Finishing Steel, (wax)
Use a mixture of equal parts of liquid wax and boiled linseed oil. The wax is any liquid wax that we can find in the grocery, hardware, or auto store. We used to use liquid floor wax, but that has become unavailable in recent years (no plastic finishes please), so we have gone to the water soluble car wax that you "mix with water to wash and shine your car in one easy application."

To apply, we heat the piece just short of color and brush on. Continue applying until the liquid ceases to boil on the surface of the metal. Then quench in water and rub with a cloth. (Do not try this at home because the smell is horrendous and takes months to go away!) The finish is very durable under weather and mechanical action. Hinges, latches, dinner bells, etc. that are outside last for years before rust appears at the mechanically abused points.
(Unknown Source from ARTMETAL mailing list)
For indoor work: Mix 60% boiled linseed oil, 40% turpentine, a dash of Japan drier . All available at your local hardware store. Make sure you remove all loose scale with rotary wire brush. Apply the mixture liberally with a brush and then wipe the excess off with a clean cloth. Re-apply as needed. The thinning of the linseed oil allows for it to get into all the cracks and crevices. For exterior work: sand blast the piece and apply a zinc base enamel primer. Then apply a top coat. Sherwin Williams Commercial division has a graphite black premix that looks pretty good. It isn't as good as applying graphite dust while the paint is tacky, but repair touch ups are hard to match.

Final note. If you are quenching your work while it is still hot, a hard rust layer forms and is very hard to remove with wire brushing.
(Enrique Vega from ARTMETAL mailing list)
From a discussion on "theforge" e-mail list
For nice pitting, sprinkle granulated salt, sodium chloride, on the hydrogen peroxide dampened surface. You can control the pitting by: how closely, how many and the size of the salt grains you apply.
I tried out the hydrogen peroxide method for the first time recently, and was astounded with what I got.
Here's the method I used:
It was a clear, warm day, and most of the surfaces were vertically oriented. I found that applying the HO with a spray bottle worked best. I used a newly opened bottle (for maximum strength) and did not water down the solution at all.
Here's the steps:
1) Clean metal completely. No oils or millscale can be on surface. The way I cleaned the metal was first a degreaser, then cleaning with muriatic acid. Sanding, sandblasting, or rigorous powered wire brushing could also be used.
2) Let the clean, dry piece warm up in the sun (I suppose you could lightly warm the piece with a torch or heat gun, but don't get it hot, just barely warm).
3) Spray on a coat of HO, just enough to wet the entire surface. I found this technique works best if the piece is warm enough to dry out in less than a minute. If any areas stay wet longer (like on horizantal surfaces where it can pool up), gently dab them with a clean rag or paper towel.
4) Repeat step #3 until you have the depth of coloration you desire. Make sure the piece is entirely dry before spraying more on. I found that after five or six rounds, I had a very deep beautiful redish brown color that was incredibly stable (didn't easily rub off). After that, the HO didn't seem to deepen the color noticably.
5) Seal surface with clear lacquer, oil, wax or whatever method you generally prefer. I also did a small test piece that I cleaned and wire brushed to a nice silver color, then gave two quick coats of HO, using the same process described in step #3 above. I then coated in with clear satin lacquer. It is a beautiful coppery red/brown color that still had a translucent quality, keeping the metallic qualities as opposed to a solid rusty coloration. I can't say
enough how taken I was with this finish. This is such a cool, easy, non-toxic finishing process that I plan to do a number of more experiments, varying the surface treatment prior to the HO application, (sanded, chemically etched, grinder marks, etc) and varying the application of the HO (sponge, rag, brush, soaked sawdust, etc) to see what happens.
Heath -Fusionworks
It is a fantastic way of getting different colorful rusts fast without the nasty chemicals. Peroxide works much faster if you add about a 1/4 cup of vinegar to the pint of peroxide and a couple of tablespoons of salt. If you heat the iron so that the solution almost boils off you get absolutely instant rust. You do have to put up with the vinegar smell. Sandblasting works great for cleaning the metal of oils, scale etc and gives the solution a nice surface to bite.
