In January I decided to try out acid etching. Having never tried it before my first attempt which I documented in this blog wasn’t a complete success. The etching was good but the silver was slightly marked in places and definitely not good enough to sell. I said at the end of the post that I would try different techniques and put up some photos when I thought I had it cracked! So here’s the story of my extensive testing and the results.
If you want to see my previous posts on acid etching click here.
The problem I had with the etching was that the acid was eating through the resist in certain areas leaving me with little marks on the parts of the silver that I wanted untouched. Rather than waste silver sheet, I began doing a series of tests on the different resists using some scrap silver. This way I could figure out which resist wasn’t doing it’s job.
The technique I used was to transfer a photocopy on acetate onto a clean silver sheet using heat so the printer ink acts as a resist. When I tested this on it’s own it worked perfectly but only when the image was transferred without gaps or marks. This meant controlling the heat when I was transferring the ink. Too little heat and the image would not transfer completely. Too much heat and the ink would run into the design blurring the fine detail. Once I resolved the heat problem, the ink held up in the acid so at least I knew the printer ink worked.
The next thing I used on the silver to patch up any gaps left by the photocopy transfer was a red Staedtler permanent marker. I had read on a few acid etching websites that this was the best to resist the acid. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me, after a few hours in the acid it began to break down and let the acid attack the silver. I tried putting extra layers of it on the silver but it made very little difference so the red marker has been relegated to the office.
The final thing I tested was the nail varnish as I used this to cover the sides and the back of the silver for etching. This was by far the best. I left it in the acid bath for eight hours and I still had to scrub it with nail varnish remover when I took it out.
Since then I’ve ditched the marker and am using the photocopy transferring which I’m touching up with nail varnish. While previously I only used the nail varnish for the edges and back, I now use it to touch up any areas of the printer ink that haven’t transferred. I use a bright opaque colour nail varnish so I can see clearly what areas have been covered and make sure it doesn’t run into the design. I’ve tried it on a number of different designs and it hasn’t let me down. The great thing about this is the level of detail I can achieve. Here are a few photos of some of the pieces I’ve done recently.