How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

So now you finally have that fancy titanium spork, tent stakes, or other piece of gear that you have been salivating over at your local outdoor store. The only problem, it is the wrong color. How would you go about changing this? Well, did you know that you can use Diet Coke to anodize titanium in just a few simple steps?

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

Hi-Viz Tent Stakes

I was inspired to make my Vargo Ti tent stakes more visible after reading an article by Brian on how to paint titanium tent stakes. I went to all of my local hardware stores to try and find the metal etching primer that Brian mentioned but was unable to find any. Then I remembered once reading that you could color titanium with Diet Cola and some 9v batteries, so I went to my local drug store and got the supplies to give it a try.

How to Safely Anodize Titanium in Your Kitchen

Step 1: Clean Your Titanium

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

You will need to get all the oils, dirt, and any other residue off of the surface of the titanium before you proceeded. We will be using a weak acid and electrolysis to anodize and it does not work if your titanium gear has any dirt or grease on it.

Step 2: Setting up the Acid Bath

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

Fold some aluminum foil over one side of a plastic container and connect the negative terminal of your power supply or 9v batteries to the foil. To achieve the bright blue color that I got you will need a more powerful 35v on your power supply or 4x 9v batteries connected in series.

Step 3: Anodize

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

Fill the plastic container with the Diet Coke and wait until the fizzing stops. Connect the positive terminal of your power supply or batteries to the piece of titanium gear and dip it in the soda bath. Hold the titanium submerged for at least 30 seconds, but take care not dip the electrical wire in the fluid, only the titanium. If everything is working properly, you will notice small bubbles forming while you have the titanium submerged. You will need to dip the item multiple times while reconnecting the wire each time. If you want to achieve a color other than blue you will need to add or subtract batteries as needed (see voltage/color chart below).

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

Step 4: Enjoy!

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

Enjoy you newly coated titanium gear. It took me about an hour to gather the supplies and anodize all 6 titanium tent stakes and the spork. This oxide layer will last longer than most other coating techniques (even the painting methods that inspired this modification). The color is much more impressive in full sunlight and is easy to distinguish from grass, leaves.

How to Anodize Titanium Using Diet Coke

NOTE: As mentioned in step 1 – Diet Coke anodizing only works with bare titanium. It will not work with aluminum, or with already anodized titanium. You can strip off the oxide layer put on in the factory with steel wool and then go through this process to color your gear (I had to do this for the spork shown in the pictures).

Editor Note: This post was written and submitted by Josh Rubin, a regular reader of Brian’s Backpacking Blog. Josh had left a comment on my original tent stake hi-vis hack post describing his clever mod. He was invited to submit a full write up to share with everyone else. I think he did a fantastic job. Thanks Josh for taking the time to share this.

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  • reid

    why even bother? i ask this in all seriousness. what is the real benefit of doing this?

    • Josh Rubin

      The blue color is much more visible in the underbrush than the original dull gray. This will help with not leaving stakes behind when packing up camp.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Reid, there’s a very real reason for doing this AND the yellow paint hi-vis hack I originally posted – it’s to not lose your expensive “grey” titanium tent pegs on the ground. Believe it or not they’re a bitch to spot because of their natural color, making them bright yellow or blue help the eye spot them.

      The anodizing is actually a better option than my paint technique. Paint chips off easily whereas the anodizing is much more durable.

    • grayson

      It’s helpful for people who are looking into anodizing items for aesthetic purposes, like bike parts or glasses, etc… It’s fun too.

  • backpack hype

    I think this is brilliant. You no longer have to put some markings on your gears to distinguish them from the others. Is it also workable on double-walled titanium mugs?

    • Josh Rubin

      this should work with any pure titanium gear (although the large mass of the mug might cause trouble). Instead of dipping into the coke bath one could use a foam paintbrush soaked in the coke and connected to the negative wire to make it easier.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I’m planning on anodizing some of my titanium gear just for looks and to distinguish it. I can’t wait.

  • Chris @ Outdorky

    This just looks fun. I question if the blue is really much more visible in the underbrush. I don’t think it matters though – this just looks like fun. Great post!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Josh did a great job putting this together so quickly. I’m inclined to believe that blue is a very distinctive and easy to spot color. This is so easy I’m going to give it a try for myself ;)

  • Snctool

    Josh, I enjoyed the anodizing education…great article. If you can figure out an easy method for removing the ink from Bud Lite aluminum bottles…let me know…thanks…

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Yeah that would be something wouldn’t it. How long does it take you to clean up the bottles now..?

