In marketing terms, ‘finish’ describes what the surface of the material looks like. It is not necessarily a description of the actual surface material.
Stainless steel is a collective term for many different chromium-nickel-steel alloys, all of which show differing degrees of corrosion resistance. It is a group of ferrous alloys that contains a composition which prevents the iron from rusting, and also provides heat-resistance.
There are many grades of stainless steel, but 3 are used extensively in the production of ironmongery.
Used for products fitted externally, or likely to be used in an aggressive atmosphere such as swimming pools, chemical works, etc.
This grade tends to be used in the production of items for interior use in both domestic and commercial situations.
This grade would only tend to be found in the production of push and kicking plates within the ironmongery industry.
Stainless steel is a popular and ideal choice for stylish, attractive, low maintenance ironmongery. Occasional washing with warm soapy water and drying with a clean, soft cloth to remove any dirty smudges or grease deposits is all that is required to keep the appearance.
It's good to note that in particularly harsh environments, airborne pollutants may become deposited on the surface of the stainless steel giving the impression of rusting. This does not originate from within the metal itself and can be removed by cleaning as described above, or by the use of specialist stainless steel cleaning solutions.
Aluminium is the most common metal. It occurs widely in clays and various mineral forms and is extracted from its bauxite ore using an electrolysis process. Before the discovery of electricity aluminium metal was so rare and difficult to produce it was worth more than gold!
The waterproof nature of anodised aluminium means that like both stainless steel and nylon, it is a low maintenance finish only requiring an occasional wash with warm soapy water and drying with a clean, soft cloth to remove any dirty smudges or grease deposits.
Aluminium is quite a soft metal that can be easily dented and scratched. Whilst this will have no impact on the performance of the product, it may limit the suitability of aluminium ironmongery on projects where aesthetic is important.
An alloy made from a mixture of copper and zinc, the resulting yellow metal has been used in the manufacture of architectural fixtures and fittings for centuries. So, brass is not only a good choice for period properties, but also on modern projects with a traditional design.
Unlacquered polished brass tarnishes in air and needs polishing regularly with readily available brass polish to maintain its appearance. Subsequent tarnishing may be inhibited by the application of a coat of wax polish or household furniture polish. Alternatively, it may be left to dull down with time and acquire a natural brass patina.
For convenience, brass products are generally supplied with a clear factory applied lacquer which preserves the materials' shine. Lacquered brass should be occasionally washed with warm soapy water and dried with a soft, clean cloth. Under no circumstances should any form of brass polish be applied as their abrasive nature will accelerate the breakdown of the lacquer.
Bronze is readily cast and machined and has a long history of being used in architectural fittings. It is characterised by its deep brown appearance. Usually has a dark iridescent finish to the metal.
Such a finish is generally supplied waxed as opposed to lacquered and requires periodic waxing thereafter.
These are finishes in which a thin layer of chrome or nickel are deposited from an electroplating solution onto the surface bypassing an electric current.
Nickel and chrome plated finishes are unlacquered and therefore only need wiping down from time to time with soapy water and drying with a soft, clean cloth. An occasional wipe over with a soft cloth impregnated with a small amount of very light oil or paraffin can also be carried out after washing and drying.
Abrasive metal polishes should be avoided as they may damage the comparatively thin plated layer.
Nylon is an artificial polymer that can be produced in a multitude of different colours. Ironmongery made from nylon is characterised by a smooth, hard wearing surface that does not attract dust and is waterproof.
Similarly to stainless steel and aluminium, nylon ironmongery may therefore be described as low maintenance since it only requires an occasional wipe down with a damp cloth.
A very wide range of colours can be powder coated onto suitable base materials such as aluminium or steel.
Powder coated finishes are hard wearing and only require an occasional wipe over with a damp cloth. This may be supplemented by the occasional coat of furniture polish. They may be susceptible to scratching and chipping if they come into contact with hard objects such as rings.