How to Create a Petina on Metals
Patinas on copper and brass are thin films that form on the metals from either weather or exposure to natural elements or through a chemical process. When done properly the patina gives the metal a “seasoned’ tone and look that accents many forms of decor. Copper will turn a greensih color while brass will take on a muted tan or grey when put through the process. Many southwestern style homes use patina copper or brass on kitchen counter tops or as wraps for lamps, sconces, bedposts or bookcases. The patina effect is a beautiful tone that gives any room a timeless and “antique” feel. For home crafters, make your own patina designs on copper and brass patterns. It is also possible to use the chemical patina method to achieve an etched design. This is done using a chisel or etching tool and then treating with the patina chemicals. Some enjoy the ability to carve in unique designs that are enhanced via the patina.
In order to create a successful patina, the following materials are needed:
Distilled Water (Distilled water is preferred over tap as it is consistent in the patina sheen)
Mixing Buckets and Containers
Spray Bottles and Brushes
Eye Goggles, Smock and Rubber Gloves
Metal Cleaning Supplies and Towels
Scouring Pads – Steel wool
Industrial Sand Blaster (optional)
Well-Ventilated Work Space
C-Clamps and Bench
Mix the acetic acid and water in one of the larger mixing buckets or containers. Remember to “do as you out to and add acid to water.” This means adding the acid last. This prevents high splash back and is the safe method of mixing. Use a mix of 10:1 of water: acid. Be sure to wear the eye goggles, rubber gloves and smock any time you use the acid or mixture. Leave the mixture off to the side. Any acid mix that gets spilled needs to be wiped up quickly to prevent damage to the surface it lands on.
Position the copper or brass pieces on the workbench and use C-clamps to tighten them in position if necessary. Use the towels and wash off the metal. Clean it using mild soap and water then towel off the excess fluids. Let the metal pieces dry completely.
Scour the outer edges of the metal using steel wool pads or other scouring agents. Experiment. Use different pads, agents and brushes to get different textures and designs on the metal. The purpose is to mar and scour the metal in distinct shapes and swirls with the metal-scouring agents. For large jobs, consider using an industrial sand blaster to get the metal adequately roughed up and scoured.
Brush off the metal with a clean towel. Be sure to have rubber gloves on at all times. Do not allow any oils from the palms and fingers get onto the metal surface.
Soak a towel in the patina mixture bucket. Remove and wring out thoroughly. Again, be sure to have all protective clothing and gear on any time the acid mix is handled and used. Rub the wet towel over the metal on the sides that have been scoured. Leave this to dry for at least 24 hours. Return to the metal and wet another towel in the patina mixture. Repeat the wiping and wetting of the metal with the patina chemical mix. Leave the metal for another 24 hours.
Scrape any precise designs or etchings onto the metal using small metal brushes, chisels or punches if a precise design is desired. Fill a spray bottle with the patina mixture. Spray the patina mixture into the etched or chiseled designs to set the patina acid into the chipped out metal.
Wipe down the metal with a dry and clean towel. Add one last application of the patina mixture to the metal, as wet as possible. Turn on the heat gun and let it preheat to at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apply the heat gun to the patina chemical side of the metal. Move slowly back and forth with the heat gun approximately 2 inches off the surface of the metal. Move up and down and watch as the metal that has been scoured begins to turn a soft and subtle green, contrasting with the brass and copper colors. Take particular care to apply the heat over the etched and chiseled areas of the metal. When dry, if the color is not to satisfaction spray more patina mixture into the etched areas and then reapply the heat gun. As mentioned prior, when etching into the metal, once the patina chemicals are added it creates a distinct design in the metal and patina.
Leave the metal to cool and dry on the workbench. If the metal’s patina is not uniform or to your liking, go back and re-scour and chisel out the design. Go through the mixture application process again and let the metal dry. It is important that the acid mixture have time to oxidize and treat the metal to achieve the weathered look that the metal would take on if left out in the elements for extended periods of time.
Inspect the metal and use a small sponge brush to apply touch-up patina mixture to spots that are not uniform with the design. Continue until the metal piece has the desired look.
* If doing large pieces of metal, consider hanging them laterally and spraying the patina side down with the mixture. Let it run and drip down the side to achieve a one of a kind appearance on the metal. Like the other method, go through after it has dried to make sure the desired pattern or design is achieved.
Pour the remaining patina mix down a work sink drain and wash out all items that came in contact with the mixture. Store any excess acetic acid in a plastic jug in a cool, dark and dry room like a basement, cellar or backroom in a workshop.
Use tin snips to cut the metal into whatever shape or design desired. Apply it to counter-tops, or whatever item it is that should have the accented metal. Always clean patina-copper or -brass with mild soap and warm water. Never use household chemical-based cleaners for the patina metals as this may alter the design or dull the patina you worked so hard to achieve. Enjoy your home design and bask in the knowledge that you helped create the warm and timeless feel that now graces your chosen room.