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Instructional information on etching copper and sterling silver

I am looking for a comprehensive book to help me learn the etching process. Thanks

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Hi,

What kind of etching are you wanting to do? Sterling? Copper? Brass? Steel? Other metals?

Different processes and chemicals are needed for different metals.

There are several different kinds of etching, including “chemical etching” (usually nowadays using Ferric Chloride, which is technically a metal salt, not an acid, though it becomes acid-y when it’s etching, from what I’ve read), and electro-etching. There’s also a variant called Edinburgh Etch, which is Ferric Chloride with a ‘booster’ of citric acid added.

There’s a fairly simple instructional video by Lexi Ericson on Ferric Chroride etching over on Interweave.com. It’s several years old now, but it may give you a good introduction. I don’t know it’s current price.

As to books, a number of big jewelry compendiums(1) will devote a short chapter to various kinds of etching (the older ones include real acid etching, with the serious acids (e.g., Nitric), but I have never used those chemicals).

One issue I’ve found that the older books are very old school, while newer articles and such are often more craftsy and pass along information they’ve apparently heard or read, but not researched for themselves. The old game of ‘telephone’ really comes into play here.(2)

The only specific book I’m aware of is Alphonso Crujera’s Electro-Etching Handbook, which as its name implies covers electro-etching. It is written by a printmaker for the etching of printing plates and not jewelry. Quite a few online articles are also written more for printmaking than jewelry, but may be of use to you.

To continue with electro-etching, I know there is at least one Facebook group devoted to it with some great experts willing to answer questions.

I’d recommend doing some in-depth online research and see what fits your needs. There are a number of Youtube videos as well, including one for etching steel rolling mill texture plates with muriatic acid (which is, apparently, used in swimming pools).

As with anything, do your research and keep safe.

Sorry for the tome, but I hope it helps.

Tricia
(info-junkie)


(1) I was looking at Erhard Brepohl’s The Theory & Practice of Goldsmithing, translation by Charles Lewton-Brain and published by Brynmorgen Press, German edition, 1994, translation 2001. The section on etching starts on page 402 in my hardcover edition.

(2) Case in point: a lot of folks use a concentrated salt solution with electro-etching, I guess thinking that a comon kitchen ingredient is safe to use. I have read in several places, however, that adding electricity to a concentrated salt solution (salt = sodium chloride) can create chlorine gas. Note that I am not a chemist, but I would be very wary of (and probably outside) using that particular method.

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Thank you!! I want to etch sterling and copper. I want it simple and safe. I will look into your suggestions. I have tons of books. I’ll look into them as well.

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The FaceBook group is Electro-Etchers Anonymous. In their Files section there is a detailed instructional document the is equal to what would be in a book. If you are new to etching I would definitely choose electro-etching. The chemicals in acid etching are pretty noxious.

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I have requested to join Etchers Anonymous, but have yet to hear from them.
Thanks everyone!

I’m not sure Etchers Anonymous is still active. Try Electro-Etchers Anonymous. They are definitely active.

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Thank you!

I regularly etch copper and silver using the information from Linda Darty’s Book on enameling. She gives great info on when to use ferric chloride or ferric nitrate. I have been using Staples photo glossy paper and a cheapo Brother Laser printer to create the art work or pattern and the detail I get is excellent. I would be happy to send along images of different projects and my setup.

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Please do share. I am looking for as much information as possible.

I produced Ferric Chloride Industrially (mostly used for clarification of drinking and waste waters) for decades and there are a couple of important things you will want to be aware of along with understanding the SDS that comes with the material. Ferric Chloride is marginally ‘acidic’, that is it is produced with a small amount of HCl <1% to keep it from forming Fe(OH)3 (neutralized Ferric Chloride). Chemically, when FeCl3 reacts with metals it what we call a Redox reaction, not an acid reaction. That means that Ferric Chloride is reactive only as FeCl3. However, when you use FeCl3 to etch you also consume the small amount of HCl (that is an acid reaction) and when you see your etching solution start to get cloudy (tan- reddish brown Fe(OH)3) you will need to replenish that acid to convert the Fe(OH)3 back to FeCl3. Commercial etching operations are careful to maintain the acid levels to obtain the most cost effective operations.
Ferric chloride is messy but on the scale of dangerous stuff, not so much…
Electro etching is cool too but also has a a learning curve.

Here is my experience with etching copper: Not as easy as implied by books and videos I have found. The Crujero book is really good but out of print and only available from the author who lives abroad, however, it is available in Kindle format from Amazon and is cheap. I joined an Etching Facebook group and I found them not friendly nor helpful. Very old school as referenced previously and their way is the only way.

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Thanks for that. I wish times were different. I would look for classes. The hands on is so helpful.

@dirtynails61 - Richard Salley is offering an online class. I found it to be very straightforward and helpful. He shows a variety of ways of doing the transfer and then shows his preferred method. You can find it here - https://richardsalley.podia.com/.

Thank you for this information. I will take a look at it.

Very reasonable and Richard is easy to follow and is knowledgeable. I took a live workshop and enjoyed it a lot. Etching is not hard to do, but there are nuances that will give you better results. I would also recommend Electro-Etchers Anonymous on FB. I found the site friendly and the files area the most valuable part.

Thank you everyone. I have signed up for Richard’s class and look forward to learning more.
Merry Christmas!