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Restoring Iron Bed

Posted By: Shannon Antoine <santoine@arczip.com> (adsl-35-236-105.msy.bellsouth.net)
Date: 11/2/5 11:27

I am trying to restore an iron bed that's tubular, a four-poster, very graceful but not the same style as most of the iron beds around. It has a decorative section on the footboard that consists of two pieces of brass tubing, made into a unit with a small narrow section in the middle. I know it was sold as a child's bed and was bought second-hand in the thirties. I don't know how much earlier it was manunfactured. It has no marks (that I can find) on it. One small part of one of the posts had to be repaired and I stupidly let the welder talk me into having it stripped. Parts of the bed came back from dipping shiny and other parts were rough and pitted. I let it dry for a few weeks before I started to refinish it.

Here's my problem: when I first apply a primer, it seems fine-- but then within a day or so a residue starts leaking out of every joint, right through the primer. The residue is light red and liquid-- it starts with a small amount but within a day or so builds to a good-sized stain. It has a pH of 11 (which is why I have assumed it is caustic soda).

The advice I got from several experts was to wash out the inside thoroughly, so I removed the casters to get access to the interior. It has old iron casters and I don't know how to remove the sleeves, which may be blocking the flow of water through parts of it, but the pressure wash seems to run through the whole bed and completely drain out-- still the leaching comes back. The stripping company suggested drilling holes in the posts but that seems a little drastic and I'm not sure it would help a lot, since the metal is dry and clean before I apply the primer and it almost seems like the primer activates the leakage. Someone else suggested the residue might not be caustic soda at all but something else. Is it possible that there is some kind of coating on the bed that's causing the leaching? I have tried pressure washing it (with and without neutralizers in the wash), using different types of primers (including Kilz), drying the bed over long periods of time-- everything I know.

Anyone out there have any ideas about the bed, its manufacturing history or how to solve the leaching problem? I can't research it because I can't figure out when it was manufactured! Each time I try a primer that doesn't work I have to remove it and start over-- it's been a lot of work, but the bed has sentimental value for me and I want to do the job right.


Shannon Antoine Lacombe, LA

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