How to Rust Steel On Purpose
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Q. I am trying to get some metal(iron) strips to rust quickly for an application that I am using in my home. I know that there is a type of chemical that will do this, can you let me know what this is, also what type of sealer do you recommend to seal up the metal after this process has taken place. Also, do you know how long the process takes?Teresa S
developer - Commerce Township, Michigan
<== Olivier de Géa pencil sketch on rusted steel
Q. I, too, have been researching this question since we are attempting to build a shade structure on our house and want this finish on the roof. We are seeing shopping centers using this look and are assuming that it can't be too difficult to do since builders are using it in quantity. Has anyone tried rusting those 2' x 8' corrugated metal strips? Vinegar and salt sound like the best and cheapest method if it works.Dorothy D
- Queen Creek, Arizona
A. I am an artist that has been using rusted steel canvasses for a few years. What I have found to rust evenly and the most time efficiently is muriatic acid. I use very diluted acid/water mix and apply it to cold rolled steel and within 24 hours the 5x3 foot canvass is pretty covered. For three to four more days I spray the metal down with warm water only (add a little salt to speed things up). The water baths remove most of the acid compound. The metal will continue to rust and pit so you must stop the process at desired aesthetic. I use hydrogen peroxide to stop the chemical process (this is a tip I picked up in an old chemistry book). After I have finished painting, sanding, etching etc. etc. I apply two coats of water based polyurethane. I have sold paintings to people who display them outside on their patios and I have yet to find unwanted rust anywhere on the metal. I would also advise recoating with clear coat every few years.Jeff F
- Portland, Oregon
A. Hi - I use vinegar to get that Old West look we love out here. Yes, it will eventually rust thru - 50 years or so from now - but in the meantime, we'll enjoy the weathered funky western look.Nancy F
- Tucson, Arizona
I thank you for having this page. I see there are a lot of folks pro or not interested in rusting or antiquing metal.
This old look is just the thing for expensive Santa Fe style art. What we are doing is as valid as figuring out how come 300 series stainless is rusting near a pool.
There are many high grade products for gun bluing or browning out there. As I find their names I will provide them. Thanks once again, Bob
Blacksmith - Chandler, Arizona
Q. I am a student at the University of Minnesota and I am currently doing a steel sculpture that I would like to have a consistent and smooth (maybe a little gritty) rusty finish. This page has been a huge help so far, and I'm going to try a bunch of the cheaper and easier options you have suggested. Does anyone know if one of these methods is most what I'm looking for? Thanks for your help,
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
Q. Looking for process to etch and rust metal.Paul R
cabinet maker - Phoenix, Arizona
A. SO YOU want RUST! Cheap Rust, FAST Rust on steel/iron products. I'm about to divulge a family secret. but here goes.....
Simple - Pool CHLORINE. Cheap @ $2.50 a Gallon.
Pour Chlorine in a "clean" spray bottle and use away from concrete or anything you don't want to destroy! I shouldn't have to tell you but please don't mix anything with this and BE CAREFUL wear protective gloves do not breath in fumes while spraying on product. Read the handling instructions. this stuff is a nasty product. be sure to remove any oils or greased.
Depending on the vintage-ness or amount of rust you desire. this will produce quick rust with in hour. reply let dry & repeat.
I then seal with a simple Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethanespray can or something like that depending if this is indoor or outdoor to seal it and sustain the rusty finish you created. this way you can handle your product and the rust will not come off on your customers hands when handling your finished product.
Have fun & be safe.
- Phoenix, Arizona
I am building 3 automatic mild steel gates for a state park and they are required to have an actual rust finish. I am grateful for all the postings on this subject. I am under a deadline to perform so can't wait too long for results. The sea salt and vinegar sounds too long. I would like to try the electrolysis method but the gates are 24 feet long and they won't fit in my bathtub! Therefore I will opt out for the pool chlorine method and hope it works as fast as reported. I am having the gates and gate posts sand blasted tomorrow after which I will try and rust them fast. It is true by the way that passing electricity from electrodes through a brine solution (called cracking) produces chloride gas which is lethal to humans; don't try it in your bath tub!Peter L
- Washington, Utah
Q. Hey Guys,
I'm making a three side fireplace wrap from cor-ten steel and have the rust level where I want it. I'm looking for ideas for protecting the rust finish while installing it and that is safe to use around a fireplace. I've heard to use wax but it seems to me it would break down over time. Any ideas?
