Multiple Paint Layers on Your Iron Bed
August 19th, 2012

How is it that original old antique iron beds often have as many as a dozen or more layers of paint on them?

In the early 1800’s iron beds came from the manufacturer with a good strong coating of lead base paint. As the bed went through normal use, after a few years, it would be in need of a fresh layer of paint. Back then removing the first layer of paint was not an easy thing. So people tended to just paint a fresh coat over the original layer. It wasn’t until 1870 that an inventor by the name of Benjamin Chew Tilghman developed the first sand blasting. He secured a patent on his machine and listed it’s primary use was for cutting  rock and to grind away glass and stone.

Two years later, in 1872 ,Tilghman secured another patent on an improved sand blasting machine that was more refined and was used for polishing, and remove paint .

Up until Tilghmans invention, people simply painted over layer upon layer of paint. I’ve seen as many as a dozen different colors of paint on one bed.

I once mentioned the multiple layers of different colors that were on a bed I was buying from an old dealer in the hills of Pennsylvania. He said that it was a common practice for people back in the 1800’s to paint their house, room, barn etc with a particular paint. Once they were finished, they took whatever paint was left and painted the beds in the house. As house colors changed…..so did the beds. People were much “greener” back then, out of necessity rather than today. Paint was something that had to be purchased and no  one was going to waste any that was left over after the main job it was intended for. It’s unfortunate that people today tend to be “green” only when it’s convenient. Very few view it as a necessity or a left style that we should all live by.

One of the “perks” in finding a bed that has multiple layers of paint is the preservation factor. You can rest assured when a bed has multiple layers, if it’s been kept inside, the iron has been sealed from the oxidation that causes rusting and deterioration of the iron tubing.

The main downside to retaining the multiple layers of paint a bed may have is the “diffusion” or “muting” of casting detail. Multiple layers tend to fill in the otherwise crisp detailing many of the castings have on the beds. Once a bed is “sandblasted” those layers of paint are completely removed, along with any rust, and the original detailing of the hand poured molten iron casting is perfect. It’s then necessary to apply a good metal primer to prevent any future rust and also to make a strong base for the color you select to go on top.

A point of information……….don’t scrimp on a good metal primer. It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll be making in the restoration of your bed. A good metal primer seals and eliminates any oxidation and future rust. An inexpensive metal primer can do just the opposite and allow all those things that will enhance the aging process.

So…….Never fear a bed that has multiple layers of paint…….it probably means a well preserved bed.

I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website


to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.

I also invite you to take a look at our company  Face Book page for multiple photo albums on Custom Finishes, Canopy Conversions and a comprehensive “Before & After” King Conversions album.

Cathouse Antique Iron Be#B1BE56

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