Etching on Tin Using Crayon-Technique




This is a great technique to etch your children's artwork directly onto metal!  No transferring, or tracing their artwork!  It's a really fun technique using easy to find, and cheap, supplies.  

Supplies: Pencil, copper wire, 6V Battery, Crayon, Metal Tin, Medium Plastic or Glass Container, wires with alligator clips attached on both ends, Acetone (Nail Polish Remover), sandpaper (if using an altoid tin or other tin with design and/or color on it), salt, and water.

Your supplies can all be bought at your local store like at Walmart. That 6V battery, I found in the camping department (they use them for lanterns). They are about $1. The wire and alligator clips can be bought at Radio Shack. They are about $3.
You could use Altoid tins, however, I bought a huge supply of plain tins, as I’m using them for many things. If you have Altoid tins you will need to sand off the design on the top (or anywhere that you want to end up etched), using sandpaper and lots of elbow grease!
If you buy tins from a hobby store that are like mine, you will still need to remove a protective layer they all have on them. You can remove this by using acetone (or nail polish remover). Make sure you remove all of this protective layer because the etching will not happen where any of that protective layer is left. 

Step 1: Separate Top From Bottom

Separating the top from the bottom makes them easier to work with and they come apart very easily, just be careful not to break the hinge. 

Step 2: Cover Tin With Crayon

Take your crayon and cover the tin in crayon. Get as much crayon onto the tin as you can. The crayon is actually going to be the part that resists the etching and the tin will stay shiny where you have crayon.  

Step 3: Melt Crayon Onto the Tin

Use an embossing gun (or hair dryer) to melt the crayon wax. This is very important to get a nice crayon layer, as you will get pot marks of etched dots wherever the crayon did not end up covering.

I found this worked best by coloring a layer of crayon, melting the wax completely on the tin, and then adding more wax with the embossing gun going at the same time so it melts wherever you touch your crayon (because the tin is heated up and the crayon has the embossing gun over it as well). 

Step 4: Draw Your Design (Or Let Your Kids Draw Their Design)

Take your pencil and draw a design into the crayon layer. You want to go all the way through the wax to the tin. This is quite easy to do. But you are also not trying to draw onto the tin, either. When you draw onto the tin, you are removing the wax. The picture shows how the wax can curl up in tendrils and still stay attached. Make sure to brush this wax off or it can mess up your design by covering up some of the part that you drew. 

Step 5: Set Up Etching Bath

Set up your etching bath. The picture shows my set up.

Bend the copper wire so that it holds onto the container on the side (as you see on the left side of my container). Then you bend the wire back and forth the length and width of your container. You do this so that you have an even current running through the container.

Boil some water on the stove and dissolve salt into it until you can’t dissolve anymore salt into it.

Put the bent copper wire in place in the container and pour in your salt water. You should let the water cool off before continuing as the hot water could melt the crayon and ruin your design.

Attach the wires to the battery and into the water. One wire will go from the negative on the battery, to the copper wire (see my yellow clips). The next wire goes from the positive on the battery and then clips onto the tin (the green clips). You will then float your tin (that is crayon covered and already has the design drawn into it) in the water with the design face down into the water. To keep my tin completely level I draped the green clip’s wire over a glass. This will help the tin to etch uniformly.

Leave your tin for 5-10 minutes. You will see bubbles in the water and the water will get really yucky/mucky looking. This is all normal. The longer you leave the tin in the salt water, the deeper the etch will be. Take your tin out and wash the gunk off and then remove the crayon.  

Step 6: Etch the Bottom

My final thought is to have your kids also etch the bottoms. I had my kids write a message as well as their name, age, and the year.

My kids’ tins say “You are #1 Grapa from______”, “Love You”, and “I (heart) U!”.

What person wouldn’t adore a momento like this? I will be having them make some for themselves as well as for me! ;)

See more pictures at RootsAndWingsCo



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14 Discussions


8 years ago on Step 5

would this work for etching other metals such as nickel and copper?


8 years ago on Step 5

Just for interest, salt is one of those chemicals that does not change it's solution rate in hotter water. What I mean is the same grams per litre will dissolve in hot water as cold water.

To test this check if a whole load of salt came out of solution after your boiled bath cooled to room temperature. It shouldn't have.

Sorry one of the only things I remember from "O" level chemistry- nice Ible BTW

1 reply

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Actually it does change its solubility, just not very significantly compared to many other chemicals.


8 years ago on Step 5

Sorry the point I was trying to make was that you can leave out the whole boiling and cooling phase and it should not effect your electrolyte's ability to do the job, the process will be quicker and you run less risk of melting your wax.

Saving Time
Saving Energy
Saving Quality.


8 years ago on Introduction

I love this. I love it so much. I just tried it for a friend's present and the Old English Text looks great etched in metal! I'll post pictures when everything is cleaned.

2 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I also fell in love with this as soon as I did it! I can't wait to see yours!!

awesome instructable! Could you melt several crayons into a pool and then dip the tin into the pool in order to insure even coverage?

1 reply

8 years ago on Introduction

Would regular parafin work as well? If so just melt some in a container of boiling water or tip a candle on its side.

1 reply

I would imagine that would work just as well and sounds like it would be easier!

However, I love the idea that these supplies I had on hand! Because I have kids, I have crayons on hand! ;)

Thanks for the GREAT idea!