Thanks in advance.
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A. This is a recipe us crafters use to make safety pins, and bells rust for our dolls and things
This concoction will nicely rust all those safety pins, jingle bells, or anything else you want to 'age' for your primitive creations. Do this outside in a safe place (away from children or pets, of course).
In an old mayo jar, combine:
1/2 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 cup of Clorox bleach
1 teasp. of salt
Add your pins or bells and cover loosely. Place in a safe spot and let it sit for about 2 days. Some ladies get desired results in about 2 hours, but I like them super rusty, so I've always left them for about 2 days.
When they are ready, take an old plate (one that you only use for this project from now on) and line it with a couple layers of paper towel. Remove pins or bells with an old fork - again, one you will never use at the dinner table again, and place them on the paper-lined plate. Put the plate in a safe & sunny place. The rusting will occur as they dry. You can swirl the plate periodically to reposition bells so they dry underneath also. It will take a few hours.
So there you have it... beautiful rusty stuff!
*When ANY acid (such as vinegar in this recipe) is mixed with household Bleach (of any brand name) there is a rapid production of Chlorine Gas, an EXTREMELY TOXIC, even DEADLY gas. If using this recipe, please do so outside on a breezy day and do NOT breathe the air downwind of the mix. Wear safety glasses, as this can be an explosively fast reaction that creates some splashing. Repeated exposure to Chlorine Gas will do serious damage to your lung tissue.
*DO NOT throw this solution down the sink when you are done. I dispose of mine out in the woods away from pets or children.
Here's another way to do it
1 pint hydrogen peroxide
1/4 C. vinegar
2 Tbs table salt
Mix together in a large plastic bowl, and then add your metal items to rust. They should start turning the solution brown in an hour or so, but you can leave it overnight if you wish. Take your items out of the mixture, and then lay them on a newspaper or stack of paper towels to dry out in the sun. They will continue rusting as they dry. Feel free to cut the recipe in half or double it according to your needs.
Hope this helps someone it came from the great gals over at createaprim.com
- Harrison Michigan
A. I've been rusting many things for a clients house and I've found that Eastwood has a spray clear =>
- Rochester, Michigan
Q. We are fabricating steel frames in Cor-Ten B steel. Our client wants the frames to have the naturally aged aspect/color which requires a long period to reach.
buyer - Beirut, Lebanon
Eastwood Diamond Clear
Q. From what I have read, the pool chlorine looks like it is the quickest solution for obtaining a rust finish. My question is that I am trying to rust a Garage door that has been covered with some kind of metal(it seems like it is metal that is used for automobiles). The surface is painted so I do not know if the chlorine will work. Please help! I need to acquire this procedure in a somewhat quick manner.Chris C
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
A. If you have any paint (or primer) on the metal surface you'll need to completely strip it off and get your object back to the original condition. You can proceed from there.Mitchell K
- South Pasadena, California
What a great load of information and ideas!
Thank you all for your help. Here's a tip I haven't seen posted here. I got rusted and pitted steel in just a few minutes by mixing bleach with brake/carb cleaner.
Dangerous and too fast. After reading this site, I am now going with a salt/vinegar blend.
- San Diego, California
February 29, 2008
Q. Hi, I'm an artist and am looking to rust a large sheet of galvanized steel, roughly 4 x 5 feet (of which I will paint on, leaving some parts of the steel exposed). The goal is to rust the edges of the steel sheet.
I envision using Paul K's Pool Chlorine method.
The only problem I foresee is applying a polyurethane/sealer in the final stage. I don't want the steel to look treated- I want it to retain its industrial feel. What will happen if I don't seal it? Will it continue to rust (undesired)? Does anyone suggest a different method?
artist - Boston, Massachusetts
March 10, 2008
A. I found this information while searching for a safe way to speed up rusting. I used something something I bought in a craft store years ago on brass and came out with the most amazing and beautiful results. I painted it on in layers. If I find the bottle I will return with the product name if it isn't the one below.
