Notes from the field:
As chemicals go, ferric
chloride is relatively benign. Follow a few simple precautions (on the bottle)
and you’ll be safe. Wear gloves!
I only etch in an
etching tank. It takes so much less time and doesn’t require the periodic rinses
to get rid of the copper residue on the surface.
An upside-down 16” X 20”
clear plastic box picture frame (available at Michael’s and other art and
framing stores) is a great tray for holding your etching tank. It’s large enough
to catch the drips and it isn’t eaten away by the etchant, as a metal cookie sheet
If the etchant gets on your
clothes it will permanently stain them, and will stain anything that is washed
with them. Just ask my husband about wearing yellow socks.
You absolutely must not dump
the etchant down the drain. Some instructors are advising students that it's OK
to flush the etchant down the toilet. This is not true, even if it's
neutralized. The problem isn't the ferric chloride, it's the metals in the
sludge at the bottom of the tank. In our county we are able to take it to the dump on
special ‘household waste’ days. Check with your city or county to see how best
to dispose of it in your area. Before discarding the solution it should be
neutralized by slowly adding baking soda until it quits bubbling. It should then
be stored in a plastic jug with a loosened lid (to allow for expansion) until it
can be taken to the dump or otherwise safely discarded.
Baking soda will neutralize the etchant for safe
Keep adding baking soda until the bubbling subsides
Volcano Arts sells the following for this
I also recommend my
Metal: How-To and Idea Booklet and my booklet on patinas
Close-up view of the etched Pinocchio figure
For the edition of “The
Adventures of Pinocchio” pictured, I used a 2-part epoxy to glue my
copper Pinocchio image to a piece of record album that I had cut to the same
shape but slightly larger. I like using pieces of albums behind images so that
they ‘pop’ when placed against a busy background. A jeweler’s saw cuts through
the vinyl “like butter” and it’s easy to file. The same 2-part epoxy can be used
to glue the whole unit to another piece of metal that you’ve previously
patinated and sealed.
There is so much room for
experimentation and creativity with etching. My Pinocchio could have been
larger or smaller or riveted directly to the cover. A different patina would
give a completely different feel to the covers and different sealers give very
different results (I used polyurethane on this project). The leather, eyelet and
thread colors have a big effect on the finished look.
Experiment, have fun, but
above all please use the etchant safely.