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How to age cheap, shiny metal Christmas bells to create a rustic, aged patina.
Do you ever have those days where your brain is just totally offline? Because I’m pretty sure that’s me today. I’ve been sitting here for the past hour trying to come up with something to say about these little bells, but my brain is just going “Blaaaaaaaaargh”.
So, rather than spend another hour agonising over what to say, I’m just gonna jump right in.
You know those shiny Christmas bells (I think they’re sometimes called jingle bells?) that show up in stores come Christmas time?
These little guys:
Well, I bought some over the weekend and gave them a little makeover to create some old-timey, aged bells.
How to age shiny metal Christmas bells
- Shiny Christmas bells.
- I know most of you are in the US, so I asked my American friend where you can find these in the US. She said she’s seen them at places like Dollar Tree and Michael’s in the past.
- I bought mine from The Reject Shop here in Australia.
- Fire: Any source of fire will do. I used a gas stovetop, but you can also use a lighter, fireplace, firepit, etc.
- Kitchen tongs.
- Metal-tipped tongs work best.
- Sandpaper. I used 180 grit sandpaper.
- Matte varnish.
A safety note: The process of burning the bells creates some fumes, so you might want to open a window and/or run your kitchen extraction fan. If you’re really worried, you can also use a protective face mask or do this project outside using a firepit, BBQ, or similar. With that said, I did 24 bells inside (with the window shut, because I don’t follow my own safety advice) and I’ve not grown an additional head or anything.
1. Put your bell(s) on top of the gas stovetop. I found it easiest to just do one bell at a time. I initially tried to do lots of them at once but I couldn’t flip them quickly enough, which left me with a bunch of charred, ruined bells (oops).
2. Turn the gas on low-medium. Let the bell sit in the flames until it starts to smoke a tiny bit and the shiny coating begins to crackle, about 5 – 10 seconds.
3. Flip your bell over and leave it in the flames for another 5 – 10 seconds. If you’re using cheap silicone-tipped tongs, turn the gas off then flip your bell. Otherwise you will end up with melted silicone all over the place, and it’s a real pain to clean up.
4. Use your tongs to remove the bell from the stovetop (it’ll be hot, so be careful) and plop it on a paper towel/rag to cool while you work on the rest of your bells.
5. Once you’ve finished burning all of your bells, use a piece of light-grit sandpaper to sand off some of the shiny finish. The finish should come off very easily. If it doesn’t, pop them back into the flames for another five seconds then try again.
6. To finish, give the Christmas bells a coat of matte varnish. This both reduces the residual shininess (which helps them look all aged and stuff) and protects them from rusting further. Like I said above, spray varnish is probably the easiest to apply, but any old matte varnish will do.
Your fancy, schmancy rustic Christmas bells are complete.
You can use these aged Christmas bells for lots of different things. I decided to thread a bit of jute twine through some of them to create a few new ornaments for my tree. I’m thinking I’ll use the rest on a Christmas garland next year, when I’m not busy tearing my hair out trying to pack everything for our upcoming move.