SALT AND WATER ETCHING

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Intro: SALT AND WATER ETCHING

!!READ ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS AND SAFETY TIPS BEFORE STARTING!!

This is a simple and fast etching, also known as electrolytic etching, that is made without the use of polluting or poisonous chemicals: only water and salt, and energy.

Any comments or tips are welcome, as I'm just started and still learning, there may be better and safer way to do this project. This is just the way I learned in a jewelry class.

Step 1: WHAT YOU NEED

I will write more different supply you can use at the end of the instructable, like a tattoo machine, instead of the batteries (a way more earth friendly and efficient way to do the etching).

MATERIAL:

-salt;

-water;

-a copper piece to etch;

-electric tape.

TOOLS:

-a transparent container;

-a flat long piece of copper sheet;

-INSULATED alligator clips;

-battery holder and wire;

-1/8" unshielded steel wire (do not use stainless steel), or carbon rod was also suggested here on instructable, as it is corrosion resistant; I actually learned to use stainless steel in a jewelry class, but I had few comments here about stainless steel not been safe to use. I need to admit that I don't have any knowledge about, so maybe research a little before attempting.

-exacto knife.

Step 2: SAFETY

I'm not responsible in any ways of damaging to items or people doing this project: use every safety steps known for every chemical or electrical projects.

SAFETY TIPS:

-Turn ALWAYS off, or unclip, any electric device you are using, before touching anything, the water, any of the items in the bath, or touching any of the part involved in the project;

-Use gloves, not to get in contact with any of the chemicals or parts involved;

-Wear every appropriate safety gear.

-Do not use stainless steel.

-Do not ingest or smoke any of the components of the project :)

Step 3: PREPARE THE ELECTRICITY SUPPLY

This was my first etching attempt, so I used electricity from batteries, as I had them available, but in the future I will definitely only use some other device that doesn't need batteries, as they are pretty polluting (I will talk about at the end of the instructable). You can also use rechargeable batteries.

So take your battery holder, fill it up with D batteries, and add the alligator clips as in the photos at the end of the + and the - wires connected to the battery holder.

Step 4: PREPARE THE DRAWING

Cover the front part of the piece that you want to etch with electrical tape (or duck tape).

With the xacto knife cut away the part that you want to be etched (I just made a random figure to show how to do).

Make sure that the edge of the tape where you don't want the etch to happen are really well adherent to the copper, so any solution will get from the tape and the sheet.

Step 5: ATTACH THE COPPER COMPONENTS

Tape the copper long flat piece to the back of the copper component that you want to etch and make sure it touch it really well.

Cover all the back and the sides with electrical tape, making sure you don't cover any part of your design.

Step 6: PREPARE THE SALTY SOLUTION.

Warm up your water and dissolve the salt. The ratio of salt to water should be about 1 to 5.

Make sure the salt dissolve completely.

ALLOW THE WATER TO COOL DOWN.

Step 7: BENT THE STEEL WIRE

Bent the steel wire as in the photo: it should have an hook on one edge to hold to the side of the transparent container, and the other side wrap in to a large hoop, large as the bottom circumference of your container.

The hoop should touch the bottom of the container, so the middle straight part of the wire should be as tall as your container is.

Step 8: PLACE YOUR ITEMS

Place the copper piece in the container full of water and salt solution, bending the edge of the copper long piece like an hook, and hanging the piece of copper you want to etch in about the middle part of the container.

Place the steel wire inside of the container, on the opposite side of the copper, with the ring touching the bottom.

NOTE: the copper components and the wire should NOT touch each other.

Step 9: CONNECT THE BATTERY HOLDER

THE POWER SHOULD BE 5 VOLTS, DO NOT GO OVER 5 VOLTS.

Connect the alligator clip to the metal parts:

-ALWAYS BEFORE THE NEGATIVE TO THE STEEL WIRE.

-AFTER THE POSITIVE TO THE EDGE OF THE COPPER that hold the piece you want to etch.

Step 10: JUST WHAIT AND WATCH

If the device is working you should immediately see small bubbles coming out from the copper and the steel.

Than a yellow dust, than green. It always change a little bit the color.

The etching can take 20 minutes up to 45 minutes, depending on how deep you want your etching, how strong is the power, how wide is the part to etch, etc.etc…

Thiner cut in the electrical tape to etch will take longer to etch, wider exposed surfaces will etch faster.

I suggest to check your work every wile, so you make sure you have the desired result.

AGAIN: turn off any electricity before handling any of the components of the project.

Step 11: DONE

Done! This is the first piece we etched.

Wash well with water and soap, using gloves, all the metal components you used in the solution.

Step 12: LEFT OVER

Allow to sit the salt and water solution for a night.

You can reuse the salty water for your next project, just pour it slowly in another container, avoiding pouring any deposit.

Make sure not to touch the solution or the bottom left over with your bare hands, USE GLOVES.

