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Etching celtic designs

I’m planning to produce a gold cross etched with a celtic design and
have been attempting to learn the technique by practicing with ferric
chloride, beeswax and copper. I’ve been having two problems which I
hope some of you experts out there can help me with. First, I’m a
bit stumped as to how I should transfer my design (which is quite
intricate) onto the beeswax for scribing as its too complex to draw
freehand. Secondly, I’m after lines between .5 and .8 mm thick and
the scribe I’m using produces lines less than .25. The scribe is 2
to 2 1/2 mm thick and has a hemispherical tip. I could use a thicker
scribe but its getting to the stage where it will be so thick I won’t
be able to see accurately what I’m scribing. Is another shape of
scribe better? Thanks in advance for any advice.


Sula, I did a celtic cross a few years back. Drew the art work very
large and then reduced it and brought it to a company in Arvada
Colorado called Denagraphics they are a company who will etch your
design in a magnesium plate which you can then cut out and make a mold
of it and cast it.Best J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio

I would suggest photoetching using PnP blue paper as the resist. I
have gotten extremely intricate designs using this technique. There
are several threads in the archives regarding the use of PnP blue.
After making your design on paper, you can have a place like Kinko
Copies make a negative copy of it, then you can run the copy through
a copier onto the PnP blue paper. The design from the paper is ironed
onto the metal. --Vicki

Hi Sula,

I worked a lot with etched designs. But never onto gold and silver
directly. I make my design (any design) with the computer, black and
white. lines can be as thin as you want. I print out the design,
enlarged, and take it to a photoengraver ( the one who works for the
printing industry.) he makes a zinc etching of my design to the
appropriate dimensions. The thickness of the zinc metal can be 0.8mm,
1.5mm or 3mm. Then I take the zinc metal make a mold out of it. I use
Castaldo silicone rubber, the red-brown. It’s perfect for this kind of
thin flat and detailed piece. Finally, make a cast out of this wax
model in gold or silver.

Fady Sawaya
3D jewelry designer

G’day Sula; Try making your own scribers; it isn’t difficult. Buy
some 3 mm (1/8")‘silver steel’ rod from a good tool supplier (I
believe your part of the world calls it drill rod) and cut a piece
with a hacksaw about 6 inches long. Shape one end up to what you
think might be a more useful shape. A grindstone is easiest, but you
can do it with a file, followed by abrasive papers. Heat that end to
orange red, quench it immediately in water, and when dry, clean it up
with abrasive paper. Now, using a very small hot flame, point the
flame about an inch or so away from the end, using a table lamp to
let you see how the colours are flowing. When the end gets to straw
colour, quench it again, and you’ll a have long lasting tool exactly
to your own specifications. If it isn’t what you need, then try
again with another piece. However, I do suspect that the scriber you
have has been allowed to get blunt. If you don’t have a fine
grindstone, sharpen it on a carborundum tool sharpening block, and
there you go! Cheers, – John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua
Nelson NZ

1 Like

You can xerox your design onto acetate (clear thin plastic). The ink
deposited on the acetate works well for a resist for the ferric
(nitrate im not sure). to transfer the xeroxed image to the copper
you need heat - prefably a source from below, ie a hot plate, and a
source a above, ie an iron. Practice with the heat settings, use
only as much as needed to transfer. Be sure to sand your metal (600
emery paper) to give it a “tooth” and clean it meticulously - Ive
used Copper Brite in the past - all finger grease must be removed for
successful transfer. With your hot plate on low, use some folded
paper towels and place your copper on top - first clean copper with
denatured alcohol, this helps the transfer too, then place your
acetate design with ink deposited side touching the metal, place more
paper towels then iron on top. after the proper a time, a few
minutes, carefully peel acetate away. If you are have alot of
problem with not all the ink transfering- during heating, remove iron
and lightly burnish acetate to metal, add iron again and then remove.
I hope these instructions are clear and helpful.


This works very well for both copper, brass, bronze and silver. Use
ferric nitrate for the silver, a 3 to 1 dilution (water to ferric
nitrate). Use distilled water.

Tip! Clean the acetate and metal with dilute isopropyl and make sure
the metal is still wet with alcohol when you lay down the acetate.
Trust me, this works. Also, some acetates work better than others. I
use 3M PPM 2500. This is the most reliable of all of them.

If you want the entire protocol, email me offline and I will be glad
to send it to you. I just finished making a bird house with
photoetched migration maps. The etching is tight and clean.

A studiomate of mine is etching Celtic patterns in silver using my
method and PnP Blue (although I find the PnP blue very fussy).


Karen Christians
10 Walnut St.
Woburn, MA 01801

Thankyou very much everyone for your advice. Sorry about the double
posting - thought the first one had got lost somewhere when it didn’t
appear for two days! I’ve already tried making my own scribes in a
variety of shapes but had no luck with that route - they either
didn’t give wide enough lines or wouldn’t scribe smoothly. Think
photocopying the design might be the way to go. I’ll try photocopied
acetate first as I have that on hand and don’t know a UK supplier for
PnP. I guess if all else fails I could get it professionally etched
and try roll printing it onto the gold (I don’t have the facilities
for wax casting). Thanks again.


   photocopying the design might be the way to go.  I'll try
photocopied acetate first as I have that on hand and don't know a UK
supplier for PnP. 

For those of you without access to PnP and the specific brand names
we talk about in the U.S., I suggest you try some electronics
suppliers. Find someone who etches their own electronic circuit
boards. They will be able to help you with locating (carrier sheet)
resists which can be photocopied or laser printed. K.P. in WY

For what it’s worth, PnP is a brand name, short for Press ‘n’ Peel,
for circuit board transfer film. There are other brand names out there
and if you’re not in the US, there most definitely will be other
brands in your neck of the woods (i.e. your piece of the planet). So,
given its common use, you’re apt to find it at electronics hobbyists
shops. Here’s an online source for it, and the prices look pretty
good, but I don’t know if they ship over seas. I just plugged “circuit
board” near “transfer film” into an AltaVista Advanced Search line and
this is one of the links that came up.

Christine in Littleton where it’s lovely and sunny but I don’t care
’cause I’ll soon be off to London and fair Suffolk for a couple of weeks.

Vitrum Signum supply pnp in the UK @ �2.50/sheet ex VAT

Tel/Fax 020 7627 0840


I do alot of celtic knotwork…My preffered method is to sketch or
otherwise duplicate the knot…from there , I photocopy it down to
the size I require…then I adhere the photocopy to my metal via
rubber cement. From there…drill…drill…and drill some more. then
I thread a 3/o sawblade (or smaller, depending on the knot) and saw
out all of those little shapes…and finally I take a small
screwdriver or other small wedge device and tap tap tap…make the
knots pronounced (the under /over patterns.) It is a time consuming
method, but I have had no complaints and the finished peices is
beautiful. From there it can stay as is, or be backed with a metal
of another colour, or a sandblasted peice. good luck… -julia