      • Snctool

        It is laborious and time consuming. I use scotchbrite to remove the baked on ink. The process they use to apply the ink is called Metal Deco. There is no known solvent which will remove it. I have tried them all. Sand blasting is even slow to remove it. Sanding with scotchbrite in the lathe is the best method I have used but is still time consuming.

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          I wondered how you were doing it and after hearing it sounds awful. I wonder if an electrolysis bath would work. I’ll do some testing for you and see.

          • Snctool

            Yeah Brian if you come up with a better method let me know…it would be much appreciated.

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

    This may be a dumb question, but how would I connect the multiple 9V batteries together? Could I just use a piece of wire to connect all the negatives, and another to connect all the positives?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Stick, they should all connect to one another by using opposite connectors and then two wires, one at either end. Like this: 9 Volt Battery & Coca Cola Titanium Anodizer » NYC Resistor

      • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

        Wow… it had to be something simple… :)

        Thanks!

  • johnabela

    OMG… I want orange ones!!! Who has the ability to pump things up to 97 or 98 volts and turn my stakes orange!!! (yes, I am fixated on orange gear right now)

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I actually have the ability to do that with some equipment I have. Check out Harbor Freight for cheap variable electrical charging gear. I wouldn’t recommend HF for much else, but in this case it will do.

      This is pretty cool right? I’m playing with it on a bunch of my TI gear.

      • johnabela

        Hey Brian, I can send you some Lawson Stakes to play with :-) Not really into the whole electrical things of this world… stuck my fingers in too many sockets as a kid I guess lol. After getting my pumpkin orange hybrid cf/nylon backpack from zpacks I have been on an orange kick… orange stakes would just be the icing on the cake LOL

    • John Hatfield

      John, I know this is an old post, but if you have aluminum hooks, my company can orange anodize them for you.

  • reid

    yellow tape around the stakes works for me but I get where you are coming from, thanks for the response

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

    Well, I have certainly been influenced! Me & My son gave this a try this morning…

    I picked up 10, 9V batteries from the Dollar Store and a 16 oz bottle of coke. Set it up as described, and bottom line is, it worked! Some questions & comments though…

    Ideally, how fast will this drain the batteries? And do you think name brand vs generic will matter?

    I witnessed a dramatic decrease in bubbling on about the 3rd tent stake. Could it be possible that this was due to the batteries already dying, or possibly something about the coke loosing it’s fizziness? I did notice that with each stake it took a little longer.

    Also, I noticed that where the clamp was attached, this area did not seem to get anodized. Instead, I would have to lift the stake out and move the clamp and reinsert it so that the entire stake was anodized.

    It also seemed like the closer the stakes were to the aluminum foil on the side of the bowl, the faster/better it worked. Would it be a good idea to also layer the bottom of the bowl with some foil instead of just the one side?

    I hooked up 11 of the 9V batteries, expecting a red color, but instead we got light blue. Also, on the 2 stakes we tried at 99V, once we tried them again on 45V, the stakes wouldn’t change to the darker blue the others were turning too…

    Oh well, it was a fun project, and now most of my ti stakes are anodized. My son and I enjoyed hooking all the batteries together, but I like you bench top power supply better I think…

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Stick~

  • http://www.hikeultralight.com/ Hike Ultralight

    It is easy to lose stakes, especially in the Southeast. Great tip here.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      The blue in the photo just doesn’t do it justice!

  • B. B.

    Just tie a piece of colored fabric or other material to the object if you are afraid to lose them. In fact, just buy cheap steal or aluminum and forget about the titanium appliances.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      That’s very practical but no fun at all. C’mon, you can’t tell me you don’t like to experiment and tinker with gear just for fun..?

      • The Great King Beleth

        You are right, my friend. I like to tinker and invent, but I am rather practical with my outdoor and survival gear. As interesting as this experiment is, I just think it’s more an ascetic value than useful and/or practical. BTW I tend to make homemade tents, the stakes and poles from wherever I’m camping. Mostly I prefer dugouts and lean to’s. Survivalist training over the years has changed the way I look at gear in a big way.