Monday, August 31, 2009

Eureka I Figured it out. Tutorial For Electrolytic Etching on Copper (Finally)

This is how my first successful attempt at etching copper using a saltwater solution and battery charger turned out. I don't think it's that bad and I learned alot in the process. If you read my first post about this process you will see that my initial attempt turned out to be a total failure. Since then I have finally tweaked the process and found what works. The following is a step-by-step tutorial on what I did this time to get the above result.

Items you will need:

You will need a container preferably with a screw on lid capable of holding one (1) liter of DISTILLED water. I emphasize distilled because in my first attempt I used tap water and then my alter ego, the biologist with the very expensive biology degree that I obtained years ago, kicked me in the pants and reminded me that tap water contains additives i.e chlorine, flouride, etc. that may interfere with the reaction in ways that we don't want.

You want to use Kosher Salt which is basically just natural salt without any added iodine. (Remember, normal table salt has iodine added as a nutritional supplement to prevent iodine deficiency which causes thyroid problems. You don't want the Iodine in your salt solution so get KOSHER) The salt in the photo is a pretty large container that I got at Wal-Mart for $0.38. You will be using quite a lot of salt per liter so for $0.38 a container go ahead and stock up.

Now if you read my previous post about my first attempt at this method you know that I was using 2 tbsp. of salt per liter. Hello! My biologist (haha) told me that this was obviously not enough, I don't know what I was thinking at the time. Probably, just nervous about playing with electricity and water. LOL. Sorry I digress sometimes.

So what you want to do is to actually get a saturated solution meaning absolutely no more salt will dissolve into solution. You will know when your solution is saturated when some of the salt crystals collect on the bottom of your 1 liter container no matter how much you shake it and try to get it to dissolve. I found that it took 1.5 cups of salt to reach this point.

To mix the solution this is the steps that I followed:
1. Place a liter of distilled water into your container.

2. Heat the water in the microwave for about a minute. (make sure you leave the lid off the
container while heating)

3. Pour 1 cup of the Kosher salt into the warm water. Screw on lid and shake vigorously. Let the
solution stand for a little while and make sure all of the salt is dissolved.

4. Remove the lid and repeat steps 1-3 adding only 1/2 cup of salt at a time until the salt is no
longer dissolving and crystals can be seen at the bottom of your container.

Now set your solution aside and get your power source ready.

You will need:
A plastic or glass container about 4 inches deep to hold your salt water bath. As you will see I used the bottom portion of an old milk jug. If you use the milk jug just make sure you rinse it out really well first. Other options would be those disposable lidded containers by Glad or any pyrex container that meet the depth requirements. Just know that whatever container you use you cannot use if for food storage ever again. (DO NOT USE A METAL CONTAINER EVER!)

A power supply. I chose to use a 12V batter charger that you
plug into an A/C outlet. Some sources state that you can also use a car battery the same as you would the battery charger. I can't see why you couldn't if you would feel more comfortable with that. I like the battery charger because it already has the color coded terminal cables attached. Remember Red is always the positive terminal and Black is always the negative terminal.

Essentially with this process of etching you are making a cathode, a negatively charged electrode, and an anode, a positively charged electrode. The way the system works is the piece to be etched is attached to the positive (red cable) terminal making it your anode(+). Then you attach the negative (black cable) terminal to a piece of metal making it your cathode (-). The salt water solution is a great conductor of electricity and therefore allows the negatively charged ions of the cathode to PULL AWAY the now positively charged copper ions which produces an etch mark anywhere that the metal attached to the positive terminal is bare.

Ok sorry to go all Bill Nye on you guys, but it helps to have a very basic idea of what is actually happening here and I needed to introduce this to you in order to explain the following steps.

