How We Do It
We look forward to the way metal ages over time, but waiting years for this weathering process is not always the most practical way to enjoy the coloration changes. Patination is the art of applying coloration to metals. It can be done to add a sense of mood and drama to an object, to enhance and highlight detail or to accelerate the aging process. The patinator can utilize compounds to hasten the natural process or can add other patina colors such as blue, red, or black.
Artists have been using patina since, least the 1800s. Sculptor, Auguste Rodin used patinas on many of his bronze pieces. Likewise American Western Artist Frederick Remington, used patinas on his 22 famous statues depicting Cowboy and Western American life.
In addition to the naturally occurring browns and greens, other patina colors can be introduced by the artist for a striking effect. See an example of a colorful patina finish by renowned artist and sculptor, Gerald Sawyer. This sculpture and some of his other works reside in Fort Atkinson WI.
At Metal Facades and our sign division, Atlas Signs and Plaques, we primarily apply patinas to add the interest of shading that would be acquired with some measure of time. While a shiny new penny may a fun thing to receive, it is rather too coppery and of such a monotone color that the detail gets lost in the evenness of the luster. Contrast that new penny with one that has been in circulation for years and you will notice that the high spots have been polished or rubbed shiny from use, and the low relief areas remain darker. Overall, a much nicer presentation that allows you to see greater detail.
Patina may be applied to cleaned metal, either hot or cold. Heat from a torch is often used to speed the oxidation process on sculpture. At Metal Facades, our patinators use the cold process which is safer and keeps fumes to a minimum.
At times, patination recipes have been garnered from sources online or from books on the subject. (Caution, we are not endorsing or recommending any of the material sources in this post. Nor are we stating that we are customers of any material sources.)
Most chemicals can easily be purchased, but you might have to show ID and sign for some of them due to National Security Concerns. Try your local art store, chemical supply company, school supply house, or even your local drug store.
We prefer the ease and consistency of store bought over home-brew. Products are available from Triple-S Chemical Products and Birchwood Laboratories. These usually are shipped HazMat, so they are expensive.
Patination chemicals reach our signs and plaques via several routes. Patinas can be sprayed, brushed, or rubbed onto the metal coated piece. As an alternative, size allowing, we sometimes dip into a vat of patina chemicals.
We seldom send any product to our clients without, at least, a light patina. Very few of us actually see bronze, brass, or copper right out the mold and just polished. You might be shocked to see, that like a new penny, it just does not look right without a little oxidation, which is, of course, Patina.
Go to Part I: What is Patina?