Easy Patina Copper Cactus With Kitchen Ingredients

11 Materials
1 Hour
This fun project is a homage to my adoptive state of Arizona, also known as the Copper State. One of our most recognizable symbols is the mighty saguaro cactus. I created this decorative project with soldered copper plumbing parts and and made it patina overnight into beautiful turquoise and brown shades
I started by cutting and dry-fitting copper tubing into the various T fittings and elbows I'd need to create the cactus. One was 1/2" pipe, the other was 3/4". I cleaned the joints with a wire brush and applied a thin layer of plumbers flux on the mating surfaces.
I carefully heated the fittings until the flux began to sizzle.
Touching the seams with an extended piece of solder at the right heat melts the silvery metal and draws it into the joint.
After a few back-to-back soldered joints, I'd cool and clean the piece with a damp rag. I continued the process with the larger, 3/4" cactus.
Now it's magic time. I made a concoction of vinegar and salt, close to a 50 / 50 mix.
That delightful potion got poured over the work pieces and soaked into a good wrapping of damp paper towels.
While the soaking pieces sat outside for a while, I cut and toasted a scrap piece of butcher block with my torch to make a base.
I drilled some planting holes and gave the wood a coat of spray lacquer.
With the based masked off, I painted the surface with wood glue and dumped on some desert dirt, from our obliging front yard,
After the copper had soaked for a while, it started to gray a little. While it was still wet I gave it a coating of salt before leaving it overnight in the garage.
The next morning was magical. The colors continued to deepen throughout the day.
I finally locked the colors in with a coat of spray urethane and planted the beasts in the base with a good dose of hot glue.
The colors turned out incredible. It was a super easy project and only took about an hour of actual work time to build. It took a couple days to complete due to the drying time and the time for the magical elixir to do its work.
Check out the whole story with a whole lot more detail and pictures in the blog post. I'd love to hear what you think. I wonder, what other copper creations can we give this salty, overnight aging treatment to?
Resources for this project:
See all materials
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info
John @ AZ DIY Guy
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 14 questions
  • Cathy Cathy on Mar 29, 2019

    No I will not try my pipes are plastic. but do you have a solution to unclog. A washing machine maybe draino??? Anybody. ??? Need a solution that inexpensive??

  • Maria Maria on Mar 29, 2019

    Is okay if use it crazy glue to connect the elbows and T fittings for that project

    Cuz I have kids and I want them to help me in that

  • Marcia Marcia on Mar 29, 2019

    Would it possible to get same finish if copper is older? (I'm thinking in terms of going to scrap yard for larger diameter pipe.) How will the patina hold up in rainy weather (Maryland much wetter than Arizona)? Will that surface blue wash away in water?

Join the conversation
4 of 168 comments
  • Wendy Terrill Wendy Terrill on Jul 16, 2019

    Amazing. I love it.

  • Valerie Angel Valerie Angel on Aug 07, 2019

    I wonder if this would work on copper spray paint?

    • See 1 previous
    • Kate Kate on Aug 07, 2019

      I used copper paint. Let dry then I went over the parts I wanted to patina so I used a green and different depths of green over parts of it.