Picture of Salt Water Metal Etching
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.
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Step 1: Items Needed

Picture of 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


Step 2: Cleaning/Mixing Salt and Water

Picture of Cleaning/Mixing Salt and Water
Take some alcohol or Windex and clean the blade thoroughly. This helps the process go smoother. Also make sure the alligator clips, battery, and all other necessary components are clean and functioning properly.

At this time also mix the salt and water. I find that using one tablespoon of salt per cup of water works pretty well. Warm water makes the salt dissolve quicker. Remember, you don't need much salt water.
stoobers3 months ago

Does this work with stainless steel? Has anyone actually etched stainless steel this way and can verify it works?

eruger3 months ago

I will have to try this for free-hand etching sometime. I've never seen a method without immersion before. Thanks!

NoahW26 months ago

Would this work on aluminum?

revjpage NoahW25 months ago

This process will work on aluminum but it is much slower and less effective.

VeronicaB1 made it!9 months ago

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.

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Venemot1 year ago


bappel21 year ago
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
lime3D1 year ago

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.

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?

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.
etlerd2 years ago
Will this method work on aluminum?
Mnkynrnd2 years ago
Have you tried it with wax? How about laser printer transfer for the resist?
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
l8nite2 years ago
that sounds really neat, I'll have to try it, thanks for sharing
EmcySquare2 years ago
Very nice!!
I find that batteries run out pretty fast, because you are almost short circuiting them
I use an old transformer from a network switch.
12Volst + 1Amp.
Volts and Amps matter, meaning they give you different results
oldmicah2 years ago
Very cool and thank you for the safer version. I love projects like this that the kids can participate in!