Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

My adventure of watching aluminum age zzzzz

  1. Jan 3, 2008 #1


    User Avatar

    My adventure of watching aluminum age... zzzzz....

    This is really just a post about something interesting I've been doing. Not a question thread or whatnot, which is why its in this section.

    I have been using aluminum rings to make small pieces of maille armour.
    The rings are very polished, because they need to be smooth so they are comfortable to wear. However, the process also makes them very shiny... so shiny that they do not at all resemble steel or iron, which I want it to. I don't use steel because I am not a strong person and this maille is for costume, not combat (light weight is good).

    I have experimented with various methods of ageing the rings so it is duller, to resemble steel. They all involve placing the rings into a container filled with some sort of solution.

    The best method that gives it a nice aged look without damaging it at all is to use sodium acetate dissolved in 3% hydrogen peroxide (I did a side by side test of the acetate and acetate with H2O2, and the one with H2O2 completed hours ahead of the other).

    So if any of you want to dull aluminum for whatever reason, the best result is using sodium acetate, not vinegar like everyone else says.

    All the websites tell me to use vinegar, but I have done numerous trials with my armour, and vinegar seems to leave a white crusty residue that will not rub off, which, if the aluminum is touching anything at all, is not wanted.

    I thought this was kind of interesting. I can also give you people pictures once I finish something (I have simply been experimenting with my maille techniques so far, and only made a small chain square).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Vinegar is just a dilute solution of acetic acid. Sodium acetate, in solution, hydrolyses to make acetic acid. So I think both routes are aimed at the same reaction: Al + Acetic acid --> Al-acetate. Maybe it's the other ingredinets in vinegar (whatever they are) that are making the crust?
  4. Jan 3, 2008 #3


    User Avatar

    Well the vinegar is pure; its only acetic acid in water. The difference between the vinegar and acetate method is that the vinegar makes the white crust stick to the metal and it cannot be removed. When using sodium acetate there is some of the same type of crust, but it falls right off of the metal while in the solution, leaving a smooth ring. For some reason the vinegar method has different results.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2008
  5. Jan 3, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The vinegar probably has other ingredients (sugar, gum ?)
    Another good/cheap source of acetic acid used to be photographic stop-bath, I don't now how easy it is to get anymore in a digital world but we used to use it to de-fuzz water pipes with limescale build up.
  6. Jan 3, 2008 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Are you using white vinegar?
  7. Jan 3, 2008 #6
    Try a table or sea salt solution with a little dish soap----
  8. Jan 5, 2008 #7


    User Avatar

    Well, when using vinegar (and I used pure white vinegar) the only components are the aluminum, water, and acetic acid. When using sodium acetate you have acetic acid, water, aluminum, and sodium hydroxide. Perhaps the presence of sodium hydroxide changes the process in some way.

    Regardless, its the method I prefer, because its an assured way to have smooth aluminum rings without the rough feel left by the other methods.
  9. Jan 5, 2008 #8
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook