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topic 34482

How to: Oil Rub Bronze

A discussion started in 2005 but continuing through 2019


Q. I am a metal finisher that does Brass Plating and Antique finishes. I have a customer that requires "Oil Rubbed Bronze". We have in the past used Birchwood Casey Produces to Antique, however my customer wants a very dull (flat) finish. If we try to flatten the Clear coat we have used in the past it turns milky.

What else can we use as a top coat. Is there something we could tint the coating with that would not turn milky but still reflect the dark oil rubbed bronze finish.

John Sparano
- Cleveland, Ohio


A. Never clear coat on humid days, unless you have heated up a closed room. Also, I may heat the part with a torch at a distance, then clear, wait two minutes to see if the coating clears out the murky effect. Once in awhile I can torch it from a distance after the lacquer and the murky disappears.

I found the best spray SATIN clear lacquer at KMart. By Dutch Boy, Satin Lacquer(3-4 bucks a can) is the best. I have tried all others, but this one seem to give me the best results. I buy boxes when ever I can. Never use their glossy lacquer. I found another brand to be better.

Another thing, we glass bead all the raw pieces and then go to a dull copper (cyanide) Low current, then antique, rinse, and antique again. This gives us a red oil-rub bronze. It took me months to figure that the antique, RINSE, and antique again was crucial to get a uniform antiquing. For an olive version, we glass bead, brass plate, antique, rinse, antique.
Others believe in doing a satin finish(mechanical polishing)before the plating process, but not me. I think it is a waste of time, I prefer just glass beading the raw parts before going to the plating processes.

Drying is also important. Very sensitive finish. I have the employees dry the hook, and the wire, and the part immediately. No pussy footing around when doing this job. One water drops leaves a big stain. They also use latex gloves for handling.

We hand rub the part clean. Then depending for the desire effect, we use scotch brite pads or 0000 steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler]. 0000, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 steel wool grades...stock all of them.

Also, many companies use wax or mineral oil to seal the oil-rub bronze finish instead of lacquer...satin lacquer.

Note: Commercial Oil-Rub Bronze has nothing to do with Oil, Rubbing, or Bronze...funny.
Oil-rub bronze comes from the art sculpture field.

alicia moreno
Alicia Moreno
   "La Kromadora"

Escondido, San Diego No., California


Q. I am a design engineer for an architectural millwork company. I am currently working on an all mahogany chop house. The interior design group has called for Antique Bronze through out. This is including 1"x1" corner guards that range from 36" to 48" long. I have not been able to find a supplier that can produce this for me. I can however get this angle iron made from polished bronze, do you have any suggestions on how to give it a nice antique finish? I could use any help, the deadline for production and installation is looming...

Thank you,

Christopher Sears
- Bow, New Hampshire


A. While you could perhaps retain an experienced metal working artist to do this for you, an alternative that some people would not recognize is that some plating jobshops can do this kind of refinishing for you. You could theoretically darken the brass with Liver of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], but it's toxic and noxious, will only work if the brass is free of lacquer and clearcoat, and the result may not be what you wanted anyway.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. My friends have a solid brass Claddagh door knocker for their new house. However, all the other door hardware is an oil rub bronze finish. Is an oil rub bronze finish available to spray or hand finish the knocker to match?

Joyce J. Shea
consumer - Magnolia, Massachusetts


A. To my eye, oil rubbed bronze is a brown-black finish with copper showing through at the corners and wear areas. The brass can be made brown to black with Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] or liver of sulphur, and can be relieved back to brass color at the corners and wear areas. It might at least be somewhat close -- but even that would require some skill or artistry.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. I have a nice mail slot that I spent about $80 on. It is made of thick brass, looks like it as cast. Now I am going with the oil rubbed bronze look on everything else. I want to oil rub this mail slot if possible. What products and method should I use? Thanks.

Chris Toft
consumer - San Diego, California

September 8, 2008

Q. We have brass foot rail brackets for a bar that we would like to refinish ourselves to a rubbed bronze finish. Any suggestions?

