Adventure in Acid Etching

by Lady Mockingbird.
(Upstate NY)

Adventure in Acid Etching by Lady Mockingbird  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

After the Acid Bath, removing the toner and cutting out the individual items with a pair of hand held metal shears by Xuron

Acid Etching sounds scary just reading the first word, and I was definitely very hesitant to try it.

But to improve as a metal smith and jewelry artist often means stretching out of one’s comfort zone, and this process was definitely a big stretch for me.

I spent over a year off & on researching the process, debating about the purchase of a laser printer, and seeking cost effective ways to do this in my very small maker studio.

Adventure in Acid Etching by Lady Mockingbird  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Close detail of one of the brass floral bits

I opted to begin with brass and copper first trying the glossy magazine page method to transfer the toner.

That did not go as I’d hoped, the magazine pages did transfer the toner somewhat but developed large air bubbles which left huge gaps in the transferred pattern, the paper also didn’t come off cleanly after soaking.

So, I used sharpie marker to color over the side with the unsuccessful transfer and ordered specialty paper just for toner transfer.

This was more successful but still didn’t rub off cleanly after soaking.

Adventure in Acid Etching by Lady Mockingbird  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Copper Cuff after etching and before Antiquing

It was successful enough though that I opted to do a small sheet of sterling on the same day that I did the copper and brass.

I’ve since ordered but not yet tried the press n peel transfer medium generally used in making circuit boards, which are acid etched using a toner transfer process.

I opted to use muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide as it it makes up an etchant that is a bit milder and is easier to source since both materials are readily available (at hardware store and drugstore respectively).

I placed an electric fan on the same table as the two glass trays with the etchant solution to act as a mild agitator (which it did beautifully) and checked the progress after an hour, then every thirty minutes.

At 3 hours the brass seemed fully etched, and the copper in the same bath also looked good.

Adventure in Acid Etching by Lady Mockingbird  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Part of the resulting finished collection

The silver also seemed good, but after cleaning it turned out that the etch was barely visible unless you tilted the silver one way or another.

So I’ll be looking to do an electro-etch set up to try and etch the opposite side of that sheet since I don’t want to purchase and use the much more caustic and dangerous acids that are recommended for sterling.

One quick note about adding in the baking soda to neutralize the acid after you are done, take the trays outside first.

The baking soda reacts with the acid foaming up like freshly poured beer that’s been shaken vigourously.

It sends up a mist that wets every surface for a couple of feet around the tray.

Lady Mockingbird
Mockingbird Lane Wire
Mockingbird Lane Creations on FB

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  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I am just on the verge of trying my hand at etching! Beautiful pieces!

  2. Beautiful work! I use muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide as well. Have you found that you get a deeper etch if your solution and/or pieces are warm or hot even? Now that it is so hot outside I am finding that my etch is much deeper if I leave the pieces on my deck with the sun beating on them. Another tip I found helpful was to check my pieces with a toothpick to see how deep they really are. It can be very deceiving otherwise and I have been very frustrated with different levels of etch as a result. I have been using my silhouette cameo machine to cut vinyl to use as my resist and for the most part that works great, but it is time consuming if you have a detailed piece like the ones you have shown us. I also have used stamps and found that copper and brass will etch nicely with stamps, but Steel and Nickel Silver do not work! Thank you for sharing your work!!!

  3. Diana, thanks so much for taking us along on your journey into acid etching, and sharing what worked and what didn’t. I especially like your last photo, with the gorgeous finished copper & brass pieces. I agree, the first word in “acid etching” makes many people shy away, and I like your emphasis on safety during the process. Love how you’re rocking your new jewelry direction!

    Also thanks to Sandra Doss (above) for sharing her great additional tips!

  4. Sandra,
    Actually one of the cuffs I did was a stamped pattern. I felt the ink didn’t give enough coverage so I went over some of the spots that seemed too bare with sharpie marker. I have some additional stamp patterns I want to try as well. So though I’m still planning on moving to electro etching once I can get a good set-up I’m going to use the rest of my brass and some more copper and try to use up all of my muriatic acid so it doesn’t go to waste.

    Rena, thanks much for your marvelous response. Though I’ve been super productive the last few months, I haven’t submitted anything here for a long while. Not for lack of wanting, but more for lack of time.

    Karin, do try it. There’s a learning curve but it opens up a world of design opportunities particularly for those of us without a rolling mill.
    Lady M

  5. If stamping with ink, you need to use the Staz On Ink pads and I have found them at Michaels. Only thing I have found that works well with stampings.

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