"Sophisticated Finishes [linked by editor to product info] makes a product. You brush or spray it on metal and it creates a beautiful rusted patina. It is sold at Home Depot and Michaels Craft stores." [Ed. note: Sophisticated Finishes Rust Antiquing Kit is available online by following the link].
The question still remains how to prevent the rust from "eating" the metal after a few years - also so it won't rub off when touched. I create art using rusted items (usually found in odd places) and all I've been able to use is a spray coating of flat or satin polyurethane. I'm going to try Diamond Glaze - found in craft stores [Ed. note: Diamond Glaze is available online by following the link]. This was a great site with so many great ideas. Thanks to all ! LeettaLeetta Yarlot
- Jacksonville, Florida
March 27, 2008
Q. My name is Rick Howard from Ypsilanti MI. I am an artist and an Automotive designer by day. I have used naturally rusted steel in many pieces throughout my current home. I love the natural deterioration of things. I have just bought an in-progress home and really would like to cover/side it in a (rusted) steel. I cannot afford Cor-ten, so I have found a good source for raw steel, cold rolled 4x8 sheets. I don't mind letting the stuff rust in it's own time, the process will be photographed and enjoyed. My questions are these: What gauge is suggested? (I am looking at 20 ga or thicker). Is 30 lb. felt paper over OSB a good stackup? and how many years might it last? Thank you ,Rick.Rick Howard
Artist - Ypsilanti, Michigan
June 12, 2008
I have a technique to make a metal looks rusty.
You will need a rust look paint and industrial (talc - talcum powder)
1 - Give one hand of paint to the metal
2 - While its not dry, apply the talc powder to the zone you painted. That will give you a rust texture.
3 - Apply other hand of paint.
Repeat this process to make the rusty texture as you like.
I know maybe this will not help you, but I hope this will help someone.
Sorry about my English.
- Palma de Mallorca. Balearic Islands, SPAIN
August 29, 2008
I used the muriatic acid solution to eat off mill scale (didn't have a sand blaster). I then used the Hydrogen Peroxide and salt.... periodically re-applying. Worked great and in two days I was done. Hopefully the picture appears below:
Steel fabrication - San Diego, California
August 31, 2008
Thanks for being there for me. I was checking out different way's to rust pieces for my Folk Art dolls and ran across your site. Thanks so much for being there. Can't wait to try the vinegar and salt bath. Sounds real easy for me. Oh yeah, there is always one in a crowd. Don't let ignorant people bother you, life isn't worth it. You are helping more people than hurting. Keep up the good work!mom sewer
December 29, 2008
A. I have a small business (with big business dreams) that makes metal art, we're new, I just tried my very first time to rust mild steel, I bought a bottle of vinegar at the grocery store, a spray bottle at depot, sprayed the steel, waited ONE HOUR and then heated it from a distance with a rose bud - oh, I used a 24 grit sanding disk first to create a pattern - worked awesome - then sprayed a clear finish over that - very pleased - will try additional methods posted here - Thanks allDavid Moerman
- Glendale, Arizona
January 4, 2009
A. Hello thanks for all of the great advice on this page. I am a Sculpture major that mostly works with steel and 80% of the time I rust it. I thought that I should let you all know that for achieving a rusted look over night I use a mixture of salt and hydrogen peroxide sprayed on with any spray bottle and then use a blow torch to heat it. Repeat these steps until you are satisfied, make sure to wear a respirator but so far I have always loved the results that I get with this technique.Kate Schroeder
University of Central Missouri, Studio Art Major - Warrensburg, Missouri
February 4, 2009
A. Hello. I am not an expert at this, but you can stop metal from rusting if you run a very small electrical current through it. To be more precise, if a Negative DC Voltage is applied to a metal surface, it will not rust. I have tested the theory using steel wool in a salt water solution, one rusts, the one with 10 mA of Minus 33 vDC applied to it doesn't. There are commercial anti rust units for cars available on the web - they should work fine for large steel objects. The electrical current will stop new rust, but will leave the old rust alone. Do not be put off by the voltage - there is enough power to run an LED dimly.. The commercial car anti rust unit is called Rust Guard and runs on 12 volts dc. Hope that helps.
