Metal Etching Tips
Just a few for now, looking for more.
Whatever you do, do *not* pour the used ferric chloride (or any other etching chemical) down the drain. Take it to a household hazardous waste depot. If you can't find or get to one, don't even think of using the chemicals.
Use heavy rubber gloves and safety goggles, in a *well* ventilated area. It's a massive oxidizer, and can break down a vast collection of molecules given time, including skin.
Read the chemical fact sheet that comes with it. Make sure you understand it. If it doesn't come with a fact sheet, don't buy it.
Do not mess with these chemicals if you don't understand it. This is not for play.
You can etch steel using muriatic (hydrochloric) acid but I *DON'T* recommend it if you don't have any experience with dangerous chemicals.
Another option is to use a metal that etches with ferric chloride. It's not nearly as dangerous. You still need to use proper precautions. It gives a nice clean bite, clear, precise designs and needs no special equipment. All you'll need is something to resist it with to create the design.
Of course the whole allergy thing is an issue if you use copper alloy metals which is what ferric chloride works best on.
Ferric chloride will still work wonders on most stainless steels for etched designs; there's enough nonferrous metals in there to do the job. You can get it at electronics shops. As for an etch resist, any enamel finish or paint will work, including nail polish (if the etch resist prices at Radio Shack scare you). Just paint where you don't want the stuff to etch and eat into the metal, leave bare where you do. It won't work fast, so have patience (some of my best results came from an etch bath of over four hours).
It's not seriously nasty and corrosive to the skin like muriatic acid or nitric acid, but still unpleasant, toxicly speaking. Use heavy rubber gloves and safety goggles, in a *well* ventilated area. It's a massive oxidizer, and can break down a vast collection of molecules given time, including skin. Read the chemical fact sheet that comes with it (if it doesn't come with a sheet, don't buy it).
Whatever you do, do *not* pour the used ferric chloride (on any other etching chemicals) down the drain. Take it to a household hazardous waste depot. If you can't find or get to one, for gods sake don't even think of using it.
Radio Shack doesn't sell the etch resist at all anymore, even online. Your best bet is an PCB/electronic circuit board shop. I bought a gallon of it from a company online. You can get anything from pints to 55gal barrels, although I don't think your pieces are that big. :)
This page was last updated 04/22/08