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Niello removal

Hi Everyone, I am just learning Niello and so far I find it to be a
punishment from my teacher.

I had a wonderfully etched piece of copper that I glopped huge
amounts of niello on, very poorly I might add.

Now, as I remove the niello, with a palm sander and 220 grit, my
image is no where to be found, my metal is MUCH thinner, and my
niello is still not budging… help!

What is the best way to approach the process? Adding to the metal as
well as removing the excess?


    Hi Everyone, I am just learning Niello and so far I find it to
be a punishment from my teacher. 

Hi Dan;

Sounds like it’s too late, you’ve not only ground off the niello,
you’ve ground off your image too. And while you’re at it, I
desperately hope that you are taking all precaution against ingesting
this stuff, as you could be risking lead poisoning. Wear a
respirator and rubber gloves, and work with the stuff wet, so the
dust is minimal. And disposing of it should be done without poluting
the environment. Don’t just throw it out, collect it and send it to
a refiner. If you need advice on applying niello, I’ve done a lot of
it, and learned the technique from Phillip Fike decades ago, when he
was considered the expert in the States on it’s manufacture and
application. Contact me off forum and I’ll get to you.

David L. Huffman

Dear Dan,

There are many different niello formulas (I have collected over 40
from written sources spanning 2000 years), each with its own working
properties. In my niello workshops, students are required to make up
several different formulas and run experiments to test the
differences. Some are sticky and need to be spread while hot
(Theophilus, Cellini) which is great for spherical objects (like
goblets), while others liquify quickly and flow rapidly (Persion and
16th c. Russian) which is good for engravings. In all cases, you
should never put on more than needed to fill the depressions, as it
only increases your work (to remove it)! Traditionally, niello was
done on silver and gold. You say you did it on etched copper. Even
with mild heating, a very low melting point would have been created
where the niello touched your copper, thereby melting down your
etched surface and alloying it into the niello…:-(…If you do
it again, try a silver base, a runny niello, a very small amount of
niello, and very gentle heat. What sort of heating system were you

Janet in Jerusalem

I haven’t been following this thread – but for what it’s worth –
if you’ve been exposed to a lot of lead-bearing dust or whatever,
you can go to the doctor and have a blood test done to see how much
is actually in your system.

(Lead poisoning can be reversed by some medication that “drops” the
heavy metals out somehow, and then they are excreted from your