A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Experiment

I am nearing the end of my staycation, which started last Wednesday. Back to work on Thursday. I accomplished one goal, cut out a pendant with my saw and etch it. The other goal--make a bunch of stuff--not so much. At all. But I did get a bunch of pants.

So the sawing went OK (no broken blades yet), but I didn't quite get it round. It's a tad lopsided. But I thought, that's OK, it will be a "rustic", "organic", "freeform" pendant. My idea for the bale turned out all right--I left a tongue at the top that would be curled under later.

So after I had the edges all ground and sanded and all that (I have no idea which attachment to use on the Dremel so I used them all), I drew my design on it with Sharpie markers.

I tried to ink up the edges really well too so those wouldn't get etched. I stuck a piece of duct tape to the back and really stuck it down by rubbing it with something (I don't remember what), to keep the back from getting etched. (Worked like a charm.) I donned my protective gear:


Safety goggles.

Heavy duty rubber gloves.
Then I put it in the acid bath. At 1/2 hour I checked it, and half the ink looked like it had washed off. So I took it out, neutralized it, and reapplied the design with fingernail polish. Oy. I don't recommend this, but it was all I had. (I made a bit of a mess with it. Lots of stray smears and stuff). I put it back in the bath, and then noticed that one of my markers was actually a Sharpie Rub-a-Dub Laundry Marker. Silly me. Perhaps that was part of the problem.

It took about 3 hours to get a decent etch. I would have liked it deeper but my sheet was only 20 gauge so I called it good. (There are a couple weird circle things on there that I think are from bubbles.) Took it out and cleaned it up, sanded it a little, domed it some, and then patinated it in the liver of sulfur. Tumbled it. This is the final product:

Extremely rustic, sloppily rendered, charmingly amateurish pendant.
It's a tad, or maybe outrageously craptastic, but the process seems to work in theory. Before I attempt another one, though, these are the things I need to do first:

1) For a pendant this size (one inch in diameter or larger), I need much heavier gauge sheet, like maybe 16. I think 20 would be OK for charms. It just feels too flimsy.
2) Find a better resist. I ordered some pens from an electronics company that are made for this kind of thing (or rather circuit boards), I'll give that a try. I'll poke around on the Internet too for other resist media (any suggestions would be welcome). Apparently Staedtler red ink pens work better than Sharpies. Eventually I'll probably try the laser printer/toner transfer thing. Maybe. It would be nice not to have to draw anything.
3) Learn how to use the grinder attachments on my Dremel so I do a better job finishing the edges.
4) Probably clean it better before applying the resist, like get some citric acid cleaner to make sure there's no oil on it. Should have sanded it more to give it more tooth.
5) Remember to wait to curl the bale under until AFTER I've domed it. Duh.

It's too craptastic to sell, but my goal was to become unafraid/unintimidated by the process. Goal reached! I have to say it's a huge PITA actually. Sawing takes forever. My hand got really tired trying to hold the piece down on the bench pin. My metal shears work well on this gauge metal, but I don't think I could use them on say 16 gauge. (I have a pair of straight shears, and a pair with a left curve that I thought I could use for cutting circles but I haven't tried it yet). Etching takes forever too but at least you can go do something else while it's cooking. I think if I had the right tools/materials it would turn out a lot better. I'm really looking forward to spending more money on that. I love that. Spending money. Because I have so much of it. Money everywhere. Just lying around in big fat piles. Big fat piles of money. You know how it is.


  1. HAHAHAHA! I love the goggle shot!
    I wanted to etch so badly on Sunday... but then there was one key ingredient - distilled water - missing from my science lab. Got it now! Hoping to do some E3 etching tomorrow!
    As for resist.. in my class with Sherri Haab we used Stayz On ink as well as a Sharpie paint pen. The Sharpie was totally glopping on me the other day. So I went to Michaels and found these fine point double ended paint pens that seem to be working better. I actually like the rustic flair to this, Keirsten! I like the little hand drawn design. I am trying to write on it and would love a calligraphy paint pen but I am not sure they make them. Also with the E3 there is a way to use a UV film as a resist but that will require a bug light, a dark closet and a steady hand with my UV lamp. That might have to wait. I have done the toner resist with mixed results. It is cool that you can use the special paper, but getting it to adhere is not always a thing of beauty.