Step 13: DIFFERENT WAYS

Instead of the battery holder you can also use:

-a tattoo power supply (they sell them now online as cheap as 20 or 30$). It is nice as you can adjust the power from 5 volt, but also lower. Higher is the voltage, faster is the etching, but lower is the voltage and more precise is the etching. REMEMBER: do not use a voltage higher than 5 volt. The negative always go first, on the steel wire. The positive always go on the part you have to etch.

-a 5 volt telephone charger. You split in half the cord, attach the alligator clips at the edge of each wire. (Also in this case make sure to know what is the positive and the negative wire. The negative always go first, on the steel wire.The positive always go on the part you have to etch.)

Instead of the electric tape, to mask your piece, you can use:

-duck tape;

-nail polish (than you scratch the design you like with a sharp point);

-spray paint (than you scratch the design you like with a sharp point).

Step 14: !!!READ!!! USEFUL TIPS

This are some important things you should know and remember about this project:

-Make sure the salt is completely dissolved in the solution, and the solution is cold before use it. If the steel wire touch the salt it won't work.

-Make sure that what you are etching is not touching the steel wire in any place, if they do it wont work.

-Always attach the negative first. The negative is always on what you are NOT etching.

-Attach the positive to the piece you are going to etch.

-ALWAYS turn the power off before touching anythings.

-Wear appropriate safety gear (gloves, apron, eye wear…).

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44 Discussions

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SusanP137

5 months ago on Step 1

Glows? So you mean gloves? Does the glove type matter? Latex or nitrile?

Also, you note “don’t use stainless steel” for the wire, yet later in the tutorial in a couple of spots which refer to “stainless”. Is it stainless steel or not? If it is, where is the stainless steel? If it isn’t, please update the tutorial as it’s confusing.

I’ve used mother board etch before and it is a pain to use. Having a different option would be handy.

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sue.donim.144

5 months ago

you say do not go over 5 volts ... yet 4 batteries x1.5 volts = 6 volts

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Warholm

5 months ago

I am very concerned that the orange precipitate is a chrome salt (from the stainless wire) if it was a copper salt I would expect green or blue colour.
chromes salts are hidiously poisonous, and long term pollutants.
Please use another material for your negative electrode - Iron, (steel) copper or carbon for example.

...Maybe I am wrong (I hope so) see: http://www.docbrown.info/page03/The_Halogens/elect...

But I am worried by the colour of the precipitate - sure looks like chrome salt...
I would expect Copper Chloride to be blue / green:
https://www.google.dk/search?q=copper+chloride+sol...

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Smidje Verholen

2 years ago

Will this work on chrome plated brass?

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wiccanbear

2 years ago

quick question, can you use sharpie as the last for the etching? like with acid?

4 replies
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wiccanbearmarcellahella

Reply 2 years ago

i tried it with the sharpie. it does work, but you have to redraw at about 15 min. how ever if you use the sharpie paint pen it works perfectly. ^_^

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astrong0wiccanbear

Reply 2 years ago

I have heard that if you use nail polish or glossy spray paint it will also work, you should also do a couple of coats.

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yosuf.harb

2 years ago

can you do it on steel as well?

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RashminD

2 years ago

Wonderful, I want to do this now!!

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Cat00x

2 years ago

I wonder if you actually mean "gloves" under safety tips at the top and also in step 12?

This is a great instructable, thank you, although for a novice like me I wonder if I could figure out how to attach the wires to the battery holder. I suppose I could talk to my friendly local Radio Shack guy.

My husband and I had to replace a large copper pipe (I believe it was a vent from the furnace) under the house, and now I have a wonderful source of copper that has a gorgeous green patina on the inside. The pipe must be 3-4" in diameter. I have no idea how much something like this would cost these days.

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mistymissesu1

2 years ago

Why not use something that you would like to copper plate, instead of a scrap piece of wire with the negative electrode? Make an interesting 1/2 copper, 1/2 nickel colour piece.

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LeslieGeee

2 years ago

Nice tutorial ! You can also buy larger sheets of copper ( flashing ) and just cut to the size you want :)

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18406ej

2 years ago

If you go to the Lowes hardware section there will be an entire aisle filled with drawers containing fasteners and other bits. One of these drawers, labeled "Special Projects" or words to that effect contain pieces of heavy copper plate that are about 6" X 4". I think that the copper sells for something like $6 which is highway robbery, but which is also a convenient way to find copper plate locally. Another good source of copper, brass and other metals is one of the many online metal suppliers, companies specializing in the sale of smaller pieces of metal as opposed to local metal suppliers that typically only sell by the whole sheet (approx. 6' X 8').

Finally, if you have or have access to a Cricut machine it is possible to cut amazingly intricate stencils cut for etching. I use Contact Paper, which sticks the best to metal when electro or acid etching.

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wolfyrepress

2 years ago

This is the standard ground used in printmaking: Senefelder's Liquid Asphaltum and is available through Graphic Chemical and basically anyplace that sells printmaking supplies.

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trickster68

2 years ago

you can buy cooper sheets from jewelry supply places or metal making supply places.

1 reply
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wolfyrepresstrickster68

Reply 2 years ago

You can get copper from places that do detailing for roofing.

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tlaci2007

2 years ago

hi, can i use this method to etch pcb?