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Author Topic: Working with steel sheet metal  (Read 4897 times)
Foucaults_Builder
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« on: August 30, 2009, 01:56:22 am »

I have a nice piece of sheet metal (steel) that I'm working on and I'd like to put some marks on it. It'll
be the dial for a clock so I need to mark the hours on it. I've put this up in the clock forums but I figured
this would be a good place for it as well. I've seen stuff on here about etching, but how will that work on
steel? Are there other options? I might just end up welding raised lettering on, but I don't know just yet.
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2009, 02:14:43 am »

Electrical etching works on all metal that conducts electricity and is solid at above 0oC (note: that includes steel)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2009, 10:26:19 pm by JingleJoe » Logged

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Foucaults_Builder
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2009, 08:57:37 pm »

At the moment I don't have the funds to get equipment to etch. Or I would do that. What other methods might work to imprint clock numbers onto it?
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Miss Groves
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2009, 09:00:05 pm »

i don't know how it'd work on steel, i've only ever used it for making dies for shaping...
heat colouring / flame colouring might work, what about colouring with metal salts etc?
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2009, 10:03:24 pm »

At the moment I don't have the funds to get equipment to etch.

Yes you do.




Wink
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stardust
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2009, 10:07:18 pm »

does that etch any sort of metal?

*edit* i just read what you said about any metal that conducts electricity. i didn't realise there was metal that doesn't conduct it. what sort of metals does this not work on?
« Last Edit: August 30, 2009, 10:08:51 pm by stardust » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2009, 10:19:17 pm »

jingle joe....i think i love you<3
that is simple, effective and cheap, it needs an award.
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2009, 10:25:26 pm »

*edit* i just read what you said about any metal that conducts electricity. i didn't realise there was metal that doesn't conduct it. what sort of metals does this not work on?
Weird kinds, from parts of the periodic table you will never know Wink
Also I need to make an ammendment, it won't work on some which do conduct electricity but are only solid at temperatures at which your etching fluid is also solid- like mercury Wink
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punkandska66
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2009, 10:27:01 pm »

Haha, yeah. JingleJoe, I saw you post that on a different thread about five or six day ago. I've been playing with it for a couple hours a day every day since then.  I did an Altoids tin,  then just some junk, then I cleaned this metal piece because there was like half an inch of rust built up on it. Using this method for cleaning actually works really well. It worked a little too well, there were little tiny holes from where it actually went through the whole piece. It adds character.  Tongue
« Last Edit: August 30, 2009, 10:29:01 pm by punkandska66 » Logged
stardust
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2009, 10:29:19 pm »

can you use this method to actually get rid of whole sections of metal? say for example i wanted to remove the centre of some celtic knotwork, if i left it in there long enough would it disappear all together?
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punkandska66
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2009, 10:31:44 pm »

can you use this method to actually get rid of whole sections of metal? say for example i wanted to remove the centre of some celtic knotwork, if i left it in there long enough would it disappear all together?
I'm not an expert by any means (like I said, I just started doing this a couple days ago). But I tried this today and it poked holes all the way through my piece. If you use strong enough batteries for long enough it should just dissolve your parts that you want gone. I used two 9 volts wired together, with a 12v light bulb in the circuit to limit the current.
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2009, 10:32:34 pm »

Yes, it just keeps on etching untill there's nothing left to etch.

But be careful if you leave it too long it starts to etch sideways behind the areas covered by paint/tape/whatever, it's best to etch your design almost all the way out then poke and file the rest out.

jingle joe....i think i love you<3
that is simple, effective and cheap, it needs an award.
Oh and thanks Wink It got into make magazine's blog once, thats reward enough Smiley
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Foucaults_Builder
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2009, 12:02:31 am »

Oh wow, I didn't realize it was that easy. Thanks a bunch, I shall try this as soon as I get the pattern set up on my metal. I'll post my results asap.
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Foucaults_Builder
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2009, 02:25:14 am »

are there other materials that could cover the metal for etching? Like other types of tape? Packing tape? Duct tape? Or anything else? I'd prefer to use what I have on hand as I am rather tapped out as far as funds. I barely have enough for food at the moment. lol
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2009, 02:54:10 am »

