Friday, March 4, 2011

still stirring the soup
and etching, my way - a tutorial

Hello all, first I'd like to express my gratitude and happiness at seeing so many people on the wonderous Bead Soup Blog Party hosted so capably by Lori Anderson!   I will admit that I'm still trying to visit everyone's blog, but am about 3/4 of the way done.  I'm taking my time and trying to make sure I comment on every post!  It's such a lot of fun, and I've met so many wonderful people - not the least of whom are Lori herself and my awesome soupy partner, Molly Alexander.  Oh, and Lori has already started tempting us with when the next Bead Soup will start brewing!  I can't wait :)

Now, a while ago I'd teased you with a quick promise of a tutorial on how I etch sheet metal.  And I'm finally off of the Bead Soup high that I was on, and have a few minutes to go ahead and put together that tutorial.  And it's mostly a photo-tutorial, so do expect this to be a photo-heavy post!

The method I use is one that I've found in a number of different places, so this likely won't be a new method to most of you.  (Stephanie Lee's awesome book "Semi-Precious Salvage" features this etching process, as does the EtsyMetal blog, and Copperheart's blog.)  This tutorial can be used on both brass and copper.  I've mostly used it on copper, but that's just because I tend to work more with copper than brass! 

Materials & Tools Needed:

  • Copper or brass sheet metal 
  • Sharpie marker
  • Staz-On Solvent Ink Pad in Jet Black
  • Stamp
  • PCB Etchant Solution (mine is from Radio Shack)
  • Liver of Sulfer
  • Baking Soda
  • Masking Tape/Painters Tape/Packing Tape
  • Brass Brush
  • Green Scrubbie Pad
  • 000 Steel Wool
  • Two plastic or glass containers
  • burnisher (I use the handle of a pair of scissors)
A word of caution - please make sure that you read the safety information that comes on/with your etchant.  Wear gloves, as the etchant can irritate your skin.  And Ferric Chloride, which is the main active ingredient, is extremely staining, so make sure to protect surfaces from splashes and wear old work clothes as it will not come out!

The Process:

Choose the piece of metal to be etched.  Clean the metal sheet very well using the green scrubbie pad or steel wool.  With the black Staz On ink pad and your chosen stamp, stamp the sheet metal.  I will occasionally will go over the design with the black Sharpie, or draw a border around the edges.

Burnish the tape to the back of the sheet metal really well.  If it's not burnished well, the etchant will seep under the tape and bother the back of the metal.  Another option is to use a resist on the back of the piece.  (ie: Stop Out)

Take the etchant solution and pour about 1/2 inch into glass or plastic bowl.

Suspend sheet metal face down in etchant solution with the tape.  Leave to sit 45 minutes or so, gently swishing the bowl a bit to agitate solution for a clean etch.  Check the etch at the end of 30 minutes, and again every 15 minutes or so until the depth of the etch is how you like it.  (The demo piece was etched for about 1 hour & 15 minutes.) 

Remove tape from etched metal and clean it with baking soda and water mixed together.  Scrub both sides.

To dispose of etchant solution, pour baking soda into the bowl.  The solution will bubble and get white and foamy.  This will neutralize the etchant, and it's now safe to dispose of down the drain.  *Please do check with local regulations on disposal however, some areas might have different regulations!*

At this point, you can skip over this and move right on to patina, but I usually add this step, just to make sure that the metal is clean, neutralized and oil-free.   Pull out the brass brush and scrub away....

....then grab the green scrubbie and scrub...

...and grab the steel wool to scrub yet some more!

By this point, you should be ready to patina the metal.  I use liver of sulfur for patina'ing a piece, but I know there are other methods.  Feel free to use what every you want to patina your newly etch piece.  Here's my method:

Grab your liver of sulfur.  I currently have a bottle of the liquid stuff, but have used the dry form too, both with equal success.

Fill a plastic container with about 1 to 2 inches of water, and microwave for about 2 minutes.  Add the liver of sulfur and mix with either a copper tool or wood dowel/stick.  (I used a wood skewer found in the kitchen.)  Drop in your metal piece or pieces and let them hang out.

Once an appropriate level of color has been reached, pull out your etched piece.  Rinse with cold water, then wash with a mild soap to stop the process.  Admire your yummy dark and moody piece.

Grab that awesome steel wool again and scrub away to bring out the highlights and lowlights in your etched metal.

Admire your gorgeous piece.

And then, if you are me, leave it out and about until you can figure out something to do with it...usually for months.  Or leave it out until your three year old finds it and then it disappears.
(still haven't found it...)  
(and don't worry, it's too big to have been ingested.)


TesoriTrovati said...

Great tute!
I have done the chemical way, and it is important to take those safety precautions. I actually use the electrical etching with the E3 Etching system. I love it. There is no noxious chemicals, so easy to do just about anywhere(you might get blue fingers for a few days if you don't use gloves). Love the look of this and really need more time to play with metal. Thanks for reminding me that it is time!
Enjoy the day!

Judy said...

Nice piece and great tutorial!

Molly Alexander said...

Great tutorial & pics. You've reminded me that I've gotta get my sheet metal out again soon & start etching again.

Have a fantastic weekend! :)

Jen V. said...

Great tutorial! My soup partner, Judy Glende, sent me some awesome etched pieces so I tried my first hand at etching a couple of weeks ago. I'm happy with the progress but they're definitely practice pieces! haaaaaaaaa

Jenn said...

I really enjoyed reading about a process that I know nothing about. Great post!
Following you via the EtsyMom team forum.


Karen Williams said...

Great tutorial! And I love the tip about using painter's tape to suspend the piece you're etching in the bath.

When I learned to do this we simply dropped our pieces into a mason jar with the etchant, and had to really work to fetch them back out with bamboo skewers. It was really frustrating.

brass sheets said...

Love the look of this and really need more time to play with metal. Thanks for reminding me that it is time!
Enjoy the day!


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