DIY – How To Patina Copper

Southern Accents has an incredibly talented team of artists and craftsmen who are constantly coming up with creative ideas. Recently, we decided to add a bit more interest to a four panel, round top door that we custom built from cypress wood. SA Team member Josh Howe came up with the idea of covering the panels with patina’d copper. He had several scrap pieces of shiny copper in the wood shop. All that was needed was a method of aging the copper. Josh did a little experimenting and the end result was so fantastic that we decided to share his recipe!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques

The process of aging the copper so that it gives off that lovely blue/green hue is fairly simple. It is a matter of treating the copper with an acid then allowing it to oxidize. The specific form of acid used will result in different color changes within the copper. While there are several chemical compounds you could purchase, Josh used a mixture of common household ingredients: vinegar, ammonia, and kosher salt.

Josh started with a clean, quart sized spray bottle purchased at our local hardware store. He filled the bottle with approximately 1/2 inch of salt. He then added equal parts of vinegar and ammonia to the bottle, leaving enough room at the top to be able to throughly shake the mixture until the salt was completely dissolved. The copper was cleaned and degreased using a lacquer thinner. The cleaned sheets were then taken outside and sprayed with the acid mixture and placed in the sun to dry. Heating the treated copper speeds up the oxidation process. While we took advantage of a sunny day you could use something as simple as a hair dryer to heat the metal. Depending on the desired result, the copper may need more than one treatment. Once the desired color was achieved, the copper was rinsed with warm water, dried, and sealed. If the copper is to be used outdoors we recommend a spar urethan which offers UV protection. For interior use, any clear sealant will do. When treating the copper, if the desired color change is not achieved with multiple treatments, scuffing the copper just a bit with a piece of steel wool will open up the metal pores allowing it to more readily absorb the acid mixture.

The copper we used was originally purchased from a local air conditioning company and was approximately 1/16″ thick. You can also use copper flashing from the hardware store. Do not however use the copper foils commonly found in craft stores as these are too thin and the acid will likely eat a hole right through these sheets.

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesThe method we used is one of many that could be used to create a lovely patina on copper. This process is not limited for use on copper sheets, but can be used to antique any copper item. Old copper pots, pans, pennies, bowls and other finds you may want to use as decorative items can be treated using this method.

To add another dimension to your creation, before you treat the copper with the acid solution, paint on a design using a cotton swab and petroleum jelly. Every spot covered in the petroleum jelly should remain shiny!

Copper is such a versatile metal. In addition to the beautiful colors it emits when oxidized, it can be etched, hammered, and molded into almost any shape. We’ve added a board to our Pinterest page filled with crafting and DIY projects using copper as well as a few pins on additional ways to add a gorgeous patina to this fabulous metal!

Written by: Lisa Jones


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