Fun in the Studio

New toys (tools), new techniques, lots of learning and a little finished work.

I am now electro-etching silver with cupric nitrate and using a new power source to control the amps. This cigar band ring features a deeply etched design that appears carved. The pattern started with an image of William Morris wallpaper found in a Dover book.

Many thanks to John Fetvedt for the clear and complete instructions he provides in his excellent Electro-Etching Workshop Handbook. The 43 page PDF is freely shared and available on his website. Go to “For Our Students” page.  I have also learned quite a bit by participating in a Facebook Group created specifically for all things related to Electro-Etching. Search for Electro-Etchers Anonymous if you are curious. This is a “closed” group that you need to join to see. A very welcoming and interesting group.

While I am not new to electro-etching… see my earlier salt water etching posts… the use of cupric nitrate for etching silver is a first for me. I also continue to etch copper and brass with salt (sodium chloride) that I now add a bit of citric acid to.

Hydraulic Die Forming for Enamellists

Spring Promise

Although I am now officially retired from teaching, I will be presenting a lecture and demo soon for my fellow students in a class I am enrolled in. I am adding this PDF to my blog for the benefit of students who might like to view it again or have it on their own computers. The techniques and info are freely shared, however the designs are not.

Link to PDF for illustrating Hydraulic Die Forming for Enamellists

 Die Formed and Enameled v-2013 b opt

I created this PowerPoint presentation to accompany my lecture and demos for the Die Forming and Enameling classes that I taught at Monterey Peninsula College. It wasn’t meant as a stand-alone tutorial and so does not include instructions for the tools and techniques illustrated. If this works as a way to easily share the PDF, I will update and expand the original and replace this link. Meanwhile, I’d like to hear from anyone who reads this regarding ease of viewing the PDF.


Electro Etching continued

February 18 Update:
With the goal of making an easier, faster, and better connection of the piece to the lead, I cut a sheet of copper to tape the piece to. This eliminated the need for holes drilled in the piece and the time it takes to attach and form the wires that connect the piece to the tube used to hold it for suspending in the tank. This worked as planned and made it very quick and easy to remove one piece and tape on another with no waste of copper wire. Much less messy as well.

Photo below shows the tank with the current switched on. I’ve etched a couple of pieces in this bath and the crud is really building up. Note how much is floating on the surface! Seems to work well all the same.
Update: February 21 Just learned that this “crud” is “sodium hydroxide (lye) and copper chloride”. After the etch bath sits overnight, this crud settles to the bottom of the tank. I syphon off the clear solution to re-use (with added salt) and pour the crud into a bottle to take to the hazardous waste site. I am very careful to wear proper gloves to protect my skin at all times. Also safety goggles…. just in case.

anode hanging over the edge
new anode set-up

Photo below shows the piece taped to the latest version of the anode support. All areas not to be etched are covered in clear packing tape EXCEPT the piece that hangs outside the tank where the lead is clamped. The oxides/patina visible on the back of the piece is from a previous set-up where I taped wires to the piece and the salt water leaked in next to the wire.

piece taped to anode
piece taped to anode – back view

February 14th:
Win some, lose some.The continuing saga of the electro-etching experiments. This time using Kosher salt and distilled water.

In my enthusiasm, I purchased two power sources. The fancy one with the digital read-outs, dials for controlling both amps and volts, lots of available power. The price from was very good ….$60 plus shipping…. and if it had worked, I would be very happy with it. Unfortunately, it was defective and I returned it for a refund. At first I thought it was operator-ignorance causing the failure, so I had Sky bring in an amp/voltage meter to check it.

failed power source
the failed one

The less fancy, less powerful, and less expensive (about $33) one works very well. At least on the size of piece I etched with it yesterday. It remains to be seen how it might work on a larger piece in a larger container. It works at a steady, pre-set 2 amps. I set the adjustable voltage to its lowest option of 3 volts.

This one works:

does the job
The one that works

Note: neither power source came with the required leads. I had to buy these from another seller on Amazon.

test lead set for power
had to buy from a different supplier

I modified the anode following Sky’s suggestion that more edges would result in a faster etch. I also made certain that the connection of the copper wires to the piece were very good.

pierced anode
modified anode according to Sky’s suggestion

I used the smallest container I could find that would hold the piece (anode) and the cathode. The photo shows how the water looks the day after it was used for etching. Dissolved copper sinks to the bottom, a little junk floats. When the etching is happening, the water is very murky after a short while.

small etching container
very small container for the salt water etching set-up

With all of these “improvements”, I was able to etch the 18g copper to the desired depth in a reasonable amount of time…. two hours. Next, I’ll try to etch larger pieces in a larger tank to see how this small power source handles the job.

A big thank you to Sky P. for the technical help.