Frank Phelan
architectural millwright - Nacogdoches, Texas

October 15, 2009

Q. Hi,

I have 200 door handles... would like to change their color from SAT S.S. to Antique, or can it be oil rubbed to give me the BRONZED color?

Thank you


October 16, 2009

A. Hi, Walid. Yes, stainless steel can be electroplated with various metals including copper so that it can be made to look antique bronze.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 5, 2010

Q. I have nickel or some type of silver looking fixtures and knobs in my home they are pretty new, but I really like the oil rubbed bronze or antique/ aged look. can I do my own so I don't have to replace everything? Thank you.

merry kniest
hobbyist - Huntsville, Alabama

Self-etching primer

Rustoleum Universal Oil Rubbed Bronze Paint

April 6, 2010

Hi, Merry. Alicia has described what's involved, and I don't think it's very realistic to consider such a complicated industrial process (involving cyanide-based electroplating) a D-I-Y project :-)

However, it is possible to prime the metal with a self-etching primer for good adhesion =>
then paint it with copper colored paint, then paint it with a brown-black paint, rubbing it away from the corners and high spots to give an oil-rubbed bronze look.

Even simpler, although probably without the highlights, would be Rust-Oleum "American Accents" Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint =>


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 7, 2010

Q. I recently ordered two light fixtures for my kitchen online. When they arrived, the finish was nothing like what I expected. While I expected an oil rubbed bronze look, the fixture looked like yellowish snake skin (if you can imagine that!) I have read that you can use spray paint to help create an oil bronzed look. I have tried to use a spray paint black primer followed by copper metallic. Then I spray a light covering of oil rubbed bronze spray paint to allow the copper to shine through. I am not getting the desired effect I want. The final result looks like it has glitter/sparkles in it. I have also tried rub N buff, but I can't get it to apply lightly (I can see my finger strokes). I have found that really only works on straight lines and corners. Any suggestions?

When I use only the spray paint oil rubbed bronze, it looks too dark for me---almost black.

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Alison Dean
home owner - Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

January 3, 2011

Q. I have been attempting to truly "oil-rub" copper. First, because of the lacquer finish, I repeatedly soaked it in vinegar (actually, I took vinegar soaked rags and applied them like plaster of paris.) This resulted in a really nice verdigris (though that wasn't my goal) so I removed that with Ketchup (yep, heinz ketchup, the science is explained elsewhere.) Then I coated it with Rockler darkening solution, but it got too black and blotchy, so I removed that with #0000 steel wool, being careful not to create swirls or scratches. Finally, I decided to just rub it with Tung oil, and it is working, though it is slowly darkening (which is alright with me.) It is as if I am accelerating the tarnishing process that results in the patina on fine antique bronze sculptures.

I don't understand the science behind the oil rubbing, but because it quickly becomes sticky, I think it allows for tarnishing without the oxidation which causes verdigris. Any ideas about what I am doing, or should be doing instead would be appreciated. This is all "seat of the pants." Mike

Mike Caruso
- Huntsville Alabama USA

March 16, 2011

A. The question is, to make bright brass look like oil-rubbed?
The answer is too easy. Strip the lacquer finish with any good stripper, wash with soap and water, wipe with denatured alcohol (no fingerprints). Then the easy part, wipe with gun blue until you get the darkness you want. My first try was two wipes and you can't tell it from the one I was matching.

Jim Parker
- Simi Valley, California USA

June 7, 2011

Q. Hello, I have a beautiful chandelier, but there are some scratches on it that I'd like to fix. I appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you!

Laura Parent
hobbyist - Huntsville, Alabama, USA

October 12, 2011

Q. Just want to highlight these light fixtures made from antique brass and black metal to oiled rubbed appearance. Not black. It can be dark with copper highlights.
Please give me good feed back. I really would like to apply technique with a cloth and not spray paint.

Fay Honsen
DIY - Llano Texas

Rub 'n Buff Copper

October 13, 2011

Hi, Fay.

No metals are inherently black so I unfortunately don't know which you are referring to. They could already be painted black, they could be black oxided steel, they could be brass that is plated black, they could be dyed aluminum, or a number of other things. The brass color . . . do you know that this item is actually made of solid brass?

Sorry, but the problem in such projects is that, while most metal things can rather easily be painted, to try to react a metal with a reagent to cause it to turn a certain color is not possible when you don't know what the metal is and the finish that is on it. With consumer items, you almost never know. Sorry! It's a bit like asking what you need to add to this white powder to make a cake when you don't know if the powder is flour or arsenic :-)

If you can find out exactly what the fixture is made from, we might be able to suggest reagents. Lacking that, please consider a dark wax rub. Good luck!


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 12, 2012

A. Jumped on this late but my 2 cents on oil rubbed bronze. My firm specializes with metal restoration and specifically in bronze

Alicia, you are correct that Oil Rubbed Bronze is from the art sculptor world however there are many commercial bronze projects that are bronze rubbed and oiled. Two that stick out are many areas of Rockefeller Center that are a oil rubbed bronze spec (US10B). Where the metal is chemically oxidized to a brown/black color and rubbed with oil either mineral oil or bronze oil. It is usually toweled dry to minimize runoff but enough is left on to slow the oxidation process from continuing. If the oil is maintained you can go years without having to re-oxidize.
There are many suppliers of chemical agents that can be used however since this is my first post I am not sure if we can throw out names in posts.

The other major oil rubbed bronze commercial project is the Seagrams building on park avenue where the curtain wall from roof down to grade is a US10B finish and historically has been oiled down approximately once per year. Unfortunately I believe that some painting has occurred on the lower level

For bronze that has been damaged, it can all be oxidized using cold chemical process in the field to different levels of color. If you truly are dealing with oil rubbed bronze you would not want to apply a lacquer finish on top of the oil.

Bill McKenna
- New York, New York

January 13, 2012

Thanks so much for your very knowledgable contribution, and interesting examples, Bill. The look of oil rubbed bronze is very popular today, and the most authentic application methods may not be appropriate for every situation.

For example, consumer products for the kitchen and bathroom often involve daily handling and are often copper plated diecastings or steel rather than solid copper; these require a clearcoat or lacquer even though that prevents a "living finish" and renders them not quite authentic oil rubbed bronze.

Yes, thanks for not mentioning company names. This is a "no registration required" forum which, as you can imagine, draws spam, and even shills posing as satisfied customers; we must edit or reject postings to prevent commercial benefit or the site would be drowned under spam in a week. Further, the site is made possible for camaraderie and technical tips by supporting advertisers, and we don't want to thank them for their support by spending their money steering the readers to their competitors :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 1, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am a builder who is finally working on his own home. I got a great deal from Kohler for my new master suite. They are solid brass construction, but powder coated oil-rubbed bronze. I love the base color (brown-black) but the copper highlights are horrible. I've been reading the forum looking for a solution, but to no avail. Is there any way to get rid of the copper highlights?

Tim Howland
- Milford, Ohio

March 18, 2012

Q. I have a 17th century foo dog made of bronze, and some fool polished its nose. So it's almost black in color with a shiny nose.
Also the eyes look like they were rubbed because it is brighter.


I would like to blend this bright spots so my piece looks like it should, had someone not polished its nose.
I was told by a antique dealer there is a way to do this. I can practice on the bottom to make sure it's going to blend right.
My question is, what is the best way to blend in too shiny spots on a very old piece of bronze which has aged very dark.
Also is there a wax that is used safely to make this piece have a richer patina that won't effect the value of the piece or compromise the natural age of the patina.

Mary Schreck
- Bellingham, Washington

March 31, 2012

Q. I just purchased two old pine shutters that I would like to hang on sliding barn door hardware inside my home. The problem, all the oil-rubbed bronze barn door sliders are quite pricey $$$. I have found sliding barn door hardware at my local tractor supply but they are shiny silver steel. What can I do to change the finish to oil-rubbed bronze. I am an avid DIYer. Thanks.

