Brass is an alloy of 67% copper and 33% zinc. It has wide uses in home decoration in the form of electric fixtures, lamp shades, faucets, and other accent pieces. While the gold-like shine of new brass looks royal, some people prefer the vintage look. Antique brass is a result of a chemical process called oxidation which takes place over a span of years. However, you don't need to wait for years to get the vintage effect on your brass. You can artificially antique brass yourself.
How to Antique Brass
An antique finish can be obtained with the help of certain chemicals; ferric nitrate is often used. You can give an antique polish to old as well as brand new, high-shine brass. Clean the brass item thoroughly prior to polishing. You can use cleaning products such as a dish soap or liquid detergent for this. Thoroughly cleanse the surface and remove any visible dirt or grime. Dirt can prevent the chemicals from uniformly covering the surface. After cleaning, wipe dry with a soft washcloth.
There are many ways in which you can antique polish your brass item. The first method involves adding half a teaspoon of ferric nitrate to a pint of distilled water. Gently warm the surface that is to be polished. You can place it in an oven at low heat. Next, spray or use a paint brush to apply the solution on the surface. Allow it to dry for some time. Check the tint of the antique polish and decide if you wish to give another coat.
The second method is a little complicated, but it also produces the richest and most rustic result. Add a spoonful of ferric chloride to the ferric nitrate solution from the first method. The solution formed is called Florentine solution. Apply this solution in the same way as mentioned above. Once you get a brown tint, wash the solution off with cold water. Dry the item with damp newspapers. Now use some #00 steel wool to brush the surface. Leave it untouched for 12 hours. After that, check the tint and repeat the procedure if required. You can repeat it as many times as you wish, until you get the desired finish.
Another method of oxidation is by using vinegar. You can substitute vinegar for ferric nitrate solution and repeat the procedure as given in the first method. An alternative to this method is suspending the brass item in a container of vinegar. Take a large container of vinegar and suspend the item with cheesecloth or a rubber band. The fumes emanating from vinegar oxidize the surface, giving it the required antique look. However, the oxidation done by this method is not very effective. Hence, you would be better off relying on the first two methods.
Antiquing can also be done on non-brass objects. You can find specialized antique polish paints in the market, which can be used on any material. However, avoid using spray paints in the areas that are exposed to a lot of manual handling or rough weather.
After getting the desired look, you must seal it with bee wax or paste wax to preserve the polish. Cleaning antique brass items on a regular basis is also important. You can use special brass cleaning solutions for this. Avoid the use of harsh chemicals or solvents for cleaning.