The instructions come from an article in the Daniel Smith-
Catalog of Atists’ Materials (4150 First Avenue South, P.O. Box
84268, Seattle, Washington 981224-5568 tele: 800-426-6740 fax:
Article written by: Jeanne Andersen
Throw out the acid! You can etch your plates without toxic,
polluting acids, using just one simple nontoxic solution.
Etching can be done on all metals - not just the typical etching
metals of copper and zink, but also aluminum, brass and steel -
using this single solution. (H m m m m makes me wonder if this
would work with sterling???!!!) You can etch photosensitized
zink pates using a photo positive or XEROX transparency. Etching
can be done at home, in the garage, or on the kitchen sink.
The nontoxic, non polluting solution is salt water. The etching
power is electricity flowing through the salt water. Electric
can come from car battery or a plug-in transformer. for an
overnight etch, or any other low voltage DC power source.
INSTRUCTIONS: Cut the plate or plates, allow extra for
alligator clips to grip on the corner of the plate (flat bite
gives best result.) Clip can be cut off after etching is
Coat both sides of the plate with especially hard ground (1/3
hard ground to 2/3 asphaltum works well) Inscribe the line work.
Treat areas for aquatint as usual. Make sure edges are well
coated. Leave one corner of plate bare for alligator clips to
bite clean metal on top and underneath, about 1/2 by 1/2 inch
Lay the plate etched side down in a metal pan (sheet cake baking
pan.) The plate must not touch the pan, so raise the plate above
the bottom by placing NON-METALIC, non-floating objects such as
stones (beach stones- flat ones- work well!) Lay plate with
etching lines fae down towards bottom of pan. If the plate
floats, place a stone atop the plate.
Prepare a set of jumper cables. It is best to extend the red
(positive) jumper cable with electrical wire (16 G, insulated)
with one end – the plastic insulation peeled off – folded upon
itself. and placed in the jumper cable jaws. Wire an alligator
clip to the other end of the extension wire; this will later be
clipped to the plate. If two or more plates are being etched,
wire an alligator clipfor each plate to 15 inch long pieces of
electrical wire, then connect the exposed ends of those wires to
the red extension wire by twisting them all together. For the
negative black jumper cable, exted the length if necessary in the
same manner as above. Use electrical wire with one end (plastic
insulation peeled off)- folded upon itself and placed in jaw.
Connect an alligator clip on to the other end of the extension
wire; this will later be clipped to the pan.
Set up car battery (in or out of your car) If you plan to do a
lot of etching you may want to get a battery specifically for
this purpose.) Attach jumper cables to battery terminals (red
positive (+), black negative (-).
Clip the positive (red) clips to the plates. DO NOT CLIP the
negative (black) alligator to the pan yet. Set the negative clip
on the table for time being . . .
Pour tap water from cold faucet into pan to cover the plate(s).
Prepare a cup of salt water, using about one Tablespoon of salt
dissolved in one cup of hot tap water. Set the salt water aside
Now clip the negative alligator clip onto the metal pan. If
there is a big spark the plate metal may be touching the metal of
the pan or another plate. Adjust the setup so NO metal is
Water should appear as if simmering, with minuscule bubbles
coming up from the bottom of pan. Simmering is good. IF there
is barely any simmering action, add up to 1/4 cup of the salt
water. Simmering should increase. Regulate the simmering leval
with salt mixture, but do not add more than 1/4 cup of salt water
at a time. If water is boiling, the wires are heating up, or
sparks are emanating from the negative clip, unclip it. There
is too much power due to too much salt in the water. Empty the
salt water and start again with clear tap water.
If this is sounding complicated or dangerous, it really isn’t.
Common sense, time and a degree of care is all that is needed to
complete the process.
Sometimes, after an hour of simmering in plain tap water, salt
water is needed to keep up the action, again add only 1/4 cup or
less at a time. Crusty, rusty looking bubbles will form over the
top of the water, but this is expected. One huge plus with this
system is that the electrically charged water is perfectly safe
to put your hands in. However, since the water gets rusty and
cruddy, you may want to wear rubber gloves. Jiggle the plates
now and then, to shake off the bubbles on the underside (etching
side) of the plates. (If using an overnight etch - DC
transformer- you can skip the jiggling.)
Allow plates to stay in the electrically charged water as long
as necessary to etch lines and/or aquatint to your
specifications, from 1/2 hour to an hour or more for the battery
process, depending on how much salt solution was put into the pan
water. Checkk progress of etch often, if using battery. Etching
with DC transformer will tae several hours, or overnight.
Was off plates with water, cut to size, remove allagator clip
connection area, file edges and you should be all set.