How to make it Rust

Everyone always ask "how do you rust your sculpture's? "  I have a simple and easy way to do so.  I did a lot of experimenting with anything I could get my hands on.  Some stuff worked, other things just made a mess, but this method has not failed me yet.  

It's basically a three part process for me.  Doing any of the three steps will get a piece of steel to start rusting more than doing nothing to it, but the combination of all three will rust an object in a matter of hours.  Always remember to wear appropriate safety gear while performing this process.  Eye protection, skin protection and remember to work in a well ventilated area.

Step One:  The Nastiest step involved.

I usually start by etching my metal with Muriatic Acid.  This stuff is used to etch concrete.  The smell will take your breath away, so wear a respirator, gloves and goggles.  This step is the easiest to skip, but does ensure you have removed any oils from the surface.  It will not get rid of paint, you'll need to do some grinding for that, but will leave you with a surface ready to get rusty.  I usually just put it in a spray bottle and lightly mist the object.  You can use a green scratch pad if necessary, but sponges dissolve pretty quickly.  Yes, it dissolves sponges!  Be safe or skip this step.  Make sure you rinse this object before moving on to step two.  I always have a garden hose ready to go.  You are going to need water with each stepp, plus if you do get some acid on you, hose yourself off!

Step Two:  Bleach

Yep, the easiest thing you can do to metal to create rust is spray it with cheap, or expensive, household bleach.  I apply with a spray bottle.  The main trick in this step is not to get too caught up in the fact that rust is appearing in front of your eyes.  You can build up a rusty skin very easily.  The problem is that skin isn't bonded to the steel very well at the moment.  If you rinse with water under high pressure you will spray the rust right off.  I usually make sure I give the piece three good wet coats of bleach, then move on to step three.  By wet coat, I mean, the entire surface of the piece is shiny from the bleach.  

Step Three:  Water

This is by far the toughest step in the entire process.  Spray the rusty object with water.  I told you it would be tough.  Living in the desert does help this process along.  I like to place the object in the sun, the heat helps get this process moving a little quicker.  I mist the object whenever I walk by.  No schedule, it doesn't need to be done every 15 minutes for 4 hours, just mist it when you think about it.  Walk away and let the magic happen.

From start to finish this took maybe 4 hours to get this volume of rust.  It will build a nice rusty skin that's really bonded nicely to the metal.  Any scratches or boo boo's in the surface can easily be retreated with this same process.


Scott Krichau resides atYucca Flats, NM with fellow artist, Carolyn Curtis and their 3 legged dog named Pabst. Using steel and paper to create "lil' guys." Documenting their continual evolution and trying to understand the idiodyssey they are on. Shop online for our artwork.

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