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I'm looking for a good etching system for metal

I have viewed videos and read everything I can find on a system for
etchingmetal. I’ve read the on Orchid and it is
outdated. I had decided on Etch-O-Matic but then read some bad
feedback about their system. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A person who works with their hands is a laborer. A person who works
with their hands and mind is an craftsman. But the woman who works
with her hands, mind and her heart is an artist.

I’m extremely happy with “PCB” transfer paper. (for transferring
laser toner).

All you need is to purchase their toner transfer paper, their toner
foil (It goes ontop of your metal after you’ve transerred the image
to the metal and the foil protects the image during the etching
process), and you will need to purchase the Apache laminator. (I
think it’s only 70 bucks on Amazon).

It’s pretty cheap, once you purchased the Apache laminator, to
simply buy their transfer paper and foil.

The only advantage to me of photo etching is that you are not
limited in how thick the metal is. With toner transfer, you are
limited to the thickness of the metal you can send through the Apache
laminator. But I’ve gotten metal bigger than 18 gauge easily. Also,
you could always just etch a thin piece of metal and then solder that
to thicker if your design requires.

Photo etching is more expensive and just plain complicated in my

Here is their site if it’s allowed.

They have guides right there on the site to help. The owner of the
store also emails me back every time I have a question. You can’t
beat that.


Etching–there are several systems available for purchase, but I
would not recommend any of them. Instead, decide whether you want to
do electro-etching or acid etching by reading descriptions on the
internet. A lot of people prefer one or the other; there isn’t a way
to say which one is best. Then with a minimal purchase of equipment
aimed at one technique or the other, you will be ready to etch.

There are a number of ways to apply the resist to the metal. You can
read about that too. I endorse the TTP product that Rick Powell


Richard, Thank you very much for your I have most of
the things Ineed now. Only the laminator is left to buy. Amazon has
two of the SM300laminators and haven’t decided which one to get. One
has heat control and theother one doesn’t and not that much
difference in price. Did you read the no etching tank, I really
liked that article. Thanks again and please keep me updated on
anything that mighthelp. I really appreciated your in-put. Linda


You can use electroetching. It’s easy and safe, no fumes, no acid.
Check this link-

Hope this will help sorted the problem with metal thickness.


Hi, Linda.

I’ve done both chemical (ferric chloride) and electro-etch and favor
the electro-etch technique.

The electro-etch is much less mess, no chemical disposal. You can
buy a DC power supply or you make you own DC power supply from an old
cell phone or some other DC charger (which what I did). You can even
use a 9 volt battery or a series of D cell batteries.

If you go the cell phone charger route, look for charger with an
output of about 10 volts and 1 amp. The voltage/amperage can vary a
bit: voltage ± 2 volts and the amperage ±.5 amps.

You are able to vary the depth of the etch by by time and distance
between the anode and the cathode.

Although a longer etch time loses crispness.

The anode is the positive side and is connected to the item to be
etched. The cathode is the negative side and is connected to a piece
of metal (generally copper) that attracts the copper ions. The
cathode will acquire deposits of the copper ions.

Both the anode and cathode are suspended in an solution helps the
flow of the copper ions.

For copper/bronze/brass/nickel silver I use copper sulfate
pentahydrate (aka Root Kill). I make a solution of 1 liter of
distilled water to 200 grams of Root Kill. You can use this solution
forever (it turns a nice blue color over time). All I ever do is top
off the solution with distilled water as it evaporates.

This same technique can be used to etch fine silver or sterling
silver. In lieu of the Root Kill, cupric nitrate. I brought mine from
the The Science Company on-line. A nice feature of etching silver is
that the silver precipitates out so you can recover the silver.

A word of caution: This process is using electrolysis to charge the
copper. You’ll see bubbling on the anode, this the water being broken
into oxygen and hydrogen. I’ve never had any problems, but I
wouldn’t use near an open flame (about 3 feet).

Please contact me with any questions.

Happy etching,
Michael Nelson

Is the "300" laminator you are asking about one of the Apache
laminators? If so then it's fine. 

I think there is just two different size Apache laminators for the

You can just buy the shorter one. I think they are both very sturdy,
and industrial strength laminators. In fact, the guys who run PCB who
sell their toner paper and the foil have been doing etching for
computer boards for about 20 years and they say the Apache laminator
is hands down the easiest way to transfer laser toner. It applies
heat and pressure.

Trying to use an Iron is not as consistent.

If you try the Apache, make sure you read their guide on the PCB

There is a quick and simple way to adjust the rollers so you can
squeeze a little more pressure when you send you metal and paper
through the laminator. You have to do more than one pass as well. I
can’t remember how many passes but I think it’s between 4 to 8

I’ve only done 2 or 3 etchings this way but each time went rather

Don’t forget to reverse your image when you create your digital
image to print the laser toner to the PCB toner paper. I forgot to do
this and had to start all over again.


I just noticed that the Apache AL13P laminator is no longer
available, but you can still buy the AL18P. The other Apaches
(specifically the AL13) are not the recommended options. Just
mentioning this because it might be easy to buy the wrong one.

Also, someone mentioned a SM300. The recommended one is actually is
actually the Tamerica SM330. See the Pulsar website for detailed
about laminators.

They’re two Apache laminators and they’re the same size. Onecan
control theheat and pressure and the other one doesn’t.

