One of the things I wanted to know when we were doing our kitchen last year was how to age bronze quickly.
When I was younger, I learnt how to age brass with salt and vinegar, so I could give a patina to my belt buckles.
I wondered if the salt and vinegar method worked the same with bronze.
I’d seen some gorgeous aged brass hardware on Armac Martin — but the cupboard catches alone were £66.40. Similarly, I’d seen some drawer pulls on the DeVOL site but they were £45!! We needed quite a few handles, catches and knobs, and the cost was adding thousands to my budget.
I decided to buy some really affordable brass hardware from Yesterhome and try to age them myself.
But, at the time of ordering, they didn’t have all the items I needed in polished brass. So I chose unlacquered, polished bronze instead.
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What is the Difference Between Brass and Bronze?
So — asides from one being slightly yellow in tone and the other brown — what is the difference between brass and bronze?
And can you age bronze in the same way that you can prematurely age brass?
Well, bronze and brass are both metal alloys. Which — in simple terms — means they are a combination of two or more different metals.
Brass is made of copper and zinc, whilst bronze is made up of copper and tin (sometimes with aluminium or phosphorus too).
And the quick answer is — yes! You can age bronze quickly, in exactly the same way that you would brass.
From my experience, the colour/finish is pretty much the same.
You can see the side by side comparison in the images below.
How Can I Patina Brass Quickly?
If you use the salt and vinegar method, you can add a natural aged finish to your brass and bronze items in just a few hours. I like to leave mine for a day or so; but you can see the ageing process begin just after a few hours.
How Long Does Brass Take to Tarnish?
If you leave it to tarnish naturally, it could be as much as two years. But there are plenty of ways that you can speed up the ageing process of bronze and brass.
You can buy bottles of brass and bronze ager online. There are plenty of different kinds of brass antiquing fluid that will work in 5 minutes or less. But — from what I can gather — it coats the surface of the metal, rather than gives it a genuine aged patina.
Plus, who wants to be using expensive, harsh chemicals when you can use simple, kitchen basics?
Ageing Bronze With Salt and Vinegar
You can age bronze quickly — in exactly the same way that you’d age brass.
The salt and vinegar method is fairly foolproof. If you don’t like the patina of the metal, you can polish the item up with Brasso (or similar).
I’m absolutely thrilled with how my bronze and brass hardware has turned out.
It has really given a timeless feel to our home.
Just make sure that your bronze or brass items are unlacquered. If yours are, you can give the surface a rub with wire wool or fine grade sandpaper to buff off the lacquer.
This treatment won’t work unless the metal is free of laqcuers and varnishes.
Pin Or Save This Tutorial For Later
- Household vinegar
- (white, malt, red/white wine, apple-cider)
- A container with a tight-fitting lid
- A paint brush
- Wire brush or wire wool
- Pour a little vinegar in the bottom of your container. I never bother to measure how much — it changes depending on the size of the container. You just need enough to cover the bottom.
- Add a few pinches of salt. Again — there's no hard or fast rule for the amount — just add a few sprinkles, then slosh it all around so the salt dissolves in the vinegar.
- Next, dip your paintbrush in the salt and vinegar solution and paint it all over the bronze or brass that you'd like to tarnish.
- When you've covered the entire surface with a layer of the salt and vinegar solution, pop the item into your container and put on the lid.
- Every hour or so, you should turn the item. Coat it in the salt and vinegar solution and make sure one area isn't sitting in the liquid and turning much darker than the others.
- When you're happy with the colour and patina of the metal, take it out of the salt and vinegar solution and give it a good rinse under the tap. Then dry thoroughly.
- If there are any areas that you're not happy with, give them a little buff with a wire brush or wire wool.
Firstly, before you begin, make sure that your bronze or brass items are unlacquered. If yours are, you can give the surface a rub with wire wool or fine grade sandpaper to buff off the lacquer.
This treatment won't work unless the metal is free of laqcuer or varnish.
Secondly, some of my handles went quite pink and orange in areas, but they toned down when I gave them a rub with my wire brush.
Likewise, if some areas are darker than others, just paint them with the liquid in the areas that need it most then pop the lid back on. At the end of the day, you can't go wrong!
If you don't like how it turns out, just clean it with Brasso to restore the shine!
Watch My Little Film Showing How To Age Bronze Quickly
This is such a great way of giving shiny new bronze and brass an aged treatment.
I’m not generally a fan of premature ageing ; ) But I LOVE this kind of fast ageing process!
If you do try it out, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you got on.
Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.