Want to see My Etchings?

Metal Etching is Easier than it Sounds

How to Etch Metal for Jewelry

Etched Sterling Silver Necklace by Carole Shelton

Etched Sterling Silver Necklace by Carole Shelton

I took a print making class in college. Etching was complicated and messy. The acid used was dangerous and put holes in my jeans.

 Enter 2018 and a simple safer method of etching metal using salt water and a low voltage electrical current. I just returned from an artist retreat at Wildacres in the NC mountains where I took a week long course in “Electro Etching” taught by Micah Kirby and sponsored by the South Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies. Here is a general outline of the process:

 The Etching Process:

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1. Mix pickling salt, water and citric acid to make the metal etching solution. (This works with most metals, but for silver we used cupric nitrate).

2. Place in a container large enough to hold the metal.

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3. Stick a strip of aluminum foil to the metal to be etched using squares of “Contact Paper”.

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4. Drape the aluminum foil over one side of the container. (Make sure aluminum foil doesn’t touch the solution, or it will be etched away, and the circuit broken).

5. Clip the positive lead or anode from a power source to the aluminum foil strip. In my class we used D-cell batteries.

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6. Hang a piece of copper on the opposite side of the container

7. Clip the negative lead or cathode from the power source to the copper. This should complete the electrical circuit

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8. Once the electric circuit is complete, the etching begins. It takes between 8 minutes to 1 hour for a good etch. Notice the bubbles which form on the copper, indicating the current.

 There are several ways to mask an image onto the metal.  But the most low tech resist (and my favorite) is to use enamel paint pens. Draw/paint your design on the metal. Everything not painted will be etched away. The painted part will be raised.  Remove the paint with mineral spirits.  Enhance the design with a patina such as liver of sulfur.

 If you are interested in trying out electro etching, there is much more detailed information from John Fetvedt at this website: http://bijoux-de-terre.com/jewelry/bdtfos.html#Electro-Etching.


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