Volcanic Stainless Steel

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Is anyone familiar with this technique of coloring stainless steel with heat? An Oregon artist named Milo uses a liquid he doesn't identify to "paint" images on 300 series mill finished stainless steel sheet. He then uses a torch to burn the images onto the sheet and claims the resulting color and image are permanent. I'm curious what chemicals he could be using. There is a video on his website where you can watch the process. One of the chemicals appears to be similar to a petroleum jelly and the other is a liquid that is sprayed on the image.

Here's the link to his website.


Thanks to anyone who can help.

Ries's picture

Basically, what he is doing

Basically, what he is doing is controlled rusting.

Another artist I know, Heath Satow, also has developed his own proprietary technique for coloring stainless.


in both cases, they are applying a ferric acid of some type to the stainless- some sort of mix of acid, with steel dissolved in it.

Steel contamination on stainless steel will rust- the underlying stainless is usually NOT rusting- just the contaminated surface. If you take a nice shiny piece of stainless, and hit it with a wire brush that has been used on mild steel, it will impregnate the surface with mild steel particles in a brush pattern, and THAT will rust, leaving rust brush marks.

I think both these artists have found that their acid mixes work better on a warm but not red hot, stainless surface.

But both have developed processes by trial and error that make their work unique, and are not giving away their secrets.

So you need to experiment, with mild acids, with some steel dissolved in them.
I am told that after this rust is applied, it can be selectively removed by eletrochemical means, things like the weld cleaning units from Walter or Screen Pro. Proving that its only a surface coloring and just skin deep.

I often get interesting colors from forging stainless- which do not rust or change further.
I have a set of forged towel hooks outside by my hot tub, and they are close to 8 years old now, still a rich brown color with no change, no powder of further rust.
They are just as forged, with a bit of wire brushing.

RedRobbie's picture

stainless/ wire brush

That sounds like a really cool technique with the wire brush on the stainless Ries.

Ries's picture

It works with crowbars,

It works with crowbars, forklifts forks, and other tools, too.
Dont ask me how I know.

Also, if you grind mild steel, and let the sparks land on stainless, then put the stainless out in the rain, the grinding sparks rust.

But learning to control it, to get the results you WANT- like Milo and Heath do- thats the trick.

rico788's picture

Thanks Ries Love to see some

Thanks Ries

Love to see some photos of your forged stainless work if you're agreeable.