Some more info - the voltage MUST be Negative. A battery has a +positive terminal, and a Zero terminal(often called the negative terminal). The voltage you need to stop rust is Negative, i.e., BELOW Zero. This is easily done by switching 12 vdc through a small coil of wire - an inductor. The negative voltage is collected in a small capacitor, which is then connected via a resistor to the metal to be protected from rusting. Then you return the negative voltage to the zero terminal of the battery.
Try to have the negative supply wire and zero return wire as far apart from each other as possible. The concept requires that the metal surface acts as a wire, and the presence of electrons with a Negative potential in that 'wire' is what stops it from rusting. I can supply a circuit diagram if required. Total electrical power used is 25 mA@12 vDC. An electronics enthusiast should be able to make this quite easily. Or you could use the Rust Guard car device I mentioned before.. The end :-)
Electronics - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
February 11, 2009
A. I'm a sculptor working primarily in mild steel. I rust much of my work and use a fairly simple solution that's comprised of relatively easily obtained parts.
I first sandblast the work thoroughly - ideally with an abrasive medium to really tear at the surface as opposed to a bead shot which actually closes up the surface of the steel making it more difficult for the rust to adhere (either one will work).
I heat the water in a pot - add copper sulfate until the water is bright blue (maybe about a 1/2 - 1 cup per gallon? - I'm sure my mixes vary and it always works). Once the water has dissolved the copper sulfate I pour it into a pump sprayer and add vinegar. I usually add about 1/2 as much vinegar as I have water. I'm sorry that I'm not more scientific but it's never really mattered.
Once the piece is sprayed with the solution you will notice a change immediately. First the piece will look like copper (within a couple seconds) and then it will begin to darken and rust. It really doesn't take long to get a nice dark rust. You can reapply again and again to continue the process. It's definitely best to allow it to dry in between each spray down as that is when the oxygen can get to it best and do its job. When the desired rust is achieved (and it's not just powdery surface rust) I rinse it well with water and allow to dry.
It's great. It's fast and it's cheap!
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 28, 2010
Q. To Peter Gard:
I am going to try your method for creating rust, I'm wondering if the outdoor temp is an issue. I will be doing this inside an old barn. I figure that the cold weather will make the process slower, and take longer for it to evaporate. I want to rust a 5'x9' sheet of milled steel (24 gage). How much of the solution do you need to for an area that size? Also, will the solution be alright in a container over a number of days? I figure this will take a while.
- Ithaca, New York, USA
March 11, 2009
Q. Please advise how to impart an acid wash stain on cold rolled steel for a rust colored look.
I'm a homeowner wanting to use as a wall treatment.
homeowner - Charleston, South Carolina
A. Liz D.,
For a wood finish and not wanting any discoloring, try mixing up a very weak solution of shellac and lightly coating the wood, it will seal and not ad any color. I aways use super blond shellac flakes in denatured alcohol. works well on woods that become blotchy like cherry or maple when stained to keep the color even throughout
- Hanford California USA
June 3, 2009
Q. Hi we are Aussies living in Fiji. I am creating a beautiful garden and I want to fill it with rustic iron garden ornaments and decor . Today we are working on a gate made out of corrugated tin and old timber. I can't find nice old rusty iron without the damage and dents being too extensive so I want to oxidise it my self. I note you mention spraying vinegar, which I will try. Anything else though you could advise to produce a lovely reddish brown result. I intend on rusting other iron artifacts that I come across too so is it one method suits all or some work on cast iron better than tin and so on.
hobbyist - Fiji
July 28, 2009
Q. I received a thin, flat steel weld cut-out of a cat (about 2' x 3') as a gift recently. The steel had not been protected and there is a patina of rust on it. I had considered having it sandblasted to bare metal and then coated at an auto body shop. But the rust is a beautiful rich brown and I'd rather keep it as is. Is there any way to fix/preserve the rust so that it does not continue to consume and eventually destroy the piece? I wonder if Waterlox, a coating and sealer for wood would work? Some other costing? I'd prefer a flat finish so the rust looks as natural as possible... Thanks very muchKent Reichert
hobbyist - Philly, Pennsylvania
October 30, 2009
Q. In building our new home, my son has decided on some unique features for his room. He is quite techno savvy, but we have encountered some problems.
