Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Antiquing Nails

Vinegar-treated on left; zinc on right.
I ordered some box nails from the Tremont Nail Company for another storage project. The nails were zinc-coated and shinier than I liked so I used a tip from Bob Rozaieski to antique them.

Two vinegar-treated nails. The one on
the left was buffed with steel wool.

Following his suggestion, I put a bunch of nails in a sealed jar filled with vinegar for about a day and a half. Through the glass I could see that the nails had darkened to a light charcoal color. The shiny zinc was gone.

The extra half day did not darken the nails, so one day would have been long enough.

Zinc/Vinegar/Vinegar & Steel Wool
I poured the vinegar out and laid the nails on a towel to dry. After about half an hour I checked them and found that they were coated in rust. If you rinse your nails with water right after the vinegar you will not encounter as much rust, according to Bob.

However, you may find that you like the rust color.  And the surface rust won't hurt the nails, so you can leave them as is.

For comparison, I buffed one of the vinegar-treated nails with steel wool to remove the rust and reestablish the dull, light charcoal color. Bob says the nails will continue to darken with age.

Zinc/Vinegar/Vinegar & Steel Wool
So you have a choice: bright & shiny, dull and gray (which will darken), or rust.

Depending on your taste or the look you're trying to achieve, you may prefer one over the others.

Bob made a short video about the aging process it here.
You can buy nails in smaller quantities from Tools For Working Wood.


nick said...

Not sure how it will work on zinc coated nails, but I tried Evaporust on some "free" old gouges and chisels from a neighbor, and it took the rust off, and left a very dark steel finish. Might be the color you're after (I'd recommend the stuff to remove rust anyhow, so may be worth having anyways)

SuperStretch said...

At the suggestion of others today, I bought a 5lb box from them.. Its even cheaper than the forged nails through Rockler!

Nik Brown said...

I have big tub of powdered citric acid I use to clean up old tools. Just mix some into a bucket of water and drop stuff in for 12-24 hours. It strips rust off and leaves a very dull grey finish. It would probably work well for this task as well.

A.J. Hamler said...

Diluted muriatic acid also works well to take coatings of nails and screws, and works very quickly. BTW, not sure if it's still the case as it's been a while since I last ordered nails from them, but I think Tremont sells both coated and uncoated nails.

Bob said...

Always fun to come by here and check out what you're up to.
Keeps me from going bonkers. Just so you know.

Gary Roberts said...

What beautiful country scene do you plan on painting on the nails once they're properly antiqued? Will they be for sale on Ebay? Can I buy one direct?

Kari Hultman said...

Nick, thanks for the tip. That would work really well after using the vinegar treatment. A heck of a lot easier that buffing each nail with steel wool.

SuperStretch, I can't wait to try them. I have a feeling I'll be ordering more nails soon....

Nik, always nice to have options. More importantly, how are your alpacas doing???

A.J. I just checked the website and it looks like you can get decorative wrought head with a black oxide finish which would look really nice on period pieces.

Bob, that's the best compliment anyone's ever given me---> I'm helping them from going bonkers. :o)

Gary, thanks for the chuckle. Made me think of those painted handsaws you see at craft fairs. heh.

Mike Zilis said...

Hi Kari,

Question - the nails will ultimately be pounded into some lumber, no? You went through all of that because of the little bit of the nail head you'll be able to see after installation?

Our 17th, 18th and 19th century woodworking forefathers started with "fresh" nails. A natural patina will eventually come to the pieces that last.

I don't mean this comment to sound like criticism. I love your work and I know you are a very deliberate and detail-oriented artist.

-Mike Zilis

Kari Hultman said...

Mike, you're absolutely right that only the head will show once the nails have been pounded in. I believe the zinc coating would prevent the nail from turning a dark color. At least, it would take a lot longer than I'd like to wait. Removing the zinc helps speed the process.

You can remove just the zinc from the head of the nail with a scotch brite wheel (as a friend on FB pointed out to me), but then I wouldn't have these cool pictures of nails to post on my blog. heh.

You can use this process to age zinc-coated hinges, which would be seen in their entirety on a workpiece.

RONW said...

just thought I'd mention "bead blasting." It's the same as sand-blasting but tiny ceramic beads are used, sometimes metalic beads. before and after.

Oliver said...

A great tip for restoration work. I can think of various jobs where aged nails would have looked better than new. Thank you.

Teds WoodWorking Review said...

Never "wood" have found content like this. How to antique nails is something i am going to try at home!

Corny said...

I have used the vinegar trick to take the galvanized off of macine screws for old electrical equipment restoration. Of course the problem now is finding plain slotted screws.

Anyhow, For giving steel parts an aged look I have also used a mapp gass torch and hammer to heat up to red hot and beat some character into the piece and then heating again at the end and dropping into some used motor oil to give the piece a black finish.

You have a very nice website. Very professional looking and very informative and enjoyable.