Monday, November 14, 2011

Etching Copper with Ferric Chloride

When I discovered that artists were etching designs into metals, I also discovered there is more than one way it can be done. One such way is with electricity - and the tools I found for that were quite expensive.

After contacting a couple of other jewelry artists I found out I could use Ferric Chloride.  And the ferric chloride I decided to use was in a product from Radio Shack called "PCB Etchant Solution."  It's about $10. a bottle (currently an opaque white plastic) and clearly labeled. Don't be surprised if you ask for it and the sales clerk gets a dazed look on his face & replies that they don't have anything like that. I had that happen in two stores & found it my own self. ;) Yes, they have it...unfortunately sometimes they just don't know they have it.

First Etching on Copper
You can find the instructions for using the etchant solution...several places around the blog-O-sphere. I found one of the best on the Etsy Metal Blog.  It's a great tutorial that I think you'll like if you're ready to try etching.

Here are the first two pieces I etched. On the first, simply hand wrote some words...on the second, I put a quote by Goethe.

I couldn't believe how easy it was. I found that a paint pen works great...but you can also use a permanent marker to add words and/or designs. Anyplace you add ink will protect the copper from being etched.

Second Etching on Copper
Fish Pendant Etching on Copper
Navajo Yeii Etching
After the initial tests, I moved on to designs...and started with the Fish Pendant. Oxidizing with Liver of Sulfur adds a nice dimension to the pieces.  I looked further for design inspiration and settled on the Navajo Yeii symbol. The Yeii spirit is regarded by Navajos as being a mediator between humans and their creator, the Great Spirit. Yeiis are able to control natural forces in and on the earth, such as day and night, wind, rain, sun and other conditions. All of the smaller rectangle pendants are about 1 inch x 2 inches.

My newest etching and largest to date was inspired by a wind chime that's been hanging in my garden for several years. It had a rusty hand hanging on it...a few weeks ago I found all the pieces of the chime laying on the ground. Apparently the material holding it together had finally succumbed to the elements. I saved all the parts - knowing I'd be doing something with that rusty hand. I used the hand for a pattern...cut it out of a piece of copper...put a Gandhi quote on it - added some original, freehand designs and etched away.  As mentioned, it's a large piece...measuring 4.5 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide. I rather like how it turned out & can't wait to see how I manage to turn it into a piece of jewelry. ;)
Etched Copper Hand

The Gandhi quote on the hand says, "happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do...are in harmony."

If  you've been thinking of trying etching, dive in! It's incredibly fun and satisfying. Just a reminder, pay heed to the safety cautions on the etchant solution!



My Life Under the Bus said...

Oh I can't tell you the aggrivation I've had with Radio Shack - they always seem to hide this in a dark dusty corner!!! These came out beautiful - I find etching totally addicting!

Petra Carpreau said...

Hi Lela,
Nice blog!!!! That copper etching looks great. I watched a video on doing pewter etching the other day, and that looked really lovely too. Metal just always looks good, doesn't it?
Oh blimey, I just noticed - under my name up there on the side, is a picture of one of Fanciful D's pieces. I'd hate anyone to think I was trying to pass her work off as my own or anything. But, holy banana, am I ever honoured to be a mention on your blog!!! Wow, makes me feel like I've arrived!! Thank you SOOO much !!
Petra xx

Lela Bouse-McCracken said...

Hi Ladies!

Wow, it's so nice not to be talking to myself in here. Heh.

First, I have to say THANK YOU, Patty. I should have given you some credit up there for getting me started etching. Your etching work is gorgeous! I'll make up for that slip soon.

I know what you mean, Petra...having comments and followers now makes ME feel like I've arrived. hehe. Now if I can just figure out how to add photos, etc to the side bars. They look so bare!

Mina Juwelry said...

I like your blog! nice work!