Giving New Brass an Old Look

Sept. 21, 2010: Here is a method discovered by Sylviane of Ontario, Canada: "...all you have to do is soak a paper towel in vinegar, pop it and the burner into a Ziploc baggie and seal tight. The fumes from the vinegar start working to make a nice patina within 3-4 hours. I left the burner in overnight. Couldn't get any easier !!! ;-)" She used this method on an electrified burner.

" You can make up a solution containing copper sulfate and nitric acid. These two will combine with the brass to impart an old-looking brown patina.

1) Clean the part - I dip it in acetone (available in the hardware store).If the part is corroded, lightly buff it with very fine sandpaper (500) or a paste made from wet kitchen sink cleanser. Toothpaste also works.

2) Heat the part in a gas flame. I use my kitchen stove, holding the part with a needle nose pliers into the gas flame until it glows orange. Heating it red hot may deform it.(This heating burns away impurities that may otherwise give the piece a blotchy appearance).

3) Copper sulfate and nitric acid may be ordered at a pharmacy, but here is an alternative: use Miracle Grow plant food (it is a blue crystal)as a source of copper sulfate. Use a solution available where ever stained glass supplies are available. It is used for darkening the solder used to ornament stained glass formed by suing copper foil tape. The solution is a mild mixture of nitric acid and copper sulfate. The brand I use is "Novacan Black Patina" made in Vancouver, BC. If you cannot find a local source, there are several suppliers online. A pint costs about $3.00.

4)Here is the recipe I use:

a) 1 cup of water
b) 2 tablespoons of Miracle Grow
c) 3 teaspoons of black patina solution

5) Place your solution in a glass jar. Immerse your brass piece in the solution. A dark brown patina appears in about an hour. Check the piece every 15 minutes: for a less dark color, immerse for a shorter time. The solution is not strongly corrosive, but don't splash it in your eyes (it is less acid than fresh lemon juice).

6) Rinse the piece in tap water and wipe it off with a soft cloth or paper towel. The more you rub the lighter the color and the glossier the finish.

Here are two new collars treated as described above: old looking brass oil lamp collar

Good luck with this chemical time machine! Bill Moran

An alternative was discovered by Tommy Ruth of Marysville, OH: Soak your brass part in CLOROX Toilet Bowl Cleaner. It ages the brass without giving it the overall brownish patina, but does dull the brightness and tone down the brassy color, after about three days at room temperature. Since brass is an alloy, the color change may be slower or faster depending upon the proportions of metals in the alloy.

Al of Elmwood Park, IL reports that he uses a "darkening solution" that can be purchased at Just enter those words in the search box to see the products and prices.

Tom of Canton, OH has come up with a quick solution: he used a tree root killer made by ROEBIC that contains 98% copper sulfate. By dissolving a teaspoon full in a cup of water the got an almost instant patina. He suggests lowering the concentration to be able to better control the speed of the change.

Doug of Branson, MO recommends a solution provided by THE COMPLEAT SCULPTOR that works almost instantly, and can be brushed on or dipped called JAX Brown. You can access the specific page describing the product and price at this link.

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