If I am building a wine rack, for instance, using pallet wood. I don't want nice shiny screws to draw attention away from the piece.

What I currently do is sand off the top and leave it in water.

Can you think of a fast way to rust the screw or perhaps another idea that could brown it (without painting)

I could see this being off topic but its worth a shot.

  • 1
    Remember too that nails, like screws, are available in decorative colors. On the other hand, the way nails are driven risks damaging any finish. My solution, on a recent project, was to use trim-head screws with a black finish; they're almost as small as finishing nails, they tend to countersink themselves, and the dark color makes them less noticeable if you do want to leave them exposed (which I did since this was something that may need to be opened for maintenance) .
    – keshlam
    Mar 18, 2015 at 12:24

3 Answers 3


Metal patinas are a whole art unto themselves. I have used ammonia for brass, made stains with vinegar and so on. Sculptors spend a lot of time on this topic.

Assuming your nails contain iron, then you are trying to form ferrous oxide, the black 'rust' (as opposed to the orange rust, ferric oxide). Almost any acid will do the trick. Acetic acid (vinegar) and bleach is very effective - mind the fumes; they are dangerous. You can also buy a premixed pickle. There are many, I would recommend http://www.jaxchemicals.com/ if you wish to go that way. They sell a Iron, Steel, and Nickel Blackener in a pint size (among others).

Also keep in mind that heating the nails via a torch or similar flame will also change the color, which is a quick and cheap path.

If you have a grinder, grinding the nail head can overheat the metal and discolor it. Obviously, this leaves marks. You can use a hammer (a chasing hammer if you are feeling fancy) to change the texture of the nail without loosing the patina. Buy this method, you can create nails that look like they were hand wrought very quickly.

  • This is a well rounded answer as it provided multiple solution and extrapolates my original intention of rusting the metal in the first place.
    – Matt
    Mar 19, 2015 at 15:39

You could soak it in vinegar. I know that steel wool dissolves in vinegar and completely rusted.

  • I will try the vinegar and see how it goes. Thanks
    – Matt
    Mar 19, 2015 at 15:39

If you're looking for a patina/darkness as opposed to an orange-rust color, baking soda will do nicely. If you want to 'lock in' this color, a quick trip to a 450F oven will do the trick nicely.

  • 1
    Another solid suggestion. My old toaster oven would work nicely for this.
    – Matt
    Mar 19, 2015 at 15:40
  • I love subjecting my retired (for food) Toaster Oven for all manner of heat related projects. They are surprisingly good for this kind of thing. I have unstuck and 'conditioned' many tools and hardware with a protective patina this way. Mar 19, 2015 at 17:33

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