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How to: Oil Rub Bronze, p2

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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?

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Sean Williams
- Orlando, Florida
August 2, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 3, 2012

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

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
June 27, 2013

A. 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.Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 3, 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
October 7, 2013

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").

34482-4I 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

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. :-)Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 3, 2013

Deep antique brass process for brass, zinc and iron

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 21, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 2014

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 6, 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?

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Jeffrey Topping
- Cincinnati, Ohio, usa
March 24, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 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 8, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 2015

Housekeepers ruined oil rubbed bronze finish on bath hardware

2K Clearcoat

(affil links)

Brass Darkening Solution

(affil links)

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
January 26, 2016

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 11, 2019

A. Hi Elvia. Theoretically, you could buff the part back to a scratch-free shine, then use a brass darkening solution [on eBay or Amazon affil link], 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
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 2019

A. A comment about oil rubbed bronze finishes. First My experience and knowledge of this finish type comes from a former work experience as a technical support engineer for a major U.S. door hardware manufacturer. Oil rubbed bronze is an example of what is called an unstable finish, the oil eventually is depleted or worn off, causing the bronze to patina and turn green. This is normal and anyone wishing to have this hardware look like it did when new will be disappointed. It was never designed to remain in the original installed condition! Scrubbing the green off is only real damage if the bronze layer is a plated type and has also been worn through to the underling base metal. If the bronze metal is still present time will "heal" this "damage" as the green will reform over time, which will be shorter than the original as the oil is not present.
Bright Bronze or brass finishes can be maintained by applying a good clear NON ABRASIVE type car wax [on eBay or Amazon affil link] 1 or more times a year depending on environment and usage. this wont work on oil rubbed.

Russ Cottrill
- Catlin, Illinois, United States
March 24, 2019

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