You can cover it with anything, as long as there is a tight seal preventing the etching fluid from coming into contact with the metal, all exposed areas of the peice of metal that are facing the negative electrode (the screw or nail) will be etched away.
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2009, 09:20:14 pm »

I used paint to mask out bits before etching, and yes you can etch/machine away bits but the sideways creep gets annoying, making it a less than sharp edge, so you can etch most of the pattern away then as said before file the last bits away, be aware that the back needs masking too.
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2009, 09:39:49 pm »

be aware that the back needs masking too.
Not necessarily, galvanic current only flows from the side facing the negative electrode, so depending if you want to keep it shiney or not the back will only need protecting from the corrosive effect of salt water and not from being etched away.
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« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2009, 02:47:50 am »

Another option for the numbers on steel would be die stamps. I don't know where he got them but a friend that does tons of metalwork has a set of letters and number stamps for steel. He uses them to put his initials into armor replicas. Some place like Northern Tool might have them. I don't know if old typesetting dies would be hard enough to work or not.
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« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2009, 03:22:48 am »

A simple alternative would be to acquire or design the clock face and digits that you desire in a graphical file on your computational machine. If one prints said design out, reversed,  on stiff paper on a *laser* printer ine now has an iron-on transfer - Since the dry toner ink is "fixed" to the paper by a heater in the printer,  the ink can be transfered via a  normal electrical iron set on high or very high settings (but no steam). Do take care not to torch the paper.
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Miss Groves
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« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2009, 11:19:03 am »

Another option for the numbers on steel would be die stamps. I don't know where he got them but a friend that does tons of metalwork has a set of letters and number stamps for steel. He uses them to put his initials into armor replicas. Some place like Northern Tool might have them. I don't know if old typesetting dies would be hard enough to work or not.

you can easily buy them on ebay, i recently was looking for the smallest alphabet and numbers and there was actually a choice
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« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2009, 02:32:10 pm »

A brief addendum on the subject of type metal: since individual pieces of type are normally cast in an alloy of lead, antimony and tin, using them as punches on harder metals is more likely to result in battered faces than a transferred impression. However, I'm sure some very pretty work could be done with a center punch in skilled hands.
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« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2009, 03:10:41 pm »

A brief addendum on the subject of type metal: since individual pieces of type are normally cast in an alloy of lead, antimony and tin, using them as punches on harder metals is more likely to result in battered faces than a transferred impression. However, I'm sure some very pretty work could be done with a center punch in skilled hands.

Thats true, you certainly won;t be able to stamp steel with white metal letters/numbers, however you could atatch white metal type directly  to the steel. Another option is to scribe designs directly into the metal with a sharp tool or cut out patterns with a jewelers saw. If you are interested in mechanical rather than electro/chemical etching its worth bearing in mind that aluminium can be easier to work than steel since most steel sheet is cold rolled and is quite hard. The downside of aluminium is that it tend to clogg abrasives and files and is more difficult to patinate.
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Foucaults_Builder
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« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2009, 01:27:47 am »

Well due to a lot of random junk going on, I've yet to actually do anything to the face of my clock. Though now things are slowing down and I should be able to fool around with it. I was able to successfully test the electrical etching on another piece of metal so I think I will go that route as it is the cheapest. I'll post pictures when I'm done.
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Rev.Hammer
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« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2009, 07:35:06 am »

Pardon me,
Is there a ratio of salt to water?
I need to make parts of differing size and some will require a larger amount of water.
Will the salt ratio or voltage differ according to the metal make a difference?
I need to etch nickle, brass, stainless steel, copper, and plain mild steel. Some pieces are 2 feet long, one is about 5 feet by 2 feet, an engine concealment panel in copper.
I apologize for the complexity of my questioning, but I have this insistent urge to do the very best I can.
Thank you all...
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Rev.Hammer
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« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2009, 07:36:34 am »

I have a 'thing' about metals.....
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