I found a simple and cheap way to antique the screws for the Dutch tool chest after discovering how expensive it is to purchase antique or reproduction hardware. I was able to find new-old-stock cut nails on eBay at a good price, but the screws eluded me. Whether purchasing them on eBay or from a restoration supplier like Blacksmith Bolt (an awesome resource) would have run about $20 bucks with shipping for a handful of plain steel screws.
I had read about using lemon juice, but that only works on zinc plated screws. All I could find was stainless steel.
The answer was vinegar. Just soak the screws in vinegar and the shiny stainless screws go back in time in about 6 to 8 hours. It’s important to check them regularly to keep them from turning black. You want a nice gunmetal bluish gray patina.
After soaking them, I rinsed them in water to stop the reaction, dried them well, then scuffed the heads with 80 grit sandpaper. Here’s the result.