I use this patina method often and I feel the results are very consistent and easy to achieve so I’m happy to share it with those interested in trying it out for themselves.
There are a few different variations of this general method but since I’ve been able to replicate the results consistently, this is the one I stick to. I do believe there is room for experimentation however, so feel free to make changes as you see fit. This patina will work on iron and steel (not stainless steel) but make sure the metal is not painted, treated or coated with anything that is meant to protect it from rusting or corrosion, or has any other surface coloring or application before you begin.
This patina should be a dark brown to black when done correctly. The patina is fairly fragile as it is only on the surface of the item so it is probably not best suited for items that will see heavy use or abuse.
Safety: Make sure to always wear a mask or respirator as well as eye and skin protection when working with heat and chemicals. It is best to work in a well ventilated area and take all precautions necessary before and after working with potentially hazardous materials. Do your research on any material, chemical, or substance you will use before proceeding.
What you will need
Acetone – or any cleaning solution that will remove dirt, oil, and grease
Hydrogen Peroxide – I use 3% most of the time with good results but a higher concentration is fine too
Salt – coarse or regular, either work fine.
Water – I use distilled water most often but I have used tap water as well.
Black tea – I don’t think the brand matters. I usually use two bags per session
Steel wire brush – I would avoid using brass because it might accidentally plate the metal. You can use a stiff plastic bristle brush instead.
Small to medium pot – I use a standard stainless steel saucepan
Microcrystalline wax – I use Renwax applied with cotton swabs. (I’ve read that other waxes also work well, always test on a scrap piece)
Baking soda – Use this to neutralize the acid, prior to boiling.
Clean your items very well of any paint, coating, bluing, corrosion, dirt, grease, or anything else that might prevent a smooth process. You might want to give the item a light sanding to make sure surface is completely clean. You can use rubber gloves from this point if you want, to help prevent fingerprints.
Step 1 – Heating solution
Measure approximately one cup (or enough to cover your items) of Hydrogen Peroxide and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt and mix together in pot over low heat. Stir until salt is dissolved and liquid is almost at a simmer.
Step 2 – Place items in the solution
Carefully place items in the solution using tongs or similar tool to avoid getting the liquid on your fingers or splashing by dropping them in. You will see the solution start to fizz immediately.
Let the solution run it’s coarse. It should go for about 2-5 minutes and then it will die down.
As it runs it’s course, the water will turn reddish brown.
Remove the items from the solution, rinse them with tap water, dry them and proceed to card the loose rust from the surface with the brush. You don’t have to remove all the rust, once it stops coming off easily, stop and rinse with water again.
After first bath
Step 5 – Repeat previous steps
The number of times you need to repeat these steps depends on how quickly the rust covers the items completely.
I average between 4-6 times but your results may vary. Flip an item such as a tsuba for each bath so both sides get equal exposure. Make sure to dump spent solution, rinse pot and start with a fresh mix for each bath.
Brush off loose rust and rinse.
Step 6 – Soak in baking soda paste
Mix some baking soda and water together in a bowl to create a paste and then spread the paste over the surfaces of your piece. let sit for 5 minutes and rinse with clean water.
Step 7 – Boil in tea
Place a couple of tea bags in some boiling distilled water
Allow the water to turn dark.
Place items in the pot and let boil for at least 45 minutes or longer, occasionally flipping items such as a tsuba.
After items are done they should appear dark brown to black.
Remove them from the boiling tea and rinse under clean tap water, thoroughly pat dry. You can either leave the piece out overnight to let it dry fully or you can place in an oven at the lowest temp and let it warm for a coupe of hours. You want to make sure there is no water/moisture before sealing. If drying in the oven, once finished, remove it and quickly apply the wax while it’s still warm. If drying overnight, place the piece in the oven on lowest temp and heat until warm to the touch and then apply wax. Apply the wax in a thin layer to avoid it looking too dull and caked, then buff with clean cotton cloth until desired luster is reached. If there are any missed spots or the layer was not thick enough, repeat above steps. An alternative to wax would be rubbing in mineral oil or coating with clear lacquer.
Re-apply wax as needed as the item is used to maintain a protective barrier.
If needed, you can use a rust remover or vinegar to strip the finish or sand down and do the whole process over again until satisfactory.
If you’ve enjoyed the tutorials and feel like buying me a cup of coffee, a meal or more tools, I’ll be super grateful. Thanks!
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