Getting a Great Patina Finish on Zinc

Can it be true! Have I finally discovered how to get a great patina on a zinc framed stained glass panel?

What is Patina?

First, if you are new to stained glass and the copper foil method, you may be asking what is patina? In the case of stained glass, patina is the dark look that solder lines get over time. If you want to hurry this look, there is a chemical that you can put on your solder lines that turns them dark instantly. It works great on solder lines. On  zinc – “not so much” as my kids would say.

The Problem with Patina

Most stained glass panels are framed in a zinc metal. The chemical that works on solder does not work on zinc. There is a special chemical for zinc. The problem is it never seems to work well. I always get spotty or streaky results. I tried all manners of applying it and of cleaning the zinc before applying the patina. I never truly liked the results. So in the end I would either put the piece in a wooden frame, or let it patina naturally. Even if you don’t use a chemical patina on your solder lines, when the piece is in a window and the sun is shining in, the lines look dark. I am fine with letting nature take it’s course.

Another Attempt

But there are people who really like the patina look and don’t want to wait for it to happen naturally. Recently I decided to give it another try. First I cleaned the zinc well with 0000 steel wool. Then I took an old towel and cut it into small 4 inch pieces. I poured some of the patina chemical into a small cup. Wearing gloves, of course, I dipped the towel in the patina and rubbed it in one smooth stroke across the length of the zinc. I used a clean piece of towel each time I dipped into the cup of patina. I believe the trick here was the new cloth. If I tried to just add more patina to the cloth I got streaky results.

Luck or Technique

I don’t know if it was luck or this technique really made the difference. I will have to test it again some day. If you have any techniques that you use for applying a patina successfully, please share by posting a comment.

3 thoughts on “Getting a Great Patina Finish on Zinc

  1. Laura says:

    I have a dremel that I use to buff/polish my zinc frame and my solder points and joins, just before patinaing. It works like a dream. Takes off residue and spots on the zinc. The zinc patina works very well after this process and gives an even coverage when the zinc has been newly buffed.

    Be sure to work with a completely dry piece. I wash all my flux off with dawn soap, water and a brush. Let it dry completely. Buff with the demel. Patina. Let the zinc dry completely. Buff with a rag and finishing compound.

    I personally prefer a gun metal patina. Yo achieve this you patina everything in black. Let dry completely. Take very fine steel wool and rub the solder, joints and zinc frame to an even gun metal grey finish.

    • Margot says:

      Good information. I also like the gunmetal finish. Much more natural looking. I usually take my well seasoned leading brush and brush the copper foil solder lines to get a similar effect.

  2. Sharon says:

    If you’re having trouble getting a nice “black” finish on your zinc, try using COLD GUN BLUE. It’s all I use. Steel wools the zinc until shiny, clean with alcohol, and you’re ready to go. On your first attempt, I would suggest using a scrap piece of zinc to see how it works. Just make sure your zinc is CLEAN. I hope his helps someone.

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