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Restoring vintage railroad lantern--after stripping, horrible black spots have appeared. Help!

I am refinishing a vintage railroad kersosene lantern . Both had been painted, but the paint was mostly worn away and the base metal (which I am unsure of) was rusty in spots. I read a great deal about how to restore these, and eschewed the lye soak method. Thus, I used a combo of suggestions of different websites and I used a citrus based stripper to remove paint, then scrubbed, then used Royal Jelly and vinegar for rusty areas, then scrubbed again with Brillo pads, dried and put in the oven to thoroughly dry. Took dry lantern and put on thin coating of linseed oil and buffed with 0000 steel wool to make it shine. This all went fine, except...

Big black spots of...some sort of rust? A thin coat of black that I can't get on top of (as soon as I remove it, it comes right back.) I get it that as soon as I removed the paint, I removed the protection for the metal and thus made it vulnerable to rusting, and hence the quick drying to prevent this. That's also why I put on the linseed oil so quickly, to prevent oxidization and rusting. Other things I've tried is baking soda mixed with water to form a paste, baking soda mixed with vinegar, Brasso, and lemon. It will clean the overall black away for a moment, but it comes back. NOTHING touches those horroble spots.
If you know something about metal restoration--please help. I've spent hours and hours on this.

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Posted 2015-08-16T19:40:51+0000  by CPatrice CPatrice
I'm hardly an expert but what I suspect is that the shiny metal is actually a plating (maybe tin or nickel) over some base metal like steel.  In the black spots, the plating has worn away.  I'm not really sure why black is appearing, from what you describe as almost immediately.  I'm wondering what would happen if you skip the linseed oil and whatever else you've been using and try buffing with a non-woven pad (e.g., green or gray Scotchbrite) or some very fine sandpaper (~800 grit) and a petroleum based lubricant like WD-40 or even kerosene.

Is your goal to have a shiny lantern?  In which case, it would probably have to be replated.

You might try to find a forum that deals with railroad antiques and someone who has encountered the same problem.  There's lot of railroad memorabilia collectors out there so they must have a forum or two.
Posted 2015-08-17T01:37:53+0000  by Adam444
Hi CPatrice,

I think Adam has you on the right track.

The oxidation is most likely exposed steel, where the chrome or nickel plating has worn away.

Most communities have plating shops ... they typically serve the auto industry among others.

Contact a local car restorer and ask for contact information on their plating resource.

Your lantern will most likely be dipped into an acid vat to remove surface debris and then re-plated.

Your finished piece should reassemble and look like new.

There are those in the antique community that believe original patina should not be destroyed.

You might also check with a local restoration expert to determine the value both original and restored.
Posted 2015-08-18T14:33:51+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL
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