Brass is an alloy—a mixture of metals or a metal with another element—created by combining zinc and copper. While the ratio of the costly zinc to cheaper copper has varied historically, modern brass is 33% zinc and 67% copper. By changing the ratio of zinc to copper, the brass takes on different properties, such as red brass (15% zinc) with a reddish hue, and Naval brasses (39.7% zinc), used for various applications on ships.
While brass furnishings have often been neglected, as they were considered cheap or second class, to vintage collectors, their imperfections and weight make brass products all the more covetable. Unlike gold or bronze, brass products are quite often solid, rather than plated, and have good weight and durability. As brass ages, due to oxidization and how it is handled, it develops a beautiful patina. Vintage brass items are not only beautiful but they are sturdy, and tell a story.
While the patina is a beautiful process, it is also a timely one. As we understand some of you lack the time and patience to let the process occur naturally, we decided to show you how to skip a few steps—and quite a few years as well.
(Courtesy of Kaikado)
Materials: Vinegar, Salt, Plastic or Glass Container (Large Enough to Submerge Item), Metal Baking Sheet, Tongs, Wax Paper, Steel Wool, Sealant (Lacuqer or Soft Wax)
First, make a solution of vinegar and salt. Combine five parts dark vinegar (any vinegar with a dark color) with one part salt, mixing well to dissolve the salt.Prepare enough of the solution to completely cover your brass piece. Use a plastic or glass container since metal may react, tainting the process
Soak the brass. Completely submerge your brass piece in the salted-vinegar solution, making sure that all sides are covered.
Soak for at least an hour—preferably longer. While You Soak, Pre-Heat Oven to 450 F
Bake the brass piece. Remove the brass from the vinegar solution and place on a metal baking sheet.
Bake it for 60 minutes, or until brass takes on desired appearance.
*Note* The look that develops during baking will not be the final look.
Reapply vinegar. Using tongs, remove the brass out of the oven and submerge it into the solution again for about 5 minutes, coating all sides of the piece.
Return the brass to the oven and continue baking for approximately 30 minutes.
Third Coat. For the last time, remove the brass from the oven and apply a final coating of vinegar. Submerge for at least 5 minutes.
The final coat will create a blue-green patina.
*NOTE* Only apply third coat if you desire blue-green patina. IF you prefer a natural brass color, skip this step.
Dry. Place the brass on top of a few sheets of layered wax paper.
Let the brass cool overnight.
Finish the brass.
Here you have two options.
- At this point, you should have developed a nice patina, and the brass can be left as is.
- You can shine or dull the brass with either a soft rag or steel wool, respectively.
Lacquer. Preserve your patina
Consider applying a lacquer or soft wax in order to preserve the beautiful patina you have created.