Wendy P.
- Cleveland, Ohio

May 17, 2012

Q. I have a similar issue with a sliding ladder and hardware. Would love an answer.

Mindy Shapiro
- Santa Rosa, California

May 29, 2012

A. Hi, Mindy. Oil rubbed bronze may not be appropriate for a sliding ladder. When things slide along each other and wear against each other, you need robust metal surfaces. Oil rubbed bronze is usually lacquered (which is soft). The coloration is thin and will scratch right off. It's probably not an appropriate finish for outdoors if that was your intention.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 2, 2012

Q. I have an older electric guitar that I want to give modern hardware to but it would be nice to antique bronze these pieces without damaging its function. Is this possible?

34482-2 34482-3

Sean Williams
- Orlando, Florida

August 3, 2012

A. Hi Sean.

The current finish is nickel plating or nickel-chrome plating, which can't be darkened with things like liver of sulphur. You could try coating the parts with a tinted lacquer but I don't think you like the looks, or reliability of the finish adhering and wearing well and, considering the intricacy, the possibility of just gumming up the works.

I think you'll need to send them to a plating shop for stripping of the existing nickel and chrome plating, followed by copper plating, and antiquing. The only problem with that is it probably will cost a lot more than you'd like. If you wish, please reply 'quote please' or something like that, and we'll post your inquiry on the RFQ page.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 13, 2013

A. Hello,
My family has owned and operated a highly regarded custom metal finishing facility in the NYC area for the past 100+ years. I myself have been working in it for almost 40 years.
I just happened to stumble across your thread of posts. Without sounding pedantic, I thought I'd do a public service and try to help you all a bit without hurting my own industry.
(A) almost all metal finishing should be done by professionals. It is difficult, dangerous and dirty business. It involves nasty chemicals. In your cases things like methelyene chloride (common in hardware store paint and lacquer removers) and selenium (common in oxidizers). These and many others not only are health hazards when you breathe them, but also can soak into your skin and deposit in your liver.
(B) Also, homeowners are not regulated, they send 100% of there nasty refuse into the landfills,septic systems, oceans and sewer systems. in my industry we are not allowed to let any metal or chemicals go down the drain and into the sewers. The amount of something as benign as copper (for example) that goes down the drain when your mom scrubs a copper pot would get me a huge fine from the DEC.

Now that the scolding is done, I'll send a separate e-mail with some advise that might help.

Michael Vetrone
metal finishing - Astoria

June 27, 2013

Q. This is a two part question:

First, I have a customer who keeps referring to the coating they want on a brass piece as "oil rubbed bronze". But what they actually are looking for is really blackened. I've done patinas in the past but never got it as black as their sample piece. Is there a way to get these pieces black?

Second, is the same job different project. I have some railing posts that need to be made from steel (structurally required) but the owner/architect wants that same ORB/blackened bronze look. Outside of paint and powder, is there a product you can recommend to do this if it even is possible?


Keith Long
- Billerica, Massachusetts

July 3, 2013

Hi Keith. Trophy engravers get that jet black color on brass with selenium dioxide; I don't know if it works on copper, but suspect that it will.

It is certainly possible to copper plate, blacken, and clear coat steel railing posts, but usually this is done in a plating shop rather than in the field -- and the cost might be prohibitive.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 7, 2013

A. Keith, liver of sulphur sprayed onto heated brass will turn black. Also, you can rust steel with cupric chloride then spray brown tinted lacquer over result and looks just like ORBronze

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

June 28, 2013

Q. My name is Andrew. I'm an design/industrial engineer.

I have used this site many times to answer many of my questions related to plating etc. and I was hoping the knowledgeable people here to could assist me on this one.

I have a project for my wife's restaurant relating to barware items, Napkin holders, Straw holders, condiment holders (fruit for cocktails).

I have manufactured these items from stainless steel, basically rectangular sheet metal boxes with no tops. I was given a bucket for reference as to the finish she would like (purchased from Target from "Smith and Hawkens" that states "steel planter with copper finish").


I can find this finish appearance on many "copper" pots for plants/outdoor use. Antique copper finish.

Anyone know what this finish is? Copper plating? Paint? other?


Thanks for your time.

Andrew Perle
Engineer with a project for the wife - Torrance, California, USA

July 3, 2013

A. Hi Andrew. That looks very much like copper plating with a blackening treatment followed by a clearcoat, and it looks quite beautiful and expensive.

