This is a true flashback to one of the first posts I ever wrote. It was terribly photographed and formatted but the knowledge is handy so I thought it was worth repeating. Quite simply, you can boil the paint right off old hardware. One of the favorite things about my house is the hardware and it was very much buried under a hundred years of paint but I was able to clean it all in one evening using this technique.
Just find a pot that you will not ever use for cooking again, throw in a little baking soda and boil for about 30 minutes. The hardware will come out with the paint so soft you can simply rub it off with an old toothbrush easily. (As always, if you suspect lead paint, you should take extra precautions here to ensure you are not inhaling anything in but working while its wet will help keep it out of the air than if you were scraping it dry.)
Hope this is helpful for anyone in the throws of their own crazy renovation or maybe just struggling to get some old paint off furniture hardware handles. Either way - know you know!