Age Makes a Difference When Working with Metal, Copper, and Wood

From on January 13, 2009 in Light Construction

A lot of the beauty of remodeling and home decor is in illusion. It’s getting a new look with an old material or an old feel with a new paint. The art of vintage or rustic building and design was probably invented around the same time as the words themselves, and still we haven’t grown tired of the luster and longevity of vintage products. Yet rustic materials, most notably metal, copper, and wood, are not the same as they once were and therefore require a little additional care when being handled. Here are some tips for handling three of our favorite rustic friends.

Rustic Metal

Rustic metal has a list of uses a phone book in thickness, from junk art to roofing. If you have a creative streak and are handy with metals (welding, etc.), your options are nearly infinite. Why rustic? There are a lot of situations that rustic metal fits: fireplace utensils, cabin or cottage decor, kitchen decor, and more.

When working with rustic metal, however, it is important to remember that you are working with rust. Rust, being the result of oxidation of the metal, can be a rather messy subject and wearing gloves and protective eyewear is always recommended.

Patinated Copper

When water and oxidation get to work, steel gets rusty and copper gets patinated. In fact, it is the lustrous green patina of aged copper that lends it much of its appeal. You can even purchase pre-patinated copper roofing and sheet metal these days. While installation of the natural and patinated copper is the same, there is one big difference between handling fresh and patinated copper: dust.

Patina dust can cause rust in iron and steel so tools and equipment must be protected. Any tools used during a day of working with patinated copper should be lightly oiled and wiped down before being stowed for the night. Also, patina dust is not so good for humans either, and gloves and respirators should be worn by anyone working with the material.

When bending or cutting patinated copper, the patina is liable to crack or blemish slightly. Have no fear as the natural elements themselves will mend the break.

Aged Wood


While aged wood can drastically change the aesthetic of a project, giving it that cottage, cabin, or colonial feel, in terms of handling and maintenance wood does not change much with age. Two of its biggest enemies, especially for aged wood flooring, continue to be water and dirt.

When actually working with aged wood (pre-finish), gloves are advisable due to splintering of the old lumber. Aged wood also requires more care when handling because it is typically dry, weathered, and not nearly as strong as it was at birth.

The Green Benefit

One cannot ignore the eco-friendly side of working with aged wood, rustic metal, and patinated copper. While many new products are designed to look aged or rustic, the majority of these materials are salvaged from old barns, scrap yards, etc. That saves valuable landfill space while adding a rustic aesthetic to the home…something to keep in mind on your next trip to the junkyard.

For all you rustic remodelers out there, arrangements can be made with your contractor to recycle or reuse your own remodeling debris and have any excess hauled away to the appropriate recycling plant.