But here's the thing: as soon as someone is likely to say that, there is great motivation for a company to provide a powder coating with an antiquing stain that looks very similar but costs much less, so as to ride the coat tails of the more expensive finish :-)

That's just the way it is with decorative finishes: ever cheaper imitations. Personally, I actually think it is powder coating with a wiped on stain. I'd rather not say exactly why I think that's what it is, because on the next version they'll try to address our reservations to make a cheaper finish visually indistinguishable from the finish it is imitating. :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Deep antique brass process for brass, zinc and iron

December 21, 2014

Q. Sir,
I want to know the deep antique brass process on brass, zinc and iron.

Amar Natj Mishra, platers
- kolkata. west bengal. india

December 2014

A. Hi Amar. Here in the USA virtually everyone uses proprietary processes, so the answer would be to contact your plating process supplier for the necessary chemistry. In India, the situation seems more mixed, with many shops relying on proprietaries, but many others doing home-brew. I think one of the things you'll want to do for dull brass is to skip the nickel plating or other undercoating used for bright brass, and just apply a heavy layer of brass plating. This can be darkened with liver of sulfur, gun bluing solutions, or proprietaries. Finally, you probably want to clearcoat it with a two-component automotive clearcoat, or an e-coating, or a matte brass lacquer. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 6, 2015

Q. We have several hinges on our cabinets that have a gold plating finish and my wife wants oil rubbed bronze finish. As a jeweler, i have liver of sulphur and wire brush tools, can I blacken these hinges with LOS and then highlight them with a fine brass polishing brush?

Sterling VanDerwerker
- Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

March 24, 2015

Q. I very much enjoy this thread. I have been looking for years (unsuccessfully) to finish my raw metal tank and fenders of my custom motorcycle with the look of oil rubbed copper/bronze. Can these techniques or something similar be used for a motorcycle paint or finish job that will keep the integrity of the metal?

34482-1a  34482-1b  34482-1c

Jeffrey Topping
- Cincinnati, Ohio, usa

March 2015

A. Hi Jeffrey. With a properly applied rugged clearcoat -- probably a 2-component automotive clearcoat -- the oil rubbed bronze will have pretty good durability. did a corrosion study for ILZRO/IZA a couple of years ago and an antique bronzed finish with clearcoat performed very well.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 8, 2015

Q. Alicia,

Are you able to safely paint/coat a copper sink?
I renovated our home a few years ago. The copper sink was a mistake. :) Replacing it would be absurdly expensive. I'm rather handy, but this kind of project seems like it really needs a professional.

Thank you in advance!

Melissa Kirkpatrick
- Encinitas, California

April 2015

A. Hi Melissa. I don't think paint will have enough durability for a kitchen sink, what with pots banging round and all. But Alicia or others might have suggestions.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Housekeepers ruined oil rubbed bronze finish on bath hardware

Brass Darkening Solution
from Rockler


2K Clearcoat

January 26, 2016

Q. Hello we are putting our house on the market and new house cleaners destroyed the ORB finish on my bath hardware. Will cost us a mint to replace so hoping you have suggestions on methods to repair or restore. We have well water with a softener so green residue builds up that the house keepers tried scrubbing off too hard. Would also like suggestions for keeping clean thanks!

Amy Ashcraft
- Hebron, Ohio USA

February 11, 2019

Q. I bought my faucets from a D store and they are oil-rubbed. One of the cleaning ladies has taken the oil-rubbed color off of the faucets -- how can I restore the color back to how I bought it?

I am desperate!

Thank you!

Elvia Rascon
- Perryton, Texas

February 2019

A. Hi Elvia. Theoretically, you could buff the part back to a scratch-free shine, then use a brass darkening solution, then apply an automotive clearcoat.

But have you done any metal finishing as a hobby or craft? Because a crafter would practice the technique on scrap a half dozen times before attempting it on their actual art. Unfortunately, the idea that a person with no prior finishing experience can do a proper and robust decorative finish on a difficult item like this on their first try is questionable; sorry.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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