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Results of Galvanic Etching UPDATE! 2 new plates Answered

Hi everybody, I just tried the Galvanic Etching process described on Jake Von Slatt's website. I wanted to show off my results and offer my observations.


1) The etch came out perfectly.. even details that looked WAY to fine to pick up came out clearly.

2) The Inkjet Paper (Staples Photo Plus Gloss) took a bit of soaking to get off, but when I got a corner, It came off as one single layer.

3) I had to re-iron the corners, so check those before soaking.


1) a PC power supply worked fine for the etch.

2) my Root Killer lists Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate... no noticeable issue with this versus plain copper sulfate

3) Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate eats alumin(i)um... Using tin foil as the anode was a bad idea.. I went through three anodes over the course of the etch... next time I'll use copper.

4) Electrical tape makes a great mask to cover the back and edges of your etch.

5) Mr Clean Magic Eraser's make short work of the toner without marring the brass.

and now.... the Picture. (this is before paint, polish & varnish, I haven't gotten to those parts yet)


ok,I have used a process simmer to etch copper circuit boards,but in this you connect the brass plate to the positive terminal,but what do you put on the negative terminal?? please help.

I used a brass blank for the negative terminal... since surface area effects speed of etching, brass or copper wool might be best

Whoa, how did I miss this. This is really great (and I thought I had done something when I etched my first PC board, ha).

im probably too late. but i would just ask if there is special kind of metal you can etch or if you just use ervery kind? diferent methods for different metals? kind regards - joe

Salt water will work with almost any metal, but you'll get better effects with other electrolytes, depending on your metal. Copper Sulfate only does well on copper, brass, and other copper alloys... using salt water, i recommend an agitator and heater, as bubbles tend to be an issue. Here are some other things I've discovered (mostly copper and brass related): 1) Verdigris, the discolored coating copper and brass get, can be cut by citric acid. Adding concentrated citric acid to the sulfate will break it down as it forms 2) Staples basic photo gloss is the perfect paper for the Brother HL2070n. 3) you can cut the stuff cleanly with a dremel w/ cutoff wheel, strapped to a wood platform with pipe clamps... a clamp-on square works as a great fence.

dremel mounted.JPG

Excellent (mind whirls with possibilities) One question though, I haven't got access to a laser printer, any suggestions? I etched my initials onto an offcut of square tubing but only by trimming out the shapes from tape!

acrylic paint, if properly cured holds up to the etching process well, so if you can paint in negatives, go for it. another idea i've tested is ye old wax resist..dip the metal in liquid paraffin wax from a grocery store. scratch away wax where you want the metal to etch. note: it looks really odd at the surface, but the design comes out well, once sanded a little with 220 grit sandpaper. there;s another instructable that uses vinyl stencils .. he spraypaints over them, and then removes the stencil letters, revealing clean metal to etch. also, another idea- most modern office printers are laserjets. ask a girlfriend, friend, family, someone to run some designs for you.

Thanks for all the ideas, I'm definitely going to try some of them out. (I won't ask the girlfriend as my wife would object!!!! LOL)

use the self-serve copiers at your local Staples or Kinkos... bring your own photo paper/mag pages and use the stack bypass. alternatively, Staples has just discontinued carrying the Brother 2040 and 2070n laser printers, and you can get them at great savings if you can find them in store... my 2070n was 79.99 before rewards check and employee rewards, and that was a normal, non-clearance sale.

I'm now using Staples Basic Gloss (red package) photo paper with great results... Acetone is great for removing toner en masse, steel wool works well for small areas. a thin layer of photo paper (after all the easy peeling is done) can be etched right through, but if you need to do any touch-ups, all the paper has to go, or it will leave a path for the etchant to seep through under any repairs. with my rig, about 40 minutes gets a good etch, maybe .5 mil. two plates, both approximately 2.25" wide... on the left is my logo design for my sister's business, on the right is my familiar logo. still need to fill polish and varnish. AND Now... RESULTS... UNFINISHED... TAKE 2:

etch 2.jpg

here's a link to a mildly Nsfw electro-etch i did of a pin up girl drawn by my beloved. : copper pinup

glossy magazine pages seem to work decently. (specifically, "wired" magazine)
pro:amazingly easy to remove. con:it's a bit too easy to accidentally remove toner.
the pinup was done with a magazine page. 140 watt pc power supply, 30 minutes, about .5mm.

i'm using lowes copper coated pipe-hanging straps as the anodes on my big projects. tape 4 stripes togeather to make a large, flat plate. seems to speed up the etching process, and the holes allow dead copper dust to fall away from the anode when removing a lot of metal, in a flat position.

