Saturday, 5 September 2009

Etching metal

I've been etching some metal blanks. I learned to do this in a class I took with Jane Wynn in the US in October 2007, and it is really easy to do, but I didn't find the supplies here in the UK until recently. All you need is metal blanks or charms - brass or copper, some PCB (printed circuit board) etching solution, also known as ferric chloride solution, some Stazon ink, a rubber stamp, a heat gun, some Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda and a small shallow flat bottomed glass or plastic dish. Oh, and tweezers and a bowl of water. And maybe some patina solution, or acrylic paint in a darkish turquoise.

I bought some metal blanks from Fred Aldous, but Beaducation sell them in the US. I prefer the look of etched brass, but could only find copper blanks here in the UK. There are bound to be other places that sell these in both countries, but those are the places I found. You could of course cut your own shapes from sheet metal, you need 18 gauge if possible.

Once you have your metal blanks or shapes, stamp your design on them with Stazon, and heat set. You can stamp on one side, or both. If you only stamp on one side, coat the other side with Stazon, or some sticky tape. This is what my metal blanks looked like after stamping:

Pour about 1/4 inch of the PCB etching solution into your dish, and drop the metal in. Swish it around a little, then leave it in there for ages, checking every couple of hours. It could take anywhere between 2 and 8 hours for you to get the depth of etching you want. I usually find 4 hours is enough. Agitation helps, so give it a swish around every time you pass by. The Stazon acts as a resist, the etching fluid only attacke the areas which aren't stamped. This is what my metal blanks looked like after 4 hours:

When you think they are done, use the tweezers to remove the metal from the etching solution. Dry them on some kitchen towel, then drop in water. Make sure you rinse thoroughly, also rinse your tweezers. Dump a couple of teaspoons of baking soda into the etching solution in your container. It will bubble up and froth, but this neutralises the etching solution to a great extent. Wait till it's done, then scrape the mess onto an old newspaper, wrap and put in the bin. Don't dump it down a drain, it's poisinous. It's worth checking if your local council has specialist disposal solutions for ferric chloride.

Rinse your container out with plenty of water. Now, you can coat your etched metal in patina solution, and leave it to patinate and dry overnight, or if you are impatient, like me, you can give them a thin coat of deep turquoise acrylic paint, wait for it to dry, and then use a sanding block to remove the Stazon, showing the shiny metal. The acrylic paint will have coloured the etched metal, looking like patina. See below, don't forget that you can click on the images to enlarge them.

It took all day to make these, but the actual time you spend actually doing anything is about 5 minutes!

Here's another picture which shows some of the stages -
the charm on the left is etched and sanded but not patinated. The second from left is etched and patinated with Modern Options patina solution, then sanded. The third from the left shows what happens if you stamp and etch both sides of the metal and leave it in the etching solution too long! The one at the right is just as it came out of the etching solution - I haven't coloured the etched metal or sanded the Stazon off yet.


  1. Ok then I fear I am hooked.Im not quite sure about the sanding of the stazon-is that raised up or is it lower.

  2. wow!! this is amazing!! thank you for sharing this technique :) now my turn to find out whether the stuff is available in malaysia!

  3. You are having much better luck than I've had. We should play with this at Linda's next moth.

  4. You do so many great how-to's on your blog! Thanks for sharing another great process/technique with us. These are beautiful!

  5. this is fantastic Adrienne.. so effective, Thanks for sharing as you always do xxx

  6. Lovely, luscious charms (I'm getting one of these, yes?) they are fabulous. Will make sure to have supplies for your visit here. Sounds like we can have those going while working on other projects at my house.....

  7. Thanks for the tutorial on how to do this... and the pictures of the various stages. These look wonderful.

  8. Thanks for sharing Adrienne. Do you think the etch would be deep enough to use to make a texture plate for metal clay?


  9. Fabulous step by step tutorial! I can't wait to find the supplies and give this a whirl!

  10. Hi Adrienne
    haven't had time to blurf for over a month so today I am catching up.I'm sssoo addicted to metal etching and have done heaps these last few months.The Dick Smith electric shop here in Oz know me by my name LOL.It only takes 35mins for the etching to complate here in the topics of Oz.Adrienne you can make the process quicker in the cooler climates by placing the etching solution container inside another container with hot water in it.I'll be uploading a metal etched house to give away at my blog soon
    Annette in Oz

  11. Hi Adrienne
    I left you a coment a few days ago but it doesn't seem to have gone thru.I just wanted to let you know you can speed the etching process up by placing your etchant in another container with hot water in it...the heat speeds it up.For ONCE the heat here were I live is great for etching and the process only takes 35mins here day or night.I don't need the hot water part either.Great work on your blog Adrienne too.Love the lutradur stuff...must pull out mine.Have a hoot at the retreat with Zeb :o)
    Annette In Oz




Please note that I assert myself as the creator of all art on this site (unless I credit another artist) and retain copyright of all artwork posted on this site