    Thanks for sharing your results. They are encouraging even if they are a PITA.

    Enjoy the day!

  2. I love all the safety gear shots! I can't see the little circles and think the pendant turned out much better than the craptastic descriptive used for this piece. Good thinking on the long tongue to make the bail!!!

  3. I agree w/ Kelley... it's not as craptastic as you indicated - I saw the picture and thought NICE WORK! :o) This technique will work great w/ your creations ... even if it is a PITA... it's another piece that you are making w/ your own little - huge rubber glove covered - hands!

  4. I don't think it's craptastic at all - I love it and would love to own it! Love your comments about piles of money. NO ONE who makes/loves jewelry has lots of moeny (left) - that's part of the definition of a jewelry maker :-)

  5. I don't believe it is craptastic - I think it turned out fine!
    You do need to make sure there is no grease on the metal. Don't need to buy more special stuff - use an old tooth brush and toothpaste. There should be no beading when you run water over the piece, then it is greasefree.
    As a resist - StazOn ink is quite good, if you have degreased well. And think of all the stamps you could use...
    You can speed up the process with warmth (not too much heat), for instance, place underneath a lamp.
    Not so sure it is a good idea to pour the used acid back in the bottle. That way, you will never have fresh solution again.

  6. Not crappy at all! As others have said, StazOn ink works great if you use stamps. I usually etch multiple pieces at a time to make it worth it. Keep at it, it's addicting!

  7. I like it! That bail is super nice. What are you using to etch with? Because if it's the muriatic acid solution, I've never been able to get that to stay put as a resist. Also, the muriatic acid peroxide solution can give you bubbles as the piece etches. I tip mine a little in the solution and tap the sides to get the bubbles to move. I'm looking into sharpie paint pens that you can set with heat. I don't know if they will work. I've never used asphaltum but that what's print makers frequently use. WARNING:Etching is addictive!

  8. Keirsten!!! I love it! It is not craptastic :) Oh, and the piles of money? yeah, me too!

  9. This is really cool. I want to try it now.
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. This is the guide I used, except I didn't do the image transfer part and I didn't have any styrofoam, so I just used tape across the back of me piece to suspend it in the solution.
    This website has lots of other good stuff too.

  11. When handmade things are too perfect, they don't look handmade. I like the pendant a lot!

    There are disposable tools out that are meant to mimic the nip part of a marker. Can't remember what they're called, but I bet someone reading this can. I'm thinking that if they were dipped in some Staz-On ink from a refill bottle, that might make a dandy 'pen' to do resist with. Or...maybe a calligraphy pen that is meant to be dipped in ink might work. Just an idea.

  12. Um...that shoulda been "nib part of a marker." Sorry.

  13. I think this looks awesome! Etching is such work, isn't it? But I do love the way it turns out in the end. I've heard that this is a good resist...although I'll be honest and say I don't remember where I heard it, nor have I tried it yet! I'm just starting on this etching journey too.


    Oh, and I lied - this is where I got the information on the resist! http://copperheartdesigns.blogspot.com/2008/04/tutorial-how-to-etch-copper.html

  14. Thanks thanks thanks everybody for the great tips!! Going to try a nib pen with acrylic paint or StayzOn ink, toothpaste, and a hot lamp! Also (and I'm not sure if this really helps), in lieu of buying a special gadget to vibrate the tub (some sites say buy a fish tank pump thing from a pet store, helps the etched copper fall to the bottom of the tub), I pushed the little tub right up against my running tumbler so that they touched (multitasking!) while I tumbled some other stuff. I could feel the tub vibrating.

  15. Wow -you're a brave one to try this on your own! I really like etching, but I'm trying to go lower toxicity these days and am playing with electro-etching.

    I wouldn't call your result craptastic either. As you accepted the handmade circle cut, embrace the etch. It'll almost always have that organic look.

    btw, I've linked to you in this post of mine and hope you'll have fun answering..