(flat, in order to minimize the amount of liquid used) :)

others have reported "matte" photo paper working well, and a friend i'm working with (oddly)says that waxed paper seems to work wonderfully... she's using the paper used to back stickers.

I'll be doing some testing this weekend, and try to post results. i may try the red staples paper you suggest. if i can get the toner mastered, then i think there is much art to be done..

thanks for the tips, gshoppe.. and hurry up and ink your plates so you can show them off to us. :)

I am continually amazed by how your etches come off so cleanly with such a small etched area (such a large mask)... or are you leaving the inked bits raised?

there was a set of instructions I saw years ago that said freezer paper could be used to transfer toner to fabric... maybe the sticker backings are similar...

btw... have you seen this one... http://www.flickr.com/photos/twystneko/487820289/ ... the guy who did it must have been REALLY dedicated

thanks.. the inked bits are all fairly deeply etched. i spraypaint the etchings with black enamel and use 220 sandpaper and brasso to re-reveal the metal, and the black stays in the grooves.

the pinupgirl, and pangolin skeleton are each about half the size of the dedicated guy's coverstone- http://www.flickr.com/photos/twystneko/487792130

so, since a friend made the .jpg (or whatever file for him) i think all he did was a little ironing, and acid, or voltage.

you and i and others in this thread can meet the challenge and make cooler things! onward and upward!


10 years ago

magazine pages seem to be easier to remove after the toner is burned to the metal. here's another semi-successful test:


10 years ago

Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate is plain copper sulfate, the different names are for forms that differ only in how many water molecules are bound to it. Pentahydrate is the most common form, that's the bright blue crystals. Dryer forms are a blue-green powder. But there's no chemical difference between them, and how much water is bound in the crystal is irrelevant, since you're dissolving it in water, anyway. As for the technique, this seems cleaner, safer, and easier than the acid etching methods people have copied from PC manufacture. Enough so that I really can't see why anyone would bother using the acid etches. (Unless, of course, they were etching PC boards - which don't have a conductive connection between the traces.)


10 years ago

so, after reexamining my setup, i learned a few things. 1. using the smallest amount of fluid possible seems to help a lot, 2. using an anode nearly the size of the work piece seems to help a lot, 3. having a pc power supply that isn't half fried from consuming dust bunnies seems to help. the duct-tape stencil triskelion i did on brass went well, so i tried the von slatt toner technique on copper. the piece is 11 inches long, etched about 2mm deep in 45 minutes@12 v. The result is below. i think the main error i have left to confront is letting the photo paper get too hot. the plastic of the paper stuck to the copper, instead of just the toner..but, i think i'm getting close.. just thought i'd add in a few notes for those who are having the same issues as i am. :)


that's amazing... really

thanks..and now i press you to post some post-disaster images.. the original plate rocked..:) something to tack to an office door with decorative nails.

Nice! I want to try etching, but it uses too many chemicals.

you should try galvanic etching... it only requires copper sulfate (root kill), a laser printer, and a 12v power source that can handle 2-3 amps (car battery/car battery recharger/pc power supply/)... von slatt's directions are excellent.

Cool! I'll try it with a car jump starter. Any specific brand of root killer?

the ones I've seen are designed for use in septic systems / plumbing... "Zep Root Kill" and "Roebic K-77 Root Killer" are both known to work, but anything that shows Copper Sulphate or Copper Sulphate Pentahydrate as the active ingredient will work fine.