First of all he designed a barn door for his entry door and closet. However, he would like to back the entry door with a steel plate which has an antique rusty look about it. We have some steel tags and tried different methods of corroding them, but nothing seems to have the desired effect. We only get small results that seem to mostly wash off. We are either using the wrong substances or wrong proportions.
We need to :
1. Find something that will rust steel.
2 find the quickest way to stop the oxidation when it gets to the point we like.
3. find what we can use to seal the steel with after the corrosion is finished so it doesn't rub off onto clothing.
We wold appreciate any help you can give us.
- Fort Collins, Colorado
November 10, 2009
A. Achill Island is an Island off the west coast of Ireland in the Atlantic.
Therefore: Sandy Salt + Moisture = Rust
- Achill Island, Ireland
March 28, 2010
A. I am an artist who works with steel and like many of you have the need to have a rich rusty look but where it will not rub off.
On pieces that will be indoors...I have used distilled vinegar and water putting on many layers until I reach the desired look. I then coat it with several coats of satin polyurethane.
Hope that helps also.
- Edgewood, New Mexico, USA
April 19, 2010
Q. Hi my name is Bob I was wondering if anyone could help . I am making coffee tables out of hot roll steel. I would like to keep it a hot roll finish and do not know what to do about the areas were I dressed the welds if there is some way I could create mill scale in those areas only. ThanksBob Blake
Hobbyist - Reno, Nevada
August 3, 2010
A. Like others, I am also an artist who specializes in custom gates, trellises, wall and yard art. Many of my pieces are chemically rusted.
What I have found that works best is to use 1/2c root killer (copper sulfate) and mix with 2 cups muriatic acid until dissolved. Pour into gallon jug and fill remainder with water.
Spray this onto your clean metal (the oil must be removed) and then either immediately, or whenever, you can spray with a diluted bleach (can be chlorine) solution.
You will instantly see the reaction of the two chemicals and can tweak the look with misting of water. Or, if you live in a humid climate, you can forgo the bleach spray.
irongardenstudio.com - Tucson, Arizona
August 31, 2010
A. In response to rusting metal. I do much work in the Telluride area and have rusted barn tin for many custom homes. It is very simple. I mix 50/50 Muriatic acid and water. Mop it on with an old rag mop, let sit over night, sometimes two nights, then rinse thoroughly. Many suggest cleaning the metal first for an even look, which is true, but I find the uneven rusting brings out a more natural patina in various shades. Evenly rusted metal looks fake to me, as do many of the metal roofs in Telluride. if I want to expedite the rusting after the initial application, I just spray salt water made with sea-salt over several days. Our ever-changing weather always ensures the chemicals are washed off fairly soon.James Bates
Apex Design - Montrose Colorado
September 10, 2010
A. Hello, I am a master German painter. Here is how you rust most any metal and then prevent it from rusting further and also make a very nice finish and bring out some natural color from the rust:
1)Urinate into a clean spray bottle.(5 tablespoons of urine will do).
2) For every 5 tablespoons of Urine, pour twice that amount of hydrogen peroxide into the spray bottle.
You now have your magic solution.
3) Wipe whatever you are trying to rust with XYLENE to clean it and remove anything that might inhibit the oxidation process. Let the XYLENE dry completely.
4) Spray your magic solution generously onto the metal, let dry, repeat, let dry, repeat, etc... until you get the amount of rust you are looking for.
I generally spray it and leave it outside overnight. leave it out in the rain, snow, whatever. These are all good things.
5) When you have the amount of rust you want, wipe it down with a clean rag.
6) Spray it with lacquer. Two coats. Make sure it's a real lacquer that is a lacquer thinner base. M.L. Campbell pre-catalyzed lacquer works great or any other lacquer that is a true lacquer(not water-based!)
Note: You can use something else if you want(metal etch, muriatic acid, vinegar... but I use urine because I get a distinctive color in the end that looks better than these other methods.
