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The project that I’m about to share is not for everyone. But if you like rusty things, then this one’s for you.
A couple of months back, while at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I noticed this cute little planter at one of the booths in the marketplace.
I just loved the rustic patina and wondered if I could duplicate it.
So for fun, I saved a few empty soup cans. I removed the labels and cleaned them.
The Experiment Begins
The patina I wanted to copy looked like a mixture of paint and rust. The paint part was easy enough, but what about the rust?
There are some wonderful rust accelerators on the market, but I wanted to keep this experiment low-budget since, after all, it was only an experiment.
My husband, Chris, offered to whip up a rust accelerator for me using simple household ingredients. So while he searched Google, I searched through our spray paint cans.
Since I wanted to experiment with different results, I thinly sprayed the soup cans with random combinations of Rust-Oleum Heirloom White and Rust-Oleum Matte Citron – both paints that I already hand on hand.
I sprayed some cans with only the Heirloom White, some with only the Matte Citron, and some with both colors. I made sure to leave a few unpainted patches of raw metal – mostly at the top of each can.
Then I rubbed each can with steel wool, especially on the horizontal ribs, to expose even more metal. The photo below shows it better than I can explain it.
You can see that I wasn’t going for accuracy here, which is what is so fun about this project.
Meanwhile, Chris was mixing up his special batch of rust accelerator in a spray bottle, using a formula he found on this website.
The formula, which should be mixed in a certain order, calls for white vinegar, salt, and hydrogen peroxide. All fairly innocent ingredients on their own. But combined, they become a strong, wicked acid. Wear eye protection and gloves when mixing or handling. Use this mixture in a well-ventilated area and away from anything that you don’t want to rust, stain, or inadvertently kill (sorry lawn). For more safety information, head back to this website.
Before I applied this mixture, I saturated each can with white vinegar. This etches the metal so it will better absorb the mixture. Then I let the cans dry completely.
Now it was time to apply the magic mixture. Using a spray bottle, I saturated each can.
It didn’t seem to work – at first. Then after a few minutes the rust started. I let each soup can dry, and then I reapplied the mixture.
Soon I just filled a shallow plastic pan with about 1/8-inch of the rust mixture and rolled the cans in the mixture, let them dry, then rolled them again.
I rolled the cans about four times. It seemed that the mixture was starting to eat through the spray paint a bit.
Finally I was happy with the patina, although I might have overdone it. The cans did turn out rustier than my original example.
The finish coat
I rinsed each can off with water. I noticed that if I rubbed the cans at all, the paint would flake off and expose the un-rusted metal underneath. Not good.
So once the cans were dry, I applied two coats of a clear, flat acrylic finish by Krylon to stabilize the patina and prevent any more paint from flaking off.
All done! I love the rustic results.
A Planter or a Vase
My cans look like a vintage find from Grandpa’s tool shed.
Since some plants don’t take well to being planted directly into metal containers, I plant them in small plastic pots and then set those pots inside the cans.
The cans also make cute vases. I think they would be fun as table decor for a rustic-themed reception.
I could also see using cans of varying sizes in groups as a centerpiece.
To avoid having the cans leave a rust stain on any surface, I will use little coasters under them.
This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.
Love rusty metal? Check out the huge supply of rusty things on Etsy.
I especially love these cute industrial planters from Mike and Art Design.
You might also enjoy:
- Rustic Greenhouse Lights from a Mad Scientist
- A DIY Barn Light for a Vintage Garage
- A New Life for an Old Trailer Sink