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Best resists for successful etching

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Etching is a process by which you apply an acid to metal, causing uncovered parts to be "eaten away" by the acid (usually ferric chloride, but there are other methods.) To etch a specific design in your metal, you apply that design using a "resist," a substance that covers the areas on metal that you do not want to be etched. The uncovered areas of the metal will etch, leaving behind a raised impression of your design.

Many different substances can be used as resists, and there are many ways to apply them, so I asked four of my favorite jewelry makers to share their chosen resist medium and technique.

 

JANICE BERKEBILE: STAZON INK

Janice Berkebile teaches at shows and bead stores across the country. She is the co-author (with Tracy Stanley) of Making Wire & Bead Jewelry: Artful Wirework Techniques.

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photo a
A rubber stamp, prepped with StazOn ink. 
photos by Janice Berkebile

My favorite resist is StazOn ink, a brand of ink pad sold wherever scrapbooking supplies are found, because it allows me access to thousands of textures by using rubber stamps. I make many of my own hand-carved stamps using Speedball “easy carve” carving material and linoleum carvers [PHOTO A].

When using StazOn ink, make sure the ink is completely dry before etching and consider heat-setting the ink using a heat gun [PHOTO B]. The ink has about a 40-minute lifespan in the etching solution (after which time it begins to dissolve), but that is plenty of time to get a crisp, deep etch [PHOTO C]

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photo b
Clean copper with the ink applied. 
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photo c
The etched piece. 

 

 

RICHARD SALLEY: PHOTOCOPY INK

Richard Salley retired from teaching in public schools to devote more time to his art and teaching workshops around the country. He considers himself not so much a jeweler but rather a “maker of wearable art.” He and his wife, Jane, reside in Santa Fe, NM. Contact him at www.rsalley.com.

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photo a
photos by Richard Salley

One of my favorite resists is photocopier ink transferred to metal using an iron. While any iron will work, I prefer to use a small heat-sealing iron made by Hangar 9 that can be found online for about $15. You will need an image from a toner-based printer or copier (ink-jet images will not work) [PHOTO A]. Cut out an appropriate image and place it face-down on your clean metal.

Turn on the iron and place it flat-face-up in a vise. I find that you get a better transfer using the iron this way because you get heat directly on the metal. Use flatnose pliers to grip the metal and paper image and place them on the hot iron. 

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photo c
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photo d

Use a popsicle stick to rub over the image with a reasonable amount of pressure [PHOTO C]. Use tweezers to pull up a corner of the paper to check the quality of the transfer [PHOTO D]. If there are some areas that haven’t transferred, continue rubbing with the popsicle stick. Once the transfer is to your satisfaction, quench the metal in water, and you’re ready to etch.

ROBERT DANCIK: LETRASET

Robert Dancik has been an artist/teacher for more than 30 years. He originated Faux Bone, a PVC artist’s material, and is the author of Amulets and Talismans: Techniques for Creating Meaningful Jewelry.
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photo a
A quick Ebay search yielded hundreds of listings for Letraset sheets. 
photos by Robert Dancik

As artists, we have many ways to place images, patterns, or textures on a piece of metal in preparation for etching. One of my favorites harkens back to the way most of us (over the age of 45) used to do our lettering for projects in art school — the good old Letraset lettering system [PHOTO A]. Letters and numbers can be turned into intricate designs with a bit of creative thought: take capital Hs and stack them to form a ladder. Positioning Ms next to Ws yields a jagged line. There are lots of combinations possible with letters and even more when you inject other symbols and icons. You can find some of the sheets at garage sales, at craft, hobby, and art supply stores, or online through Letraset’s website.

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photo b
Copper with the rub-on transfers applied. 
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photo c
The final etched piece. 
Letraset is made up of letters, numbers, and symbols printed on a vellum-type paper; the print can be rubbed off onto the surface of whatever you may be lettering [PHOTO B] and etching [PHOTO C]. These letters and symbols afford me an opportunity to capitalize on the pure, abstract design of the letters as well as being able to use them for writing messages. 

SHERRI HAAB: UV FILM

Sherri Haab is a best-selling craft author and certified metal clay instructor, leading craft and jewelry-making workshops internationally. She also develops new products, including products for etching, electroforming, image-transfer techniques, and more. She lives with her family in Springville, UT. Contact her at www.sherrihaab.com.

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photo a
photos by Sherri Haab

My favorite resist is UV film. Because the process uses light to transfer the resist image to the metal you can produce very fine, crisp lines. I like this because I get perfection with my etched designs [PHOTO A]. The film stays on the metal remarkably well and is easily removed after etching by soaking the metal in a bath of soda ash and water. It does require a few steps, but you can prepare many metal plates for production in one session. 

Apply UV film to your clean, sanded sheet of metal. UV light then passes through a black-and-white transparency onto the film. Develop the film in a bath of soda ash and water. Scrub the metal sheet clean with a mixture of vinegar and water. Apply more light to “set” the film, and the piece is ready to etch.

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photo b
Beyond using the etched pieces themselves, I like to use my UV-etched copper plates to texture metal clay. Because the etched copper is so precise, the clay picks up detail beautifully. The owl in the pendant [PHOTO B] was made with bronze clay that I patterned with an etched piece of copper.
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