Etching with Acid Part 2

This is part two of a series on acid etching silver to see part one click here.

I’ve done all my research and¬†gotten everything on my acid etching shopping list. The first thing I needed to do was to cut out and polish my piece of silver. The silver has to be perfectly flat, clean and grease free for the design to stick and the etching to work. I cleaned it with surgical spirits and then rubbed it with a very fine steel wool so the design will transfer to the metal.

Photocopied design
Photocopied design

I then prepared my design. For this test I am using letters of the alphabet so I can see exactly how clear and precise the etching results are. I have reduced the size to fit my silver and have reversed the colour so the letter is in white with a black background. This means that if it all goes well the white area will be etched and the black area will remain intact. The image also needs to be reversed so that it will read correctly when transferred onto the silver. I then photocopied this onto an acetate sheet. The design must be photocopied using a dry toner cartridge. A standard ink jet printer doesn’t work because the ink won’t transfer to the metal. I did the first nine letters in case I make mistakes. By the time I get to ‘Z’ I should have the process perfected!

Design and prepared silver
Design and prepared silver

The reason for photocopying it onto acetate is that the ink can be transferred onto the silver and act as a resist for the acid. Using a hot dry iron I heat the design directly on top of the metal until the ink melts on to the silver. I was a ¬†bit eager and messed up the first one by taking it out too quickly and smudging the design. So I’m now on to the letter B.

What goes under the Iron
What goes under the Iron
Melting the ink onto the silver
Melting the ink onto the silver

This worked alright but there were still gaps where the ink didn’t take to the silver. I masked these areas with a red permanent marker. Apparently Staedtler markers work best to protect the silver. I also had to mask the edges and the back to I covered them with brown tape and touched up the tiny little gaps with nail polish. I don’t know if this is correct but brown tape and nail varnish were listed as good barriers for the acid so I figured I’d be extra cautious and use both!

Touching up design with marker
Touching up design with marker
Touching up edges with nail varnish
Touching up edges with nail varnish

So now I’ve the silver prepared I’m going to sort out the ferric nitrate bath. (In Part 3).

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