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i happen to say this alot on here. im new so please be nice :D my question is what is "etching"? im also wondering about coloring steel. how can i get different basic colors from a steel, red, blue, green, black etc. and which are possible or not. thank you for your time and help.

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Etching is generally a term used in the producing of a design in metals. Generally it means taking a piece of metal such as copper, or steel and coating it with wax or a product called asphaltum, that makes a protective surface coating on the metal that is easy to scratch a design into it. You have a logo or your name etc. that you carve in the coating down to the bare metal. You then submerse the metal into an appropriate acid bath that will eat or "etch" into the exposed metal surfaces. After an appropriate length of time, depending on how deep you want the impression, you remove it from the bath,rinse and then remove the protective coating. You will then see the design you outlined in the coating has allowed the acid to only attack that part of the metal leaving your design ,logo etc. in the metal.

One of the better protective coatings to use is pariffin wax.It melts at low temp. but is easy to scratch through, is reusable, and can be taken off with a hot water rinse right out of the acid bath.
As for colouring steel there are "Patinas" which come in just about any colour you want. They are applied to heated steel and somewhat absorbed. They take a lot of practise to blend colours and shades but look great.
I got a promo thing one time with one of my subscriptions that advertised an almost full range of coloured patinas but don't remember who it was that offered them, but I sure someone out there knows more about them and will be happy to share with us as usual.

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Everything TASMITH said about etching is true, and very well described.... Some blacksmiths etch their logo on knives (and I'm sure other projects) in that manner.

However.... When I hear the word 'etching' associated with blacksmithing, I also think along another line, which involves etching the entire object. This is accomplished by submerging the entire object (without a mask to partially etch it) into an acid solution. The longer the object is in the solution, the deeper the etch will be. When a blacksmith (or bladesmith) forge-welds multiple pieces of various types of steel together to make 'damascus', the final product is usually 'etched' to showcase the patterns that emerge when the steel is 'etched'. There are many solutions used to etch steel. One of the most common solutions used by blacksmiths is duluted Ferric Cloride (it has been sold by Radio Shack (called Etchant) for etching printed circuit boards). Actually, I think any acid will work to some degree (vinegar, lemon juice.... as well as much more caustic acids). Just be sure you take strong precautionary measures if you use caustic acids. Suggestions and formulas can be found online.

Google 'damascus steel' to see examples of etched steel. Most will be knives and swords. Using the 'images' feature of Google brings up some excellent examples.

If my understanding is correct, etching essentially 'eats away' the weakest areas of the metal object, displaying a 'grainy' look, which is visually enhanced by the differing colors of the metals affected by the echant. If you have seen wood that has been 'sandblasted', the effect is similiar.

It's not uncommon to use etchant on objects other than damascus also. I've made leaves and key fobs with wrought iron, then etched them to show the fibrous characteristics of the wrought iron, and bring out visual evidence of the forging techniques used to make the leaves....

These particular examples were made from rims from early wood wheels. The less refined the wrought iron, the more pronounced the effect from the etching.




Edited by djhammerd
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