Introduction: Copper Etched Earrings
This is how to create copper etched jewelry using Muratic Acid .You will need the following materials.
- Containers with lid Styrofoam blocks ( any place that sells electronics usually has some or maybe a cut pool noddle)
- Muratic acid (available at hardware stores)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- 000 or 00 steel wool
- Barkeepers friend or Pennybrite
- Rubber stamps ink pen with Speedball No.C5 nib
- Staz -on opaque ink (only comes in white)
- Golden stop out varnish
- Metal shears
- Duct tape
- Liver of Sulfur extended life gel
- Sandpaper 220 - 600 grit
- Metal lacquer
Step 1: Clean Your Copper
The first step is to clean your copper.I like to use a heavy 20 gauge because that's what I have laying around from another project and I don't want anything that will bend. You can also buy already cut out blanks in different shapes. Most people use 16 gauge for cuffs and bracelets.I clean the copper with barkeepers friend. Then go over it with fine steel wool so it has a little tooth for the ink. Hold by the edges and don't let the acid from your finger get on it.
Step 2: Apply Image
Now put your design on the copper. I have a lot of rubber stamps and also carve my own.Sometimes you have to try 3 or 4 times with the stamps to get a good impression since the copper isn't porous you have to be careful not to over ink the stamp. I also use paper towels and q tips with Acetone to erase the mistakes. I also like to freehand with the pen. The pen and nib is a little tricky and you have to thin the Stop out with water to get it to flow right. I also use paper towels and q tips with Acetone to erase mistakes with both. Sometimes you have to try 3 or 4 times with the stamps to get a good impression. Sharpies and markers do not work with muratic acid .It is to strong.
Step 3: Preparing the Copper
I like to do 2 sheets at a time .My blocks are 3" x 8". I cut the sheet around 3" x 8".They fit snugly side by side in the tray so I don't have to use a lot of acid. I lay the copper face down on an old tee shirt and cover them with the duct tape leaving a little on the ends. I also rub the tape so the acid does not get on the back. Then flip it over on top of the Styrofoam block. Then I rip some tape down the middle and run the tape around the ends .You can also tape the sides. I read somewhere that the dissolving copper falls away when the copper suspended like this .
Step 4: Etching the Copper
Now to mix the acid. You add 1 part muratic acid to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide.I have a small plastic 8 oz cup that I use. I also mix this outside and keep the lid on when indoors . BE CAREFUL ! Do not breath the fumes or get this in your eyes. Add the acid to the peroxide so it doesn't splash.This is hydrochloric acid .You can look on the web about the chemistry of the acid and peroxide.
Gently put in the copper and close the lid. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes the ink starts dissolving. You can fell the acid getting warm. I usually give it a little tilt every 5 minutes. To tell if it's done I run my fingernail over the design to feel the height. You can also tell from the background getting a pebbled texture. The acid also turn dark green. It's usually strong enough to do another sheet or you might have to add a little more of the chemicals. I like using a fresh batch .
Now have a tray with some water and about 3 - 4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in it.Remove the copper and place it in the baking soda solution.This will neutralize the acid.It will fizz and bubble.When your ready to dipose of the acid mix in the baking soda solution to neutralize it .It is toxic to plants and animals.
Step 5: Cutting and Drilling
Now remove the copper from the blocks and dry off.I also use a little steel wool to clean of the ink. I now use a fine marker and templates to cut the designs into circles and ovals.Once finished sand the edges .I have a small belt sander I use with 120 grit.to even up the edges.You can use a file or sandpaper.
I now use a small nail and make a small dimple where I want to drill a hole.This keeps the drill bit from wandering and marring the surface. I started using a Dremel but found better control with a bench top drill press. Whatever you have.
Step 6: Tumbling, Liver of Sulfur and Dapping
After drilling the holes I wipe off the marker of using acetone. Then I tumble it for about 3 hours in a rock tumble with steel shot. This hardens the copper a bit but is not necessary .But it you have a tumbler ,go for it.
I now press the earrings on a piece of clear packing tape on a tee shirt .I then flip it over and rub the backs. I then prepare the liver of sulfur according to the directions on the jar. I like using hot tap water so it sets a little slower.
Once it turns black I put it in the baking soda bath .Then I pull it out and blot it with paper towels ,hit it with a little steel wool and remove the tape. I then clean up the backs with steel wool.
9.Now I start with 220 grit sandpaper keeping the copper flat,so you just get the raised parts. Then I switch to 320 then 400 for a final polish. If you leave them overnight they will darken down so you need to give them a final polish and spray them right away. Now I also use my handmade dapping blocks if I want to give them a convex shape. It's a lot easier to polish when there flat.
I then use a quick drying metal lacquer from the hardware store. I give them 3 coats on each side.
Step 7: Finish
Now put in your ear hooks and your all done !