by Virginia Vivier.
(Esprit Mystique Jewelry)
Acid Etching Brass and Copper Jewelry
Part 3c: Ferric Chloride Acid Bath
How Do You Know When the Etching Process is Done?
While etching, check on your metal designs in the etch bath about every 30 minutes.
I use a bamboo shish-ka-bob skewer to gently touch the edges of the design.
If the point of the skewer catches on the edges of the lines, you can feel how deep the etch is, without removing the brass or copper piece from the etch bath.
If the skewer slides across the design, then it hasn’t etched deep enough and needs to stay in the bath longer.
This is also a good time to check if any parts of the design are breaking down and need to be touched up. (I have never had to do this, but it can be done.)
To touch up a design, rinse the Ferric Chloride off the metal using a separate container with baking soda and water to stop the etching process.
Then rinse in plain water and dry so any areas can be touched up with a red Staedtler pen. Then return the touched up design to the etch bath and proceed as before.
Neutralize the Acid to Finish the Process
When you are satisfied with the depth of the etch, submerge the metal in a separate plastic container (clean yogurt tub, cottage cheese container or other plastic or glass works fine), with solution of water and 3 or 4 tablespoons of baking soda.
This solution neutralizes the Ferric Chloride that is still on the metal.
You can see the baking soda solution fizzing as it neutralizes the acid.
If you don’t neutralize the Ferric Chloride that is left on the metal with baking soda, it will continue to etch in microscopic crevices of your design and ruin it later.
Next, rinse your metal designs in water and dry them.
Tightly cover your Ferric Chloride bath so you can use it later.
(Option: Sprinkle a teaspoon of powdered Ester C in the acid bath so it will keep its strength.)
If you want to dispose of an exhausted Ferric Chloride bath, make sure you add enough baking soda to neutralize it. You can tell it is neutralized when it stops fizzing. Then you can safely dispose of the neutralized acid, down the drain, or in the ground.
Waste Not – Want Not
If you wind up with a finished etched design that is missing details and you feel it is ruined, fear not!
You can use the GOOD PARTS of the etched metal for smaller patterned designs.
Below are interesting pendants made from scrap pieces of etched metal:
This is the third in a series of 4 parts about acid etched designs on brass, copper and silver.
Also be sure to see the new page, Acid Etching Metal Jewelry – UPDATE before beginning your etching project!
Please comment or ask questions!
Wow, Virginia – Part 3 is awesome!
Very do-able, and I love your excellent notes, tips, and cautions from your own experience.
Lots of wonderful etched jewelry designs will be coming from the artists following this series!
Your etched pieces rock!
Fantastic piece you show at the top of this page! Wow! Also I love the valuable tip for using the pieces that don’t turn out as planned. Looking at those beautiful “repurposed” pieces, no one would ever know they are a re-design!
This is an incredible tutorial. Can’t wait for Part 4!
Fabulous Jewelry, Fabulous Tutorial.
by: Rita Juhlin
I’ve never considered etching but I just put it on my list of things to do! Your work is superb and professional. Thank you very much for sharing ALL this knowledge and experience; I find it a rare gift.
May a boquet of flowers find their way to you…
by: Janet Lovell-Simons
Thank you for sharing this intriguing tutorial. As so many before me have said, your work is fascinating, inspiring and beautiful. Personally, you just may be saving my creative life , as your clear, general people-friendly instructions makes this process seem accessible and do-able with the promise of an end result that is lasting and very marketable. The next questions would be in the way of finishing… ie. cutting, bending, filing, drilling and where one finds the metal supplies. (Don’t worry, you’ve got me going now and my fingers will be doing the walking over the net to learn more.)
Again, thank you for sharing Virginia. Your generosity is very much appreciated!
by: Barbara in France
This may be a duplicate but here goes: How do you get those nice, perfectly rounded rivets and what are they made of? Thanks.