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How to tarnish (tiny) copper chain?

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  • Member since
    September 2021
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How to tarnish (tiny) copper chain?
Posted by awtrain on Friday, August 5, 2022 6:06 PM

I just finished a water tower (HO) except for the rigging. I'd like to use chain for the rigging instead of thread, but the smallest chain at Micromark is too big to fit in the tiny, plastic eyelets. I reamed out the holes a bit but there is not much material to work with.

I found a smaller chain with 42 links per inch that does fit and looks really good except for one problem: it is bright, shiny copper https://modelexpo-online.com/42-linksinch-Copper-Chain-1ft_p_1117.html.  So my question is how do you tarnish or dull this copper chain. Actually, I know how to tarnish copper with white vinegar and salt -- and it worked! Actually, it worked too well and corroded the tiny chain to pieces.

I ordered more chain and hoping to get some advise before ruining any more of it. I'm thinking even a very thin paint would clog the links. Maybe an alcohol wash? What about using a match?

Looking forward to hearing your experiences with chain rigging and hopefully a solution.

Thanks,
Andy

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Posted by wvgca on Friday, August 5, 2022 7:41 PM

there -may- be a water resistant coating on the chain, to keep it from tarnishing quickly, this may have to removed first, with lacquer thinner or similar ..

then proceed to the tarnishing as normal, with the exception of reducing  the tarrnishing solution so it doesn't corrode the chain so much ...

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Posted by PC101 on Friday, August 5, 2022 9:48 PM

Just in case you need another way around this trouble, look for...

A-LINE #29219 BLACK CHAIN 12'' with 40 Links per inch.

BUILDERS IN SCALE, MODEL BUILDER'S CHAIN #250 BLACK 18'' with 40 links per inch. 

Now back to your question of how to tarnish copper chain,

Micro Engineering Co. Rail Weathering Solution #49-103.

Pour a little of the solution, I use full strength, in a small plastic container (pill cup) just to cover the amount of chain you intend to use. Let it sit for as long as you want to get the color/shade you want.

Some people say it does not give them what they want/expect when doing rail. That's ok, you are doing chain soaking in the solution, it works great for chain done this way.

If you look at the chain in the solution and think it looks dark enough then get it out and rinse it, if you are using your fingers, you will get black fingers. If it is not darken to your liking, re-soak it.  USE TWEEZERS, NOT YOUR FINGERS. READ ALL WARNINGS ON THE BOTTLE.  

After you have the shade you want and run it though the water rinse cycle, do not rub the chain dry, pat it dry with a paper towel. If you rub it, some color will come off.

You may find that your fingers get black as you handle the chain. 

 

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Posted by awtrain on Saturday, August 6, 2022 9:07 AM

wvgca

there -may- be a water resistant coating on the chain, to keep it from tarnishing quickly, this may have to removed first, with lacquer thinner or similar ..

I think you may be right. In the past I tarnished some shiny brass hinges where I sanded off the lacquer first and used vinegar. I just got 20 feet of new, tiny, shiny chain so I'm going to try some small samples first to see what works.

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Posted by awtrain on Saturday, August 6, 2022 9:25 AM

Thanks for the tips. The preblackened, 40 links per inch you mentioned sounds perfect. The few of those I found online are showing they are out of stock, but I'll keep searching (one on eBay for less than $4).

If I'm unable to find the right one then I'll try the rail weathering solution. I've heard of it but never used it. And never thought to try it for chain.

Thanks,
Andy

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 6, 2022 10:09 PM

Find a selenium blackening solution.

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Posted by Southgate 2 on Saturday, August 6, 2022 10:14 PM

Stretch it out gently and pass a lit match back and forth under it.

Dan

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Posted by PC101 on Sunday, August 7, 2022 1:02 AM

Overmod

Find a selenium blackening solution.

 

Micro Engineering Co. Rail Weathering Solution #49-103 (4oz.) and #49-104 (16oz.) contains selenious acid and other chemicals.

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, August 7, 2022 12:41 PM

There may be other products available that artists use -- search for patina solutions.  Be aware that I used the Micro Engineering rail weathering soution on nickel silver rail expecting it would replicate the look of Micro Engineering's pre-weathered rail.  It was less brown, more green.  

