Would you wear and use a vintage pocket watch?

Friday, January 29, 2010

How to "Age" Brass and Copper

A DS original piece created using multiple brass patina and rusting techniques.

In this article, I have summarized some of the more traditional and simple methods of how to give brass (or copper) a vintage-looking patina.  I will use brass as the exemplar metal in the instructions, but most of these techniques will also work on copper.

     There are a couple of basic steps which always apply.

     First of all, make sure that your item is actually brass.  Most aging methods depend on the chemical reaction between the brass metal molecules and the reagent used.  (Introducing a different metal may be dangerous, or at best will not have the desired effect and be a waste of time and materials.)  You can find out by asking an antiques dealer, if needed.

     Second, remove any varnish, oil, or lacquer from the piece, as varnish can be chemically volatile and if your piece has any sealer on it, it will not change color!  Apply acetone, then submerge the piece in boiling water for a short period of time, wipe with a cloth until it seems all of the varnish has been removed, and let dry. (For larger items, apply the acetone, then rub the piece with very hot water on a cloth.)  Alternatively,  sand blasting will also effectively remove any coating on your brass.

     Third, please gather and wear personal protection -- goggles or other protective eye wear and latex/nitrile gloves.  Safety first!

     You will want to keep track of the time it takes for your piece to develop, in case you want to repeat the process someday.

     Now you should be ready to go!  But what method is best to use?  Good question.  Here are a few tried-and-true methods which use easily obtained and economical materials, and some harsher (but quicker) methods.

Salt Water and/or Vinegar

     Use a small brush to "paint" vinegar or a strong salt water solution (1 to 2 tablespoons or more salt per cup of water) on the surface which you desire to age. Let the piece air dry and repeat the process as many times as it takes to get the desired effect.  You also may try immersing your piece in the salt water or vinegar solution and letting it soak.   Cider vinegar or white vinegar will work; commercial-strength ammonia is not necessary but will also do the job.

     Many have suggested that a combination of vinegar and a good measure of salt (a couple of tablespoons per cup vinegar) speeds up the process and gives a more uniform finish.

     Using heat with vinegar gives a rapid result.

To get a "natural" aged brown brass finish with vinegar and heat:
  1.  Pour some vinegar into a plastic container and add a tablespoon or two of salt. 
  2. Mix well.  
  3. Put your pieces in mixture and let them soak for at least a few minutes.
  4. Remove the pieces and dry with paper towel.
  5. Place them on a cookie sheet and put them into a 450 degree oven.
  6. Monitor the change, which should occur in a few minutes.  
  7. Remove the pieces and let cool. 
To get a verdigris (green) patina: 
  1. Soak your pieces in the solution for 1 hour.
  2. Place them on a dark non-greased baking sheet and into a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Take the the hot brass pieces from the oven and place them into the vinegar solution. 
  4. Remove them from the solution in a few minutes or when the desired patina has been achieved. 
  5. Shake them off, carefully! Let air dry.
  6. Use very fine steel wool to polish and create highlights as desired.
Ammonia Vapor

     One of the most cited methods for aging brass involves the vapor of ammonia.
For small items, such as jewelry, you may put an ammonia-soaked wad of cotton or cloth in the bottom of a mason jar, then suspend the piece inside the jar lid and seal it up.  The brass should change within 30 minutes.  
  1. For larger pieces, select a container (with a lid) that will hold your item.  
  2. Place a smaller container (preferably glass) inside the bottom of your large container, and fill the smaller container with ammonia.  
  3. Place the brass in the large container so it does not touch the ammonia (liquid ammonia will form spots on the brass).
  4. Seal it tightly.  
  5. Monitor the piece daily and change the liquid ammonia solution every day to maintain potency; if you are environmentally inclined, you can neutralize the used ammonia with baking soda and water before disposing of it.
  6. Remove the brass when you are happy with the finish.
Chemical Methods

-- A mix of Miracle Gro, water and Novacan black patina solution from a stained glass supply can provide a fabulous and quick patina.
-- JAX patina chemicals work amazingly well, and quickly.   These are toxic chemicals, though, so you must read and follow the directions carefully.
-- Liver of sulphur -- add a pinch to warm water.    Degrease and heat the brass, then dip in this solution until you get the look you want.   This is not as toxic as   the two above.
-- Arcrylic Paints and Paint Pens can give you amazing results with some experimentation.  --To enhance the appearance of the piece, you might try products like Rub and Buff, or Renaissance Wax to add some definition to high or low spots.

Natural Methods (linseed oil, time, and...) 

     Don't like using chemicals?  Then you might try one of these methods.

