Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Green" Etching for Jewelry without Acid

There is a fabulous tutorial at http://www.making-jewelry-now.com/acid-etching-metal-jewelry-part-1.html by Virginia Vivier (Esprit Mystique Jewelry) using acid. The tutorial has great tips and techniques.  This article is about using saltwater and a battery. If you dig a little you can find ‘how to’ information free of charge and that is what I did, or you can buy it from a popular magazine.
What you need:

Patience (this process takes longer than acid)
Safety Glasses and Rubber Gloves (strong salt solutions can burn)
D battery and a D battery holder
Alligator clips and heavy ga. copper wire
Copper to be etched and scrap copper
Kosher or canning and pickling salt
Glass container deep enough to hang your art piece

Resists Available: PNP blue paper (good info on this at: http://www.makersgallery.com/goss/pnp.html ) , nail polish (if you’re desperate), enamel paint, etc.

Hook up a D battery in the battery holder, attach alligator clips to the lead wires on your battery holder and then to the two pieces of copper wire to suspend the art piece and the scrap piece in a saltwater bath. Current draws copper from the piece being etched to the scrap copper. You can use the same kinds of resists you would use for acid etching. Red alligator clips on your jewelry/art piece. Put resist on the back of your art piece or etch a design on the back too.

Make a saturated salt solution by dissolving salt, (lot-o salt)

Clean your art piece and clean it again, alcohol works well.

Draw or transfer your design with whatever resist you want. The scrap copper needs to be cleaned off with a scruby pad to remove any residue, then it's ready.

Fill glass (I don’t like plastic) container with the salt solution, attach your two pieces of copper to copper wires and hang them from the sides of the container so they are submerged in the solution. Attach the positive alligator clip to the art piece etched and the negative clip to the scrap copper. You will see little bubbles rising from the scrap copper, and the water will become cloudy.

It takes an hour or more to get a nice deep etch (patience).

Disposal of used salt water, well I’m not convinced it’s a good idea to pour into the sink, there is copper in it. Maybe consider calling waste management services and double check with your area requirements.

Love those little Altoids Tins? Etching Altoids Tins: go to http://steampunkworkshop.com/altoid-etch.shtml

The fun of this is you can transfer virtually any image or pattern to copper, nickel, or brass.

Want more info? Search the web there is a lot of free information. Take some time and learn something new!!  I welcome any comments and additions to this method of etching.

1 comment:

kencasey said...

Thanks for sharing the 'greener' ideas to make jewelry. I tried this with a 6Volt lantern battery to work faster. Got some decent results.

Though, I understand one is left with toxic copper chloride in the solution (the brown stuff), it can be neutralized with lye (sodium hydroxide). But, be verrrry careful.

If you can do some basic chemistry, you can reclaim copper precipate, thus continuing to save the planet.