Dave Nelson

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, August 7, 2022 4:11 PM

I've used both A-West Blacken-It and also Hobby Black, mostly to weather scrap loads for gondolas.  Both work well, but depending on the metal materials used, you may get a wide range of colours, from rust to dead black.

Another option that's useful is gun-blue, which will also create a variety of colours, depending on what metals are used.

I usually buy pre-blackened chain, the 40-links-to-an-inch type.

Here's a few photos of the chain in use...I've likely used several yards of it...

Lots of chain in use here...

...and some here, too...

...and also on several water towers...

...and even more on standpipes...

However, 40 links to the inch is actually fairly oversized for most of the HO use shown, although it is not too far-fetched on a crane magnet...

Wayne

 

 

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Posted by awtrain on Sunday, August 7, 2022 4:19 PM

I ordered the Micro Engineering solution so should get it this week.

In the meantime, I tried wvgca's suggestion: soaked the chain in fingernail polish remover, cleaned with warm water and soaked in vinegar for a few minutes. I then placed the chain on top of a paper towel that was damp with vinegar overnight. The chain was definitely no longer shiny nor smooth (it seemed to have a gritty texture). But yeah, it was more green than brown.

I'll try the M.E. solution when it comes and maybe a few other ideas. Since the chain will use only a little bit of the solution, I was going to use it for nickel silver rails. But green is not what I'd want for rail color.

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Posted by PC101 on Sunday, August 7, 2022 8:48 PM

I have never used M.E.Solution on rail.

This chain is 40 links per inch on the crane magnet. doctorwayne, your crane magnet looks super, the links, chain and that pully block. My Walthers crane and magnet and ''cable'' have had many a hardship, so it is not in the best of shape at this time. It's looks to be about time for a rebuild. Oh, yes it has a real magnet and does pick up ferrous metal...but will not drop it Hmm.

  

Humm, the magnet does have three down chains, but only looks like two in the picture.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, August 7, 2022 11:51 PM

PC101
This chain is 40 links per inch on the crane magnet. doctorwayne, your crane magnet looks super, the links, chain and that pully block.

Thanks for your kind comment PC101.  Other than the over-size pulleys in the block (brass items meant for model ships) the entire crane is pretty-well completely scratchbuilt.  It's based partially on several real ones, but was originally intended to be one of two in the cast-house of a very large blast furnace that I was scratchbuilding.
I eventually quit that project, as I would have taken-up more space than we had available...I was working from actual blueprints provided by my employer.

Here's the only main survivor of that project...

Wayne

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Posted by awtrain on Monday, August 8, 2022 4:07 PM

I have the same coaling tower as doctorwayne. Nice weathering! I rigged mine with the thread that came in the kit, but I think I'll upgrade it to chain.

One question: The chain on the water tower looks reddish. How did you get that color? It looks really good.

Andy

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Posted by Enzoamps on Monday, August 8, 2022 10:20 PM

It has been 60-65 years ago now, but in shop class we used something called liver of sulphur.  Apparently it is still available.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liver_of_sulfur

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, August 8, 2022 11:44 PM

awtrain
One question: The chain on the water tower looks reddish. How did you get that color?

Thanks for your comment, Andy.

That water tower, and another just like it, are from Atlas, and I decided that boxcar red would be a better colour for water towers in the depression-era...both got a dip, via airbrush, with that colour.
I also replaced the original spouts with larger ones from Grandt Line.

This one, scratchbuilt by my father when I was a kid...

...had scribed basswood siding for the tank, and balsa stripwood for the support structure.  It was coloured using an oil-based stain.  The spout and its rigging were scratchbuilt in brass, while the tank bands were knife-cut from good quality writing paper.
I recently re-built the tank support structure, replacing the balsawood legs with strip styrene, then added tension rods (Tichy phosphor-bronze wire) and nbw detail, also from Tichy.  I then decided that it should get the same paint job as the other two.

If I recall correctly, the original model water tower, featured in MR, was done by a rather prolific Canadian modeller, but his name escapes me.

As for the chains, they all got caught in the spray of the airbrush...which wasn't meant to make them look rusted.

Wayne

 

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