If you want to change your solder from silver to black or copper, you need to use patina! Let’s talk about how to do patina for stained glass and get nice deep black & rich coppery colors.
You don’t ever neeeeed to patina any of your stained glass art if you don’t want to. It’s all about personal preference & the finished look of your piece.
What is patina for in Stained Glass?
Normally, when ya think of the word patina, ya think of oxidation. Like how copper that’s been outside for a long time turns green.
But in stained glass, we apparently make up definitions for words!😁
In stained glass, copper and black patina are not actually oxidation (we call oxidation white mold because that also makes no sense). They’re liquids that we paint on to solder that are made with acids & other chemicals.
So, if you want to change the color of the solder lines on your stained glass from silver to black or copper, you’ll need to use stained glass patina.
In case you’re feelin’ nerdy (I usually am) here’s the common chemicals in stained glass patina:
- Nitric Acid
- Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate
- Sodium Chloride
- Selenium Dioxide
- Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate
- Sulfuric Acid
I use Novacan Brand patina for both black and copper.
*At no extra cost to you, as an amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases. I’ll only ever recommend products I use & love, or know to be good quality!
Is Patina for Stained Glass Toxic?
Safety is no joke when it comes to patina. Patina used in stained glass is definitely toxic. It can cause your skin to peel, nervous system issues, anemia, & a whole bunch of other not good stuff.
Like blindness if ya get it in your eyehole!
It’s also pretty dang bad to breathe so you’ll want to wear a mask AND work in front of a window with a fan blowing out.
You can also use patina outside but I’d still wear the mask. Why? Cuz patina doesn’t really smell so it’s hard to tell if you’re breathing in the vapors or not.
And you’re really freakin’ close to it so the vapors are concentrated right in your face area. I’m rollin’ with better safe than sorry on that one.
Note: According to 3M, there is no filter cartridge available for Black Patina due to the Nitric Acid in it. Fresh air below acceptable OSHA limits or a Fresh Air Respirator system are the only options unfortunately. We don’t have air testing equipment in our home studios, so be thoughtful if you’re considering using it.
Check out the SDS (Safety Data Sheets) on your patina and wear your safety gear!
If you’re not sure what gear to get or where to locate an SDS, check out my Stained Glass Safety page.
How to Prepare Your Work Surface for Doing Patina
You don’t want patina to be contaminating your work area, so you’ll want to protect your table or waffle grid or whatever other surface you use.
A metal tray or large cheapie piece of clear glass work great. Be sure to line them with several layers of newspaper or paper towels to sop up any extra patina.
And give them a good wash with dish soap & warm water when you’re done. Mark your tray as “for patina only” or keep it up and away in the studio (especially the metal tray…no one wants patina residue in their cookies).
Preparing Your Solder for Patina
There’s a ton of different ways that people do patina, and it seems like everyone gets different results regardless of what brand of flux or solder they use.
I’m not a chemist, but my guess is that the reason people have trouble with getting a good black or deep copper color is because of one main variable.
We all have different minerals & chemicals in our water so it’s the only thing I can think of that consistently changes from artist to artist.
You can get around that variable in two different ways:
- Use distilled water to wash your piece before using patina
- Use Kwik Clean instead
I’ve found that Kwik Clean works amazingly well. There’s another similar product called CJ’s Flux Remover, but I haven’t tried that one.
How to Patina Your Stained Glass
I mentioned that there’s tons of different ways that different artists do patina. Like most things in stained glass, I recommend you DON’T try out patina for the first time ever on a big or complicated piece of art.
If you’ve been working with glass & solder for a little while, ya know it all can have a mind of its own sometimes! Make a few little projects out of scrap glass to practice on.
But….this is the easiest way I’ve done, that has also consistently worked well for me (video below if ya prefer to learn that way).
As soon as you’re done soldering:
- Put on your mask, gloves, & eye protection
- Spray your piece thoroughly with Kwik Clean
- Wipe it off with paper towels (don’t rinse or wash it)
- Move your pieces over to your prepared work surface
- Pour out just a liiiiiitttle bit of patina into the cap of the bottle
- Using your chemical brush, toothbrush, or Q-Tip scrub patina on to your solder
- Add more if you need to and scrub a lil more until you’ve reached a good, rich color
- Thoroughly wash your piece with dish soap & warm water
- Thoroughly wash your brush (unless you’re using copper patina…then throw it out or use a Q-Tip instead of a brush)
- Dry it
- Wax it with 100% Carnauaba Wax
Here’s a video:
Quick Tips for Patina:
- Remember to only pour out a teeeny bit into the cap at a time. You can add more later if you need to, but you don’t want to be dipping your brush or putting used product back in the bottle or you’ll contaminate it.
- Work quickly & try to keep your patina on the solder as much as possible.
- Some lighter glass will get permanently stained from the patina. You can always test patina on a little piece of scrap glass before you get it on your whole project.
Should you polish after using patina on your stained glass?
Patina only changes the surface of your solder. It doesn’t penetrate deeeeeeply into it. So, if you’re using a good polish, you can remove the patina.
Just remember to wax it with some 100% Pure Carnauba Wax after you’re done washing it & you’ll be good to go!
Note: If you’re doing a piece that doesn’t have patina, I have an Easy One-Step Polish & Wax Recipe here.
Can you use patina to cover up a not so nice soldering job?
Ya caaaaaan. If you’re having trouble soldering and use patina to kind of cover it up, this is what’s known in the stained glass world as “the six foot view”.
It looks good from six feet away, but close up, you’ll still be able to tell.
The most important thing though, is that because solder is the framework that holds your whole piece together, good soldering is essential to the life of your glass art.
Soldering is definitely the toughest part of learning to make stained glass art, but with the right techniques & some practice, you absofreakinlutely can do beautiful work!
Check out my blog for some tips, and get a whole bunch of soldering knowledge in my Soldering Basics Class…
Having trouble soldering?
- Lay even solder beads
- Learn to edge bead beautifully
- Save time, $$, & frustration
How do you dispose of patina?
I try to keep my stained glass art as earth friendly as possible (here’s a post on Lead Free solder if you’re interested).
And patina is some pretty freakin’ harsh stuff.
So, for that reason, I generally only do patina when I’m doing a repair or teaching.
(That, and I reaaaaally do like the look of the silver solder. Maybe I’m snooty, but I think the shiny silver makes it look a lil bit more faaaancy!)
But, if you do want to use patina, make sure you’re disposing of your chemicals properly. Check with your local township, county, or borough. Lots of them have hazardous waste disposal days.
Or, check out earth911.com https://search.earth911.com/?utm_source=earth911-header for chemical disposal in your area.
Peace, Love, & Stained Glass,
– Shannie 😃
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