If you are good at working with brass, you know that people are looking for a vintage look on it nowadays. And steampunk fans consider copper a must in their fashion statement. These easy DIY aging methods for brass will give your work the vintage look it will need to “shine”, and look just like it comes from 19th century.
There are also a few steps you need to follow before starting any of these methods or else you will not get the desired effect. Make sure your metal is really copper, or brass, some of these methods react to these specific metals, and you can waste your materials on something that won’t turn out the same, or have their own reaction and become dangerous.
Take some acetone and make sure your brass object doesn’t have ANY other substance on it, like oils or varnish, even if you can’t see if it has, is better to give it a proper clean just to make sure, or else it won’t change color the way you want. Sanding your item would help remove the coating too, and just rub with hot water after, and let it dry after.
And last, but not least, safety first! Wear personal protection like goggles or other protective eye wear and latex gloves.
So before starting, make sure you know what method you want to try and get everything you need for it.
Photo credit: DaRosa Etsy Shop, where you can also buy this beautiful Brass Owl Drawer Knobs.
Salt Vinegar Method
Natural aged brown brass look:
Use a cup of vinegar to 2 tablespoons of salt and brush the solution on to your piece, than air dry, and repeat as many times as you need, or instead of brushing just immerse the object in it and let it dry after. Also heat is known to give more rapid result with vinegar solution. Dry them with paper towels and place them on a cookie sheet and put them into an oven at 450 degrees. You should expect it to change in a few minutes so keep an eye on and get it out to cool down when it’s ready.
Verdigris (green) Patina Look: let the brass soak in the mixture for 1 hour. Get it into the oven for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, then immerse them in vinegar solution again for a few minutes or when it gets to the color you wanted. Let them air dry and then you can polish them until it gets the right look.
If the color keeps changing, and you don’t want that, sprinkle baking soda on it so it stops the process quickly before getting it to a color you don’t need and ruins your project.
If you need to do this for small brass objects, place them in a glass jar suspended above a cloth soaked in ammonia, without touching and close the jar.
And for larger pieces you need a bigger container, that has a lid and that fits them and another smaller glass container filled with ammonia. Make sure the brass object does not touches the liquid ammonia, because it stains. Get the lid on tightly and check on it daily to see the transformation, and daily change the ammonia with fresh one to make sure it does its job right. You can take the object out when you are happy with the results.
You can dispose the ammonia safely if you mix it with baking soda and water so it doesn’t ruin the environment.
There are also chemical methods, with solutions you can find in specialized shops, and you can follow the instructions on their directions, so not much I can teach you about. And natural methods, like linseed oil right after you take the brass out of the oven, until it reaches the color you desire. Or just rubbing it with your oily hands and let it sit for days, or even weeks. There are also methods that involve lots of yogurt, lemon juice or lye.
Varnish every piece of it after you finished your item and it is completely dry, so the oxygen in the air doesn’t keep changing the color of your copper.
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