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Olivier L-Beaulieu

Location: Québec, Canada
Joined: 27 Jan 2007

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Thu 20 Mar, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject: Russeting stainless?         Reply with quote

Is there any method to put a russet finish on stainless steel sword blade? I am looking for a method to antique the blade of my cavalry sabre (unfortunatley made of stainless).

Anyone has an idea?
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Russ Thomas
Industry Professional

Location: Telemark, Norway
Joined: 25 Jan 2004
Reading list: 43 books

Posts: 323

PostPosted: Thu 20 Mar, 2008 11:36 pm    Post subject: russeting stainless         Reply with quote


Really I think a lot depends on the quality of the stainless material. I have a 12" ruler here in the workshop that is marked 'stainless', it rusts AND it is magnetic! The one thing that I have found that seems to hate any contact with any steel, is iodine. I have, I admit, never tried to stain stainless steel, but it is worth a try. But if you do try it, be very careful with getting it anywhere near items that you do not want to rust. Keep the cloth well away from everything afterwards, or better still destroy it as soon as you have used it.

Good luck,


Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero !
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Lawrence Parramore

Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 132

PostPosted: Fri 21 Mar, 2008 3:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Olivier, I have never tried to rust stainless, but when people forge stainless they worry about iron pick up from tools, that would later cause it to start to rust.
Here are some ideas to age it though, blueing, blacking, browning chemicals for guns might be worth a try, as there are many types of stainless it might work?
Myself I would try covering the blade with iron fillings or one of the rust pigments from artists suppliers either of these might encourage the blade to rust, or age, add a bit of salt water and see what happens?
Also to take the shine of, what about some fine abrasive paper, or polishing paper?
A question is, why do you want to antique it? If you are re-enacting then the blades would have been 'shiny' , I have had some original pieces that have had amazing bright finishes, but for these finishes I believe they used a mercury dip, which whitened the steel, very dangerous I am sure, but the finish is fantastically bright.
Hope something works for you Wink
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Olivier L-Beaulieu

Location: Québec, Canada
Joined: 27 Jan 2007

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Fri 21 Mar, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the ideas. I will see what I can do.

Lawrence, I want to antique this sowrd to give to it an "authentic appearance". It is just for that. I do not do reconstitution so I don't care if my stainless sword is rusted.

And, I think my blade is magnetic so I will try to rust it!
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Jeff Pringle
Industry Professional

Location: Oakland, CA
Joined: 19 Nov 2005

Posts: 145

PostPosted: Tue 25 Mar, 2008 12:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stainless steels ‘stain less’ than other steels due to a chemically passive chrome oxide layer that naturally forms on the surface when the chromium content of the alloy is over a certain percent (13% IIRC). Since this invisible chrome oxide layer is just one molecule thick it is not too hard to defeat, but your best bet for ease of application and evenness of finish would be to get one of the commercial stainless blackeners and go grey/black rather than russet (be sure to ask for the technical data sheet since they don’t work too well if you don’t follow the instructions - don't ask how I know that! Big Grin ). Here is one (that I have not used, so cannot vouch for the company or product):
I think Birchwood Casey might have one for stainless gun owners who want to be more ‘tactical,’ there are several companies making stainless blackeners now.
If home experimenting is more your style, the stainless can be de-passivated by several common chemicals, most notably chloride compounds, iron and rust. You should be able to get a good bit of rust to show up by scrubbing the blade with a scotchbrite pad and hydrochloric acid to remove the chrome oxide layer, then spraying it with salt (sodium chloride) water; however if you are not used to working with acids I would recommend just scrubbing with scotchbright and pumice or other abrasive to mechanically remove the chrome oxide, then rub the entire blade surface with a bar of non-stainless steel (with a clean metal surface, not the blue-black scale seen on ‘carbon steel’ that has a hot-rolled finish) to embed microscopic particles of free iron into the surface. A few cycles of spraying with salt water should create a great deal of corrosion as the iron particles rust and contaminate the surrounding surface, creating further corrosion cells…repeat rubbing and spraying until uniform.
Of course, try it out on some scrap stainless before attacking your sword Wink
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