I am a sword and knife enthusiast who always found the little etching on the side of my weapons super cool. I searched the web for several ways to make my own etchings on my weapons. To my dismay, there were few methods that did not contain harsh, dangerous chemicals that I didn't have at that time.Then a little spark of light appeared to me in the form of salt water etching! This method contains a few household items that are readily available and cheap.

WARNING: This method produced a harmful gas that should not be breathed in. Please use in a well ventilated area.

Step 1: Items Needed

All the items that are needed can be found around the house or for cheap elsewhere.




Blade (steel works best, stainless or carbon)

9v Battery

A pair of alligator clips

Alcohol or Windex


Electric Tape

Nail Polish (optional)


Some Artistic Ability

<p>I had some vinyl stickers made and gave it a try. Turned out pretty well I think.</p>
<p>I followed this exact procedure and unfortunately was unable to etch any part of a stainless steel knife. I used an LED confirm that the battery/circuit was working. I'd really appreciate any/all ideas//suggestions about what wasn't working and how to fix this. Thank you,</p>
<p>Have you tried etching without an LED? Because LED's have a resistance as well, not much, but maybe that's the cause?</p>
<p>Hi, thanks for the response. To clarify, I did NOT use the LED while etching; just to confirm that the battery was working/circuit was closed.</p>
<p>I found that some metal has a protective layer on it that prevents the etching. Try using some steel wool to clean the surface. Also make sure your qtip is connected to the negative side of your battery.</p>
<p>I used a slightly different technic with a <br>saltwater bath and as a stencil I transfered toner from a sheet of <br>paper onto my workpiece.</p>
<p>I've made this thing on a scrap piece of steel with a apple stencil made by painter's tape. Turns out pretty well. I also marked up with a permanent marker to give more texture. Used the 12 volts rail of a 350W PSU (about 24A)</p>
works well. not one that's super smooth but I like the look of it. made mine with a dispensary sticker. <br>
<p>Will this work on pewter?</p>
<p>I want to do this with a large outline and fill. Someone mentioned using a cotton ball instead of a qtip. Has anyone done this or would recommend it? Also could I use a higher volt battery if I'm doing a larger piece? Please let me know :)</p>
i tried it it worked but i also had an idea i tried it useing my arc welder and it worked even faster and better plus instead of qtips i used cotton balls coverd a bigger area
<p>Does this work with stainless steel? Has anyone actually etched stainless steel this way and can verify it works?</p>
<p>I will have to try this for free-hand etching sometime. I've never seen a method without immersion before. Thanks!</p>
<p>Would this work on aluminum?</p>
<p>This process will work on aluminum but it is much slower and less effective.</p>
<p>This was really great! I had a lot of success. Thank you so much for posting. I used adhesive vinyl (you can by this at joann's or Micheals) and cut out my design from a print out. This allowed me to get some more detail in what I was etching. I would recommend a design where it doesn't matter that your edges are perfect. At the beginning a single 9V battery was perfect, but as I kept going it was slow. I switched to 2 9V batteries in series, then was much happier with the speed. The 2 9V batteries used many more q-tips though. </p>
I usually grab a bottle of heavy tile cleaner (phosphoric acid) from my old mans work (tile shop) and thatll do the trick without any lectricity or anything, but it doesnt seem to work on Cr5Mo15V steel so ill give this ago
<p>How about using a paint brush instead of the Q-tip? Perhaps you could swish the brush around in the saltwater to clean it off, at the same time loading it up.</p>
<p>What do you think about dipping metal in electrified salt water. I'm going to see if I can make it work, but have you thought about it before? </p>
Great instructable! I tried it on a machete and it worked great, thanks for the advice! It took me 2 9-volt batteries to do as much as I did though, it really burns them up.
Will this method work on aluminum?
Have you tried it with wax? How about laser printer transfer for the resist? <br>Great post. I'm going to try it, but my art skills are lacking. Hope I can generate a design on the puter and transfer for etching with this method
that sounds really neat, I'll have to try it, thanks for sharing
Very nice!! <br>I find that batteries run out pretty fast, because you are almost short circuiting them <br>I use an old transformer from a network switch. <br>12Volst + 1Amp. <br>Volts and Amps matter, meaning they give you different results
Very cool and thank you for the safer version. I love projects like this that the kids can participate in!

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