UPDATE - (DISASTER STRIKES): attempting to use spray varnish outside in 10 deg. F weather was a big mistake... I spray painted the entire plate with Krylon Fusion (satin black) and wet sanded with 600 grit sand paper. I then used the Mr Clean Magic Eraser (my favorite micro-abrasive) to get the visible scratches out. I cut the plate to size with tin snips, filed it smooth, rounded the edges, and polished with brasso... At this point it looked AMAZING! Then I messed up. I tried to use a spray lacquer (krylon) on the piece outside in cold weather. the lacquer immediately clouded up, so I brought the piece inside top attempt to remove the lacquer before it dried (bad idea, I should have sanded it off later) the lacquer had thinned the paint, and the whole thing smeared terribly when I tried to wipe it off. I later attempted to re-paint and sand, but my previous sanding had thinned the engraving, and the process didn't work a second time... I will re-attempt the etch, ect. on Saturday, and try to get it right... I'll also post my updated etching rig (without the alumin(i)um foil of doom)

You've already done a great job documenting here, but this is a perfect candidate for a Slideshow.

I just might do that for the final product thanks

That is really nice. I know you followed somebody else's method, but it would be worth a write-up here, no? There are other etching processes detailed here (saltwater, ferric chloride), but I don't think this has been done (although I may be wrong).

If I remember correctly, copper sulfate pentahydrate simply means that there are water molecules trapped in the lattice of copper sulfate crystals, with a ratio of 5 moles of water for every mole of copper sulfate. When mixed with water, the lattice dissolves and the water is simply released. Kiteman, please confirm.


(I was about to post something similar, so it's lucky I scrolled down and saw your post)

Oh yeah...Where did you find brass sheet?

my local hardware store, amazingly enough, has a tiny display jammed in the back corner caller "work with metal". they've got a pretty small selection of sheets of various metals, but some is much better than none.


10 years ago

Very nice! I'd like to see that technique applied to photogravure--load up the etch with ink and pull a print ('course the image would be backwards...)

there's no reason why that wouldn't work... infact, i had to flip my toner mask, so it would transfer the right way, and my image had to be inverted, so that the low parts would be the black areas... neither of these are issues in making a printing plate. as long as the image is strictly black and white (no greyscale), and not terribly dithered (pretty smooth delineations between black and white), it should work well

There's a long history of chemical engraving used in photographic reproduction. But this is the first time I thought of using a toner transfer (I'm certain that others have, tho.) All photomechanical processes (offset printing, copy machines, inkjets, etc.) are high contrast (ink is essentially present, or it isn't), so greyscales are approximated with halftones, etc. Rotogravure plates were exposed with a screen grid first, then the image--producing a halftone. But it's pretty easy to apply one to an image before printing the transfer. If the transfer process isn't accurate enough to hold a halftone image, perhaps the plate could be 'dusted' with asphaltum or rosin ala traditional photogravure...

. Wow! I'm amazed at the detail that comes through. . Great design, too. I love the pic. . Please give us an update after paint/polish/varnish.


10 years ago

heya, i'm just getting started on vonslatt's adaptation of Greenart's technique as well.

it seems to be working quite well, but it seems to etch in slow motion. I seem to be only drawing .2 amps from a pc power supply, connected to a 12 volt output.

the water is fully saturated with copper sulfate (zep root kill) and the anode and cathode are about 1/4 inch from each other.

this is a 250 watt power supply but some napkin math says that should be able to support 20.83 amps..

von slatt seems to be pulling 10 amps, and etching deep in 1 hour or so.
i'm running at 1/10th the speed.

got any suggestions? and got a picture of the setup you used?

here's another guy who's posted a page on the technique:

this works well, i just feel odd leaving it running all night to get any results. fire bad. :)

first off, you're never gonna draw 20 amps on this... most rigs draw less than three amps, but 2-3 is pretty common. The 12v rail on the power supply normally has a seperate amp rating from the entire supply, and it will be much less than 20 as well... Can I get a picture of your rig, and a description of each connection, from wall to plates? what is your anode? regarding pictures of my rig: I thought you'd never ask...


BTW it took about 30mins to get the relatively shallow etch I have.

Very nice.

Neat! I'm glad it worked out well for you!