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Ok so I have been working on making this chefs knife for my cousin. I fored it to shape and was pretty satisfied with the blade profile. I held it up to one of my store bought ones and its pretty close to the same dimensions. I went with a flat grind for the blade and that was fine. One side is much cleaner than the other but im not completely unhappy with it. One of my final steps was to etch the blade. Now in the past i have used boiled vinegar to etch this same material and was happy with the results but was unhappy with the way it completely stunk the house up. So i decided to try some ferric chloride.

First thin i can tell you is this pro tip. DO NOT PUT FERRIC CHLORIDE INTO A TIN FOIL BAKING TRAY!!! Yea turns out that that causes a chemical reaction. Extreme heat, smoke, boiling chemical. Lucky i had some gloves so i could pick it up and dump the whole thing into a plastic bucket which stopped the reaction.

So yea after that i got a plastic container and poured the ferric into that and submerged the blade for 20 minutes to get the etch. I used one of those green dish sponge things to rub the etchant once i took the blade out and cleaned it all up. So the etch took and the pattern came out fine. But here is the thing. The etchant left this weird rusty looking residue on the blade which i think some of this pictures show. Now i thought it was actually rust so i put the blade into hot water and scrubbed the heck out of it with an SOS pad but it didnt do anything so now i need to re sand the whole thing and etch the sucker again. What did i do wrong?

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Your "tin" pan is more likely Aluminum.  I wont bother to go into the full chemical reaction but the violence was predictable, and soon you may also figure out the plastic pail didnt stop the reaction either, it continues until there is nothing to react left and leaves a stain.

Jumping in and playing around with an acid is not smart, even a mild acid.  What went wrong is you assumed you knew how to use it. Lucky for you it was not a stronger acid which could have damaged your hand and counters.  Also you had some ventilation. else you would be in hospital  Neutralize that acid and the pail.  Dont blame the messenger for the info you neglected to read.

 On the other subject: your blade looks good. Nice even pattern, clean lines.  Your blade work is spot on,  Just slow down take some time to figure things out, like do not heat the vinegar, use at room temperatures in a glass container for most acids, neutralize with appropriate solutions, and you will be making good money on your blades safely.

Ferric Chloride ( PC board etchant)  from Radio Shack  should be cut with distilled water 3 parts water to 1 acid.  Afterwards soak in a saturate solution of baking soda to neutralize. and dont heat.    Etching it slow and even is a better finish.

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24 minutes ago, Steve Sells said:

Your "tin" pan is more likely Aluminum.  I wont bother to go into the full chemical reaction but the violent predictable, and soon you may also figure out the plastic pail didnt stop the reaction either, it continues until there is nothing to react left and leaves a stain.

Jumping in and playing around with an acid is not smart, even a mild acid.  What went wrong is you assumed you knew how to use it. Lucky for you it was not a stronger acid which could have damaged your hand and counters.  Also you had some ventilation. else you would be in hospital  Neutralize that acid and the pail.  Dont blame the messenger for the info you neglected to read.

 On the other subject: your blade looks good. Nice even pattern, clean lines.  Your blade work is spot on,  Just slow down take some time to figure things out, like do not heat the vinegar, use at room temperatures in a glass container for most acids, neutralize with appropriate solutions, and you will be making good money on your blades safely.

Ferric Chloride ( CP board etchant)  from Radio Shack  should be cut with distilled water 3 parts water to 1 acid.  Afterwards soak in a saturate solution of baking soda to neutralize. and dont heat.    Etching it slow and even is a better finish.

Yea it’s definitely aluminum I did eventually neutralize the whole thing after I looked up some more information on it. I defiantly got lucky it has made me very leery of using such a thing again before I really look up information about it.  I will try your suggestion of cutting the etchant with 3 parts water and see what kind of etch I can get out of it. First though I guess I'll need to find some large glass jars.

 

If I don’t heat the vinegar how long do I need to leave a blade in it to etch properly? Like overnight?

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depends on steels used etch wanted etc,  Check it every half hour to see how it looks, if ya want more, try another half hour...  I can understand wanting to see it finished, but think of all the time you have  involved so far,  you really dont want to screw it up rushing an etch now.

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Ferric chloride is a great etchant, it works on most metals except Titanium, (even gold!).  I hope you discarded the contaminated stuff from your first attempt so as to not have it possibly affect the second attempt.  Also DO NOT POUR IT DOWN YOUR PIPES just in case they are metal somewhere along the route!

