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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:56 pm    Post subject: How to antique brass         Reply with quote

I finally found some information on this subject. Here's a link for you folks who want an "antique" on your wall.

http://www.whitechapel-ltd.com/howto/antiquebrass.asp

I intend to try the ammonia fuming method this weekend. Seems to me that the best idea is to drop the hilt or whatever in the driveway a few times to add some character, fume the piece darker than you want, then polish it up a bit, leaving the darker finish in the pits/engraving. It's only a theory at this point. I'll test it ASAP.

PS: Don't be a jerk! Selling a modern replica as an antique is at least ethically bankrupt and SHOULD land you in court for fraud. Mad

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Carl Croushore
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Location: Monticello, WI
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PostPosted: Sat 14 Feb, 2004 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

Liver of Sulphur is a good antiquing agent for copper, and works reasonably well for brass, too. The higher the copper content of the brass, the better the darkening will be.

Also, a quick course of sandblasting before using an antiquing agent, followed by either polishing or burnishing, produces interesting results as well.

Luck!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Feb, 2004 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Carl! That's another helpful tip.
I tried the ammonia fuming this weekend and I'm VERY impressed with the results. This process couldn't be easier. I put the grocery-store ammonia in the bottom of a cat litter bucket (the kind with a hinged half-lid), then poked the sword & scabbard through a plastic grocery bag and inserted the hilt/drag ends through the hinged lid, closed the lid as far as possible and then pulled the bag down over the top of the bucket to help prevent leakage of the fumes. The weight of the free ends of the sword and scabbard kept the hilt/drag at the top of the bucket. Outside conditions were very wet and cool, so probably not ideal for this process. Still, fuming overnight was more than sufficient for the top half of the scabbard, and the sword hilt and drag end of the scabbard were done in approximately 8 hours. When first out of the bucket, the brass had a light, powdery, gray coating that wouldn't rub off with a paper towel. It was not attractive, so I ran fine-medium steel wool over the brass WITHOUT APPLYING ANY PRESSURE and that removed the blue-gray stuff and left an incredibly authentic-looking brass patina. At least to the naked eye, it is identical to the patina on an early 20th. c. brass-hilt military sword in my collection. Very rich, dark, buttery, etc. I noticed that some parts were slightly less affected than others (the bands that attach the suspension rings to the scabbard furniture). I wonder if that is related to the copper content of those parts. There were a few light spots of verdegris, some of which cleaned up with a toothbrush. I'll hit a few other spots with steel wool.
Anyway, it's scary how easy this was. I can see why there are so many confederate sword forgeries out there. If I'd started with the best quality replica, spent some time researching originals and modified the replica accordingly, I I'd have to be VERY careful about letting that piece out of my collection. I'd encourage all you collectors of 18th-20th c. military swords to get an inexpensive replica and try to make a forgery for your own educational purposes.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Chris Goerner




Location: Roanoke, Virginia
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Aug, 2006 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I decided to try this method with a brass hilted reproduction British infantry hanger I recently purchased. The hilt had quite a few spots of heavy green and brown tarnish when I got it. I cleaned those off and buffed the entire hilt to even out the finish, but then it looked brand new -- not what I wanted for this sword. So , I decided to try this method of antiquing the brass.

I didn't have a litter box, so I just used a medium sized card board box. I taped up the blade with painter's tape to protect it. I set the box on its end with the open flaps facing me and thrust the blade through one side of the box from the inside. This way, the hilt is suspended inside the box by the weight of the blade. I slid in a small tin pan filled with about a 1/3 cup of ammonia. I closed up the flaps of the box and let it sit overnight. Eight hours later I opened the box and was quite surprised to find no noticeable change in the appearance of the hilt.

I thought that maybe I hadn't put enough ammonia in the pan, or hadn't left it long enough. So I added more ammonia and left it another 5 hours. Still no change to the brass.

Now, I know there isn't any lacquer on the hilt. As I said, the hilt had a patina to it when I bought it, and I buffed it well with steel wool before starting this process.

I considered that maybe the fumes were not held in by the cardboard, or were absorbed by the cardboard. However, there is no noticeable smell of ammonia outside the box in the confined area of my utility room. And when I open the box, the fumes are breath-takingly strong. The box is really just large enough for the hilt, the pan of ammonia and a couple inched of space around them -- not overly large where the fumes would be dissipating too much, losing their concentration.

Anyone else have trouble with this method that could share some learnings with me? Any guesses as to why the brass isn't changing in color? Could the tin pan the ammonia is in be having any effect? Should I put it in a different type of container?

Sic Semper Tyranus
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 6:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cover the box with a large plastic trash bag. I'm surprised you haven't gotten any results with your setup, but then I've used only my litter bucket/trash bag chamber. Maybe concentrating the fumes more with the bag will help.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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John H.





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PostPosted: Thu 31 Aug, 2006 6:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A few months ago I used this "ammonia-fuming" technique, to age some brass pieces on a necklace I made for a display. The brass SHINED like gold before the treatment. I left the pieces in the fumes overnight.

I've tried several different techniques, & this is the best way I've found to "age" brass in an accelerated fashion.

P.S. First post, ahoy!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2006 6:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome, John! How long did you fume your brass, and did you use an airtight chamber?

By the way folks, I should mention that different brass will respond differenty to fuming. One brass hilt I fumed worked perfectly, but the brass scabbard mounts of that weapon had little change from the process. It may be that Chris's hilt is just a particularly stubborn alloy.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Chris Goerner




Location: Roanoke, Virginia
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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2006 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean -- I tried placing the box and the hilt inside a plastic garbage bag and sealing it tight. After 10 hours, I removed the hilt only to find a very slight change in the color -- hardly noticeable. The inside of the plastic bag was sticky, presumably from the condensation of the ammonia fumes.

Can't figure out why the brass didn't turn more. I want to try the experiment again with another piece of brass to see if it really is the alloy of the hilt, or if there is something about how I am doing the process that is the problem. If I ever figure it out, I be sure to post my findings.

At any rate, thanks for the suggestions, and I'll keep trying.

Chris

Sic Semper Tyranus
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John H.





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2006 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Welcome, John! How long did you fume your brass, and did you use an airtight chamber?

Thanks for the welcome. I probably won't have too much to say around here (being "green" & all), but I'll try to make my input relevant. Wink

I fumed the pieces overnight, but I don't really think it needed to be that long. Several hours would've probably been sufficient.

For all intents & purposes, my "chamber" was air-tight. Since the pieces were so small, I took an empty yogurt container & sat a PVC endcap in the bottom, poured ammonia around the endcap to a depth of about 1/4", then I sat the brass on top of the PVC. I carefully snapped the lid on the yogurt container & started the waiting game.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the results...
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris and others:

This site may help with stubborn brass:

http://www.woodmagazine.com/wood/story.jhtml?...575812.xml

It seems that a salt bath will dramatically accelerate the antiquing!

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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