Thoughts of Design Inspiration

Ammonia copper patina experiment


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Patina Play

ammonia salt patina on copper evadesigns maine handmade jewelryIt seems that the natural patina process is a very sought after topic right now – I get questions all the time. It’s really a lot of experimenting, and essentially you need to have fun with it. It won’t always work, you might try really hard to fume something for days and your patina all washes off! That is really part of the whole idea. It is easy to paint on some fake patina and call it “patina jewelry”, “patina art” or “patina decoration”. Why not challenge yourself and create something natural that the powers of the atmosphere and some real ingredients made happen?

 

I will list the steps of my latest ammonia patina experiment. This is a lot of fun, but remember to wear a mask or at least do not breath in the fumes.

ammonia fuming method for copper

The blue abyss for your copper!

 

Solution – ammonia with a little salt
(There are many actual recipes, I just eyeball this.)

  1. Cut, shape, sand, clean your copper really well.
  2. Prepare a container (plastic, glass) where you can hang something to suspend your items and that has a way to seal it (lid, plastic, etc.). Put some of your solution on the bottom of your container.
  3. Spray your copper pieces with the solution and some salt (occasionally I also add baking soda).
  4. Suspend your pieces on top of the solution and close the lid.
  5. Let fume for a few hours to a day, then check. You may want to sprinkle them again or spray with your solution. Let fume as long as you think they look the way you want. There will be a crumbly or fuzzy coating of blue on top of your copper.
  6. Rinse well carefully, let dry for a day.
  7. Coat with your preferred method (clear coat, wax, etc.)
  8. Make into jewelry, wear and enjoy or give to a friend!
ammonia patina on copper

Ammonia patina crumble (or fuzz) after it has been removed from fuming container.

Blue copper patina clear coated

The same two after rinsing, drying and clear coating.

 

ammonia copper patina drying

Ammonia patina after rinsing, drying in the open air


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Flame Painting Copper

flamed copper earrings by evadesigns, copper coloring method

Flamed copper earrings

I recently saw some videos on youtube on the copper flame painting method. I had seen some really cool wall art in a craft show that some experienced flame painter had done. I just had to try it myself.

I first cut, sanded, cleaned and textured my copper pieces. I used a new technique for texturing I saw somewhere – I wrapped a wire over the copper and then hammered it to produce texture of lines. It actually looks pretty cool! For the other pair, I used a texture hammer.

Then I dug out my small butane torch. I had actually only used it once, I got it a long time ago when I was supposed to venture into soldering. (I’m still intimidated and only tried it once.) Anyway, the small ones are real easy to use. I had a charcoal block but ended up holding the pieces with pliers.

I was amazed how easily you could get some color on the copper! Yes, getting a pair of earrings to share a similar color, not so easy. Not that they need to exactly match in my opinion, some artistic vision is fine.

flamed copper earrings, copper flaming

First textured with wire, then flamed

Then I experimented with coating the pieces to seal in the color. I found that t is true what they say – the clear coat will dull the blue tones. So, I ended up redoing one of my pairs all over because I didn’t like the dulled blue color. I ended up leaving them more warm orange and yellow.

 

The cuff I textured and then torched heavily only once. I sanded off the fire scale and it actually looked interesting just like that. It had this sort of dark reddish tone to black that was quite nice.

Now I wish I had tried this sooner. I’m going to be experimenting more soon!

flamed copper cuff by evadesigns

Flamed copper cuff

 


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Patina Happiness

copper patina

Copper pieces getting happy patina

Patinating copper with all natural ingredients is such a satisfying experience. You don’t need chemicals, your general household ingredients will suffice. No need to wear gloves, respirators, dust masks, goggles, all that scary stuff! Take you vinegar and salt and make a happy stew, that’s all you need.

You do need clean copper, you can use dish soap, lemon juice, baking soda, etc. No happy patina will take on dirty copper. I use glass jars to hang my pieces to patinate. (Use wire or something like that.) I soak my pieces in the vinegar salt mixture and also sprinkle some salt directly on the piece. With experimenting you will find what will work best for you. You can also soak a paper towel in the mixture and put that on the bottom of the container. I cover mine with plastic wrap.

Then just watch and admire the wonderful color! Love the blue green when it starts developing. I’ve recently gotten such nice feedback on my copper patina pieces, there is something about the “all natural” funky patina that appeals to people. Yes, it does take time – after you get your patina you need to let it rest for a couple of days and dry out. Wash the pieces gently and let them dry well. Then you need to coat them with something that seals in the patina – wax, or some type of clear coat.

Not to forget that copper has health benefits, so go play!

A nice tutorial on all natural patina:
http://jewelrymakingjournal.com/vinegar-and-salt-patina/

patinating copper will vinegar

Copper pieces cleaned and ready for patina.

copper patina

Patina getting happy and drying.

evadesigns copper jewelry pieces

Some of my pieces with all natural patina.


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Patina Mysteries on Copper

copper patina with salt

Blue patina on copper – the piece on the left is copper rescued from my computer’s fan that got replaced!

My previous attempts with creating patina on copper have been mostly using commercial methods, patina mix you can buy at the store (like liver of sulfur). ( I talked about this  in a previous post “Revisited Inspirations”.) I’ve been reading about various “home methods” and after some experimentation I think I have finally figured out how to get the results I want! I first tried burying the copper pieces in a mix of salt and ammonia. For days I’ve been changing the mix and gotten uneven results (a small part of the piece would get blue patina and rest would just darken).  I kept adding salt or adding ammonia thinking the ratio of the two is the key. I finally read about this method “fumigation” –  you suspend the pieces in a container, sprinkle the salt on and let the ammonia fume the pieces. The results are awesome, I’m getting the exact bright blue color I want ( and it doesn’t take four days!) You can get the patina more even as long as you sprinkle the salt evenly and then you can watch it change. (Yes, I’m standing around with a flash light pointed at the pieces to see every little detail that happens…)

copper metal patinated blue

Thick copper shapes hammered to “paddles” and patinated with the home made method.

I also tried a modified “bury method” where you moisten paper towels with the ammonia, place the pieces in between them and sprinkle the salt on the towels. You seal the container and check it every once in a while. That seemed to also work, you just can’t watch it all happen.

It seems that experimenting is the only way to get what you want, there is no exact formula if you’re using home made ingredients. But on the other hand, that ‘s the fun part of the whole process! You get surprises – good and bad – and learn at the same time. Now I just need to wait for the pieces to dry out completely and then seal them. I meant to use the round shapes in some of my riveting experiments, but I might not want to cover the beautiful patina now with another layer of metal. Back to making more copper shapes!