Friday, March 26, 2010

Etchalicious!

aka Fun with Ferric Chloride (well, it is still 'F' fortnight, just)

A few months ago now, I signed up for a charm swap on the UKStampers forum - I have to make 14 charms up in total.

I started in plenty of time, and made up 4 or 5 day-of-the-dead themed charms a few weeks ago, with the intention of finishing them off at a later date (the deadline for this one isn't until the end of April).

As time went on, though, I became less and less sure about my plan of action - for a start, some of the other swap participants started posting pics of their finished charms on their blogs, and they were all really dainty and pretty, and I thought my big scary skull charms would look a bit out of place. And also, I had started reading up on copper etching, and had a real urge to give it a go, figuring that the charm swap would be a great way to practice the technique and try out a few different patterns and designs.

So I dumped the skulls, and hot footed it round to Maplins to buy some etchant - ferric chloride - which is what electronics whizzes use to make custom circuit boards, apparently.

It's basically a simple process, but it does involve rather nasty chemicals that give off stinky (and harmful) fumes, so I did everything upstairs in my en suite bathroom well away from children, with the windows wide open.

I even wore these rather fetching safety glasses :)

So, how does it work?

You need some copper or brass blanks to start (I got mine from Fred Aldous online, but had I not been so lazy, I could have cut blank shapes from copper sheet).

Then you simply draw the design to be etched straight onto the copper using a black Sharpie (you can alternatively use nail varnish, rub ons, rubber stamped images with Stazon ink, photocopy tansfers etc, pretty much anything waterproof).

You also need to Sharpie around the sides and back of the blank.

Then you stick the charms to one side of a piece of double sided tape, and stick the other side of the tape to a lump of styrofoam:



Next you mix the ferric chloride granules with tap-hot water, according to the instructions on the pack, in a plastic container, and then float that in the sink, in a few inches of more tap-hot water (which you should refresh regularly during the etching process to keep the etchant solution warm). Nasty looking stuff isn't it....

And then you simply pop the styrofoam in the tub of manky stuff, with the charms facing down, so that they are kind of floating on the top of the solution:


That's basically it for an hour or so, every now and then, refresh the hot water in the sink that the tub is floating in, and agitate the tub a little (without splashing the solution everywhere!) - as warmth and a bit of movement help the etching process.

After an hour or so, take the styrofoam out of the solution, and if the etching looks like it is finished to a good depth, take the tape off of the styrofoam, dunk it in the sink, and then give the charms a good scrub with bicarbonate of soda using an old toothbrush - this neutralises the acid which could otherwise keep etching away at the metal.

This is what the etched charms should look like, once they have been rinsed, dried, and the black sharpie marks have been scrubbed off (I used wire wool):

Cool, huh?

To finish off my charms, I gave each one a little bit of a domed shape using a wooden dapping block:

And then I added a jump ring and a moss agate bead dangle to the front of each.

The final step was to oxidise all the charms using liver of sulphur, and give them a final buff and polish.

And here they are all finished:


I'm pleased with how they turned out, hopefully the other swap participants will like them too.

13 comments:

Alison G said...

They are fantabulous and fudgeawesome!! I wondered where you had been all night and now I know. What a fab night's work. I had no idea how to etch but now I do :)

Alison G said...

I like them unoxidised too...

Alison G said...

How did you know what to draw? Did you just make it up as you went along? They are all great - no way I would do good designs like that..

Anam_Kihaku said...

ooooooooohhhhhhhh... i want

Melinda Cornish said...

I love these, they are really beautiful...I have never tried this process.....

craftytrog said...

they're flipping fabulous! great tute sarah too! so pleased I'm in this swap! x

Rhomany said...

Ooh these are gorgeous!Gnomie wants. Gnomie needs.

Kat said...

Wow! Looks fab, Sarah! Now ... think I have to invest in that ... means I can keep the money for some embellies at least!! ;)

alexandrine said...

fabulous!

Monika said...

I now need new toys. I don't have time for the toys I have. Do you even know what you are doing to me. Love them all I want I need I must have. Fred Aldous is in Manchester, where I am headed tomorrow. I hope you know how expensive my trip into town is going to be. All I can say is yummy.

eve said...

These are great, but can i ask where you buy your ferric cholride from, thanks,x

The Inky Minx said...

i was gonna ask how you made them, didn't think till now to check here first lol.. i am so in ore of these.. they are all amazing and im so glad you joined in the swap xx

Jennifer Stumpf said...

well, gee whiz. I didn't need to send you a tutorial at all! these look fabulous! i would stick with that solution. in the US for some reason it takes much longer to etch than one hour. cool beans! oh, and i love skulls, too. :-)