Yeah, I know it’s an old joke; but this is my only chance to use it!
In my Production A class we just learned about etching! Fun, fun, fun. Well, no fun allowed around the chemicals, but we’ll get to that.
Etching is the eating away of a layer of metal (in this case) by an acid. Which acid you use depends on which metal you want to etch. Back in the bad old days, craftspeople doing etching used dangerous chemicals – in every sense of that word. Imagine commonly using nitric acid, sulphuric acid or hydrochloric acid! Not for me, that’s for sure. We are using ferric chloride and ferric nitrate, which are somewhat safer. You still have to suit up in face shield, clothing protection, and heavy duty chemical resistant rubber gloves. Oh, and don’t forget the fume hood. So, no fun around the chemicals.
The fun part is deciding what you would like to etch onto the metal. Are you more of a free form kind of artist or would you like a precise design? In order to end up with a design on the metal you have to use a resist. So far in our class, we have worked on base metals with different resists. We had asphaltum, nail polish, Staedtler Lumocolor red markers, and packing tape to try as resists on copper or brass. I also wanted to try etching on nickel silver because it is a very hard metal that potentially would be good as a texture plate for roller printing.
These are the samples I prepared for class. The one on the left is a variety pack – trying out nail polish, tape, red marker, and asphaltum. The black one next to it is copper with asphaltum and a design scraped into it. Next is a piece of brass with red marker. On the right is a piece of brass with tape and red marker. Finally, on the bottom is a small piece of nickel silver with asphaltum, before I scraped a design into it. They are all on little pieces of styrofoam which keep it floating when you place the metal face down in the acid bath.
These all were in the acid for two hours, and it is interesting to see how the different metals and resists react. Some of the resists are not as hardy, like the red marker. That said, red marker on copper seems to work quite well, ’cause copper is softer (relatively).
These are the samples after they have been etched and cleaned (except for the nail polish). I think it is so much fun. The two copper ones on the right I plan on using in enameled designs. The one on the left I am going to use as a roller print texture plate. The nickel silver one didn’t etch as deeply as the others, so I’m going to do it again. In the meantime, I’m going to see if this one will still give a texture if I use it for roller printing.
I like etching so far, although I don’t know if I would ever do it in my home studio because of the chemicals. I would have to do it outside as well, so that would cut down on the times I can use it. Mostly, I think I would use it to make texture plated for roller printing. Brass plates wouldn’t last as long (which is why I was trying the nickel silver) but you can etch steel as well. Hummmm, I feel another experiment coming on!
The next etching we are going to try is using pnp paper on silver! I’ll tell you about that in a future post.
In the meantime, if you want to have an overview of etching and other jewellery making techniques I like the book: The Art and Craft of Making Jewellery by Joanna Gollberg. It has a lot of the techniques in it that I’ve learned in school and has lots of great pictures!
See you soon!