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Effects of Firescale on Various Metals
Article © MAIL User: ArmoredDrake

I did an experiment with heating several different metals to see if they would respond to heat-treatment the way stainless steel does. This article goes over my results.

In case you don’t know how this works, I did this with a propane torch. Suspend your rings on a wire, have a quenching bucket nearby (make sure the cat isn’t drinking out of it – mine never fails!), and apply the top of the blue cone to the rings until colors start appearing on the surface of the metal. Once you’ve got the color you like, quench it quickly and there you go. This article: Heat Coloring (Oxidizing) Steel goes into a little more detail on the methods and colors for firescale on steel.

My control in this experiment is stainless steel, so this is what some stainless looks like after treatment. Oooh, pretty colors:
Image: stainless.jpg

Word of caution: If you attempt this yourself, be sure not to heat the rings so far as a cherry glow. I did that myself the first couple of times, and all it does is turn the rings an ugly dark grey. This is a picture of steel rings that have been heated to cherry-red for normalizing. There’s one that has been properly firescaled in the background, for comparison:

Image: annealed.jpg

Alright, on to the results.

Fire had some interesting effects on copper. It heated pretty quickly to a clear blue color, but once I took the flame off, it disappeared. I ended up keeping the flame on too long, I think, and this is what the rings looked like:

Image: copper.jpg

Kind of interesting, darker certainly, but no colors. However, I think that, with slightly more caution and less heat, you could get it to retain some of the orange to purple spectrum, just not the clear blue.


As with the copper, this one was peculiar. I think it could take a bronze color, but I kept the flame on too long trying to achieve an even color, and so it looks like mustard now:

Image: brass.jpg


This test was beautifully successful. The colors aren’t as vibrant as with steel, but they are a little more pastel. You can get coppery-pink, pale coral, light gold, and then cerulean/clear blue. The leftmost ring in the picture shows the range quite nicely:

Image: bronze.jpg

Mild Steel

Steel definitely works best. Vibrant colors, and a nice range. The two rings on the right and bottom both achieved clear blue, and the top-left got a range of most of the higher spectrum.

Image: mild.jpg


These results were quite laughable, really. After showing ghost lines of pale brown, the rings turned matte white and black. I’m not sure if sterling would do better, but I’m not going to waste the rings to find out. If someone else wants to try, feel free to send a picture of the results and I’ll add it in.

Image: silver-plate.jpg


First of all I’d like to say that I did this outside on a good, breezy day, and wore a cloth over my mouth and nose just to be sure I didn’t breathe anything unpleasant. Second of all, it wasn’t even worth it, except for a good laugh. Aluminum is way too soft, and quite apart from acquiring any colors, it started to melt almost immediately. The rings would no doubt have been completely straight if I’d kept the
torch on them much longer.

Image: aluminum.jpg


Titanium works well with firescale. Thanks to Darkness for sending me this picture of heat-colored titanium rings.

Image: darkness_colored_ti.jpg


Steel, both stainless and mild, had by far the best response to firescale. Bronze also worked quite well, and titanium by report. Copper and brass may work, but their color ranges are limited, and they take a lot more precision. Silver-plated may be good for an inlay of a Dalmatian, and aluminum has no response but melts quickly.

If anyone else wants to experiment with other metals, or has different results with some of the metals I covered here, please feel free to send me a picture and description, and I’ll be glad to add it in.
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