- Gunnison, Colorado
September 23, 2010
Q. Hello guys! reading through this thread made me really inspired for an art project, my teacher took a summer course using rust applied/printed onto textiles. The art I'm working on now is with movement and aerodynamics, so such a metal/rust feeling is a perfect medium. well earlier I have been working with steel thread and sowing with it, great media to modify things with. I had an idea to sow onto a canvas (a textile) and then dump this into some sort of mixture that would make it rust and then make that rust go onto anything it's touching, such that it won't spread all over the canvas, only where its touching. Does anyone have any experience with doing something similar to this? Sorry for my english by the way, second language.
- brussels, belgium
November 3, 2010
Q. Can you rust tin?kay rathmann
- sioux city Iowa
November 3, 2010
A. Hi, Kay. Please try to invest a little more of yourself than a 4-word posting :-)
When you say "tin", are you using slang, and actually referring to steel sheet material? Or do you mean the element tin? Because, no, the element tin does not rust; in fact, nothing can rust except iron and iron products like steel because rust is iron oxide, which you cannot create without iron. Do you actually mean "Is it practical for me to deliberately and in controlled fashion make steel sheet metal rust for decorative applications?" If so, yes, and this thread and the previously referenced similar threads are about doing that.
A. We have customers who want to seal rusty metal but need to rust it first. I was given a recipe for rusting metal that is safe and inexpensive.
Spray the metal with vinegar (any kind will do)
Then, immediately spray again with hydrogen peroxide. Use 2 different spray bottles or sprayers.
Let dry and repeat several times a day and within a few days you have rusty metal.
Everbrite will seal rusty metal and will allow the rust to show through. The metal must be completely dry and the loose rust removed for good adherence. There is a Satin finish available that many people prefer.
December 8, 2010
A. Causing rust is easy...the fastest way I have found is pool chlorine or lemon oil, depending on the look you want.
Halting rust is also easy...I found a marine product at ACE Hardware called Ospho. It is cheap and goes on like water and will completely stop rust. The process takes a while and some "blue" may appear but can be removed with light brushing. Best to let dry for 2-3 days until brushing.
- Lenoir, North Carolina
December 17, 2010
Q. Hello All, getting excited about finishing my first cuts of metal art with a rusted finish. I went and bought some hydrogen peroxide (I read on the web that will cause rust), that didn't work, I tried vinegar, that didn't do anything either.
What am I missing here? I took my metal piece, cleaned it, I even tried heating it. It is cold rolled steel, then I took sandpaper (about 150 grit) and rubbed the surface and tried both methods again - just tiny tiny rust spots.
Is there prep work to the metal that I should be doing that I might not be to get these pieces to rust? It shouldn't be this hard from what I am reading? HELP!
Why are my pieces not rusting?
- Independence, Oregon
December 18, 2010
A. Hi, Charlene. You might want to double check that your "cold rolled steel" isn't stainless steel. Is it very strongly magnetic?
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 18, 2010
Q. It isn't stainless steel, it is cold rolled I verified from the person that cut it for me, it is thicker - about 12 gauge - but it can't be this hard. Everyone here makes it sound like their pieces rusted so easy? I used combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide last night, sprayed on in coats, woke up this morning with just one tiny little spot of color? This can't be that hard.....so off to the store to get some muriatic acid to try that - but I don't want cancerous rust, just the nice light rust color - ARGH!Charlene Stovin [returning]
- Independence, Oregon
|February 20, 2011
A. I mixed bromine, a common hot tub sanitizer, with water in a spray bottle. then sprayed it directly onto my steel and I got big time instant rust so watch your amounts. no soaking overnight or anything like that, it is truly instant. make sure your area is well ventilated though as it can be strong smelling.steve thomas
welder - fort collins, Colorado
August 20, 2011
Q. I checked this site a few weeks and decided to go ahead with making a rusted metal desk. We didn't want it to completely rust. We wanted it to have a pattern. The results turned out well, we soaked marine rope in bromine water and laid on the surface to create the pattern. We had considered putting peroxide on it when it was done to stop the rusting process but figured that varnishing it would be enough. We applied 10 coats of poly urethane just to be sure. But now that the desk has been installed the varnish seems to be chipping off, not because of misuse - we have been very careful with it but it seems like it is chipping off in the most rusted spots. Is it possible it is still rusting under the varnish? or is it because we didn't wipe those spots on the table off enough for the varnish to stick?