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I might also add, those extra dark lines really are scratches, cause by using too rough of grits after hardening.  It generated enough heat to change the temper where the larger grits were in contact. do a light re grind there to remove them  starting with a 120 or 220 grit range.

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On 5/26/2016 at 10:58 AM, Steve Sells said:

I might also add, those extra dark lines really are scratches, cause by using too rough of grits after hardening.  It generated enough heat to change the temper where the larger grits were in contact. do a light re grind there to remove them  starting with a 120 or 220 grit range.

Thanks, im waiting on some 150 grit and 220 grit belts in the mail when they come il re grid the knife a bit and try it again. Its also a fair point about the etch time. Patience is still something im trying to learn a bit. I get so excited that i just want to see it finished. Hopefully this next time will be better.

On 5/26/2016 at 10:48 AM, ThomasPowers said:

Ferric chloride is a great etchant, it works on most metals except Titanium, (even gold!).  I hope you discarded the contaminated stuff from your first attempt so as to not have it possibly affect the second attempt.  Also DO NOT POUR IT DOWN YOUR PIPES just in case they are metal somewhere along the route!

Yea after the aluminum foil incident my brain actually woke up and informed me that maybe pouring it down my pipes would be bad :) so i poured it into the container it came in and il be disposing it on my next run to the dump.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Once again the tips from i forge iron cam through and a special thanks to Steve Sells for the etching advice. I used a large glass jar filled with room temperature vinegar and it took 1.5 hours to get the etch i liked the look of. I sanded the old finish off and completely re etched. Handle is rose wood with brass pins. Its pretty darn sharp and im very happy with the final result. I hope my cousins family gets some good use out of it.

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I recommend a more even blade finish, there are plenty of coarse marks in it.Try a hand finish ( Grit 400 minimum).

and then etch in cold instant coffee, it needs a little bit longer than ferrochloride but it is so much better and nicer etch...and no chemical waste at all.

Damascus looks very nice!

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11 hours ago, templehound said:

I recommend a more even blade finish, there are plenty of coarse marks in it.Try a hand finish ( Grit 400 minimum).

and then etch in cold instant coffee, it needs a little bit longer than ferrochloride but it is so much better and nicer etch...and no chemical waste at all.

Damascus looks very nice!

I have never heard of etching using coffee. There are alot of people who wouldnt dream of wasting the coffee no matte rhow nice the blade is lol. Does it give some kind of a different finish to the etch? Like colour wise? I have another small damascus knife waiting in the basement to get finished. I will try to get this one more polished though truth be told this one looked great to me. I used a 3m mirco belt to get a nice polish to it but i think i stepped up my grits to fast so it never really got out the deeper marks from my previous belts. I went 60 grit, 120 grit, micro belt.

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2 hours ago, Dustin Quade said:

I have never heard of etching using coffee. There are alot of people who wouldnt dream of wasting the coffee no matte rhow nice the blade is lol. Does it give some kind of a different finish to the etch? Like colour wise? I have another small damascus knife waiting in the basement to get finished. I will try to get this one more polished though truth be told this one looked great to me. I used a 3m mirco belt to get a nice polish to it but i think i stepped up my grits to fast so it never really got out the deeper marks from my previous belts. I went 60 grit, 120 grit, micro belt.

This one is coffee etched.

steps with  belts: 40/80/150/240/  ; hand finish 280/320/360/400/600/800/1000/1200

 

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41 minutes ago, templehound said:

This one is coffee etched.

steps with  belts: 40/80/150/240/  ; hand finish 280/320/360/400/600/800/1000/1200

 

That looks great. How long does it take to etch when you are using coffee?

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7 minutes ago, Steve Sells said:

I would avoid the cream or sugar  ( i had to post that , could not resist, Bad Steve I know  lol )

Good grief Steve!  If you start telling jokes, especially good ones, how are you going to maintain your rep as an ogre? I mean seriously, folk might start thinking you're actually a nice guy with a sense of humor or something. :P

Then again artificial sweeteners and coffee mate might have interesting effects. Hmmmmmm.

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 6/6/2016 at 0:41 AM, Dustin Quade said:

That looks great. How long does it take to etch when you are using coffee?

 

On 6/6/2016 at 2:23 AM, littleblacksmith said:

Anything important to do/know when etching it in coffe?

