For a long time now we've been searching for an answer to the question "How can you make shiny brass look old?". We have a pair of brass handles on our 120 year old chest of drawers that look wrong being so shiny. Having searched high and low on all kinds of forums and hardware stores the only advice we ever received was "it will happen over time". Finally we found a speedy solution and it works!
Recently we were trawling some forums when we came across a Brass Darkening Solution available from Rockler's. We purchased a small bottle online and were surprised with the instant results.
Before you begin you'll need to check that your brass object isn't lacquered – if it is you'll need to remove the lacquer with paint stripper, or if you've got access to a metal shop - a buffer with a heavy compound. By trial-and-error we found that objects will darken more evenly if you give them a light polish before you begin.
What You Need
Rockler's Brass Darkening Solution
Tongs, tweezers and/or rubber gloves
Bi-Carb Soda [Baking Soda]
A receptacle just bigger than your brass object
A Basin half filled with water
1. Fill a basin with enough water to submerge your object and add a quantity of Bi-Carb Soda [it's not an exact science but we added two table spoons]. This is to stop the darkening process later on.
2. Pour enough BD Solution to cover your object into the receptacle [we used a glass beaker]
3. Submerge your object and within seconds it will begin to darken. It is important to note that a portion of the surface colour will be removed when you rinse the object, so let it get a little darker than you're aiming for.
4. When you're happy with the colour of your brass, remove it from the solution with your tongs and rinse in the water and bi-carb soda solution. If the colour is too dark you can always polish it back a little – if it's not dark enough simply repeat the process. Don't forget to pour the Brass Darkening solution back into the bottle when you're finished as you can use it again and again.
Additional Notes: You can't expect to end up with a rich red-brown patina that brass gets with 60 or so years of wear and aging, but we did indeed turn our bright brass dull. We'll keep you posted on how it continues to age.
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(Images: Jenny Butler)