post was long since archived and the pictures lost, so I thought I'd create a new post with pictures. So many thanks to Mike and this community for the initial legwork. This kind of thing is one of the best aspects of the internet, IMO.

How does it compare to other methods? While I love powdercoat for its durability, cleanability, and ease (someone else does the work!), it's not cheap, it's not really a DIY job, and it doesn't result in a terribly historic look. By contrast, bronzing materials were pretty cheap, it was surprisingly easy to pull off, and you're left with a product that looks like an impossibly perfectly preserved antique. My pictures here don't do the finish justice. Contemporary "metallic" spray paints have come a long way, but this is something special. The pictures show the radiator before refinishing, with primer, and finally fully finished.

Definitely going to use this method on more!
Good luck,
Patrick




My procedure:
  1. Clean rads and prep for paint. I did a bit of sandblasting because the decades of silver paint were not in great shape.
  2. Lay down a coat of an oil based primer.
  3. Blend a "bronzing solution" of "boiled" linseed oil and mica powder, 10:1 by weight.
  4. Paint on the bronzing solution with a thin but complete coat.
  5. Once complete, pat down any excess or pooling bronzing solution with lint-free rags or shop towels.
  6. Expect to continue to daub away excess bronzing solution for a few days.
  7. YMMV, but count one 1-2 weeks for the finish to cure enough to put the rad into service.
Notes:
  • You can add a "Japan dryer" to your bronzing solution to speed up cure times. However, the stuff is pretty toxic, and I found it wasn't necessary for me so I was happy to skip it. I used the "Tried and True" brand of linseed which is well polymerized, meaning it will cure on it's own with exposure to air. This is the brand I favor for woodworking. Other brands may be fine, but some may not cure as well on their own or may contain heavy metal driers by default.
  • I used around 8oz of bronzing solution per rad.
  • There are LOADS of mica options out there.I purchased a few to experiment with and found that in use the colors were significantly lighter and brighter on the rad than the raw mica would suggest. The specific product I used for the rad pictured here is "MEYSPRING Bronze Stone Epoxy Resin Color Pigment."
  • I used a Rustoleum red oxide type primer, and while you can't really see through the bronzing solution, this primer color definitely "tones" the color of the finish. This is another variable worth playing around with to achieve different effects.









Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,916
    edited October 2022
    Does it actually work? Is that radiator giving off less heat?

    BTW... Nice Looking Antique!
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    CLamb
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,755
    Looks great, @Patrick_North ! And, good to hear from you!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • PatrickNorth
    PatrickNorth Member Posts: 21
    Good to see you on here, too, Frank!
    Ed, the rad works just fine. I can't rightly say how heat output differs from its former self. This rad lives on the third floor and has been OOC for (I'm guessing) decades. I'm wrapping up a to-the-studs renovation of the third floor now (including new piping to this radiator) so there are too many other variables at play to tell.
    I'm sure there's some difference in the emissivity going from "aluminum" to bronze, but it's negligible as far as I can say.
    Thanks,
    Patrick
    MikeAmann