Brass Sheet Metal: The Science Behind the Patination Process Explained

Metals are some of the toughest materials out there. From the body of your car to the roof over your head, you are sure to find strong objects made out of them.

Brass Sheet Metal: The Science Behind the Patination Process Explained

Of course, metals are not impervious to wear and tear. If a certain metal has iron in it, exposure to water and oxygen will cause it to oxidize, a process more commonly known as rusting. And when rust begins forming, degradation is sure to follow.

But what if like people, certain metals can age gracefully? Such is the case with brass, an alloy made from combining copper and zinc. Since it contains no iron, rusting won’t ever be a concern. More importantly, exposure to the elements can actually make it look more appealing.

Patina 101

If you’ve seen an old church’s metal roof, you’ve probably noticed that it has an aged but sophisticated look that can best be described as “vintage.” Leading brass angle manufacturers and suppliers, like Rotax Metals, say this unique characteristic is called “patina.”

In a nutshell, a patina develops when a thin layer of oxidized metal develops on the surface of brass objects, like roofs made from a standard brass metal sheet. Most of the time, a patina occurs naturally as metals are exposed to oxidizing environments, such as the weather or even pollution. As a result, they develop a color that is often different from that of the base metal–in the case of brass, the hue is often green-brown.

If You’re in a Hurry…

That being said, natural patination can take years if not decades to develop. Fortunately, interior designers, architects, and fabricators know that a natural patina can be quickly emulated with the help of chemicals. For instance, submerging a brass object into a solution of salt water and ammonia will give the alloy a weathered look in mere hours. For smaller projects, applying baking soda and scrubbing the brass with a steel wool will achieve the same effect.

A Myriad of Applications

Just about any piece of brass can be patinated to lend it that vintage look. Patinated door knobs, for one, easily add a touch of elegance to any room in the home. On the other hand, brass sculptures can be given the same treatment to make them look like antique pieces.

It’s no wonder that many in the design world have fallen in love with brass. Whether it gleams like gold or proudly sports a patinated look, brass offers a sophisticated look that few other materials can match.

 

Sources:

Chemical Finishing Techniques :Patination, www.philamuseum.org

Instant patina for brass, www.woodmagazine.com

How to Patina Brass, www.wikihow.com

How to antique brass with ammonia, www.howtoantiquebrass.com

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