How to Get a Patina Finish on Polished Brass

Written by ben barker
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How to Get a Patina Finish on Polished Brass
Aged brass looks warm and opulent. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Highly polished brass can give a sense of opulence to a room. It looks shiny and expensive, but maintaining the shine can take a bit of effort and if the effect you are aiming to achieve is one of "old" wealth, you may want to consider artificially ageing your brass fixtures and fittings. This gives warmth to the brass and reduces the need for cleaning.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Solid brass item
  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective goggles
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Plastic bucket with lid
  • 3 small pieces of 2-by-4-inch wood cut to same length
  • Piece of plywood
  • Saw
  • Household ammonia

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  1. 1

    Put on gloves and goggles, and coat the brass item in lacquer thinner using a paintbrush. You may wish to do this in an old baking tray, shallow bowl or similar receptacle in case of spills. Lacquer thinner is a strong substance that can damage skin, so apply while carefully avoiding any splattering. The gloves and goggles are not necessary if you are certain that the item has not been lacquered. If you are unsure, it won't do any harm to wear them anyway.

  2. 2

    Soften the lacquer by leaving the item untouched overnight. Depending on the product you use, this may happen much more quickly. Rub off the lacquer with a rag, ensuring that you remove all traces.

  3. 3

    Place the three pieces of 2-by-4 wood into the bottom of the bucket. These need to be no more than 1 inch in length and will form the support for a plywood shelf. Cut the piece of plywood so that it is small enough to fit into the bucket, and place it on top of the pieces of 2 by 4.

  4. 4

    Pour about 1/2 inch of ammonia into the bottom of the bucket. This step should be performed outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. The vapour from ammonia can cause vomiting, respiratory problems, and burning to the nose and lungs.

  5. 5

    Place the item to be aged on the shelf and cover the bucket with the lid. Check on progress every 30 minutes or so. Note that ammonia evaporates quickly and may need to be replenished during the process. The finished result and the time it takes to achieve it depends on several factors including the strength of the ammonia, the temperature and humidity. If it becomes too dark, simply polish the item and start again.

Tips and warnings

  • As with most chemicals, treat thinner and ammonia with care, wear protective clothing, and keep the chemicals away from small children and animals.

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