Mom soaked them in hot water with vinegar and baking soda and scrubbed them with a soap pad. She rinsed them well and had them dry and waiting for me to paint when I got off work.
We taped the wooden middles off with painter's tape and then I brushed on a quick coat of primer, New Surface by The Plaster Paint Co.
This is a very thick, super sticky primer and a little goes a long way. You just work quickly and spread it thinly. You can paint over it in as little as a half hour to an hour, if you wish.
I had this on hand and I do really like the product. However, my absolute favourite is Stix by Inslx and it is readily available at your nearest Benjamin Moore store or Amazon.
I painted on 2 coats of Saman One Step Wood Stain & Varnish in the color Cedar, to match the island's countertop. We did this in one evening.
(Original color on the left and Cedar on the right.)
Lastly, came 3 coats of top coat. For the first batch of handles I used Gator Hide but I ran out and used Saman Water-based Clear Coat for the rest of the handles. Saman is more readily available in my area and I LOVE their products!