Snappy Brassy Girl
November 16, 2011 4:06 PM   Subscribe

How can I apply a patina to the shiny brass snap fasteners on my jacket?

I have a waxed cotton jacket with shiny brass snap fasteners that are too gaudy and blingy for my taste.

I'd like to apply a patina to make the brass snaps darker, more like old brass or an old penny.

Most of what I can find about aging brass on the internet relates to home furnishings and hardware, e.g. this one. Buttons would be easy (just cut them off and soak them in the treatment, then sew them back on).

Unfortunately, this jacket has brass snap fasteners, the kind that are embedded in the fabric. I can't remove them and I don't want to damage the jacket. I'm looking for a treatment that I could apply with a paintbrush.

Washing the jacket with treatments or harsh soap is also something I don't want to do because you usually don't wash waxed cotton.
posted by bad grammar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total)
Mr. MonkeyToes says that brass blackener from Birchwood Casey takes the shiny away. (It is available in much smaller containers than those shown in the first link. I think you could apply it and then rub some of it off, but I would also advise trying it on a small piece of brass first to see whether it gives you the look you want.)

Your local gunsmith may have other suggestions.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:32 PM on November 16, 2011

Well, for making reproduction guitars look old, one method for parts was urine. You probably don't want to use that corrosive.

Here is a list of scary chemicals, some of which I've known jewellers to use.

But when I encountered a piece of over-cleaned jewellery at the antique market, I'd burn a plastic straw under the item, and the chemical fumes, while nasty, would make a nice blackish patina, especially for all the grooves and details. It's pretty durable for that purpose, though I don't know how much it will wear off what you have. Put a piece of tin-foil around it to protect the fabric, and please don't huff plastic straw fumes - but you may as well try it. It's cheap and easy and if it doesn't work, then you can try something more invasive.
posted by peagood at 4:42 PM on November 16, 2011

I would use black or dark brown oil based paint - testors enamel would be perfect - and carefully paint over the snaps with an almost-dry brush. Like, dip the brush, pull as much paint as you can out of it by running it along the edge of the paint bottle, do a few strokes on paper to make sure the brush isn't too wet, then apply the paint to the snaps. If you want to bring back a bit of the brass shine, blot off a bit of the paint with a q-tip or the corner of a paper towel. A little bit of masking tape around the snaps will help keep the paint from getting on the fabric.

Alternately, paint over the snaps, again with a very dry brush, and then after it's dry sand them a bit with an emery board to reveal some of the brass.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

As for protecting the jacket, cut out a plastic (old milk bottle) or card template to fit around the fastener to protect the material.
posted by Kerasia at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got this effect from throwing my (admittedly unwaxed) twill Marc Jacobs jacket into a bath of RIT dye (2 packages of black, in a lobster pot). It was totally simple, no damage to the jacket.The buttons look aged and fabulous. I'm not sure how the waxed fabric would react, but it's certainly possible to brush dye onto the buttons directly while protecting the rest of your jacket with techniques mentioned upthread.
posted by devymetal at 5:29 PM on November 16, 2011

The snaps likely have a sealer on them to keep them shiny. Careful application of nail polish remover or thinner should remove the finish. Then, if your patient, time and exposure will oxidize the snaps. Your fingers will at the same time buff the snaps with every use.

They will oxidize, patience is a virtue.
posted by Max Power at 6:16 PM on November 16, 2011

According to this link, you can use ammonia fumes, salt water, or vinegar to darken brass. (Disclaimer: I have only used bleach solution or liver of sulfur to give a patina to brass items.) The tricky part is going to be getting the protective finish off of the snaps without damaging the jacket. Nail polish remover will probably take it off; you could also try some fine-grit sandpaper, depending on how the snaps are situated and how much time you want to invest in this project.
posted by corey flood at 7:14 PM on November 16, 2011

Most craft stores will sell small bottles of "patina in a bottle" type things, or at least they used to.
posted by piedmont at 7:47 PM on November 16, 2011

Thanks, everyone. I will start with taking the lacquer finish off the snaps and see if they begin to tarnish on their own.

On the Web I saw a mention of using a paste of hard-cooked egg yolks to tarnish brass (the sulfur reacts with the metal, the way it does with sterling flatware) and it seems best to start with the gentlest method that will work. I also think the brass is plated and I'm not sure what the metal underneath is.
posted by bad grammar at 7:49 PM on November 16, 2011

« Older Google results aren't recorded inSafari history.   |   Where iPad meets micro four thirds camera. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.