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?
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
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
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
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).
Step 4: Enjoy!
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.
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.