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How to Rust Metal

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Time to Read: 4 m 1s

How to Acquire a Rusted Metal Patina

Understandably, most people want to prevent their cars and power tools from rusting, but some steel objects gain character from a beautifully detailed rusty patina. With a few household chemicals, it’s easy to expedite the oxidation process. The discussion below details some of the basic steps to give your outdoor decorations a charming, weathered look. 

Finding the Best Rust Accelerator Materials

To give your steel, iron, brass, copper, or bronze the rusty finish you’re looking for, you’ll need to use a variety of different patina products depending on which type of metal surface you are looking to convert. For safety purposes, goggles and chemical-resistant gloves should be worn at all times when handling traditional patina products.
Check out our Safety Products available for your Project!

Metal Surface Prep

The surface of the material you are working on should be clean and free of any dirt or grease. When working with iron, steel, or aluminum you may want to remove rust and fire scale. The best method for cleaning most materials is to sandblast. Different types of blasting material may be used to retain the integrity of the surface structure. Wire wheels or Scotch-Brite™ pads provide another method of cleaning.
Please note: Solvent based cleaners including acetone, paint thinners, and solvent thinners should not be used during the surface prep of your material. Sculpt Nouveau’s Metal Cleaner/Degreaser is a great metal cleaner. It works on both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Sculpt Nouveau’s Metal Cleaner/Degreaser

The Sculpt Nouveau metal cleaner and degreaser product is manufactured with built-in corrosion inhibitors that protect the metal surface while cleaning.

Sculpt Nouveau Instructions for Cleaning Metal Surfaces

  1. Apply the metal cleaner with a brush, sponge, rag or by spraying.
  2. Let it sit on the metal for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Rub with a green or gray Scotch-Brite™ pad.
  4. Rinse with water.
  5. Repeat if necessary.
  6. Dry the surface.
When cleaning iron, steel, or aluminum surfaces, the materials should be dried as quickly and as thoroughly as possible so rust does not begin to form. The metal should also not be cleaned until just before the patina is ready to be applied.

Utilizing Traditional Patinas

Traditional patinas are mixtures of chemicals that react with the surface of metal to create different colors. The most common formulas are available here as pre-mixed solutions. The Japanese Brown and Darkening patinas work particularly well on iron and steel.

Sculpt Nouveau Patina & Metal Finish Options

Depending on the metal that is being used there are several different patina options, each providing their own unique coloration patterns.

Brown & Darkening Traditional Patinas

Brown and darkening patinas are ideal for bronze, brass, copper, or the Metal Coatings. In addition, the Japanese Brown and Darkening Patinas create a beautiful finish on iron and steel. Brown and darkening traditional patina options include:
  • Japanese Brown
  • Mahogany
  • Deep Brown
  • Antiquing
  • Darkening
  • Liver of Sulfur
  • Ferric Nitrate
  • Ferric Nitrate/Ferric Chloride
  • Tan
  • Potassium Dichromate

Blue & Green Traditional Patinas

Blue and green traditional patinas are ideal for use on bronze, brass, copper, or Metal Coatings. Blue and green traditional patina options include:
  • Tiffany Green
  • Light Green
  • Mint Green
  • Powder Blue
  • Blue (Indoor)
  • Cupric Nitrate

Protecting the Rusted Patina Post Application

Several metal finishes can be applied to your project’s induced rust patina to provide the protection you need for years of enjoyment. Metal finishes are applied following the final cycle of the rusting process after the piece has completely dried. Some of the metal finishes that are used to protect rust oxidation finishes include:
  • Two-part solvent urethane resin Urethane resin is a non-yellowing low VOC two-part clear, durable, air-drying polyurethane. It can be used on copper, brass, bronze, steel, wood, terracotta, ceramics, and concrete. It's engineered to provide superior resistance to UV light and harsh outdoor conditions.
  • ColorLoc - ColorLoc is a crystal-clear, air-drying lacquer that locks in the color of torch-heated metals. It has excellent adhesion to brass, bronze, copper, and other metals, as well as to patinas and rusted metal.

Additional Rust Patina Application Options

You can also achieve a rusted patina look for your project by imitating a patina with oxidizing paint. A specialized oxidizing paint or surfacer is required to properly replicate the rusted patina effect. The rusted patina finishing chemical will react with the surface of your piece to create a rusted patinated look that is designed to last.
Red iron oxide colored paints can also be used to imitate a rusted oxidation look. This premium oxidation primer takes far less preparation and application time to achieve when compared to traditional rust acceleration processes.

Your Local Metal Supplier Serving Southern CA, Arizona & Northern Mexico

Industrial Metal Supply is one of the only locations where you will find such a robust line of patina and patina-related products in stock. Finishes, primers, sealers, thinners and surface prep products are everything you will need to make beautiful and vibrant creations with all types of metal.
Industrial Metal Supply is the Southlands largest supplier of all types of metal and metalworking accessories. Contact us to learn more about our high-quality metal options for your next project.

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