NO, you don't need an expensive laser cutter or CNC router to indelibly mark metal.
This instructable includes both step by step instructions and a follow along movie for your viewing pleasure.
We'll use a laser printer resist and ferric chloride to indelibly mark metal.
Step 1: Watch the Vid and Follow Along!
Or you could read these next easy steps, whichever you prefer!
Bill of Materials:
Glossy magazine paper or PCB toner transfer paper (electronic supplies)
Metal to be etched
Ferric Chloride (electronic supplies)
Kapton Tape (electronic supplies)
Nail polish remover or equivalent
Assorted Safety Gear and Mom's permission
Step 2: Use Laser Printer to Create Etch Resist Template.
Select the black and white art you want to permanently apply to metal.
Mirror image any writing so that you can read it once it's etched. (or not).
Print it with your laser printer on either glossy magazine paper or "Printed Circuit Board Toner Transfer Paper".
Glossy magazine paper works well, but you need to carefully wear away the paper after ironing on the design. I prefer the PCB transfer paper (available at electronic stores) because it comes right off with a little water.
Laser printers don't print ink, they melt plastic onto the paper. This plastic is our "resist".
Step 3: Use a Hot Iron to Transfer the Resist
Cut out the laser printout.
Use Kapton tape to secure the labels in position. Kapton tape is special; it can withstand the heat of the iron without turning into messy goo. You don't absolutely need it, if you are careful not to smear the laser printer tags.
Use the iron to re-melt the plastic laser printer "ink" onto your metal.
Once the resist is good 'n hot and you are confident it has re-melted and adhered to the metal, wet the backing with water.
Allow the resist to cool and then carefully remove the paper.
Step 4: Apply the Etchant to the Resist
Touch up any thin areas of the resist with a Sharpie.
After reading the instructions on the Ferric Chloride, carefully apply it to the resist.
Remove the Ferric Chloride from your work piece.
Step 5: Remove the Resist and Bask in the Glory!
Use nail polish remover to wipe away the resist.
Be content in the beauty you have created!