How to Make a Metal Tray Look Old

Written by genae valecia hinesman Google
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How to Make a Metal Tray Look Old
Learn the techniques that made this metal tray look old. (mirror tray image by jimcox40 from

Achieving an aged patina on metal is not only for interior designers and professional craftspeople. Anyone who is interested in adding an old look to metal can learn to do so. These techniques are especially valuable to those who specialise in displaying authentic-looking replicas and other collectibles. There are numerous ways to chemically antique metals depending upon the type of metal you are treating. Before attempting any chemical antiquing methods, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the safe handling of all substances used, and that you have some understanding of basic chemistry. Put on protective clothing, including eye protection, a face mask and protective gloves before you start. Make sure that your working area is well-ventilated at all times.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • To Age Brass and Bronze (may also be used for copper):
  • 1/2 gallon white vinegar
  • 1/2 gallon ammonia
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 2 tbs salt
  • Spray bottle
  • Newspaper
  • Water hose
  • To Age Iron and Steel:
  • Muriatic acid
  • Chlorinating liquid
  • To Age Copper (may also be used for bronze):
  • Bucket or glass jar/container
  • 227gr Nitrate of iron
  • 227gr Hyposulphate of soda
  • 2 quarts of plain water

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    To Age Brass and Bronze

  1. 1

    Mix together vinegar and ammonia. Add lemon juice and salt and place the mixture into a spray bottle.

  2. 2

    Place at least three layers of newspaper on a flat, even surface.

  3. 3

    Check to make sure that the metal tray is clean and free of oils or fingerprints. Place the tray on the newspaper and spray the ammonia mixture evenly onto the tray.

  4. 4

    Allow at least 20 minutes to elapse. You may wait up to an hour, depending on how burnished you want the result to appear.

  5. 5

    Rinse the tray with water from a water hose.

    To Age Iron and Steel

  1. 1

    Lay the metal tray on newspaper.

  2. 2

    Spray muriatic acid, unmixed and undiluted, onto the metal. Wait two hours.

  3. 3

    Spray chlorinating liquid (from a second spray bottle) onto the metal. Wait two more hours.

  4. 4

    Rinse thoroughly with plain water for results that will be immediately visible.

    To Age Copper

  1. 1

    Combine nitrate of iron (227gr), hyposulphate of soda (236ml) and water (2 quarts) in a large bucket or container.

  2. 2

    Leave your metal item(s) immersed until the required patina/tone is obtained. Check on the submerged metal once every 30 to 60 minutes to monitor the antiquing process.

  3. 3

    Remove the items from the solution when you are satisfied with their appearance. Rinse the metal well with running water and allow to air dry.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are inexperienced in handling any of the chemical substances listed, have your metal chemically aged professionally by certified experts. Alternatively, you can use black and brown spray paint on the metal to create a distressed finish. While the paint is still damp, dust the surface lightly with ground cinnamon powder and allow it to dry.
  • Avoid splashing or any other careless handling of any of the liquid solutions used in this project. Some of the components, like muriatic acid and its fumes, can be extremely dangerous if they come into contact with the body or clothing.
  • Keep all children and pets away from the antiquing liquids used in this project, both during and after the process.

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