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Etching patterns in brass for rolling mill

I ran into a remark in a jewelry book where the author recommended etching a brass sheet blank and then roller printing the pattern onto gold rather than etching the gold itself. I work in silver rather than gold at the moment, but I wondered what the jury here would say about etching a brass plate and then using that to roller print more than once onto silver sheet. The chemicals for regular etching or even electroetching in brass would be a bit easier to get and probably cheaper (copper sulfate=root kill) and the brass, once etched, would (yes??) be usable for more than one pass through the rolling mill onto sheet silver.

If this is a good option, would I use a particular brass for hardness or would I harden it after etching? Any other thoughts or comments? TIA, royjohn

The etching process will not soften the metal, so you will have the same hardness that you started with. I would recommend using a thick gauge which, if you don’t imprint too hard, will not distort on the first pass. 20g. would be the minimum.

I pierced out some designs in brass, a strip small enough to go through the available rolling mill. Depending on the thickness of the brass, it will work for at least a few runs. I use sterling silver, not gold. (Darn it!)

Noralie Katsu

I have have etched a pattern on a brass plate and used it on silver. Make sure you anneal the silver well. Here are pictures of my results.


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Mild steel would last longer and be similar to etch

I’ve done this with a deep etch on the brass, but it didn’t last longer than two passes over silver sheet. I forget what the gauge was. I think that the silver wasn’t annealed enough.

Karlette–It’s great! Lovely.
How many passes could you get, and how did you dome it without distorting the design???

Tool steel, such as 1084 or 1095 etches just as easily, and being
harder, will last longer than mild steel.

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Just make sure that the steel plate never touches the rollers. You don’t want to imprint your rollers ya know :slight_smile: So, your sandwich would be annealed silver touching roller, steel plate between, brass or copper plate against the other roller. I’ve had luck with cutting the design in heavy card stock with an razor knife. If you are only going to get a couple of passes, etching seems like overkill, and If I’m going the trouble of etching … I’ll just etch the silver directly. Everyone does it differently and as long as you are happy with the results (and don’t mar up your rollers) its all good.

BarbH. I have run it three times and the pattern is still good. When I dome the pieces, i place a layer of paper towel between the block and the metal.

Yves and Ken, mile or tool steel sounds like a good idea. I do know you need to protect the roller. But, what do you use to etch the steel? I have heard that ferric chloride and Rio’s silver etching mordant both eat away at the fine lines. Also, what do you use for a resist?

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For etching steel, ferric chloride works quite well. Adding water
softener cleaner (1 part per 4 parts of ferric chloride) will help it
cut faster and cleaner. Etching too deeply will destroy fine lines.
Resist can be paint, fingernail polish, permanent-ink markers, just
about anything that won’t dissolve in water (finger prints too).

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Thank you very much Ken!

Hi Ken,
Thanks very much, but a little more detail, please. I see ferric chloride powder for sale on ebay and I’m sure it is available elsewhere. The water softener cleaner readily available in liquid form. So are you adding 4 pts ferric chloride solution to 1 pt water softener solution by volume? How would I make my solution up from 4 oz or 8 oz (weight) of ferric chloride powder, which is a much cheaper way to buy it than the premade solution? Any info on times?
Thx, royjohn