Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 4, “Sketch and Etch”

Etching copper and brass is so Steampunk! The basic techniques are surprisingly easy.

For Whom the Gear Turns

When I was in college I figured out that the most dangerous room on campus wasn’t what you might expect. It was the print-making lab where I spent a googly portion of freshman year. There were several large and powerful presses that could crush your fingers, a large box full of sawdust soaked in kerosene from cleaning ink off of metal plates, and my personal favorite, a vat of acid for etching copper plates. Thankfully, you don’t have to use something nearly as corrosive and dangerous as acid to do your own etching.

Etched metal is absolutely gorgeous and oh-so-Steampunk. In short, etching is a process where metal is removed chemically or with electricity. The metal is selectively protected by a resistant medium (called the mask or the resist) and the etching occurs on the exposed metal surface.

The oldest method of etching, called intaglio, is the same one…

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