Prepare the Cathode (-): It is best to use a like metal for the cathode as the metal that is being etched. In my first attempt I used a piece of scrap copper about the same size as the piece of copper that I was attempting to etch. Since I wasn't at all happy with those results, I decided to build a super cathode. So I took two bolts that you can purchase from any hardware store and thin gauge copper wire also purchased from the hardware store. I wrapped the copper wire very tightly around each bolt then I layed the bolts side by side and wrapped the copper wire around the pair binding them together. I then used 14 ga heavy copper wire to fashion a hanger for the cathode. You will attach the negative terminal of your power source to the hanger. Never allow the terminal cable to become directly submerged in the saltwater bath.

I forgot to get a pic of this before using it.
This is what it looks like after being in the salt water.

Prepare the Anode (+): Remember your anode is essentially the piece of copper that you want to etch simply attached to the positive terminal of your power source. Cut a piece of copper sheet slightly larger than you want your finished piece to be. Clean your copper really well. I use a green scotch brite scrubber and running water. Once it is clean handle it only by the edges. If you touch the clean face of the copper the oils in your fingers will leave a fingerprint that will be etched into your piece. Now transfer your image onto your copper. Other sources site several ways of doing this:

1. draw the design onto the copper using a permanent ink pen (sharpie marker)

2. stamp a design on using Staz-on permanent ink stamp pad

3. photocopy a design using a toner based copier or LASER printer (Inkjet printers won't work).
then use a hot iron to transfer the toner from the paper onto the metal. It you want to etch
words using this method make sure you reverse the type on the paper or else your type on
metal will be backwards.

4. photocopy an image onto PnP blue film and use an iron to transfer that to the metal.

For the example piece at the beginning of this post I first tried the stamping method with staz-on ink. It allowed for a very faint etch and then the ink was dissolved. To finish the piece and get the etch that you see in the picture I removed it from the bath and disconnected it from the power source. Then I traced over the light etch with a sharpie marker and returned the piece to the bath. The sharpie held up quite well but I believe having to retrace the design halfway through the process caused the etching to look somewhat distressed as you can see in the photo. I have also used the method of transferring a toner based photocopy using a hot iron with quite a bit of success. I haven't used PnP blue paper because it is crazy expensive. Remember that the dark areas of your image will be raised areas after etching. The areas that are bare metal will be etched away leaving a recessed area, so adjust your images accordingly. If you have an image that you want to change simply use photo editing software to invert the colors. Also it is best if you change color images to black and white.

Don't forget to cover the back of your piece with some type of resist, you don't want to etch both sides or else you will get holes eaten into your piece. You can cover the back with tape but make sure you have some Goo Gone to remove the adhesive residue afterward. You could also try using masking fluid like water color artists use to mask out areas on their paintings or you can coat the back of the piece with nail polish and remove it when you are finished with nail polish remover.

Now punch a whole into the extra copper at the top of your piece. Run a piece of wire through the whole making a hook by which to hold your piece int o the bath. Attach the positive terminal to the piece of wire. You never want to submerge the terminal cables directly into the bath.

The completed set-up with terminal cables attached:

Notice that the black handled cable is attached to the wire leading to the submerged copper wrapped bolts.
The red handled cable is attached to the wire leading to the piece of copper to be etched.
Neither cable clamp is touching the water.

If you have your clamps set up correctly you should immediately see bubbles coming from the bolts. This is normal and exactly what you want it means it is working. If the bubbles are coming from the piece that you want etched then switch your cables around.

After about 10 to 15 minutes your water will look like this:

The mucky brown color is the copper particles being pulled away from the copper piece. Start to check on the progress of your etch regularly from this point on, about every 15 minutes or so. When you are happy with the depth of the etch remove the power source from the piece and remove the piece from the bath. Use the scotch brite pad and clean running water to clean the piece. Now you can patina the piece or whatever you would like and make it into a beautiful piece of art to wear.

I know that this is a really long post but I wanted to be as clear and concise in my instructions as possible so that you all could have great results when you try this method yourselves. I hope that everything made sense. If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I will try my best to answer them.

