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Etching Tools

by Gandalf

[reprinted from Vol. 5, No. 1, Eostar 1976 issue of The Witches Trine]

The following method can be used to etch symbols on the tools of the Craft or other metal objects. It works well on steel, brass, copper, and chrome, though chrome is the most difficult, since it reacts the most slowly to the etching solution. (So far I haven't tried etching aluminum or stainless steel; so I don't know how they would turn out.)

Supplies and Materials Needed

  1. Etch Resist Lacquer.* 1/2 oz. is enough for most uses.
  2. P. C. Board Etching Solution.* 4 to 8 oz., more if you can afford it.
  3. Lacquer Thinner. 1 or 2 oz. are enough. *General Electronics is a good brand. All the above are available in the printed-circuit department of most big electronics stores.
  4. An old toothbrush.
  5. A pointed wooden peg or round toothpick.
  6. A burin (i.e., a large, sharp needle or awl).
  7. A small paintbrush (cheap water-color type).
  8. A bottle of acetone or fingernail-polish remover (usually less expensive at hardware stores than at drugstores.)

[Since this article was first published, acetone has been found to be carcinogenic, and I believe acetone-based fingernail-polish remover has been taken off the market. According to Step 9, you can get along without it. I would add to this materials list, a respirator mask with a chemical fumes cartridge or a fan or good cross-ventilation.--ed.]

Etching Procedures

Read all the instructions on handling all materials, because they can be harmful if they are not handled carefully.

  1. 1. Clean the area to be etched of all dirt, oil, and paint. SCRUB!.
  2. 2. Apply a coat of Etch Resist Lacquer to the area to be etched, allow to dry until tacky. While it is still tacky, take the burin and gently scratch the design through the lacquer. Then use the wooden peg or toothpick to widen and even out the scratches. If the lacquer gets too dry and chips, simply coat a little more over that spot, and repeat this step.
  3. 3. Coat all the rest of the metal with lacquer, and allow to dry for five minutes.
  4. 4. NOTICE: any metal not covered by the lacquer will get etched.
  5. 5. Place the etching solution in a glass or plastic (NOT metal) container, in the kitchen sink. [This assumes your sink is porcelain, not stainless steel. If you don't have a porcelain sink, this whole operation should be done in the bathtub or a non-reactive bowl or tub.--ed.] A tall, thin vase would be perfect for etching most knives, and would require the least amount of etching solution.

    Do not get the solution on your hands! It burns, like acid.

  6. 6. Dip the lacquer-coated metal object into the etching solution, and let it sit for a few minutes.
  7. 7. Remove the object from the solution, and rinse in running water GENTLY, brushing the area that is being etched with the toothbrush. Check the progress, and return the object to the solution. Repeat these steps (6 & 7) until the etching is deep enough to satisfy you.
  8. 8, When the etching is deep enough, rinse the object thoroughly in running water to get all the solution off, then dry it thoroughly.
  9. 9. Remove the lacquer from it with acetone or lacquer thinner.
  10. 10. Place the solution's original bottle in the sink, and carefully pour the solution back into it, to save it. Rinse the bottle off after you recap it.
  11. 11. You're done.

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This work is copyright 1996 by The Witches Trine and by the author 1976. All rights reserved.

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