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 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.