I have enjoyed learning how to do this new technique along with you all. I hope to do it again soon. If there is a technique that you would like to try but you feel uncomfortable with the procedure or components, let me know and I will consider it and maybe we can learn it together. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions for future tutorials. Thanks for your patience and for taking a look. Have a great day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quick Update on Etching Experiment

Ok all I have been working really hard on getting the electrolytic etching to work and I finally had a breakthrough. I have photos of my setup and the etched piece as well as detailed instructions for you all. Unfortunately, I can't post them right now because I have had a really bad day. I got some bad news two fold this am. My grandmother has been hospitalized so I am going to see her as soon as I am finished with this post. Secondly, my dad had a doctors appt. today and we got some pretty bad news. I wish I could say that it was totally unexpected but it really wasn't. We won't know anything for sure until after they run more tests next Friday. So we would really appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers for both my dad and my grandmother.

Hopefully, things will calm down and I will be able to post the tutorial late tonite or tomorrow am. Thanks everyone. Have a great evening.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are You Ready?

I had originally posted this together with a previous post but with the holiday shopping season fast approaching I decided it needed its very own post. So here it is:

So I can't believe we are already into the second week of August. Wow! Christmas will be here before you know it. It's time to start thinking about gift giving, fighting the holiday shopping crowds, eating until you think you will be sick, etc. etc. And if you have an ETSY shop you should probably be thinking about getting prepared for the holiday shoppers. I hope that this will be a great year for all of us. Just some quick things to consider when getting prepared for the holiday "rush" (let's all keep our fingers crossed)

1. Get organized. If you don't already have a packing and shipping station set up consider getting one put together. One centralized area where you can keep all of your envelopes/boxes, mailing labels, tape, scissors, ribbon, thank you cards, business cards, and whatever else you like to include with your shipments.

2. Stock up on supplies. Take a quick inventory and make sure you have plenty of the above listed items. The last thing that you want to do is be running to one of the office supply stores everyday to get mailers or labels. And of course don't forget your crafting supplies. Start looking for good deals on the supplies you need to make your product i.e beads, wire, yarn, glycerin whatever applies, and buy in bulk. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

3. If you can try to bulk up your inventory. If you know that you have one or a couple of popular items that you sell alot of go ahead and make extras. That way you might be able to save yourself the stress and anxiety of too many all niters to finish a product and get it shipped on time.

4. Speaking of time...start thinking about shipping deadlines. It's a good idea to check with the postal service once it gets closer to the holidays and see what their suggestions are for the latest date that an item can be shipped and be "guaranteed" to arrive in time for gift giving. Then amend your shop announcement to let customers know that items must be ordered before such and such date in order to arrive in time. Oh, it's also a good idea to start thinking about a cut off date for custom orders. Go ahead and let your customers know that you will only accept custom orders for Christmas gifts up until a certain date. Otherwise you will inevitably have someone want a custom order that would take at least 4 days to produce but they will order it 2 days before Christmas and expect it to be ready for them to give on Christmas morning.

5. Now may be a good time to start considering your promotional/advertising strategies. There are several options from paid ads to social networking and of course the blogosphere, just do what works for you. The important thing is that you get your name circulating so that it is fresh on potential customers minds. And of course start pushing those business cards, give one to anyone that you can.

6. Shop appearance. I can't stress this one enough. Take a good critical look at your shop. Try to see it from the buyers perspective. Tweak your photos and descriptions. Do your very best to give the shopper a good representation of just how great your items are.

I can't think of anymore tips right at the moment but I am sure that there are things that I have left out. Check the forums. There are many great Etsy vets out there who are willing to share really good, helpful advice. I am considering this my first holiday shopping season on Etsy because I just opened my shop last October, so last Christmas didn't really count because I had no idea what I was doing. The things I have listed here are just some of my own personal goals for this year. I am still working on getting a good organized packaging and shipping station set up. I think I am pretty good so far on my supplies. I think the biggest goals for me right now are getting my inventory built up, I would like to have at least 100 items in my shop before the holidays, and promoting. I have also started listing some made to order items which is new for me so I'm not sure how that will go. I may be digging myself a great big hole. I guess we will find out huh.