      One is to heat your brass piece in the oven, and then immediately immerse the piece in linseed oil until you see the patina you desire (then remove and wipe dry).  

     The next option involves a leap of ... faith.  And a strong stomach.  Urine contains ammonia. Ruminants (grazing animals) have the highest concentrations of ammonia in their urine due to their plant-based diet.  This method is not very sanitary, of course, and is only mentioned for the sake of thoroughness.
     Soaking in the fluid is one method. (Collecting it is up to the artist!)  You may also try burying the brass piece in a dung/stall scraping pile or even in the kitty litter box for a couple of days (for those of us who are short on livestock).  
     In either case, wash  or sanitize your hands afterward, monitor the item over time and wash it well after it has attained the proper shade of antiquing from using this method. (!)
     If none of those natural methods suit you, then you may try rubbing your brass piece with your hands (the oilier the better), and then letting it sit in a location with good air circulation.  A natural patina will form over time (days or weeks).
     Other brass aging methods which also have their proponents include using a generous coating of yogurt, lemon juice, lye (gives a purple, green and dark brown patina), or even gun bluing.

     Whatever method you decide to try, after the brass has the patina you want and has dried thoroughly, a coat or two of varnish or matte lacquer sealant will help maintain the color you worked so hard to achieve.  Otherwise, the patina will continue to develop as the brass is exposed to oxygen in the air.  Remember to seal the front and the back of the piece.

A footnote from a recent experience -- I was using white wine vinegar and salt on a couple of pieces of what I thought was copper; that particular vinegar changed the metal to a green finish within mere minutes.  If I had rinsed the piece when it had reached the desired color, it would have been fine, but after several hours the metal had changed to many odd colors including pink.  I could speculate about the actual metal content of the piece, but on a separate try, I then discovered how to to stop the process and keep the finish.

Sprinkle dry baking soda on it, rinse it carefully, then pat it dry without wiping; this stops the development and once the metal dries, you will still have a nice verdigris on the metal (at least I did) and the acidity will be neutralized.

Enjoy antiquing your metal!

p.s. - If you want your brass to be a very specific color, check out this scientific site which lists everything you need to do just that: Science Company Patina Formulas for Brass, Bronze, and Copper.

Valentine's Day Sale in DreamSteam's Studio

Valentine's Day Sale
Just a little note to mention that for a limited time, certain
items in my studio are on sale for Valentine's Day.
Pretty pieces with hearts and butterflies
can be had for a steal to give to your sweetheart.

~ DS

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Take on the Old Block -- Steampunk Lego Inventions

While having lunch and using the greatest curiosity finder ever, StumbleUpon, I came upon some inventive creations made from Legos: a robot that solves Rubik's Cubes, a dog that fetches a ball (a Lego ball?), and many more.

When I shared this discovery with a friend of mine, he mentioned that Steampunk Legos would be pretty cool, too.
I knew it had been done, but I had to look up some of my favorite steampunk Lego sites again, just because of the sheer creativity people put into their pieces.
To my surprise, I had not shared these wonders with my readers here, which I knew I must remedy at once!

Many of these images hail from an article about steampunk Legos on WebUrbanist. The vehicle in the first photo was created by V&A Steamworks, the company whose special effects made the movies "Independence Day" and "Underworld" so spectacularly seamy.  Here is a link to V&A's public Flickr photo site.

For anyone interested in creating their own Lego/Bionicle masterpieces, check out the 700-member Steampunk Lego group on Flickr; they have discussions on building, where to find parts, and also run contests to choose the best of the best.  Or you might simply view Flickr's steampunk Lego collection for inspiration and enjoyment.

A dedicated Lego site which has a steampunk section is "The Brothers Brick."  It seems to have a good amount of posting activity into the year 2010. There, you can even find a Lego glossary!

I believe these works of art deserve a place in the annals of steampunk despite the mismatch between the Lego world of plastic and the Steampunk world of brass and steam, or perhaps because of it.   Enjoy!

~ DS

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Magnificent Maggi Massimo -- Hard Country

All I have been able to say about this next discovery is, "WOW," over and over again.
Though reported elsewhere, I believe that my coverage of this phenomenon is more detailed than some, and I definitely have more pictures of individual pieces!

"Okay, okay, but what IS it," you ask?
A phenomenon called "Hard Country."

Sooo.  What is that?  It is a design created by Maggi Massimo of Italy that has a very definite steampunk aura about it, because "country" and Victorian era items often share similar rustic materials, colors, and design.

