Kristin Hubick from Retrocafeart has asked me to do a tutorial for you all on how I etch metal after she saw my etched metal suitcase necklace from my previous post made using her small brass suitcases from her shop. Those of you who etch metal and adore doing so as I do, would know its very hard to actually etch a 3D object like a working small brass suitcase as the item being etched is floated on the etchant surface not sitting on the bottom of the tray covered in solution... so how to etch just one side and not affect other parts. I digress though...first how to etch at all.
I've never made a secret of the fact that the one and only artistic gorgeous Jen Crossley taught me hands on etching...I say "hands on" as I had read how to do it and watched YouTube how too's but learning hands on was the only way I truly KNEW how to do it....my hands are my real teacher in a class situation. Jen has given me the green light to write this too. I know I didn't necessarily have to ask her as its a technique freely available over the web but I wouldn't have done it without her consent....that's just me :o). Besides Jen has become my friend, inspiration and mentor in more ways then I can think of.
ETCHING METAL the Basics
• Metal to etch. Works with Copper, Nickel/Silver and Brass. Use .5mm (24gauge) thick sheets
• Black sharpie marker.
• Straight edged tin snips.
• Jewellers saw OR metal bench block and chasing hammer. Cover hammer flat end with leather to prevent it marking the metal.
• Hand held metal files. Also called Bastards.
• Fine Wet/Dry sandpaper.
• Stamps of choice.
• Stazon ink black. Ensure the pad is very well inked.
• Rubbing Alcohol. I use Isocol available from super markets.
• Heat gun.
• Masking tape or double sided tape and thin foam sheet.
• Disposable plastic flat bottomed containers. One small and one larger.
• Ferric Chloride Etchant solution- available at Altronics on line in Oz
• Sodium Bicarbonate powder.
• Disposable gloves, eye protecting glasses and Apron.
1) a-Draw shape to cut from the metal of choice with black Sharpie. Don eye wear protectors. b-Cut metal out with straight edged tin snips or use a jewellers saw. Be careful as the cut metal edges are VERY sharp. c-Hammer the cut piece flat on a metal bench block, using a chasing hammer. The metal block is also known as a chasing block. You wont have to do this if you used the jewellers saw.
2) Keep eye protectors on. d-Using the hand file, file the cut metal edges. Push the file down the metal edge away from you. This makes the edges less sharp. Do both sides. Remove eye wear. e-Wet the wet/dry sand paper and sand the metal in a circular motion or go up and down and then left and right. This creates a tooth for stamping. f-Don gloves and spray some rubbing alcohol on the metal and wipe over with a soft cloth to remove sanded metal shavings and finger prints as they can interfere with the etching process.
3) g-Ink stamp with a wet black Stazon ink pad and stamp image onto the sanded side of the metal. If it isn’t a good image you can wipe it back off with rubbing alcohol and redo it. Of course you can draw a design of your choice with a Sharpie and not stamp if you wish. The Sharpie and Stazon ink resist the etchant solution. Heat set the image with a heat gun. Be careful as the metal gets very hot. Leave till metal is cool again.
4) h-You can then attach the metal to foam with double sided tape image side up or attach strips of masking tape to the back of the stamped metal. Don eye wear, gloves and Apron. Work in a well ventilated place like outside if able. Pour approx 1cm deep etchant solution into a small flat bottomed plastic container. i-Place the stamped metal attached to masking tape or the foam in the container with the image side down so that the metal is suspended by the tape or floating on top with the foam but in full contact of the etchant solution. It needs to float on the surface so the small metal particles that come off during etching can sink to the bottom away from the etched surface.
Etching time can vary depending on if you are in a colder climate. Usually it takes 40-60minutes. You can speed it up by placing the container holding the poured etchant solution in a larger container of warm water. It works quicker if you are outside on a sunny day too. To check if the etched process is done lift up a small section of the metal from the etchant bath and run a pinky on a small section. It will feel raised if ready. WASH your pinky well under running water.
5) When done wear eye wear again and remove the metal from the etchant solution. Partly fill a larger disposable container with warm water that has a j-sodium bicarbonate in it. k-Wash the metal in the bi carb solution and also rub the surface with some dry bi carb powder as this neutralizes the etchant solution and stops the metal continuing to etch. Rinse off under tap and leave till dry. lPour used etchant solution into the bi carb solution. It will bubble and then settle and can now be m-disposed off safely at a dump in secure fitting glass or plastic bottles. Do not pour it down the sink.
6) You can do a few things here as desired...you can add inks to the etched metal, patina it by dunking it in a Liver Of Sulphate solution or use Black Patina For Solder, paint over it etc or leave it as is. Regardless of what you decide to do the next step after that is to n-sand it again so the etched metal looks shiny again and the stamped image will become more defined. You can use a fine wet/dry sand paper first and then a slightly dry coarser one. If you leave it raw lastly wipe over the metal again with Isocol. Seal with metal spray or Crystal kote or other suitable metal sealant.
It took me several days to work this out...I'd play with this or that and then leave it on my messy desk. The trick was to make a template in cardstock of the shape, draw that on a thin piece of foam(but wider then the item is) by tracing around the template with a sharpie marker. Then cut out the drawn shape making it deep enough for the item to sit in so only one surface is exposed! As a precaution I also wrapped the edges of the suitcases and perfume bottles with tape before embedding them in the foam as well.
So here they are after etching. The second suitcase I already used to make the necklace below and in the previous post. The little perfume bottles remind me of small doll shapes so I am hunting for small doll heads to hack off to use on them...so evil sounding LOL...I have tried two dolls but they are not hollow. May make a mould and try resin yet :o)
Under the door of the suitcase is an Ice Resin filled washer with a vintage image in the base.
the frozen charlotte and the pencil are from Retro Cafe Art Gallery. Ice Resin was then poured on top.
So there you have it folks etching with metal and how to do so using 3D metal objects. Have fun.
Annette In Oz