Well, I guess that is all for now. Sorry about the long post. Please if you have anything to add leave a comment and share with us. Ok, have a great day and I guess I'll catch ya on the flip side.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Update on Saturdays Post about Tutorials

In my last post I mentioned that I would love to try my hand at writing some tutorials. I really want to post tutorials on things that I have tried to get information about myself. Seeing as how I am a completely self taught artisan, I spend a lot of time doing research into new techniques that I want to learn. In my constant search for new info I often use the internet so I thought why not post some of the information myself on techniques that I learn as I am learning them and then after I have them all figured out. (If I can get them figured out that is LOL).

So I sat down and made a list of techniques that I want to learn. I will be posting about my adventures here as I attempt them so tune in this should be very interesting. (blushes and smirks) For my first technique I chose etching metal. I have read a few articles in particular about electrolytic etching which really interested me because I would prefer not to use harsh chemicals if I can. I read up on the few articles that I could find online and decided to give it a go.

First of all if you aren't familiar with electrolytic etching here are a couple of articles:

There are several more out there just google: Etching copper with salt water and a battery, or Electrolytic Etching Copper. Also try doing an ETSY forums search for etching metals.

I don't have any pictures for this technique with this post primarily because they wouldn't take. Let me explain.

First attempt:

First I cut out a 1.5" square of copper sheet. I cleaned the copper really well and transferred my image onto it. I transferred the image using a hot iron and an image printed out on a photocopier. This is important. Images printed out on an inkjet printer will not transfer. Where the toner ink adhered to the metal that acted as my resist.

Next I mixed up my salt solution as described in the articles I read. I mixed 2 tablespoons of kosher salt with 1 liter of tap water. I used tap water because at the time none of the articles that I had read about this process specified if you needed to use distilled water or tap.

I cut out a scrap sheet of copper to use as the anode. Then I took a 12 volt battery charger that you can plug into an A/C power supply. I attached the negative terminal to the scrap copper. I attached the positive terminal to the piece that I wanted to etch.

I poured the salt water solution into a plastic container and submerged my two pieces of copper with them about 4 inches apart, being careful not to let the clamps become submerged. I immediately saw tons of small bubbles emanating from the scrap copper plate and was so excited because this meant it was working. So I left the piece and waited. After 30 minutes I checked the progress and there was no change. I checked again in 1 hour, no change. Again one hour later still no change. I was totally baffled because the salt solution had turned a murky brown color and there were obvious precipitates in the bottom of the contianer but the surface of the piece that I wanted etched was still smooth. This went on for another 3 hours for a total of 5 hours in the solution at which point I disconnected the electricity and removed the piece. The resist held up really well. But the surface seemed completely smooth so I cleaned the piece with a green scotch brite pad and found that there was a "ghost image" there but no true etching had occurred.

For my second attempt I repeated all of the processes already explained above but this time I made the following changes:

For my salt water solution I mixed 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of iodized salt, and 1 liter of water.

I placed the copper pieces closer together so that there was only about 2 inches of distance between them.

I left the pieces for the same amount of time as in the first attempt, checking the progress at the same time intervals. Again the solution bubbled at the negative anode piece of copper, the solution turned a murky brown color and precipitates formed in the bottom of the container. This time however, after five hours in the bath I removed the piece to be etched and cleaned it in the same manner as before and found that a very, very subtle etch had taken place. It was barely perceptible by sight and only slightly noticeable by touch but it was there. I tried to get some photographs of the two test pieces but you could not see any change in the photographs at all.

So I am going back to the drawing board. I am going to try a couple more attempts with some alterations to the salt solution. I will photograph my set-up and post some pics next time of that as well. Today I ordered some etching chemicals that I will also be trying later on and I will let you all know how that goes.