Above is the MM website's photo of one version of a wine serving area.  Other items I found fascinatingly steampunky and possibly useful include a dry goods dispenser with plenty of metal, a couple of innovative light fixtures, a beer keg bar, a computer desk, a wine bottle opener, and much much more.

How much do these items cost?
My question, exactly!!!  Apparently these designer items are only available though exclusive boutiques, and the prices and sellers are thus closely guarded secrets.

I checked several dozen promising places online, and at each one I was redirected to either the Maggi Massimo web site form which asked me oodles of questions as to who I was and what my interest was in the pieces, or to a collection of veritable "re-tweets" of a single Blogger article drooling about MM.  There seems to be not one price or list of shops to be had without seemingly passing a security check ( a "how much of our stuff will you sell" check), or at least filling out a form and hoping someone got back to you.  Grr.

At the very least, I think these pieces have some definite steampunk/yesteryear aura to them, and seem to be of high quality.

Architectural Expo Site with MM photos and links
Maggi Mossimo Home Page

The up side?  The massive alcohol bar and wine fridge combo comes with the booze glasses in sets of 6.  Woo!  Enjoy.
~ DS

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pearl and Hematite Bead Noir Dangle Earrings

The cold and dreary winter weather has brought me to a place where nuances of noir appeal to me.  Hence, I created these earrings to reflect that notion.

The ear wires are pure Sterling silver, and the pearls are high-quality glass faux pearls.  Round, lustrous hematite beads accent the warmth of the pearls, which balance out the darkness of the whole.

I love these and will probably make myself a pair in addition to this pair, which is for sale in my ArtFire studio.


Friday, January 8, 2010

SeeThe Future... From the Past

I have so many ideas and pieces in the works for this wondrous New Year, that I hardly know where to begin.

Perhaps... in the past!

That seems sad and ironic, doesn't it?

My reasoning is this:  people LOVED a few of my designs enough to buy them again and again, and even request custom-made pieces of similar designs.   These things SOLD.  A big benefit for someone who is trying to do just that!

So.  I have posted many of said pieces on ArtFire for all to see, and for me to ponder and possibly recreate this year.  Many have been featured here in my blog, but many more have not.

One reason I am sharing this innocuous tidbit of information is that ArtFire provides a little button that says "Request Similar Item" at the bottom of every Gallery listing photo; if you should see something there which you would like to own, it is quite likely that I can make a duplicate or something very close in design.  Please feel free to communicate your idea to me.


I do enjoy making new and experimental designs, but the popular ones do help fund my work.  I, too, like the Steampunk Sun pendant line, so expect to see more of those for sale.  

Now.  Go forth and find something that I may make for you!  :)

~ DS

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bourbon Decanter Label Necklace

Ahh bourbon. The drink of kings and Saint Bernard rescue dogs of legend.

Here we have an elegant tribute in brass to this particular nectar, with a nod to the world of Steampunk for good measure.  I think that vintage bottle markers have a place in jewelry, and so I have ventured to make a necklace from a quality replica of one.

The chain itself is 24" long in circumference, and the pendant adds 5 1/2" to the total.

The beads are of clear crackle glass, which sparkles in any light to draw attention to this unique necklace, and to the wearer! 

I think this necklace is interesting, and I hope that someone else feels the same, enough to purchase it.  Cheers!   =)

~ DS

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Great Handcar Regatta of 2009

 For those of us who were unable to attend this fantastic event, stay and savor the reports from:

The 2nd Annual 2009 Great West End Railroad Square Handcar Regatta
and Exposition of Mechanical and Artistic Wonders!

The extravagant attractions available to visitors included shows (more steampunkish bands than you could shake a gear at), vendors (food, clothing, stuffed monkeys), sideshows/curiosities (marionettes with fangs, dancing poodles), and of course the rail race itself.

Here is a video of some of the days' festive events.  Video 

The event creators said that this year's attendance tripled the first years', including thousands of spectators and 22 race entries. One main attraction at the regatta was the a Victorian home on wheels, the Neverwas Haul.

Her vital statistics:    Neverwas Haul, a self-propelled 3-story Victorian House, made from 75% recycled equipment and materials, returns with new interiors, operating system, and collections from its travels around the world (i.e., oddities of the Jules Verne era including a Camera Obscura, described below). The Haul measures 24 feet long by 24 feet high and 12 feet wide and is built on the base of a 5th wheel travel trailer.   The name also indicates the team who created the house and several other Steampunk vehicles, as well as a merchant on Etsy.

Interested in participating in this year's event?  Downtown Santa Rosa says that registration is open for the 2010 Handcar Regatta on the Facebook page for the Regatta.

  ~ DS


Related Posts with Thumbnails