                                                 Littleblacksmith 

In my opinion there are two kinds of etching, to wash out (H2So4) and coloring(oxidize) steel( ferric chloride, gun blue and other natural etchants like coffee)vine gear and mustard are slow and have uneven and unreliable effects, coffee is the best.

Etching with coffee has a few benefits:

easy to get, to prepare and to dispose , no chemical handling and waste.No harm to health, no goggles and stupid latex gloves.

It also gives better colors and it is no problem to etch twice on already finished presentation pieces(no acid surface line)

no harm or damage and discoloration to natural handle materials( well, on snow white Ivory I dont know, haven't tried that yet, but I guess it is no problem)

I always take one sachet (minimum amount to buy)which contains 45 grams and mix it with 500ml  clean water.I do not recommend groundwater, take drinking water or distilled water which has less impurities, minerals and that stuff.

The water should have room temperature, about 25-30 Degree C, dont take hot water, it turns a lot of the acids into base.

compared to ferric chloride it works a little bit slower the first 10 minutes but then it shows much quicker clean colors, no black, orange or olive complexion/smear what sometimes comes with ferric chloride etching.

Another good thing is You cannot over etch so easy...You leave to long in Ferric chloride You get black pit holes, blisters, bubbles and other ugly signs of over etching.

A friend of mine forgot a blade in the coffee, remembered it 18 hours later, there was no remarkable damage to the blade surface, just the colors became antique-dirty and  changed into black and white instead of black, grey and white.To do some damage it must left in there more than 24 hours, I guess.....but I dont want to try that out, no need for that experience.

To have a good etch You have to create a good surface. Coarse marks will always show up dark and disturbing.....

 

I am no coffee drinker but I like a good fresh, brewed coffee in the morning, ...but this instant stuff You should not drink.....too much acid.

Cheers

 

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In terms of finish, I'd recommend doing the last couple of grit levels by hand. the finish will be much more smooth, and there will be no coarse grinding marks left. If you grind all the way on a belt sander, there is a very good chance that you will leave a lot of semi visible scratches and marks even at the higher grit level. If you have a smooth consistent finish before etching, the etching will come out much cleaner and nicer.

In terms of geometry, I think perhaps the handle should come out at a more shallow angle

 

 

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On 6/6/2016 at 3:23 PM, littleblacksmith said:

Anything important to do/know when etching it in coffe?

                                                 Littleblacksmith 

Start by forging your blade with a French press.

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Thanks alot templehound. That is cetaintly something to think about. I especially appreciate that you showed the coffee you use now I can be sure im getting the right stuff. I have orders for 3 more knives now since people saw this one. My new belts for the higher grits will be coming in in a few weeks (company is based in canada but they import the belts from germany and that takes a while) so i will get them done then and hopefully show a marked improvement to this one. I think i will do a side by side comparrison at that time between the vinegar and the coffee and see which etch i like best.

1 hour ago, JHCC said:

Start by forging your blade with a French press.

HA! Who says blacksmiths dont have a sense of humor!

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2016 at 4:07 PM, Dustin Quade said:

I have never heard of etching using coffee. There are alot of people who wouldnt dream of wasting the coffee no matte rhow nice the blade is lol. Does it give some kind of a different finish to the etch? Like colour wise? I have another small damascus knife waiting in the basement to get finished. I will try to get this one more polished though truth be told this one looked great to me. I used a 3m mirco belt to get a nice polish to it but i think i stepped up my grits to fast so it never really got out the deeper marks from my previous belts. I went 60 grit, 120 grit, micro belt.

Typically you should not be able to see any grind marks or deep scratches after etching.

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8 hours ago, Dustin Quade said:

Thanks alot templehound. That is cetaintly something to think about. I especially appreciate that you showed the coffee you use now I can be sure im getting the right stuff. I have orders for 3 more knives now since people saw this one. My new belts for the higher grits will be coming in in a few weeks (company is based in canada but they import the belts from germany and that takes a while) so i will get them done then and hopefully show a marked improvement to this one. I think i will do a side by side comparrison at that time between the vinegar and the coffee and see which etch i like best.

HA! Who says blacksmiths dont have a sense of humor!

Nobody . . . twice!  :rolleyes:

Frosty The Lucky.

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On June 8, 2016 at 7:58 AM, JHCC said:

Start by forging your blade with a French press.

I hear Keurig is coming out with some knife making equipment soon too :D

Really tho, this is quite interesting. I never thought of coffee being used as an etching solution. The blade the OP posted looks fantastic.

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