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I Forge Iron

Etching Project


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Well, I was wondering about electro-chem etching for a while and I think I'm making some progress on it on my own. So far I've looked at several machines ranging from $80 to $250 and I couldn't help but think this was somewhat of a rip off so out to the shop I went. I started by putting together some basic equipment: A used car battery, a 12v trickle charger, some insulated copper wire and alligator clips. I hooked the battery up to the trickle charger and let it do its thing. I attached the alligator clips to the lengths of wire and then attached the wire to the battery terminals. Next I made an electrolyte solution by dissolving table salt in warm tap water until it reached its saturation point. For a stencil I used blue mylar sheets and free hand cut my stencil with a Dremel tool and a fine point bit. So far the stencil results aren't perfect but I'd imagine I'll improve the process over time. I clipped the positive lead to an old somewhat polished blade and the negative to a small ball of steel wool which I then wrapped in a small piece cut from a clean shop rag. I taped my stencil down and then soaked the rag end in the saltwater solution - after making contact I almost immediately heard a small sizzling sound. I kept the negative lead in contact with the blade for about 3 seconds and then removed it so the mylar wouldn't heat up and melt - then I repeated the process several times - after about the fourth time I had a very nice deep etch in my steel. After washing the blade off with dish soap and a green scrubby I have to admit I was thoroughly impressed. The etch is definitely deeper than I would have predicted, I can easily feel it under my finger and even trace the edges with my finger nail. I've only spent about $5 so far and that was on the mylar sheets, the rest were things that I've had in my shop for some time - the trickle charger was about $20 and I use it to keep my cycle charged during the winter and it may not be all that necessary. The battery is just one that I never disposed of, it was a friends that I changed out because it wasn't holding a charge very well. Essentially, the equipment is very basic - the only improvements that I think could be made would be using felt instead of a shop rag and a better stencil - I will probably place an order for a few sheets of photo-emulsioned silk screen meshes later this week just to toy around with the idea. These may produce the stencil I'm looking for - essentially print my design onto transparency using my laser printer and then laying it over the mesh and exposing it to uv light. I'm also going to see if a friend of mine will cut out a few mylar stencils using her computer operated craft cutting machine, provided it can do a fine cut under 1cm. Just figured I'd share my experimentation and progress for anyone else looking for a similar process. I'll take some pictures tomorrow afternoon of my current results and will keep refining the setup.

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