Finishes for Steel

I am working on a steel fighters helmet (traditional renaissance)
for a friend.

Here is the problem, the helm is somewhat old and has ALOT of rust
on it. I have removed most of the rust with naval jelly however, I
have several questions on finishing (for those of you steel fans out

I have read a recent post about a rust finish (muriatic
acid/hydrogen peroxide method) though this sounds nice, and a finish
that is able to be put on top of previously existing rust…is there
another finish I can use? (a burnt oil finish is kinda outta the
question, I don’t really have an outside kiln good for this)

the oppi untrecht book discusses bluing of steel…I assume that
the steel must be mar free (at least rust free) for this type of
finish. Is this correct? Is there another type of finish that I can
put on…(I was hoping for a dark finish, which is why I thought the
rust finish may be best.)

Is there anything that should be done to preserve the finish? My
friend plans on using the helm, so anything that I use will need to
be somewhat resilient to being beat with rattan. (the inside I am
planning on using a clear coat rustoleum to prevent further rusting
from sweat, unless there is a better idea out there?)

any ideas?

julia potts
julia potts studios

Hi, Julia,

I suggest you go to and look at their
patinas, and at Permalac lacquer. I welded a “trophy deer head” that
has been mounted on a tree outside for about nine months now. It had
some rust on it already when I coated it with Permalac. So far, it
looks exactly the same as when I finished it.

Probably the best thing to do would be to remove all rust, use
patinas to get the look you want, then coat the piece to preserve
what you’ve done. But Permalac contains rust inhibitors, so it is
still quite effective, even if you don’t get all the rust off.


The stuff I use on some of my armor parts is called Conquest
Polymeric Rust Converter. I got it at an Auto parts store. It’s a
tannic acid compound made by a company called Chemsearch. I’ve had
the quart bottle for years, as a little goes a long way, and I only
use it on my gauntlets and elbow cops. The only thing I put on the
finish after it cures is basic cheap Turtle Wax.

It finishes up, a hard to describe, bluish brown.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

Hi Julia,

aren’t helmets fun!! I use a blueing solution from a gun shop (no
names as I’m from Australia and it won’t help you in America). The
active ingredient is selenium and you can get brown or blues
depending on the steel of the helmet. Make sure the surface of the
helmet is absolutely clean, wear latex (rubber or vinyl) gloves when
handling or you’ll end up with fingerprints on the helmet (and
stained fingers). I usually give the helmet a light scotchbrite
finish as this gives the surface more tooth for the patina to take

Rust converters - such as tannic acid - only work on rusty steel. It
will not affect the clean bare metal. But once applied to corrosion,
the corrosion turns dark brown (and occasionally purple). You can
patinate over the top of this.

As for finishing, turtle wax or other car waxes work great but
remember that it also needs to be applied often. Fighting in the rain
or drizzle does happen and waxes can only work for so long. If your
friend remembers to re-wax his helmet at least once a year then the
patina should last a while.


Hi Folks, I am new here but would like to toss out an idea on this

For the helmet you are making you might try phosphoric acid. It can
be bought at an auto supply and is used to treat and retard rust. I
am not exactly sure of the chemical process but it basically
galvanizes the metal and leaves a gray finish. All loose rust needs
to be removed first. After washing away all the acid residue the
metal can be primed and painted. I have not tried bluing metal
treated this way. By the way there is also a browning treatment for
firearms that works very well on steel. It retards rust and leaves a
light rust colored finish. Hope this helps.