Cool Ways to Age Brass at Home
By: Brenda Sue Lansdowne
There are so many ways for you to take raw brass stampings like we sell on our website at http://www.bsueboutiques.com, degrease it, and put a patina on it that looks old, funky, and all your own. I’d like to share some of the things that I’ve tried out, and they are very easily done at home. Most of them require little investment and are safe to do in your own kitchen, for the most part!
TO DEGREASE BRASS:
This is imperative. Brass stampings are made from brass sheet and big, heavy metal dies that stamp the design into the metal. To operate well, they require machine oil. Machine oil will get all over the stampings, sometimes they come in quite greasy. So you will need to remove this excess oil.
It’s simple. Just make a bath of hot, soapy dish water. Scrub them up with a dish rag (don’t use anything abrasive) and then rinse in hot, clear water. Let them dry thoroughly.
HOW I PATINA BRASS:
One way is simply to colorize it. Take the clean brass and a soft buff rag that you have loaded with acrylic paint, or paint the piece with a paint brush. Let the paint set for maybe 30 seconds, then wipe off, only leaving residue in the creases and details. Continue doing this until you get the look you desire. Below is a photo of a piece I patina’d in vinegar and saltwater, baked and then colorized in just this way. The filigree piece, however, is simply degreased brass that I colorized by wiping with medium green acrylic by DecoArt. When dry, I buffed both pieces out with Turtle Wax High Gloss Car Wax that I bought at the Dollar Store. This seals the brass nicely, and it really only imparts a very low sheen, not a deep glassy shine.
Something else that is fun is to mimic the old cold paint enamel. You do this with a can of spray paint in the color of your choice. Of course, this isn’t non-toxic, so you will need to do it outside or in a spray tent in a room with good ventilation. Here is an example of a manipulated brass rose that I did just this way.
To be true to form, you will want to spray the back white ,as the old cold paint was done, gold, or even the same color, on the back. Another way to go is to use a plated stamping and spray the front. That way, you will have a pre-finished back.
My favorite way to patina brass is very simple---three parts dark cider vinegar to one part sea salt. I like to use a deep oblong glass dish. I mix my solution and place the degreased stampings in this bath and leave them there for AT LEAST an hour. Longer is also good.
Be sure you don’t layer them on top of each other; each piece needs to have full advantage of the solution.
After an hour or so, take them out, shake them off and place them on a dark baking sheet into a 450 degree oven for fifteen-20 minutes, monitoring them.
If the brass looks good to you at this point, take it out, let it cool. If not, soak it some more and then bake it again.
When cool, buff it out with a soft rag and then seal with brass wax or simple Turtle Wax for cars. If you like, you can also seal it with matte spray lacquer. I think I am liking the Turtle Wax, best. It gives it that oily old darkened gingerbread look, and hey, if it holds up on a car through the wind and the rain, it should stay fine on your jewelry findings and preserve the finish nicely.
Don't forget....you must seal the back of the piece as well!
Here is a piece that really came out nicely:
She is so rich-looking! Such gorgeous color…..looks very professional. And so easy!
Check out my bees:
These really came out very deep and ginger-bready.
Another step you can take is to take the hot, baked brass and dip it again in the vinegar-salt solution. Let it air-dry for several hours. You will note a lovely verdigris begin to come up over the piece, this is really wonderful.
Here is an example:
I love the dusty, mellow richness of it. When it has completely dried, then you can buff it out with the Turtle Wax, lightly.
Here are some stampings that I enhanced after processing this way with just a little medium-green acrylic paint, wiping off and buffing. I think they are really special!
This heart stamping was processed and left to dry but I also enhanced it with a little European Gold Rub and Buff, with a hint of Jade Rub and Buff. Use this product with good ventilation, or you’ll get a headache. When dry (doesn’t take long) I buffed it out and sealed a bit more with the Turtle Wax, to see what would happen. I love the result!
Here are some filigree pieces and frame findings that I also processed with the solution, then the extra dip. I let them dry, and simply buffed with Turtle Wax.
As you can see I had a bunch of fun, and it really did not take a lot of time to produce these gorgeous patinas. By working with this simple solution and doing a little experimenting perhaps with other shades of paint, Rub and Buff and even maybe some Distress Inks or Alcohol Inks, you can achieve something uniquely your own. Also, you can save a little money as plated pieces cost more, and hand-rubbed brass already patina’d in this style costs even more than that.
Here is a really good link you might like to check to read more about home-made patina finishes for brass, I found it very helpful.
If you find a finish that is unique and especially non-toxic, and want to share, contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org