If anyone has any suggestions or knows what I may have done wrong please feel free to leave me a comment. Until then wish me luck.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Considering Posting My First Tutorial

Okay so I have decided that I want to try etching some metal. I have done some online reading about the subject and also gained alot of advice from the ETSY forums and I think I am ready to give it a go. However, I have never written a tutorial before so I would really appreciate it if you all could help me out. What information do you expect to get in a blog tutorial? I know I should include materials and method of course but is there anything else that I am not thinking of? Do you prefer to see tutorials written out step-by-step like in a numbered list with a few accompanying pictures or would you prefer pictures with descriptive captions in short paragraph form? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. If this goes well I want to do a few others to share with you all like torch enameling and maybe beginning soldering. Things that I would have liked to have available when I was doing my searches for info.

Also feel free to let me know what type of things you would like to see me attempt and then tutorialize for you guys. Thanks. Have a great Saturday.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"It's Just a Scary Story"

If you are not a fan of scary movies you may want to just keep on browsing. I love scary movies, horror novels, and of course those "it happened to a friend of a friend's brother's girlfriend's uncle" true stories. Don't laugh you know exactly what I'm talking about, we've all heard them at some point. Lately though it seems like I have been really disappointed in the "scary" movies that have been released. It's like you see the preview and think finally a good creep fest and then when you watch the movie your left thinking what the heck? I finally stopped going to the theatre all together and now I just wait for them to come out On Demand. So I just finished watching The Unborn and it wasn't half bad. Some of the special effects were pretty good. The story line was pretty predictable though. Seems like that is the case more often than not anymore. Do you like horror movies? If so and you know of any pretty good ones leave me a comment and share with me.

My List of Top Five Horror Movies:

1. The Exorcist (of course)
2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
3. Mirrors
4. The Haunting of Molly Hartley
5. The Shining

So what would you add?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fall Trends for Designers

Are you a trend follower or a trend setter when it comes to designing your art? I guess some would say that I am a trend follower, but I think that my jewelry designs are more along the classic side. I like to design things that are typically simple, elegant, and classic. Items that won't fall out of fashion next season or ten years from now. I want my jewelry to be timeless. How about you?

The reason I ask is because I subscribe to a couple of email newsletters from beading magazines like Beadstyle and one from Fire Mountain Gems. I always scan through them just to see what is going on in my field. I found this in the one from Beadstyle yesterday and thought I would share it with you all.

It's a pretty nice color forecast from Swarovski for this fall season that you can download. Its only like 3 pages long but it has some nice pics of the actual Swarovski components in the forecasted color trends for fall.

And then yesterday in my newsletter from Fire Mountain I read an article that said yellow was going to be the hot color for fall. Oh no, no offense to all you yellow lovers out there but I have to admit it is my least favorite color :( . But I thought it was kind of a weird coincidence when I saw this on the front page of Etsy today:

I guess I wasn't the only one who got that particular newletter. Anyway, it just got me to thinking about how I design and the articles where pretty good so I thought I would share them with all of you. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Yeah I know two posts in the same day, Crazy right? Anyway, so its no secret that I'm a Twilight fan and I think Rob Pattinson/Edward Cullen is just.... well you know. I won't even go there cause I'm gonna try to keep this one nice and short with a little eye candy garnish. So moving on, if any of you are Twilight fans then surely you have at one point or another Googled Twilight. If you aren't a fan then let me tell you I am not the only 30-something who is smitten. You can try it and you will find sites like Twimoms and a whole slew of others written and hosted by multigenerational fans. It seems the popularity spans from tweens to infinity. And some of these sites are seriously fanatical and definitely not PG-13.

So during one of my many "mind journeys" (snicker) I was contemplating this phenomenon and was wondering why there are so many "mature" fans. I mean come on its pretty obvious where the attraction comes from with the tweens, we are talking about fantasy novels with teenage main characters and if the story line isn't enough then just LOOK at the cast of the movie. Seriously!!! But what's the draw for the rest of us? Well in the case of Edward Cullen specifically, I think its just that he is so devoted to Bella for one thing. We all want someone to want us with that kind of sincerity right? Then there's the fact that every time he opens his mouth he says just the right things. And let's not forget the danger factor for some reason the bad boys are always the ones we want. And lastly, the choice to cast Rob Pattinson as EC for the movie was the move that sealed the deal. C'mon just look at him.

