Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kitchen Sink Chemistry

We’ve been talking about altering metals to achieve patinas around the office lately. It got me thinking about some of the things I learned growing up … for example, my mom said to never set the table for Sunday brunch with the good silver. Why? I always thought it was just one of those rules, but now I know the sulfur in the egg yolks will tarnish the silver. It’s a great effect on, say, a byzantine chain maille bracelet, but it’s a pain on the tines of your silver forks. My friend Susan said her mom always wiped the bottom of the spaghetti pot with a little leftover sauce before she washed it. Could it be that the tomato has an effect on copper? Of course, and ketchup works just as well. I’ve also noticed that if I put my copper-bottom pots in the dishwasher, they come out as shiny as a new penny. I think it might be because we have soft water (higher sodium content?? I really have no idea). Right now I’m experimenting with ammonia on copper (it is supposed to turn the copper blue). I’m not following any of the “proper” formulas – I just put a piece of scrap copper half submerged in ammonia, and then covered it. For two days the ammonia turned a remarkable color of blue – as blue as Windex. Then, the copper began to turn. I keep rotating the copper a half turn a day, and so far I’m getting an interesting pattern. I’ll post a picture when it’s further along.

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