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Jen Hau Yang

Location: thailand
Joined: 23 Oct 2006

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon 13 Nov, 2006 10:31 pm    Post subject: Patinas         Reply with quote

I'm relatively new to this site, and I want to ask a question...

How does patina form?

Sites on the internet were relatively vague about this, and if there's anyone who could answer this with clarity, I guess this site would provide such answer. Basically, I was hoping to know whether a patina could be applied to a weapon... is there a way to do this? If not the real deal, would there be any way to imitate it? How about color, would color of the patina be able to be changed? How would patinas be kept even and smooth? Your input would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
Jen Hau Yang
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Jessen Klaus

Location: Denmark/ Fredericia
Joined: 27 Feb 2004

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Tue 14 Nov, 2006 5:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a great guide on this site on the subject

But generally the natural patina will come over time.
The metal will darken unless it is polished regulary, some people don't like the old look of their weapons.
Personally I quite like the natural patina, and have a couple of swords I haven't polished for 2-3 years.

sorry for bad wording.

Best regard Klaus
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Andy Biggers

Location: Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Joined: 11 Aug 2006

Posts: 22

PostPosted: Tue 14 Nov, 2006 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jen,

A good question.

To define the term “patina” is actually not at all strait forward; it means different things to different segments of the art, collecting, and restoration communities. The term first appears in the “Lexicon of Art” by Fillipo Baldinucci (1681) where it is used to describe the dark tone taken on by oil paintings over time. By the mid eighteenth century, the term was being applied to time related changes in the surface appearance of metals. Today, the term is even more broadly applied.

Natural patinas are created in two distinct ways. They are either created through chemical reaction or mechanical abrasion. For example, those who have worked with silver know that both forms of “patina” can be encountered. The black “tarnish” that appears on sterling silver – an alloy of silver and copper – is formed through the interaction of sulpher compounds with copper alloying agent and is often referred to as tarnish. Fine silver (pure silver) will not turn black as it contains no copper at all. On the other hand, the warm spectral glow that radiates from old silver objects is formed mechanically – usually through years of buffing and gentle wear that imparts microscopic scratches to the metal’s surface that multiply over time. When light hits those surfaces it is reflected and refracted creating that highly sought after warm glow. Both forms of patina may be encountered simultaneously on sterling, and one may be desirable while the other not. Mechanical patinas on silver are highly regarded – not only because of the beautiful visual effect it creates, but because it is a hallmarks of age that is extremely difficult to reproduce deliberately. Sulpherous patination is generally undesirable except in those cases where it creates a contrast to the bright metal.

So, to answer your question, I must first ask what it is you mean when you say you want to create a patina on your sword. Creating a chemically induced patina is one thing while creating a mechanical patina another. The chemical patination of a blade can be accomplished rather easily (at least in theory), and there are commercially available products (as well as improvised ones) that will accomplish this readily. On the other hand, the deliberate mechanical patination of hard iron or steel is quite another matter.

My question to you therefore is this: what kind of effect are you looking to create? Only by answering that question first can you begin to consider the various means of achieving it.


Gain say who dare!
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Jen Hau Yang

Location: thailand
Joined: 23 Oct 2006

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Tue 14 Nov, 2006 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Firstly, I would like to thank Jessen Klaus for enlightening me with the link and Andy Biggers for the very kind post. To answer Mr. Biggers's question, I was aiming to give the steel of the blade a darker look, as in not making the blade gleam too much to attract unwanted attention, but still keeping the finish smooth and with minimal pitting. That, I believe, may fall under the chemical patina and not mechanical. I believe, however, Jessen Klaus's link provided some helpful techniques, but any further inputs would be appreciated. Thank you
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Jeff Pringle
Industry Professional

Location: Oakland, CA
Joined: 19 Nov 2005

Posts: 145

PostPosted: Tue 14 Nov, 2006 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great description of patina, Andy!
Chemical patinas for steel are available; Birchwood Casey's steel blackener (Presto black? I'll check) is the one that is least likely to give you a lot of flash rusting if you are new to oxidation. If your blade is stainless steel you'll need a different chemical. Color is controlled by choice of chemical, dilution of chemical, length and means of application, and post-coloring abrasion. Evenness is controlled by the above methods and by making sure the blade is really, really clean before you start. After your blade is colored, you must make sure the chemical is properly neutralized so you don't get surprise rust in a week or two.
To do a good job on your sword, you will have to get some chemical and try it out on pieces of similar steel bar stock (with a similar finish to your sword) to see if the color is what you had in mind; this will also give you some experience at getting an even or natural-looking coloration. If that chemical didn't give you the color range you wanted, try another.
It will be a lot of trial and error; but that and practice are the only ways to get control of the process.
Be sure to follow all safety recommendations, since oxidizers are usually toxic, and solvents flammable WTF?!
Big Grin
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Mat Billings

Location: Kelowna, BC
Joined: 05 Jan 2005

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue 14 Nov, 2006 3:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The salt and vinegar solution is one of the simpler techniques out there. I tried this awhile (months ago) back on my old rapier blade, and it does the job, and in natural light, looks really cool.

Another thing you could try if you just want a darkened blade is chemical gun blueing. Just apply it sparingly until you get it to the darkness you want; the less you use, the lighter the darkening. I've never used this on a blade, but I've done a hilt with it.

As long as your blade isn't say, stainless, (ack!) you shouldn't have to much difficulty! Good luck, man, and post pictures when ya get'r dun! Laughing Out Loud
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