So ok yes he is a total cutie but he's still a baby right? So what is it about him that has moms and housewives all over the place claiming temporary insanity? Well, I think maybe its nostalgia and a little bit of familiarity. I followed this train of thought and found a few pics of some other classic bad boy heartthrobs. Take a look and tell me if you see the similarities or have I just totally fallen off my axis. **Warning eye candy garnish follows*

Rob Pattinson, James Dean, Elvis Presley

EP , JD , RP

Still On The Mend

Good Morning,
I hope you all had a very pleasant weekend. We had some really great weather. I think it was the first weekend in over a month that we didn't get any rain. Of course, it was just my dumb luck that my foot was all swollen and hurtin. I still went to the Craft Fair which in hind site was probably not a very good idea. Oh well, I really wanted to scout it out though. I just wrapped her up good and popped a few extra Ibuprofen and went for it.

(not my actual foot but you get the idea)

I should post a pic of my poor little foot but its not for the sqeemish so I will spare you all. I will tell you its still pretty swollen and it has this big lump right on the top of my foot where a lump should definitely not be. It looks pretty deformed. Ew! Ok that's enough of that.

We didn't stay long, just long enough to do a quick walk through. Of course I was really interested in the jewelry. Since I started making my jewelry I have had many friends and family members tell me that I should try to get a booth for the fair. I just don't know if it would be worth it. I spoke with a friend of my dad's who was selling (she also makes jewelry) and she said that there were 40 vendors in the jewelry category this year! That is really alot when you consider that the entire fair is probably only 150-175 vendors max. Well at any rate it is something to think about for next year.

Well, I guess that is all for now. Ok, have a great day and I guess I'll catch ya on the flip side.

Monday, August 3, 2009

HaHa Bad News! I Promise I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up If I Tried

Oh my goodness. You all are not going to believe this. I am soooo embarrassed. So if anyone read my earlier post from this morning you know that I sort of said maybe I would have a more interesting post later. Well I was just being sort of tongue in cheek, but my day definitely got more exciting. Shortly after posting this am I had a slight accident. Somehow, I fell here at home and hurt my foot really bad. I'm not really even sure what happened and why I fell. (blushes) Anyway, to make a long story short I went to the urgent care fully expecting to leave there with a cast on my foot. Thankfully though I did not break any bones. It is only a really bad sprain and dislocation of the 4th and 5th metatarsals. I know it sounds horrible doesn't it, and really painful. Well let me tell you it is really painful. Thank goodness for the man or woman who developed pain killers haha. I guess I must have gotten too excited with my sale happy dance. LOL I will have to remember to be more careful next time. (Just kidding, I promise I wasn't dancing).

Well I guess that is all for now. Gonna go ice and elevate the foot. Catch ya on the flip side. Have a good one.

Good News

Good Morning,

I am so excited that I just had to share. I woke up this am to a sale in my etsy shop. Yes I am doing the happy dance. I have also sold a few pieces locally and have had some local custom orders. It feels great to have people show an interest in my work. I also wanted to thank you all for following my blog and visiting my shop from time to time. I really do appreciate it. You guys are great.

Ok enough business talk. What other good news do I have? Well...... oh, I have heard that the New Moon movie will be premiering in Knoxville, TN sometime in November. That is really exciting for me since I am only about 2 hours away from Knoxville. I would love to get tickets AND feel well enough to go. Who knows maybe I would actually get to see some of the stars from the movie. (I know, I know, I'm hopeless :) ).

What else? Oh for anyone who is interested and who might be close to Asheville, NC, there are going to be a couple of bead and gem shows coming our way. One is a two day event at the end of this month at the Doubletree Hotel in Biltmore on the 29th and 30th of August. The other will be at the Asheville Civic center in September. I don't know about you but that is pretty exciting to me.

Ok, thats all that I can think of right now. Maybe I'll post something more exciting later. LOL.
Have a great day.