Clyde Wynia
A method of patinaing steel
Article by: Charles Lewton-Brain c 1990
Warning: This procedure should be undertaken with appropriate precautions; goggles, gloves, protective clothing, adequate ventilation.
As part of a large scale patination project in which I patinated a steel roof surface 24 by 48 feet on both sides I performed some 40 experiments to find out how to patinate the steel which was a requirement for structural reasons. In doing so I also experimented with paint, buying over $350.00 worth of spray paint, eventually finding one single color which for all intents and purposes is green patina.
When placed in recesses and the high areas are rubbed off it is indistinguishable from a cupric nitrate patina. It is a car paint: GM 42, 1980 Chevrolet Medium Green. While this is ideal for smaller surfaces my paint experiments did not produce the surface effects I required on the large scale work. I reasoned that if I could plate the steel with copper and then convert the copper to patina in a fume not only would the job be easier but it would also be safer than dealing with solvents or corrosive patination techniques (such as a cupric nitrate patination) over large surface areas. I was dealing with 4 x 8 foot sheet steel to be equally patinated on both sides simultaneously.
Other types of objects might be easier to deal with. 'Tents' of polyethylene plastic sheeting stapled to a framework of 'economy' studs were built. The construction of such a tent requires that it be sealed (draped onto the floor from the frame and then weighted down). The object inside is positioned on supports of some kind so that it is suspended off the floor in the air inside the tent. Then pans of household ammonia are placed underneath the object. The fumes attack copper or copper based alloy surfaces.
Under normal conditions one can activate a copper containing surface with a dilute salt solution to speed up the procedure and obtain a blue patination but this provedtoo corrosive for dealing with steel. The final procedure chosen was as follows:
fumings. Experiment with various times on sample pieces to have a palette of process marks (colors, tones, effects) to choose from.
Pooling: Where pooling occurs variations in color will result. Pooling can be encouraged and controlled by local application of greases before or during patination and by the position and shape of the object. Various liquid thicknesses cause surface variations.
Sealers: Sealers will each have a characteristic effect on the surface. I recommend making a palette of various sealing options over a patinated surface. Examples of sealers include waxes, oils, lacquers, transparent acrylics, enamels, varnishes and so on. They often have a tendency to darken the colors on the surface. I prefer clear auto enamel or Spray-Lac number 1473 professional Finish Clear Dead Flat lacquer. It is available from Star Chemical based in Hinsdale Illinois, Deerfield Beach, Florida and Dallas Texas. It is an industrial quality spray and requires good ventilation. It is very unobtrusive on a surface. With any spray the surface chosen can be glossy, like paint (in which case why not use paint?) or shortly after spraying can be matted down with a cloth pad for better surface control. Other Chemicals: I mentioned dilute salt solutions earlier.
Many chemicals will modify surfaces. (Remember never to mix bleach and ammonia). Experimentation and sample making will offer the user control choices. Suggestions for initial investigations include salt, vinegar, baking soda and local heating. There are a number of patination books available including one I sell on patinas for small studios.
Contact Plating Solution Recipe
All safety warnings apply. Always add Acid to Water!! Goggles/Gloves!
250 grams copper sulfate (CuSO4) Technical grade chemicals for this solution is fine. 42 cc sulfuric acid Distilled water to the 1000 ml level.
Put about 800cc water into plastic or glass container after marking the 1000cc level on it. Add the copper sulfate and stir to dissolve. Slowly pour a thin stream of acid into the swirling water. Heat is evolved-be aware of this. Rinse the acid container with distilled water and top up the mixture with it to the 1000 ml level. This solution can also be used as an electroforming solution for growing copper. Remember, acids are dangerous. A dust mask is suggested around chemicals. Work cleanly. Copper salts are toxic and irritant and should be handled with care. Dispose of properly.
