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Turning Brass Dark

How can I turn polished bras dark and still be shiny?

Dick Clayborne
- Lexington, Kentucky


Brass Darkening Solution

(affil links)

A. Brings to mind Claudia Schiffer in her Victoria Secret diamond-studded bra, but I'm guessing that there's a typo there ...

For simple darkening of brass try liver of sulfur or brass darkening solution [on eBay or Amazon affil link]. For more exotic reds and greens, etc., try to borrow from the library "The Colouring, Bronzing & Patination of Metals" [adv: this book on eBay, Amazon, AbeBooks] as it will give you the exact techniques to get exactly what you seek, and even has hundreds of color plates so you can see what you'll get.

Shine and lack of shine has something to do with cleanliness, opacity of the finish, etc., but also has a lot to do with topography, i.e., whether the surface is mechanically smooth or microscopically rough.

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

A. We have a highly visible company sign with the word "brass" on it spelled out in huge neon traced letters. We get a chuckle sometimes, when the last "s" does not light up at night, and we advertise "copper bras". Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I do know there are many formulations commercially available to blacken copper metals, I just have never tried them, myself.

Good Luck.

W. Carl Erickson
- Rome, New York

How to Clean Brass Sign?

Q. We have a brass sign outside on our properties which is very badly tarnished. We cannot remove the sign it is fixed onto a concrete wall. We have tried Brasso and Reflections but I think it is too far gone. Does anyone have any suggestions.
I await your advice.


Rini Hauff
property developer - Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
September 17, 2008

? Hi Rini, what look are you going for? Bright brass polish with teal letter contrast? Brown patina looks nice but guessing that's not the look you want..

Barry Feinman
Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California
October 9, 2008

Q. Dear Barry,
I would like the brass to be shiny,
I await your advice.

Rini Hauff [returning]
- Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
October 22, 2008

Brass Lacquer

on eBay or


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A. Hi, Rini. You can remove the oxidation chemically with something strong like lemon juice plus salt, and follow that with the Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil link] to restore the warmth, but it will not be shiny without mechanical buffing with a buffing compound.

If you think about the difference between a mirror and white paint, you'll get the idea. Each reflects a very high percentage of the light, but the white paint scatters it instead of retaining the reflection angle. Even with all of the oxidation removed from your sign, it will scatter the light because of the roughness from all that outdoor exposure. So after the oxidation has been removed, you must mechanically smooth it via buffing if you want it shiny.

Then you'll want to lacquer or clear coat it to retain the shine. Good luck!


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

Q. Hi, my father found a large plaque (we believe it is copper, about a foot and a half in width and height) in the basement where he works after some renovations were done. He thinks it was probably in a sump pump hole for many years and it is covered in a blue-green build up. Some of the writing on it is readable and it is a commemorative plaque for those who fought in the great war 1914-1918 from the local chamber of commerce, but the names aren't readable. we are worried about what to use since we don't want to damage it or wear down any of the details on it. Does anyone have any suggestions? (sorry but I don't have a photo of it)

Matthew Lukassen
- Brockville, Ontario, Canada
March 19, 2015

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."
    - The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
April 2015

A. Hi Matthew. Some things aren't do-it-yourself. That sounds like something worthy of taking to a metals conservator because if you rub the names away, they're gone forever.


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

Ed. note: If your interest is bronze cemetery plaques and grave markers, thread 21436 and thread 22020 will interest you.

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