If you are working with brass or copper or both, there are countless moments when you will want to give them a vintage look. This works best if you’re trying to craft something steampunk-themed, but you might want to make a fashion statement at the same time.
It doesn’t really matter, in the end, why you want it done. If you want to give brass or copper that old, out of the history books feel, we’re here to help. We’re going to shar with you the best and easiest DIY aging methods for brass / copper.
This way, you will have your items look vintage and old, apparently coming from the 19th century and ready for any steampunk fan to love.
The difference between brass and copper
Copper is usually more expensive than brass simply because it is the pure metal. Brass is made of copper and zinc (sometimes tin added to create tin brass). Brass is cheaper and used more often by DIY enthusiasts.
Preparing your materials for aging
There are a few steps you need to follow before starting any of these methods, or else you will not get the desired effect.
Make sure your metal is really copper, or brass. If you have a different metal, the aging methods that we recommend below can easily destroy it, maybe become dangerous for your health or at the very least not look as cool as intended.
Once you are sure about the material, take some acetone and make sure your brass object doesn’t have ANY other substance on it, like oils or varnish. Even if you can’t see if it has any coating applied, it is better to give it a proper cleaning just to make sure.
If you don’t do this, there is the risk of it not changing color as you want.
Sanding your item would help remove the coating too. This is indicated when acetone alone isn’t enough to get the job done. Simply clean it with hot water when you’re done sanding and let it dry completely.
And last, but not least, safety first! Wear personal protection like goggles or other protective eye wear, as well as latex gloves. And always handle everything with the utmost care, away from fire.
Easy methods for aging brass & copper
Using Salt and Vinegar for a brown brass look
Mix a cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt in a bowl and stir well until the salt dissolves. Brush the solution on to your piece, then let it air dry. Instad of brushing, if the object is small enough, you can just imerse it in the solution.
The vinegar and salt solution will start having an effect over the material as soon as it begins to dry.
If you are not satisfied with the result and the intensity of the color, you can repeat. Brush the item again and let it dry. Each time you do this the intensity of the brown brass look will increase.
I have seen people recommend placing your item into an oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of minutes after applying the solution. I have never tried it, so I can’t say it works, but if you are in a hurry and don’t want to wait, you can give it a try.
Just keep an eye on your item at all times and take it out after a couple of minutes only (careful – it will be hot!)
Using Salt and Vinegar for a Verdigris Patina Look
If you want your brass item to get that greenish shade, use the same mixture recommended above (one cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt).
Soak your item into the mixture for one hour. If it’s larger and not fully submerged, simply create more of the vinegar mixture keeping the proportions.
After one hour, place the item into the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit and let it sit for 20 minutes. During this time, keep an eye on the oven (regular oven, not microwave!).
After taking the item from the oven, handling it with extreme care, place it again in the vinegar and salt solution and let it sit for a few more minutes or until it gets the color you want.
Once you do, remove the brass item from the solution and let it air dry. You can polish it afterward to better control the nuance of your color.
If the color keeps changing, and you don’t want that, sprinkle baking soda on it so it stops the process instantly. Otherwise, the color might keep changing and your project will be ruined.
Using Ammonia Vapor to Age Brass / Copper
Another method – slightly more difficult, in my opinion, is that of using ammonia vapor. If you choose to give this a try, make sure that you are always careful and you’re never near an open fire.
For smaller brass objects, place a cloth soaked in ammonia in a jar, then suspend your brass item above and close the jar with a lid. Keep it there until you are happy with the results – you will start to see them after one day or so.
For larger brass items, you will need a larger container – but also one that has a lid. Place a jar with ammonia or a plate or whatever fits the container, suspend your item above it and close the lid.
Make sure the brass object does not touches the liquid ammonia, because it stains. Get the lid on tightly and check on it daily to see the transformation, and daily change the ammonia with fresh one to make sure it does its job right. You can take the object out when you are happy with the results.
You can dispose the ammonia safely if you mix it with baking soda and water so it doesn’t ruin the environment.
There are also chemical methods, with solutions you can find in specialized shops, and you can follow the instructions on their directions, so not much I can teach you about. But using natural methods – especially the vinegar solution – is cheaper and better.
No matter what method you choose, you will surely be satisfied with your results and the aged brass will make your next project look amazing.