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Photocopy transfer etch

I have read thoroughly the Ganoksin article on etching at

It shows the fish tank pump and does not show any tubing. Some are
electric and some are battery. The clerks at petsmart said there is
NO vibration from the pump itself. It only moves water by pumping air
bubbles into the water (of a fish tank). So, do you use tubing? In
the ferric acid? And is battery or electric better?

Can someone clarify, please?
Thx, brenda


The article you refer to is excellent. However, I do a lot of
etching, have given workshops, and have never found it necessary to
use a fish tank and pump.

I submerge my metal, face down in a plastic tray filled with the
mordant. I like to work outside, on a sunny day, as the warmth
speeds up the action of the etching. I also add some citric acid to
the ferric chloride to beef it up. If you don’t have any citric acid
on hand, just squeeze in some lemon juice.


I don’t use this etching method, but I know fish tank pumps, and the
clerk was trying to sell you a pump, and a load. The pumps contain
one or two magnets on springs, attached to a rubber bellows with a
one-way valve for air. The alternating current pulls and releases the
magnet, and the vibration moves air through the one-way valve and
hence through the line.

Some are loud, some are quiet, but they all vibrate.


They do vibrate, or at least the cheap ones do. If you can find one
that has a flat cas., just put your container on top of the case. In
my enameling class, we generally use 2 and put a heavier pyrex dish
on top. We use the corded kind. If you are using something lighter
like a plastic box, you can put the pump on the side of the case and
let it vibrate like that. (Karen uses Velcro to attach the pump, you
could use double sided tape. Whenyou put the container on top of the
pump, you get an interesting wave effect in the deeply etched

The Sept 2013 Art Jewelry Magazine has an article on setting up an
etching system where she does create an aerator and use it. Of
course she is setting up a vertical system rather than floating the
metal on the acid.

you do need a length of tubing to go into the tank of your set up to
agitate the chemical if it’s a vertical set up.

I prefer a pump with both battery and an ac adapter. I believe the
one i got from a pool store cost about 12 -15dollars You may want to
watch a you tube or MAKE magazine’s videos on photo etching, or a
couple of them, to see it done, Also a recent micro-mark catalogue
had a rather good kit illustrated with instructions for use, you may
want to check it out as well to see if you are missing anything. rer

Skip the aquarium pump. For vibration, just tape a cheap battery
powered electric toothbrush to the outside of the container. If it
vibrates too much, loosen the tape.

Judy Hoch

I might offer an alternate solution that I used for years with good
results. I bent a 90% tab of about 8mm on the corners of the sheet
to be etched so when it was placed in the ferric the pattern was
down in the solution I used 6/6 in sheets. You might just give it a
try before using the pump or compare with results using the pump
just to see if there are different results.

I also add some citric acid to the ferric chloride to beef it up. 

The citric acid does not exactly “beef it up”-- what it does is
reduce the amount of solid precipitate that is formed. This allows
the etch to proceed more efficiently without getting blocked by
particulate “crud”. If you want to know more about this, search for
"Edinburgh Etch".


This is my first reply on Orchid, so hope I get this right. If you
use tubing on the pump, you will splatter the ferric chloride
everywhere. I learned from Ruth Shapiro, whom I consider an expert,
that you only need to duct tapeyour pump to the outside of the dish
containing the ferric chloride. The vibration of the pump is enough
to agitate the solution. Use an electric pump. Hope this helps!

Jennifer Polson

Thanks Noel for the additional re: “Edinburgh Etch,” I
knew that it acted to reduce the amount of solid precipitate, that
is what I meant by “beefing,” it up. I should have said that it
"speeds" it up.