All rights reserved internationally. Copyright c Charles Lewton-Brain.Users have permission to download the information and share it as long as no money is made-no comercial use of this information is allowed without permission in writing from Charles Lewton-Brain.
Metal Finishing Techniques
Mild steel will rust upon exposure to any source of oxygen, air being the most common source. Heat causes most chemical reactions to accelerate. Therefore, if you take a piece of mild steel, heat it and do nothing else, it will rust. In order to not have your work rust, you must exclude oxygen from the metal. The amount of humidity in the air determines the kind of finish you will need. Areas having low humidity, like New Mexico, could use an oil finish for both interior and exterior work. However, areas having high humidity, like the East Coast, require stronger coatings for exterior work.
Mark Williams Phd.
Traditional Finishes
Nearly any wax or oil, or a combination thereof, will work as a metal finish. Make sure you remove all loose scale with rotary wire brush or similar tool. Apply whatever mixture you choose liberally with a brush and then wipe the excess off with a clean cloth. If you are quenching your work while it is still hot (red heat or better), a hard rust layer can form which is very hard to remove with wire brushing. Some common oil/wax mixes include:
Mix equal parts of linseed oil, mineral spirits, and japan drier. All available at your local hardware store. Reapply as needed. The thinning of the linseed oil allows for it to get into all the cracks and crevices. Mineral Spirits are flammable!!! Use this mix only on cold metal!!!
Equal parts boiled linseed oil and turpentine with varying amounts of beeswax dissolved in the linseed oil. Have the work at a black heat and rub the mixture into the surface with an old towel or rag. The mixture should smoke upon application Quench from medium black heat directly into a pan of beeswax. You've got to be careful not to let it burn. When it has cooled enough to handle, wipe the excess off with a rag.
To get a gray to black surface, apply peanut oil to the heated piece and continue with the flame until the desired color is reached.
Equal parts of liquid wax and boiled linseed oil. Any liquid wax that can be found in the grocery, hardware, or auto store will do. No plastic finishes please!! A water soluble car wax that you "mix with water to wash and shine your car in one easy application" will work fine. To apply, heat the piece just short of color and brush on. Continue applying until the liquid ceases to boil on the surface of the metal. Then quench in water and rub with a cloth. (Do not try this at home because the smell is horrendous and takes months to go away!)
Bees-wax and turpentine. This mix turns a very nice brown just before black, which can be very attractive. Use the turpentine to dilute the beeswax a bit, i.e. to make it softer and easier to apply. The proportions of bees wax to turpentine can vary according to personal preference. Mix some up and add more beeswax/turpentine if it is too soft/hard. Use the turpentine sparingly.
Melted paraffin and boiled linseed oil Beeswax and mineral oil
To make most wax/oil or solvent mixes USE A DOUBLE BOILER and heat the wax until it melts. Then add the solvent/oil. ****DO NOT DO THIS OVER ANY KIND OF FLAME**** An electric stove or heating element will work fine. Most solvents, like turpentine, smell pretty strong, so prepare only in a well ventilated area. Take the melted wax off the stove to mix in the solvent/oil. Pour it into some kind of a container with a lid and let it cool.
To apply most wax/oil finishes, warm up the piece of metal (pleasantly warm), and rub mix all over it. Then continue heating it until the wax starts smoking. At this point the wax is caramelizing on the surface, which hardens it a lot. You need to get it warm enough to
caramelize all the loose wax (or you could buff it off later), and not so warm that the caramelized wax burns off entirely. Somewhere in between those temperatures the wax goes from light brown through dark brown to a nice shiny black. It takes a bit of practice (and patience) to apply this finish to an irregularly shaped piece and get a uniform appearance. You may hear this described as "applying the finish at black heat."
