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How to make rust patina on metal

There are several ways to add rust patina. In this tutorial I will give you a few tips on ways to rust objects for different projects that I like to use.

What do I need to make metal rust?

I use vinegar and salt. This works but takes a couple of hours depending on the object. If I am in a hurry I will use Magic metallics rapid rust.

When adding rust patina to jewelry you want to be finished with the piece first. Otherwise the rust might disappear while working on the jewelry. This might sound obvious but I myself have used old rusty elements in my designs and then being a bit disappointed when the rust patina fades. Working with already rusted pieces is a whole other tutorial (let me know in the comment section below if that´s something you're interested in reading).

Some jewelry might rust easier and faster than others depending on the material and of course the way you choose to patina them.

Here to the left you can see a rusting patina in progress. It´s a viking knit bracelet made out of copper wire. The rusting process only takes a couple of hours to get to a full green patina. But when using vinegar and a green tea mix (as shown on the picture) you will have to wait even longer to get a patina that goes deep into the metal.

The image below is the bracelet after a night:

After approx. 8h you get a very green patina, but it´s superficial and will vanish when rinsed. You could stop here and spray the jewelry with for example varnish. This will protect the patina from disappearing. But it's not a guarantee for it to be long lasting and might disappear with every day wear and tear.

To get at deeper and longer lasting patina I added a rusting agent, which you can see the result of below here:

I used Magic metallics "green patina" to get at deeper and longer lasting restult.

When working on metal furniture you are working with larger objects and that gives you the opportunity to really let the patina show of all its glory.

I just love to see what will emerge during the process and every item is a unique piece of art thanks to the beauty of rust. But this does not mean that you can´t control the way the patina will turn out.

You can in fact control the shape, color and amount of rust you get:

The color of the rust:

Green patina can be achieved by adding green tea to the rusting process. Moss and other items from nature also gives the rust beautiful green and brown colors.

Darker red can be achieved by using red wine vinegar as a rusting agent. The more you add to a piece the darker the color. How dark can also be controlled by the amount of time you let the vinegar sit on your object.

Orange rust is achieved by waiting longer and pressing the surface so that it eats deeper into the metal.

There are also rusting agents specifically made for adding a certain color (magic metallics green patina for example).

The shape of the rust:

You can make different shapes by placing objects on the metal surface after adding the rusting agent. This will be more noticeable if adding a bit of pressure, say for example you wanted shapes of leaves in the rust. You first add the rusting agent then the leaves and then something to press the leaves against the surface.

You can also add objects to the surface before the rusting agent. This will leave inverted spaces where the object has protected the metal from rusting. If the rusting agent can go under the object though, it will effect the end result. To avoid that you can use vinyl or just tape to protect the surface from rusting and therefor leaving areas clean.

Other shapes:

To get a "dripping" effect you stand the metal so that the rusting agent can drip down on the surface.

To get a circular(-ish) shape you lay the metal surface flat and drip down small amounts of rusting agent to the surface.

To get a "spray" effect use a spray bottle for the vinegar and have the surface flat so that the vinegar doesn't drip of the surface.

To get squares or other geometric shapes, use pressure in the form of the shape you want and leave it there during the rusting process.

After the rust has reached the result you wish for, protect the surface from rusting more by adding a protective cover. I usually spray my pieces with a couple of layers of varnish.

I hope this gives you some ideas for future projects and if you have a question or just want to say hi, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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