I made one transfer on an old laser printer and it wasn’t that
great. But Ihad to try it anyway. The green foil covered the letters
but also stuck to other places as well. I went ahead and etched it
and the printing came out perfect. I got some amazing results with
flame painting it with the stuck pieces of the green film. So I have
to get a new laser printer and laminator before I do anything else.
Thank you for all your help. Linda

I have not found an off-the-shelf kit to do it all. Rather I have
built my own based on my specific needs to achieve fine detailed
lines (0.5mm) in sterling and fine silver.

I can share my expereience if interested. I highly recommend Coral
Shaffer’s “Relief Etching for Jewelers And Enamelists” if you are
interested in fine detail.

D. E. Yes, I’m very interested in fine detail. The more information
the better. I found the book and will buy it tomorrow. Thank you
very much and please do share. Linda

Here’s the experience I’ve had with electro-etch. I’ll post it in
several sections due to length; (MORDANT, IMAGES/DESIGN,

My work has been to etch fine-lined detail (say 0.5 mm) for
cufflink/ring elements in sterling and silver. I occasionally use
copper for end products and also to test designs. Electro-etch allows
me to get fine lines, relatively deep (maybe 0.3-0.5 mm) without the
under-cutting of pure chemical/acid etching. (I’ve not tried deeper
because of my impatience.)


I’ve tried the (TPP/Blue Press-n-Peel) and in my hands have had
mixed success. It is easy to do, but I’ve not been able to achieve
consistent quality of transfer, especially for small detail. I used a
hot plate - monitoring the temperature with an infrared thermometer.
I recall best results around 350 degrees F. I also tried one consumer
grade thermal laminator but did not find the temperature sufficient
for good transfer.

I’ve gotten excellent and consistent results using several
photo-lithography films. (Coral Shaffer’s booklet has good
descriptions here. I’ll have to look up my film sources/names for
you.) An advantage of the photo technique for me is that I only have
to print the image once and then reuse the transparency for as many
copies as needed. (I now have a 3x5 file of organized negatives in
glassine envelopes.)

The TPP patterns are used once and must be reprinted for each use.
Also, if I have small or test runs - I have to consume at least 1/3rd
of a TPP sheet at a time. The photo-lithographic film can be cut into
as many small pieces/shapes as needed. (Useful when I needed to etch
silver side and copper top pieces for a box ring.) Likewise - I’d also
appreciate learning of others efforts and recommendations.

Continued post on experience with electro-etch.


I design my patterns using a vector-based tool called Serif Software Draw Plus

Corel and Illustrator would also work - but are too expensive for my
needs. Vector scales seamlessly. Rater software is less useful as
fine detail cannot be achieved - edges are antialiased (fuzzy).

I print my patterns on either the TPP material or transparencies for
photo-transfer. I used a laser printer for the former. For the
latter, I found inkjet worked best as the black was more opaque for
the photo-technique.


I happen to use phosphoric acid electrolyte because of availability
(concrete etching from hardware store), but will be trying copper
sulphate based on other postings here. (It worked " so I continued to
use it.) Although an acid, phosphoric acid is not as
dangerous/aggressive as nitric or hydrochloric. However, it must
still be handled with care and respect.

(I have a degree in Chemistry, so am comfortable with managing the
material safely.) I do plan to try copper sulphate (as mentioned in
other postings) as well as other electrolytes. Regarding using silver
nitrate as some might recommend " you really just need a compatible
electrolyte to carry the current. Silver nitrate would be very
expensive for routine use.

Continued post on experience with electro-etch.


I happen to use a variable 1 Amp DC power supply - generally
available - because I control voltage to avoid dumping energy into
electrolysis of water at the sacrifice of etching. Excessive bubbles
result in inconsistent etching and can also degrade the mask/mordant.
I found best results staying below 2V. For silver pieces that I use
(1-10 cm2), I normally operate between 30 - 100 mA. As an FYI - I
attach the + (Anode) connection to my silver using a small dab of
silver epoxy - but I have had success with several other means also.
I mask the silver back/sides and wiring exposed using either tape or
paint as appropriate.

I use copper sheet as the counter (negative/Cathode) electrode. I’ve
seen where others use batteries and generic transformers for a power
supply and they appear to get good results with these.

I’ll look up the source and types of photo-lithographic film I use.
One is very thin, easier to apply and ‘develops’ faster. I can also
share tips on applying the film if needed.

D. E. Main: I talked to Coral Shaffer and she has been getting
several ordersfor her book lately. She gave me some wonderful ideas
over the phone that may help with my problems. So grateful for your
advise and I’m sure Coral is pleased also.


I would love to hear more on the transparencies. Especially being
that I’d been told inkjet printers wouldn’t be a viable etching

I’m so glad to have read up on your methods you’ve generously


I am happy to read that Coral Schaffer’s excellent book is being
mentioned on this thread. IMO, it is essential reading for anyone
thinking about etching metal regardless of the methods being
concidered. I wrote a brief review of Coral’s book for my blog
posting on Feb 15, 2013. Other posts illustrate my experiments with
electro etching using salt-water. just one of the many methods that
Coral discusses.


Is is possible to etch os1 oil hardening tool steel with salt or
does one have to use ferric chloride? Thanks, Vince LaRochelle

Back to good old ferric chloride, and PNP etching for me. After
trying different methods, including salt etching, I went back to
Ferric Chloride for copper and Ferric Nitrate for silver. Messy, it is
true, but forme the most reliable with consistent results and no need
for special equipment. I use an old iron, to press the PNP to the
metal, heat it up towhere it really is quite hot, and never had a
problem. I do the etching outside in my garden, where any spills and
drips are not a problem. I wait for a nice warm day as the heat
speeds up the action. To beef up the mordant, I just squeeze in some
lemon juice. Low tech all the way, but effective for me. Alma