Tag Archives: patinas

Ammonia Blue and Other Small Things

So, last week I mentioned I was trying out a patina recipe to get green on copper.  It involved putting sawdust in a plastic cup and adding a mixture of vinegar and ammonia (1:3 ratio). You bury your piece under the sawdust and let it sit for one hour to one day.  Well, three days later, I gave up because nothing happened (except the heat patina from annealing came off).  My guess is, either the red oak sawdust I used was the wrong kind of wood, or the “janitorial strength” ammonia was either too strong or not strong enough for the ratio. I do know this: fuming a piece over ammonia will get you a blue color very quickly, and this mixture stank of ammonia (I had a cut on my finger that would actually burn every time I took the lid off to check it.) So I used a bit of plastic netting from a bag of onions to suspend this leaf over the mixture, covered it, et voila! Blue. Then I sealed it was spray automotive enamel and now I’m done.


Still wish it was green, though.

I’ll be on the lookout for more recipes.  Meanwhile, I’m still practicing wire wrapping.  This cheap, repro Roman coin (which my husband was going to get rid of!) doesn’t look terribly bad in this picture . . .


. . . but there’s some wonk to the wrapping wires.  I guess pressing them against an uneven coin is going to produce an uneven result (who’d have thought? Ha.) Lesson learned:  I need some dowels in larger sizes than what I have.  Maybe I’ll hunt around the house for some things. Also, next time I try this particular wrap, I’ll bind the sides. I’m not going to finish this piece . . . no, wait.  I’ll save it in case I have a new bail idea and I want to do a practice run first.

And finally, here’s something I fold-formed in class this week:


I didn’t get too into this, because I learned about t-folds and their variations last summer, and I had other projects I wanted to do.  But . . . I learned that if you wrap a dowel in the middle of bit of sheet metal, clamp the ends of the sheet into a vise, remove the dowel, and then gently use a mallet to make a “pillow”, you can decorate said pillow by dimpling it with dapping punches. What you see here is the reverse side, which has a strange, alien-intestine look to it. I was thinking of making a pendant with this–not unlike a bolo tie, with a cord on each side, but maybe I’ll wait and make a better one next week. I just pulled back the edges and wrapped them toward the back to see what it would look like; now that I’ve got an idea, surely I could do better.

And finally, I may have learned something about copper solder that will make it look better!  I’ll try it Monday and post results.

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Heart of the Matter

As promised, I did a little comparison of patinated (with liver of sulfur) hardware store wire and shiny craft store wire from the hobby shop.  The idea was to make a frame for my copper heart which, if you remember, looked like this.

greenbrokeheartMy frame choices, as of yesterday:

twodreamcatchersWhile I kinda like the down-and-dirty, irregular wire on the left, just winding that 24 gauge stuff around a mandrel blackened my fingers and made me wonder about wearing something like this on a hot, sweaty day.  The brown craft wire version on the right is pretty sweet; I like that the wire is perfectly round and I can see why 26 gauge wire is a common choice for wrapping/weaving projects.   And while I chose to go with the craft wire version, I’m still meh on the whole project idea, which I may not finish after all.

heartdraftI feel like there’s just too much going on here.  All the parts are shiny, nothing stands out, and the red wire I used for stitching the two halves looks like an afterthought (I’d like to do it again, forming the ends more gracefully, but I’m out of this wire and am not crazy about any other options in my toolbox.) So . . . let’s just put that back on the shelf for now.

The good news, for the rejected frame, is that I bought some automotive enamel yesterday, some clear glossy stuff made by Rustoleum.  I sprayed the frame and a few test pieces, including the ammonia-made blue copper I did some months ago.  The results were promising, and much better than the matte Krylon I tried before.  It did dull the color on my salt-and-vinegar piece (which wasn’t so great to begin with), but that’s to be expected.  I should also mention that Renaissance Wax dulled the blues in that fold-formed leaf I posted about the other day.  There isn’t anything better that I know of–please let me know if you do.

And while I was at the hardware store (Harbor Freight) I finally bought a doming set (dapping block and punches).  I’m very excited about being able to do this at home, because it’ll make it easier to produce things I can sell.  I’d also love to have a disc cutter, but Harbor Freight’s low-cost model is . . . is . . . I can’t remember exactly what my teacher said about it, but it was unkind.  The thing has one steel plate and one plastic, if that says anything to you.  The wonderful, high quality Rio Grande model is a couple hundred dollars, though, so I might as well start saving my pennies.  Sigh.




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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Patina

Sorry about that.

A week ago today, I decided to duplicate some experiments that my teacher’s advanced students had tried with various patina solutions and copper scraps.  I also borrowed a formula or two from online articles, so let’s see how well it all worked out.

Desired color:  blue

Method: suspended piece over a bowl of ammonia and water on a bit of plastic mesh and covered.  Left for one week.


patinaammoniaIt came out a very deep blue, except for the parts that are gray. The color appeared in beads of moisture, a little more every day.  I imagine it could be sealed and worn.


Desired color: green

Method: soaked in a solution of vinegar and salt for four days; when this provided little result (only a bit of an irregular, yellowish faded color after the piece dried), salted and spritzed with water a couple times a day for three more days.


patinasaltvinegarWell, it’s not green.  The back had a dark orange film that mostly rubbed off when I rinsed and dried the piece. Meh.


Desired color: green


patinagrumpyTook a piece of clumping litter . . . soiled . . . and put it in a ziplock bag.  Added copper piece.  After two days and not much happening, added a paper towel soaked with additional cat urine (thanks, Mongo, for always peeing on the side of the box.) Left alone for five more days.




The paper towel and bits of clumping litter turned more blue than the piece did.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure the blue scaly bits here aren’t just litter than didn’t wash off easily. Some dark, brownish areas under the blue scale. It’s not the expected green, and though it is kind of pretty, I really, really want to throw it away.


Desired color: red

Method:  Put piece in oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes (I set it on an upside-down muffin tin).


patinaredNow this, I like, although results can be a bit unpredictable, with areas ranging from orange to red to magenta. Someone in my class made cuff bracelets by running copper sheet through the mill with leaf-shaped stickers, making a rather Japanese design, then baking the copper to get this color.  They were awesome.


I have one more thing to try, as soon as the raw egg I’m saving gets old enough to raise a bit of a stink.  I’m going to hard-boil it, then cut it in half and stick it in a Ziplock bag, shell and all.  Add the piece and wait a few hours.  This is said to be a more eco-friendly oxidation process than liver of sulfur, but again, it’s unpredictable.  Maybe the egg will have enough sulfur, and maybe it won’t.

I’m starting to think gilder’s paste is a better idea for coloring metal.  Or maybe the whole colored pencil on copper thing, which I have yet to try. Stay tuned.





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