Red Patina on Copper: Heat and Hot Water

Added: 05/24/2018

Nancy LT Hamilton

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How to create a red patina on copper using only heat and boiling water.

  Below, is the recipe to create a red finish on copper.

  1. Clean and (if necessary), evenly sand your metal.
  2. Bring a cup or two of water to a full, rolling boil. Keep the flame on and the water boiling.
  3. Have soldering equipment ready:  large butane (or other torches), charcoal (or other soldering devices), tweezers or cross-lock tweezers, to move the metal.
  4. Heat metal until is it orange/red, with the torch.
  5. Drop into the boiling water.
  6. Wait until you hear the metal “boil out” or until the metal has reached the temperature of the water.  This takes a minute or less.
  7. Stop boiling the water.
  8. Remove your metal, from the pot, with the cross-locks, and rinse under cold, running water.
  9. Gently dry with a soft towel or pat dry with paper towel.
  10. You are done!

If there are blemishes, the metal may not have been evenly cleaned/sanded.  Black and/or brown oxidation may be present.  If you aren’t happy with the color, re-sand the metal and repeat the heat/water process.

  To protect the finish, you will need to seal the metal.  Be aware:  sealers can alter the visual depth or brightness of the patina.

Common finishing materials are sealers and waxes.  I like Everbright’s Protecta Clear as a sealer.  Here are links to Amazon for the Protecta Clear in  Spray and Liquid.  Waxes, like Renaissance Wax or car wax like Turtle Wax are often used to protect patinas too.

But, you can also just leave the patina as is and watch as it changes over time and exposure.

Before coloring your metal, think about how to use the metal after coloring.  If the piece is soldered before the patina is applied, the high temperature, required for this process, may melt your solder seams.  I have not tried the process with a soldered piece yet.  But, I can imagine that soldered joins will suffer.  Also, you can’t solder the metal once it has been colored, as the heat from soldering will destroy the patina.  Attach the metal with rivets, prongs, tabs or treat it like a cabochon and set it in a bezel. Screws and bolts will work also.

Domed and patterned metal looks great with this technique!

One more note, you can use 0000 steel wool or try the Pro Polish Pads from Rio Grande to rub off some of the patina; it looks great that way too!

Have fun!