To heat small ironwork for finishing, try opening up a gas forge and holding the metal in the exhaust. Brushes for applying wax/oil/solvent mixes can be made from twine or hemp rope, tied into a shape like a shaving brush, with the ends trimmed and unwound. Cheap "natural" bristle brushes can be found at most Builder Square/Menards/Home Depot type stores. The brushes must be of a natural vegetable fiber. Synthetics will just melt onto the metal and "Goo it up."
George Dixon detailed his finishing method as follows:
Either hand sand or wire brush clean the metal surface. Mix 60 - 40 linseed oil (boiled) to turpentine. Brush this mixture on, remove the drips that slowly form. When this has dried, apply a good coat of varnish, organic rather than synthetic. This is more due to the plant base of the first mixture than anything else. When this has dried, apply several coats of a good caranuba base paste wax. Apply with a soft brush to get into uneven or layered surfaces. When the wax dries to a matte finish, buff the piece with a soft shoe brush to raise the luster of the wax. The use of brushes instead of cloth reduces lint and the bristles get into places a rag won't. This finish approach was used by the Samuel Yellin shop early in this century and work coated in this manner is still rust free, Again, this is an interior finish. Tell the customer to wax their iron as often as they wax their fine wood furniture, tell them which wax you used and how to do it. A card with "The Care Of..." that explains this is a nice thing to add with the bill!
A simple method of achieving
a blue/black finish is to buff off the scale, heat until the metal turns about the color or colors desired and then spray with WD-40 and wipe when cold. William Hightower used this finish on bathroom towel bars, and "hasn't had a rust spot yet."
Painted Finishes
A product by Carboline, called RustBond, is a commercial epoxy "paint". It is a two part mixture, about $50 a gallon, and a gallon covers about 500 square feet. It is all coating and contains no solvent. It is used in chemical plants, water towers, etc. A one mil thick coating is all you need to protect the bare metal from corrosion. Then you can cover it with anything, oil base, latex, etc. It usually comes with a cool green tint which is transparent, and you can still see the metal surface finish through it. Your local distributor should also be able to get you some without the tint, which is of course clear.
Automotive lacquers used on metal objects create an intense illusion of depth. It does require a good deal of time and it is quite thoroughly toxic and should only be performed with very adequate ventilation and a respirator suited to the purpose. Despite the required dedication of
time and the need to check out and implement precautions, the results can be quite beautiful.
For exterior work: sand blast the piece and apply a zinc base enamel primer. Then apply a top coat. Sherwin Williams Commercial division has a graphite black premix that looks pretty good. It isn't as good as applying graphite dust while the paint is tacky, but repair touch ups are hard to match.
One part by volume of fine lubrication grade graphite powder mixed with three parts of Formby's hand rubbed low gloss poly finish. The result does not look like a urethane finish, but the highlighting effect of the graphite when well rubbed is outstanding, and the poly is an excellent binder and preservative.
1 tsp of powdered graphite mixed with a can of paste wax. Great for inside iron.
A primer for a natural iron finish called "MICROSEAL" is available from: The Microseal corp. PO Box 541 Rome, N.Y. 13440. tel: (315) 337-2720
It was developed and is used as a clear primer for outdoor bronze sculptures which were being eaten by acid rain. It can be used under a warm wax application or under any other type of clear coating. if used as the sole finishing treatment it produces an interesting brown oxide that can be very appealing.
Tinted Finishes
Robb Gunter has been using potters non firing stains with beautiful results. You might contact him for more on this technique, in Tijeras ,NM. He has one of the best blacksmith school facilities in the country.
A pleasant flat finish is a mixture of bowling alley wax with the colored powders used to tint concrete. (Remember those green yard frogs). Preheat the piece with the torch, apply the mixture with a rag or brush, then lightly reheat to dry and seal. The green mixture looks especially good on leaves. A book containing many good patina formula, for both red-metals and iron, is:
Methods For Modern Sculptors ISBN 0-9603744-0-X
It is available from Lindsay Publications, Centaur Forge and American Foundrymen's Society for about $20