At this point would it be best to just clean these sections of excessive rust and re varnish? or is this going to be an ongoing issue and should we look into a product like Everbrite? or any other suggestions? Or is the only option to cover it in a thick epoxy finish like discussed in letter 12362?
- Kingston, Ontario, Canada
January 23, 2012
A. Finish For A Rusted Piece
Once a level of distressing plus oxidation are achieved, the finish can be preserved with 4 ought steel wool and mineral spirits (or turpentine if cost no problem) and furniture-floor wax.
The idea is that the steel wool and mineral spirits take the rust deeper into the surface and the spirits redistribute the rust that the steel wool removes. The spirits gets rustier as the wool is repeatedly dipped in a small bucket of it. Rub the entire piece down two or three times with the increasingly rusty steel wool and spirits, let dry.
Use a rag to apply Johnson's floor wax, and other clean rags to buff it back off.
The resulting, low luster finish will last decades if not in the weather or near sea coast.
Work with rubber gloves, in a well ventilated area, away from a source of ignition.
Designer - Jackson, Mississippi, USA
July 31, 2012
A. Okay, rust is a popular finish here in the desert, and I've done numerous jobs that required fresh steel to look old. Here's what I do.
To rust galvanized, you first must get rid of the galvanizing --muriatic acid is the best thing for this. Whatever way you apply it, wear gloves, goggles, and a respirator (the cartridge kind NOT a dust mask!) If you don't have or can't afford a respirator, stay upwind and hold your breath, the fumes are nasty. Muriatic acid will also etch concrete, stone, and glass and will discolor wood, so cover these surfaces with plastic if you can't get far away from them. I only do this procedure outdoors in a spot where I don't want any plants to ever grow. The acid can be sprayed (although any metal parts in the sprayer will be sacrificed), wiped, brushed, or spotted onto the surface depending on your desired effect. Let it do it's thing; and when it's done fizzing, rinse the metal with plenty of water.
If you don't want to get toxic, you'll have to remove the galvanizing with a grinder or sander.
Now, to rust!
If you've already done the acid wash you're ready- works on any steel, btw. If not, degrease your metal some other way. A light sanding helps too --you want the metal to be as clean and receptive as possible.
2 parts vinegar- any kind as long as its 5%
8 parts hydrogen peroxide
1 tsp salt per 18 oz. of mixture
You don't have to be a chemist- the exact proportions aren't critical.
This is best applied with a spray bottle or pump sprayer, but can be brushed on too. Keep in mind that the initial rust that forms is very delicate and easily removed if you brush too hard or have too much acidity in the mix. You should see a light coating of rust forming immediately. Keep at it; I usually do 5 to 6 applications minimum, letting each dry, rotating the piece while touching it as little as possible. Keep applying until you get the desired depth.
Go to bed. The next day you should have well-set rust.
To seal it, mix:
1 part OIL BASED polyurethane
1 part boiled linseed oil
1 part turpentine or mineral spirits
Rub it in well- until no excess sits on the surface. You'll be left with a semigloss sheen that will fade over time.
- Joshua Tree, California USA
August 1, 2012
Hi, Guy. There have been many informative postings in this thread, which we greatly appreciate, but yours is just so complete. Thanks.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 18, 2012
Q. I am trying to get the engine stamp pad, which is located on the engine block, right in front of the right side (pass. side) head, to look aged and slightly rusted. Some have suggested coca cola, vinegar, and even salt water. What would be the best process for the result I am looking for? Thanks for any help.Doug Jorgensen
car restorer - Staten Island, New York, USA
December 18, 2012
A. Hi Doug. Haven't done it, but I'd probably try a bleach bandage. Bleach is very tough on iron and steel.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 19, 2012
Q. By a "bleach bandage" do you mean taking a small piece of cloth, dipping it in bleach, and than placing it on the stamp pad and letting it sit there for awhile. The pad is about 3/4" wide by about 4" long.Doug Jorgensen
car restoration - Staten Island, New York, USA
December 20, 2012
Yes, that's what I was thinking.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 18, 2013
I need help to add patina to a painted metal piece.
