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Acid Etching

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 4:47 pm
by Skevmeister
OK I want to be able to do Acid etching on plates etc, for my armour but I am unable to find anywhere that does the kits. Or if there are those out there with a wider learning that could advise me on Acids, and teh such liek that would allow me to be able to do this safely and effectively


Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:11 pm
by Dave B
Fox has had really nice results with a cheap tool etching pen. It surprised me - I said it wouldn't work but it did.

Suggest you PM him for details, bit will draw his attention to this if I see him

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:27 pm
by gregory23b
Check out print making suppliers

TN Lawrence would be my first port of call, IIRC they supply dry salts for mixing, be careful and use a ventilator. ... g44_0.html

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:49 pm
by Neil of Ormsheim
One way of etching is to draw a negative of your design (i.e. the bits you don't want etched) with a permanent marker, you may find that several coats are better than just one. Use the alchemists traditional dribbly candle to build a dam around the area to be etched then flood said are with an acid.
Vinegar will work if you have patient, as will coke on modt metals. If you have a apre car battery lying around, they are full of sulphuric acid (please take extreme care if using this!!!!! :!: ) The best stuff we have used is ferric chloride which can be bought from good, proper chemists or craft shops - but, again, care is needed.

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:58 pm
by gregory23b
The recipes I have seen say to draw with a pen or brush! surprised it wont rot the brush, but that is different from the etching procedure that Neil mentions, as that involves a mask - whether it be wax, or much later shellac.

Stopping off

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 7:41 pm
by Neibelungen
Try H.S. Walsh and Sons for a good french stopping off lacquer, though they can be a bit pricey.

There's a good book in the old Thames and Hudson range on etching and engraving (I can't remember the name exactly), or find the book at the moment, but it gives a good introduction to the different types of copperplate etching which is effectively the same priciple.

Addendum,... Thames and Hudson Manual of Etching and Engraving
Walter Chamberlain 1972 0-500-68001-9

A web search sould give you a good list of links to look at as the same priciples work with creating motherboards and etched metal parts.

you can do some realy good results with blue PNP paper or laser printers to act as a stop off.

Getting hold of large quantities of acids can sometimes be a difficulty because shipment is a pain these days. If possible your better off arranging to collect. The bigger plateing supply companies are pretty good if you need 25L drums for price compared to most chemical supply companies.

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:20 pm
by gregory23b
Lawrence do Ferric Chloride in 5 ltr quantities, 60 quid....

Posted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 2:16 pm
by Skevmeister
I love you guys this has been amazingly helpful, it never ceases to amze me how much knowledge you can glean from this forum


Bleedin Amazin


Posted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 2:37 pm
by Skevmeister

Mapilns do ferric chloride crystals enough to one pint of teh stuff.

One more question if I wanted to do the side of a helmet as an example of a strange shaped object I would assume that I would need to....

Clamp helmet securely so that what I want to etch is upright and build a dam around it and pour etch into Damn


Mask of large area and dip the piece into the bath.

[answers on a postcard please]


Side of Helmet

Posted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 7:31 pm
by Neibelungen

Exactly right about either approach. You would also need to mask off the inside of the helmet if you do the dip approach, but this can usually be with a cheaper substance built up thickly. I tend to use bulk purchased nail varnish and a 1/2" paintbrush. Has the advantage that unlike a lot of stop-off laquers it requires acetone to remove rather than spirit solvents and saves a lot of time if you do re-etching, deeper cuts etc.

It's worth investing in a small aqarium air-pump, a long feather and rubber gloves for most types of etcheing. Solution curculation via air-bubling speds the process and makes the cuts more uniform because you keep fresh solution moveing. The feathers is for brushing smut and hydrogen bubles off the etch as it is both traditional and is resistant to many acids. Small glass aquarium heaters are usefull as well for a constant temperature as this can effect etching rates.

Also most storage containers (B&Q type ) are useable with acid solutions, but avoid nylon and some pvc with stronger acids, but most are made from polypropylene so are Ok. The recommended way is to double stack two of them together, filling the gap with foam packing chips. It saves you from leaks if they ever crack (dropping a helmet in is easily done)and acts as a support and heat insulation.

The rubber gloves because feric chloride is worse than henna for staining your hands.

If you've any experience with plating you can also employ annodic etching in many acid solutions, as this can give some interesting effects in slow etches.

Just collected a 100L tank today for acid solutions as it happens.

Posted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:35 am
by Skevmeister
100L tank wow, that's some acid.

Tyhanks for your help in this


Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 5:00 pm
by Annie the Pedlar
Any body got any dates for the first etching with acid?
I was avoiding it as a method of decoration as what I'm looking at (medieval and Tudor) seems to be engraved.

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 6:08 pm
by Neibelungen
Trying to think of specific early examples of etching.
Durer was definately an acid etcher. Hopfer in about 1500 seems to be one of the earliest extant examples.

The patterning on anglo-saxon blades really needs an acid based atch to bring out it's full detail, although they may have been usingh weak vinegar etches , which aren't all that effective on deep cutting metal (they tend to blur)

Best references I can find to actual acids is in the work of Islamic alchemists from about 830 where they reference muratic (hydrochloric) vitriol (sulphuric) and spirit of nitre (nitric). These don't really reach the west untill around the mid 13th C (Albert Magus and his translation of Islamic and Jewish alchemy)

However actual references to etched armour only date from the very end of the 15th C.

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:20 pm
by gregory23b
Easily pre 1500 in terms of documentation (early to mid 1400s)* but not sure of actual surviving items earlier than that.

*distillation of vitriol etc etc. Aqua fortis was well known as a corrosive for metal as well as for cleaning wounds

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:09 pm
by Kate Tiler
Skev, I'm currently doing an evening course C&G in jewellery and spent most of the last three weeks doing acid etching!

I've got access to nitric acid & ventilator at college and I've bought my own large bottle of stop-out varnish from T.H. Laurence: ... rnish.html

I bought 50ml for £10, their p&p is only £4.25 and that covers lots of stuff - Walshes are good BUT they charge a £12.50 postal surcharge for an EU directive about shipping hazardous materials!!!!

If you either want to have a lend of the stop out varnish, or want to talk about me turning up at college with your helmet under my arm, give me a ring!

P.S. a good quick tip is to use brown parcel tape for the back of what you are etching - works just as well as stop out varnish & is quick for large areas.

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:08 pm
by guthrie
I'm going to try making nitric acid in my back garden this weekend, weather willing.

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:54 pm
by Dave B
I keep expecting to see you on the news Guthrie, and not in a good way :wink:

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 12:00 am
by Neibelungen

Playing around with dangerous chemicals is half the fun of re-enactment.

It's probably safer than wacking at each others heads with big lumps of steel

Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 12:00 am
by guthrie
Dave B wrote:I keep expecting to see you on the news Guthrie, and not in a good way :wink:
We'll see. I'm only experimenting with small amounts just now, so theres little to worry about. Its just annoying that none of my neighbours have asked what I am doing yet.

Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:18 pm
by m300572
I keep expecting to see you on the news Guthrie, and not in a good way
That's because he dissolved and soaked into the lawn so there was nothing to see! :shock: