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Author Topic: How to etch brass and copper, a collective thread  (Read 6762 times)
jringling
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« on: January 26, 2009, 07:44:23 pm »

As discussed in a different thread, a bunch of us are going to start a thread on the etching process. I know many here already know how to etch, but this could be a place to compare notes, provide tips, or constructively critique. I would like to start by posting pictures of my etching set up and would like to see pictures of other set-ups. I am at work right now, so no pictures yet. I’ll post them as soon as I can.

I guess this is just a place holder to start the thread, but please feel free to post your pictures or start a discussion.
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von Corax
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2009, 07:13:29 am »

Here's an article from Limor "LadyAda" Freid's blog on The chemistry of home-etched PCBs using ferric chloride, and a longish article on Etching with Air Regenerated Acid Cupric Chloride which method is, apparently, far more sustainable than the former (both via Hack a Day).
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2009, 01:56:28 pm »

i have a question i would like to present to the readers of this thread:

what medium do you use for masking the image to be etched onto the brass, i have experimented with
- acrylic paint (EPIC fail)
- designs printed onto gloss photo paper with a laser printer then ironed onto the brass (very limited success)
-Press&peel blue (partial success, but still not getting clean edges and a few patches in large masked areas comeing away)

and tips or advice?
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2009, 02:10:29 pm »

I would advise the laser printer & press n' peel way but brother brand laser printers don't work with it. Found out the hard way Sad
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jringling
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2009, 02:18:21 pm »

i have a question i would like to present to the readers of this thread:

what medium do you use for masking the image to be etched onto the brass, i have experimented with
- acrylic paint (EPIC fail)
- designs printed onto gloss photo paper with a laser printer then ironed onto the brass (very limited success)
-Press&peel blue (partial success, but still not getting clean edges and a few patches in large masked areas comeing away)

and tips or advice?


Mostly I use a blue transfer paper available from Pulsar. Google them, @$15.00 for 10 sheets. I  also use their green foil, which allows for very clean details. I have also had success with high quality inkjet glossy photo paper and the wax paper from peel-n-nstick labels.

Toner Tranfer Paper and Gree Foil:
http://www.pulsarprofx.com/PCBfx/main_site/pages/store/_store.html

I also use a paint pen to touch up the toner before etching. I don't know the brand, but it is an oil base paint pen.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2009, 03:15:06 pm by jringling » Logged
jringling
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2009, 03:14:11 pm »

Here’s my etching set-up

Complete etching set-up on a tv stand salvaged from the landfill
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Picture of the cathode. This is a brass plate with months of copper build-up. I made the wooden bracket so I can slide the cathode to adjust the current during etching.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Ironing station on my INCREDIBLY clean bench top
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Tools for cutting and shaping
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Various other pictures
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

I use a 12v lawn mower battery with a 6/2 amp charger. I do not have any type of load inline with the etching tank. The battery is really just a buffer between the charger and the etch tank. When the thermal breaker kicks on the charger, the battery will maintain the etch until the charger resets. If I have over 10 amps going to the tank, the charger will run for @2 minutes before it trips and reset in about 30 seconds. I think the battery is shot as it doesn’t hold a charge for more than a day, but this set-up works very well for me.
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groomporter
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2009, 04:30:43 pm »

Any thoughts on transferring a design to a 3d surface like a cylinder? I'm thinking the brass collars I occasionally use for canes/walking sticks.
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2009, 01:53:37 am »

Any thoughts on transferring a design to a 3d surface like a cylinder? I'm thinking the brass collars I occasionally use for canes/walking sticks.


The standard laser printer toner transfer or blue transfer should work, it's just that the ironing
process will be a bit more interesting. If you have access to one, a small tacking iron might
make life easier for the ironing bit of the operation.

Tacking iron example:
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2009, 12:32:15 pm »

would a heat gun work for transfering onto the brass or would the lack of presure with the heat cause an epic fail?
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jringling
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2009, 01:45:50 pm »

The heat gun would melt the toner but would not transfer and make it stick to the brass. Pressure is  a must. Von Slatt uses a J Roller, which is used for laminate work. I use a rounded piece of metal that was lying on the bench, and even just the iron will work sometimes. I have been toying with the idea of using a press made entirely of steel and heating with a torch, but haven't gotten around to building one yet.
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2009, 12:49:52 pm »

thaught so, on a slightly related note, what is the best method of filling in small spaces where the toner hasnt stuck to the brass?
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jringling
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2009, 01:50:35 pm »

I would like to hear other suggestions, but I use an oil based paint pen and dry it quickly by holding a lighter under the plate. I then scratch away the paint with a sharp nail or screw.
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Workshopshed
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2009, 06:52:25 pm »

I presume you've all seen Von Slatt's etching experiments?

http://steampunkworkshop.com/electroetch.shtml
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jringling
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2009, 07:56:17 pm »

How could we not? I have tweeked my set-up using his site as a reference. I guess it is the same except for the power supply.
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stockton_joans
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2009, 01:21:10 pm »

mr von slatt was the one who inspired me to try etching in the first place after i read the article in SP magazine
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AVW
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« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2011, 09:38:39 pm »

This link seemed to fit into this thread much better then one I could write, hopefully the angry red writing will not involke its wrath upon me...

I haven't tried this method before but might be quite tempted!

http://copperheartdesigns.blogspot.com/2008/04/tutorial-how-to-etch-copper.html

Has anyone ever used this method? Can you offer any advice? Or where one would acquire Ferric Chloride (also called PC board solution according to that article)  in the UK/costs etc?

I thank you all in advance
Regards
A. Wagstaff
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AVW
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« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2011, 09:49:02 pm »

On another note... apparently ferric chloride once it's reacted with copper some of it becomes copper chloride, which is really poisonous to fish/other water life and needs to be disposed as hazardous waste.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!--A-better-etc/#step1 have another link on how to make a slightly more reuseable etching solution. Again I've not used this so if you have let me know how it is?

alternatively http://www.mgchemicals.com/techsupport/ferric_faq.html suggest to make it safe for disposal, you can add sodium carbonate (washing soda) or sodium hydroxide to it to neutralize it, until the pH value goes up to between 7.0 and 8.0, testing it with indicator paper. Copper will be deposited as a sludge. Allow the sludge to settle, pour off the liquid, further dilute it with water and then it can be poured down the drain. Collect the sludge in plastic bags and dispose of it as required by your local waste authority.

Hopefully someone found that useful - I can't wait to have a go at etching!
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Will Howard
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« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2011, 05:45:33 pm »

Try an electronics supply shop for circuit board etching supplies.  They can provide resistant pens (write or draw your design on the bare metal) & the etching solution.  Build a dam of clay around the part to be etched, add the solution, & wait.  Experiment on scrap to get an idea of how long to leave the solution in place.
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