The piece is a metal lamp shade, painted green on the outside and white on the inside.
I was already able to do it a few times, by sanding the paint, and dipping the piece in rusty water. The rust was made by putting various metal parts in it, and letting it sit for a while. The color that came on the inside of the shade had a nice rusty yellow color, and I was happy with it. Now, I ordered some iron oxide, but the finish comes out completely different. It's almost a pinkish orange, and I have no idea what to do in order to get the original look. I tried using yellow acrylic paint mixed with water, but it still not "rusty" enough. Any suggestion?
FYI, the original pieces I did look like this:
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada
February 2, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread
Q. I have fashioned a knife from an old file and would like to quickly force extreme pitting. Basically, I am trying to achieve the look of a piece of steel that has been rusting in a puddle for the last ten years with heavy, sporadic pitting and deterioration. I want it to look like it came from Mars or something. Any suggestions on how I can do this at home ? It probably sounds silly, but I appreciate any help I can get. Hot vinegar and mustard applications have been working, but it's way too slow.
Hobbyist, wanna-be knife maker - Atascadero
June 23, 2013
A. Use equal parts vinegar/ peroxide (1 cup) and teaspoon of salt. Mix in a spray bottle and fog steel (clean of grease and oil). Repeat as needed. Hose off the excess but DO NOT WIPE. After finish is completed and dry, blow off dust with air. Spray many coats with Deft wood finish (it does not yellow in time) do not let it run, light coats. You should be happy with the product.Dean Banks
- Phoenix, Arizona, usa
February 27, 2014
A. All I did to rust steel is:
Clean with wire brush wheel or fine sanding disk.
Soak in muriatic acid for 2 hours +
Spray with hot water after each time it dries.
To speed it up I use the oven at 250 °F and spray periodically.
Alamo Creek Enterprizes - Santa Fe
April 22, 2014
Q. I am trying to create rust designs on my motorcycle gas tank. What I have done is let the tank get a fairly rusted look, then made my stencils which I placed on the bike. I then clear coated the tank and peeled my stencils leaving only my covered design areas open to the elements. My question is if any of these methods are safe to use so I can speed up darkly rusting my design areas without damaging the clear coat surrounding them which acts as the outlines of my designs? This is my first attempt at playing with rust so any advice would be appreciated.William Bradford
- Ocala, Florida USA
September 4, 2014
Q. Hi, My name is Sally. I am a 67 year old sculptor.
I am desperately trying to find 28 gauge steel that will rust quickly. No zinc plated or galvanized. I need sheets about 12" x 24".
I am also wondering if tinplate will rust quickly. If so where can I get sheets?
Thank you for any help you send my way.
Thank you, Sally
- Gloucester, Massachusetts
September 5, 2014
A. Hi Sally. Hot rolled steel sheet of that thickness is available from themetalstore.com
Cold rolled low alloy steel is available from onlinemetals.com
Best of luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 6, 2014
Q. Thank you for your answer - but I am specifically looking for 28 gauge.
The thinnest I can find is 26 guage. Do you know if 28 gauge is even made, and if so please please tell me where.
Thank you so much.
- Gloucester, Massachusetts USA
A. Hi. 28 gauge is made and I can see it listed at Ryerson Steel with a G60 galvanized finish, although I'm not sure whether Ryerson sells direct to individuals. I see 28 gauge galvanized listed at True Value hardware at http://www.idealtruevalue.com/servlet/the-29434/Detail, and on ebay, and several other places. I think stripping the zinc coating is not very difficult.
But why does it have to be exactly 28 gauge (and there's some question how thick that it anyway -- probably nominally 0.0149")? And if it's really so difficult to find, why not strip the galvanizing from what is more available? Good luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 7, 2014
- Gloucester, Massachusetts
Hi again. Once you've obtained the galvanized metal from one of the sources I mentioned or elsewhere, see Guy Green's entry, which covers the whole process of stripping the galvanizing, rusting the steel, and clear coating it if desired. Good luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey