Whether you are creating an artistic sculpture or an architectural design, sheet metal finishes are easy to achieve. A patina isn't just copper gutters turning green with age – it is the coloring of any metal surface by natural weathering or chemical "rusting" with acids.
Thanks to modern metallurgical science, a patina can make any metal finish "come to life with rich surfaces and vivid colors." Different metals, such as galvanized aluminum, tin, stainless, iron, bronze, and copper, produce different patterns and colors using different types of finish. Not all patinas, waxes and oils can be applied to all metals, so be sure read the instruction. Watch this video about selecting the right patina based on ideal look, metal alloy, and layering options.
Patina Creation Instructions
Follow these basic instructions for creating a patina. Be sure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles or safety glasses, and a respirator if needed. Work outside if possible, or in a location with adequate ventilation.
1. Clean the surface. The metal must be clean and free of any grease, dirt, rust or scale using a metal cleaner and degreaser. Be sure not to touch the piece with your hands, which would leave behind unwanted oils.
2. Prime the surface. For some processes, the surface can be cleaned and abraded with an electric sander or sand blaster to better allow dyes or coatings to adhere. Or, use a wire wheel or vinegar to etch the surface lightly. Make sure the piece is completely dry before proceeding.
3. Apply the stain or finish. Different finishes may require the surface of the metal to be either hot or cold (room temperature). Following directions for the particular finish, immerse the object in the stain or dye, or spray, brush, sponge, roll, or rub it on. Then, depending on the formulation, allow the finish to sit for a few minutes up to a day. As the chemicals react with the metal surface, a colored pattern appears. Use two different finishes, one on top of the other, to achieve different effects.
4. Seal the finish. Once the desired patina has been achieved, seal the piece with a clear sealer, metal oil or wax. Two or three lighter coats are better than a single heavy coat, allowing the piece to dry between coats. Finish with a wax coating if more protection is desired.
Ron Young, a highly regarded metallurgist who was known throughout the world for his knowledge and use of patinas, authored the two books on the subject, "Methods for Modern Sculptors" and "Contemporary Patination."
Young's company Sculpt Nouveau has created a full line of patina products, with everything you need to make beautiful and vibrant metal finishes, featuring:
- Primers & Sealers
- Patina supplies
For more information about Sculpt Nouveau patina products and sheet metal finishes, contact Industrial Metal Supply.