Patinating metal (making antique)

Patinating is the process of aging metal, think of rust on steel or the green stains on old copper. This is a natural process, but it can also be done deliberately to achieve a certain look.

There are different ways of patinating metal, depending on the type of metal and the effect you want to achieve.


If you want to age a steel item, such as a sword, axe or plate armour, there are several ways you can do this.

The most simple way is to just leave the item out in the rain for a while and let the water dry without wiping the item down. You can also bury the item in wet soil for a while. The steel will start to rust, which will give it an aged look. After the steel has rusted, you can clean it with some steel wool or very fine black sandpaper. 

Another method of aging steel is by using vinegar and salt. 

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and a good amount of salt. Spray the mixture on the steel item and leave it on for a few days. The more of the vinegar and salt solution you use and the longer you leave it on, the bigger the effect. If you want a slower process, so you’ll have more control over the effect, you can dilute the solution with water. You can neutralize the rusting process with a solution of baking soda and water. Just like with the first method, you can clean up some of the rust with steel wool or very fine black sandpaper. 

Bronze, brass and copper

All three of these metals can be aged in the same way. All you need is vinegar and salt. 

It is important to note that this only works on items without any protective varnishes.

There are two different ways of aging bronze/brass/copper with vinegar and salt. 

One way is to mix the vinegar and salt in a container you can close off, like a jar. You don’t need a huge amount, but enough to fully cover the bottom of the container. 

Cover the item in the vinegar and salt mixture by brushing or spraying it on. After the item is fully covered in the mixture, you have to place it inside the container and close it off. Turn the item every hour or so, until you have the effect you want. Rinse the items with water and dry them off. 

If the patina comes out too dark, you can use steel wool or a small wire brush to tone down the effect. 

The other method is by soaking the items in the vinegar and salt mixture. Make sure the amount of vinegar you use is enough to fully cover the items and leave them in for at least 45 minutes. Place the items on a paper towel and let them air dry. By leaving the items out to air dry, the patina will continue to develop. Check up on the process every 15 to 30 minutes and once you have the desired effect, you can rinse them with water and blot them dry. If you want a very heavily patinated effect, you can also add some more vinegar or salt when the items are on the paper towel.

Again, you can tone down the patina afterwards by using steel wool or a small wire brush.