Remember I said there would be a catch when it came to this freebie tutorial? Here it is – If you are not already a subscriber of my blog, now’s the time to take the plunge! I ask that you subscribe yourself and share this blog with as many friends as you think appropriate. That may be just one person, it may be a group of people such as in one of your favorite frequented jewelry forums. Share it on facebook, or twitter, or myspace. Share it with as many people as you like! Please, just SHARE it! If you like it then please subscribe to my blog. I promise not to flood you with nonsense. Just lots of short show and tells, tips for other artist, the occasional guest author and maybe once in a blue moon you’ll find an interview of another artist whom I admire. It won’t hurt. I promise. Of course I cannot force you to subscribe, and I’ll share the free tutorial with you anyway, but I hope that you will seriously consider becoming a subscriber.
I also request that those of you who experiment with the metal etching technique share some of your results via pictures. I would love to see what you’re doing with it. Now of course I cannot force you to share your pictures with me either, but I am hoping to have a good response to this request. I hope to get enough pics in to share a few of YOUR experiments as a follow up to this free tutorial. Now, on to the tutorial!
After all the great feedback on my etched metal projects and many exclamations of ‘I want to do that too!’ from my friends and students I decided to make a simple tutorial to share. It’s not going to be heavily involved by any means. My usual style in tutorial writing is to show a picture of every stage. In this case I have skipped a few pictures to make this short and concise. Nothing that’s really necessary, mind you. For example, I don’t really think you need a picture of me scrubbing a copper sheet with a green scrubby pad to know how to do it yourself. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions after reading the tutorial. I am always happy to help and don’t mind being bugged at all. Getting questions and comments helps to reassure me that people are actually making use of that which I have labored (however lightly) to bring to you. Feel free to ask questions and make comments here on the blog as you might ask a question or offer an insight that my other readers will appreciate as well.
For this project you will need:
22 ga or 24 gauge copper sheet metal
Sharpie markers (I use a fine point and a fat point)
Rubber Gloves for protection
Clear packing tape
A glass or Tupperware container large enough to fit your project in (NO METAL BOWLS!)
Liver of Sulfur
Green scrubby pad
0000 grade steel wool (hardware store)
PCB Etching Solution from Radio Shack (or mix your own)
A fine file and fine grade sandpaper (hardware store)
A pair of metal snips
Steel bench block
Hammer and anvil
I recommend that you read through the tutorial fully before attempting the project.
If you cannot get the PCB etch at a local Radio Shack you can make your own etching solution. Go to your local hardware store and pick up some Muratic Acid. You’ll find it in the pool care section for under five bucks. Pick up a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from your local drug store and you’re ready to mix! The recipe is two parts hydrogen peroxide to one part Muratic Acid. (Please note: If you mix your own solution it’s best to do it outside or in a well ventilated area. This etchant will release some fumes that you don’t want to breathe in.) Add the hydrogen peroxide to your container first, then slowly pour in the muratic acid. Do not pour it in too fast or it might bubble and spit – not a good thing when working with acids. This is one of the reasons that I recommend safety goggles. It is also a good idea not to wear any garments you’re overly fond of as a tiny little splash of acid will eat holes in your clothing. Please read the precautions on your containers and use common sense when working with chemicals.
Let’s get started:Okay, so now we have all the necessary supplies and we’re ready to play with metal etching! The first thing you’ll need to do is use your sharpie markers to draw a design on the copper sheet. It can be anything you’d like. Here is a picture of my design drawn on the copper sheet.
Now you will use the clear packing tape to suspend your project face down in your etching bath. You’ll do this by putting the tape across the back of your design. You need to either be sure that there are no bubble or runs in the tape or cover the back of your piece thoroughly with resist. You can either color the back with your sharpie markers or paint it with some old red nail polish (if you use nail polish you will need acetone to remove it after the fact). It’s hard to see the tape in this picture, but it’s face up with the copper sheet placed on top of it. The tape needs to be about 4 inches longer than your bath container is wide.
Pour approximately ¼ to a ½ inch of etchant into your bath container. If you’re using PCB etchant from Radio Shack like me, it will look like the picture. If you mixed your own, it will be a clear liquid that will turn green as it begins to etch the copper sheet. Tape your project acoss the container so that the copper plate touches the acid bath enough to fully cover the face of the design. It’s okay if the tape dips below the surface of the etchant as long as you have taken precautions to add a resist to the back of your copper sheet.
I put a lid on my container and leave it to etch for 40 minutes. I will check it every 20 minutes. If you’re using the home mixed version with muratic acid, it is likely to etch faster so check it about every five to ten minutes. It helps if you agitate the mixture by swishing it around occasionally as well. When I stop to check the depth of etch on my metal sheet, if I can feel it by rubbing my gloved finger across it I deem it ready. Extract your metal sheet from the acid bath and rinse it. DO NOT RINSE IT IN A STAINLESS STEEL SINK! IT WILL RUIN THE FINISH ON THE SINK! Rinse it outside with your garden hose if you can. Rinse it thoroughly and inspect it. This etching is ready for the next step.
Once it has been fully rinsed and all of the etchant is removed you can take it back inside to a sink and use your green scrubby pad to scrub off any and all traces of the sharpie resist to prepare it for the LOS bath.
Using a different container, heat some water in your microwave ( one to two minutes on high), add a pea sized chunk of liver of sulfur and add your copper plate to the LOS bath.
Remove the plate from the bath once it is fully oxidized. This one sat a little long and now it’s good and black. This is fine.
Now use your 0000 grade steel wool to buff off the LOS patina and highlight the raised portion of the design.
Now you will use your tin snips to cut out the different pieces. Alternately you can use a jewelers saw but I find that for small projects the snips work fine. The snips tend to curl the edges somewhat, in which case I use a steel bench block and a rawhide hammer to whack my pieces enough to flatten the curled edges.
Use the file and sand paper to soften the edges so that there are no rough or sharp spots left.
Drill or Euro Punch pliers to pierce for adding bails, jump rings, dangles, ear wires, etc. depending on your specific project. Here are some of my completed projects from my metal etching experiments.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I appreciate any comments or feedback on this tutorial that you may have to offer.
Check out my website for more great jewelry making tutorials: http://www.DeliaStone.com
Images and text copyright 2011 Delia Stone.