Blue Patina on Copper

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About: I've been making jewellery for 22 years and teaching jewellery making classes for 13 years. Recently I've started an online jewellery magazine packed full of free tutorials and interviews with jewellery arti...

Intro: Blue Patina on Copper

Colour plays a large role in design esthetics.  There are many ways to add colour into Jewellery work,  applying patinas are one of the simplest methods; requiring very little equipment or in some kinds expense.  Copper takes a patina especially well. Every metal has its own personality; I like to think of Copper as an Old, Smelly, Dirty, Drunk, Homeless Man; if you've worked with it, you understand why.  Because Copper is such a dirty Metal it likes to oxidize; in simple terms: put it next to a chemical and it will react by changing colours.  This process is called Patination.

There are hundreds of Chemical Patina Recipes; many requiring expensive, hard to find and potentially dangerous Chemicals, all things I like to avoid whenever possible.  Instead, my favorite Patinas are made by more common household chemicals.  My current favorite household patina, is a brilliant blue made by using:  

1. Clear Ammonia (found in the cleaning aisle of your local grocery store)
2. Table salt
3. Water

Step 1: Making a Fume Chamber

First you will need to construct a fume chamber.  Find a plastic container with a lid (clear if possible), large enough to hold your Copper in.  The Copper will need to be suspended in the container; drill or poke holes in the sides of the container large enough to slide a bit of wire through (any type of wire will do).  Depending on what you wish to patina, you will have to customize the hanging mechanism; I used two wires to support the sheet evenly.

At the bottom of the fume chamber place a bit of paper towel.  Dribble some Ammonia on it; you want it moist but do not soak it. Warning - inhaling Ammonia fumes can be harmful.


The Fume chamber is now ready for use.

Step 2: Preparing the Copper

It is essential the Copper be free of Oxides, Grease and Dirt; otherwise the Patina will not work.  There are many ways to prepare metal for Patination.  In the case of my simple Flower, emerying with 220 grit will do the trick.  Other methods that work: scrubbing with a past mixture of pumice  powder and water or heating and pickling followed by cleaning with soap and water; will also work. Which ever method you choose, always handle carefully during and after; hold by the edges so as not to transfer grease from your fingers.

Step 3: Adding Water and Table Salt

Run the Copper under water and sprinkle a small amount of table salt onto the side or sides you wish to patina.  The resulting patina will vary depending on how much salt you use; do some experimenting and see what the results are.

Step 4: Going Through the Stages

Carefully place your copper in the fume chamber and close the lid; again avoid touching the the copper, hold by the edges only.  Your Patina is finished when you are happy with the colour; it may take an hour or two or a day or two.

Step 5: Sealing the Patina

Once you are happy with the patina, remove the copper from the fume chamber.  The patina will be very fragile so handle delicately. Allow to thoroughly dry.  Most patinas are a surface treatment which can be rubbed off and must be sealed with a lacquer or wax of some kind. My favorite is Pro-craft Lacquer (available at most Jewellery supply stores), applied in 4 or 5 thin layers. Warning - When using Lacquers always have adequate ventilation; the fumes can be harmful.

Read more free jewellery making tutorials at Creatinglinus.com

2 People Made This Project!

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35 Discussions

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dizingof

7 months ago

Very Cool.
I've been developing a Metal Skin prototype (electroforming) for quite some time (Growing strong Metal on 3D printed plastic) and yesterday i tweeted these photos of a popular Octopus, gaining bluish patina just by tap water rinse and iron sulfate fumes. Amazing results.
https://twitter.com/dizingof/status/961237304336617472

Dizingof

metal octopus by dizingof -1.jpgmetal octopus by dizingof -2.jpgmetal octopus by dizingof -3.jpg
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lucas.lavoy

4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for making this great tutorial. Used this technique recently on a coffee table with fumed copper surface and it came out great

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mjohn10244lucas.lavoy

Reply 1 year ago

Great table...how did you do the edges/corners to have them come out smooth?

Are there multiple sheets of copper or one large one and did you patina with ammonia or salt and vinegar/

thanks

Mike

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lucas.lavoymjohn10244

Reply 1 year ago

Mike, the table is a rectangular wood core covered with patinated copper sheet (16 gauge) laminated to the core after being patinated. The top is 9 separate plates of copper of different dimensions that fit together to cover the whole top. Sides of the table are also separate 16 guage copper strips laminated to the sides. Patination for all the pieces was 2 stages done in a large airtight plastic tub. First stage ammonia fume only, then a rinse to remove the non-adherent bits, then a second round with vinegar + salt in addition to the ammonia fume.

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MithunK13lucas.lavoy

Reply 2 years ago

Hi How did u make this without using air tight chamber? Or what was it that u covered the table top with?

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ChrisC19lucas.lavoy

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

What prep did you use and how did you apply your salt lucas.lavoy? I followed the above method and my coverage looks nothing like yours! Great job!

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lucas.lavoyChrisC19

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

Just standard spray bottle with salt water (lots of it), came up bright blue. The difference was I scrubbed off the unstable parts of the patina afterwards and did a second application and second fume chamber exposure. Somehow that made it much more green than blue.

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Laral

1 year ago

I posted this a while ago but I think this is a good place to re-post it. What I like about it is it works fast and you can just paint or spray the solution on any part you want.

Have a look at: https://web.archive.org/web/20080108073034/http://asuwlink.uwyo.edu/~metal/patinas.html
-- the second formula:

  • 1 Tbsp ammonium chloride (Sal ammoniac)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 oz ammonia
  • 1 qt. bottled or distilled water



Mix all in a plastic container that will be only for the patina mix and
not used for other things. Warm or hot water will help the solids
dissolve better. Spray the patina on the clean oil free copper and let
set for 2 or 3 hours to dry then repeat 3 or so more times until you get
what you want. You can also soak sawdust with the patina and pack it
around the copper piece and seal it in a plastic bag for a day or 3.

I got a sal ammoniac block from Ace at the time
but I don't see it now at their website. I found that eBay has ammonium
chloride powder cheaper than what I paid for the block. It would also
dissolve much easier than the hard block.

Very easy to do, cheap, works great.

Here is my sample done on a copper tubing end cap.


Picture of cr.jpg
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RJB14

1 year ago

force patina copper with pink himalayan salt and aquarium salt in same style fume chamber

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RJB14

1 year ago

pink himalayan salt brings out some good blues as does aquarium salt

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NellBennett

1 year ago

Thanks for the useful tips about using household products. Do you know what household products might work on Brass to get a similar vibrant effect? Thanks

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KarinC13

2 years ago

thanks, great instructions.

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RebeccaW88

2 years ago

I have tried this several times and the first time I got this beautiful shade of blue - like the pictures. But since then, I've tried repeatedly and it keeps turning black. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong?

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JanevarleyRebeccaW88

Reply 2 years ago

Try wetting your copper, coating it in lots of salt and leaving it for longer. You can gently rinse the residue off and dry it on kitchen towels. Mine went black and then blue when I added more salt.

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wpsutton

3 years ago on Introduction

I have 3 large panels (replacing glass in china cabinet) They are about 1'X3' ... can you do this w/o creating a fume chamber?

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MartijnH4wpsutton

Reply 2 years ago

Soon I will try making a fume chamber by suspending plastic like garbage bags above my piece and put a bowl of ammonia inside it, not under it but next to the piece.

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WilT1wpsutton

Reply 2 years ago

What about using a large Rubbermaid tub or something similar?