Electro Etching Machine Made From Trash! (EASY)


Introduction: Electro Etching Machine Made From Trash! (EASY)

About: 14 yrs old, Woodworking, woodcarving, knifemaking, DIY how to, and much more are just what I do everyday! Stay tuned and find out what I make next!

How to make a Electro Etching Machine! What these are used for is etching your Maker's Mark on anything from Knives, to tools, to even kitchen ware! This is a VERY easy project, and quite interesting with the science behind it! I have seen some of these electro etching machines, but what's special about this one is that I invented it myself!

So without further ado, let's get started!

You will need these materials and tools for this project.


• Switch (an electric switch)

• 9 Volt Battery (any brand will work)

• 9 Volt Battery Connector

• Binder Clip

• Vinegar (any vinegar you like)

• Sea Salt

• Bottle/ Jar

• (optional) Copper Wire

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Now it's time to gather your materials. The materials and tools are listed in the 1st step. What you want to start with is a 9 volt Battery, Binder Clip, Switch (preferably one with a plug), and a 9 Volt Battery Connector. Once you've gathered these, you're ready to start!

Step 2: Wire Your Plug

The first thing I'll do is wire the Plug to the Battery Connector. My Battery Connector has a + and - wire, so I need to connect the + to the +. And the - to the -. So I found that the wider spoke is the Negative, and the narrow spoke is the Positive. And the round one is Ground. We don't need ground, so you can tape that one off. So, I'll start by wiring the Positive to the Positive, and Negative to the Negative wire. Here i'm just taking the Connector wires, and twisting them unto the spokes. You could do this with a Soldering Iron also, but I tried to limit this project to NO Power tools.

Once done, you're ready for the next step!

Step 3: Attach Your Clip

Now it's time to attach your clip. Here the White Wire is Positive, and the black wire is Negative. (the Green wire is Ground) So, we won't need the green wire; so we'll just go ahead and clip that one off. So we'll start by taking the positive, and attaching it to one of the Binder wires.(see images above) You can Solder it unto the binder clip if you want.

NOTE: Do NOT attach the Negative wire to the other Binder side, you want to ONLY attach the Positive.

Once done, you're ready to move on!

Step 4: Make Your Etching Solution

Now it's time to make your etching solution! Here I took some White Vinegar, and put it into a Glass Jar/ Bottle. Then, I added about 1 table spoon of Sea Salt. Once done, I shook it up to mix together the solution. You want it to be pretty strong, because the stronger the solution the better it etches. The vinegar etches the metal Naturally because it erodes the upper surface layers of the steel. So in the vinegar, the salt that we added dissolves into positive charged sodium ions and negative charged chloride ions. And so what this does is it allows a current to travel through the solution; allowing it to etch the top layer of the steel permanently.

Step 5: Start Etching!

Now it's time to start etching!

The first thing you'll do of course is:

1. Plug in your battery

2. Turn the switch 'ON'

3. Attach the binder to the tip of metal you're etching

4. Apply 1 or 2 drops of the Vinegar solution to your metal.

5. Take the negative wire, and touch the surface of the solution, without touching the metal.

6. Sit back, and watch it etch!

NOTE: Try not to touch the metal with the negative wire, this will create sparks that will effect the etching pattern.

Step 6: Done!

Now that you've created your etching machine, and have tried it, you are officially a 'Grand Electro Etcher'! This is a very fun, and easy project and I hope you all found it helpful! And of course, if you want more elaborate etches, you have to cut out a stencil and etch inside it to create a special design of your own! (as seen in images above)

Thank you so much for viewing this project, and as always... 'Create Something'.

Want to see more? Visit my Youtube Channel and Website for more!



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What sort of template/stencil/thing do you use for your logo? Did you have a custom vinyl one made? I am curious as I will be etching some of my work in the future.

This sounds pretty awesome. 8 can't wait to try it with my son. Knowing him he will then set up to etch every tool I own lol

1 reply

It will work better (make cleaner marks) if you use something between the part and your anode (negative wire). For example, dip a Q tip in the salt solution and then attach the wire so that it is touching the wet cotton but doesn't contact the part.

Also, you don't need the vinegar for this to work. I'm assuming that you're trying to help remove the scale created during this process or passivate the surface at the same time, but this probably doesn't do anything because the process is purely driven by the electric current and the chlorine atom in the salt. The chlorine is a catylist that allows the oxygen atoms (created from breaking H2O through electrolysis) to bind with the Iron atoms and create different forms of iron oxides (this is what makes the solution turn yellow/green/brown/blue).

4 replies

An anode is positive not negative. A cathode is negative. the Q tip idea is a good one. There are likely a number of variations for a setup like this.

You're right, I did mess that up. I should have said cathode when referring to the negative wire up there.

That being said, this isn't always the case. The anode is defined by where the oxidation is occurring in the reaction. This is an electrolytic cell, so oxidation is happening at the positively charge part (hence positive=anode). However, in a galvanic cell the oxidation occurs at the negitive side, so the anode is negatively charged.

Also, I noticed some pitting in the etched area. The Q tip may help this, but sometimes this happens because the chrystaline structure of the steel has grains of different intermatelic compounds. Some compounds are etched more easily (hence the pitting). I've found that it will look more uniform if you only etch so that it is barely enough to darken the surface and not make a depression in the surface (process times on the order of seconds, not minutes).

Wow, i never knew that! Thanks for your comment, i'll keep it in mind! And yes, i did experiment a little afterwards and did find that a Q tip really etches more efficently.

I think you got your polarities mixed up in the explanation. You said to connect the binder to the positive side of the battery. Later you say not to touch the positive wire to the metal or it will spark. That said, its a great instructable.

1 reply

Simple and clever. Very nice. What do you make your stencils out of?

3 replies

Hello! I make the stencils out of regular Masking Tape. I used a Exact-0 knife to cut it out, after i traced on my Logo. And yes, you could also use Nail Polish and paint on a Silhoutte and try that.. :)

Basically it's just a mask to keep the salt solution off the metal then? I have a CNC vinyl sticker cutter, so I might try that! I'll post pictures if I ever get around to it. Thanks!

Depending on how good you are with painting you can just paint a naegative with nail polish onto the surface of your part to be etched.

That's a really cool project, I love the rabbit

1 reply

haha, I guess he means that he didn't want to use any tools that require power.