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Etching brass

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Robin Graham17/12/2020 21:42:02
793 forum posts
199 photos

I would like to put a 'maker's mark' on a project in brass. I haven't got engraving equipment or skills, so I'm thinking about etching.

I've had a look around on t'internet and the tutorials I've seen start with the assumption that the tutee has a laser printer. It seems that laser toner can be transferred to the the work to make the mask. But I haven't got a laser printer - just an inkjet.

Another possibility would be using photo resist, but I'm having a hard time trying to understand what equipment I would need to do this. There are suppliers of photoresist film on eBay, but they don't give info on how to expose/develop (or even if it's positive or negative), so I'm a bit in the dark. Does one need a UV lamp? If so, what sort? Could I get away with burning a few welding sticks? They put out a fair bit of 300-400nm radiation.

If anyone could cast light (of any wavelength!) I'd be grateful.

Robin.

David Noble17/12/2020 23:05:51
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234 forum posts
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This was helpful to me   Link

David

Edited By David Noble on 17/12/2020 23:07:17

Stuart Smith 517/12/2020 23:29:36
174 forum posts
26 photos

I have used Press n Peel successfully to etch into brass. It is a blue sheet that you print onto using a laser printer or photocopier. The sheet is then ironed onto the brass. You could print your artwork on your inkjet printer and then use a photocopier to copy to the Press n Peel sheet. You obviously need access to a photocopier possibly at a local library if they are open.

I etched this after using pressnpeel sheet with the design printed using a laser printer.

etched brass

I heated the brass in the oven and then pressed it onto the sheet.

I used Sodium persulphate from CPC as the etchant. It is clear so is easier to see what's happening than ferric chloride. It works best at 50 deg c.

My daughter does wood turning and is is a brand to mark her work with her initials.

Edited By Stuart Smith 5 on 17/12/2020 23:31:57

Edited By Stuart Smith 5 on 17/12/2020 23:34:09

Emgee18/12/2020 05:36:01
1919 forum posts
243 photos

Very useful link from David, almost all you need to know to get started with etching brass.

Emgee

James Alford18/12/2020 07:24:26
422 forum posts
74 photos

I did some etching onto thick copper a while ago, the most detailed being a celtic cross for a necklace. Lacking any printer, I used the local library which had a laser photocopier cum printer. There is now a printing shop nearby who are happy to do single pages for a pound.

I had the image printed onto glossy paper, photopaper I think. After thorouglhy degreasing and drying the metal, I used a warm iron and ironed the image onto the metal, using some thick brown paper between the iron and the image. It took a couple of attempts to get the temperature right and to know how long to leave the heat on one place.

I did the actual etching with ferric chloride, sold for etching printed circuit boards.

This method allows the etching of fine detail, but does need patience.

Regards,

James.

Rob McSweeney18/12/2020 09:07:50
25 forum posts

One low tech, but time consuming, method would be to use 'Letraset' (which I have just checked on ebay and is still obtainable) 40 ish years ago I etched the registration number onto my car windows with a little kit which used Letraset for the characters and a little oval mask to contain the etch, this worked well and I would imagine would work just as well on brass, probably better as you will have the work lying flat.

Ooops! have just realised that you will need reverse image to make a stamp, probably not available in rub-down, but I am leaving my post up as the idea may help someone in another application.

Edited By Rob McSweeney on 18/12/2020 09:10:59

Brian G18/12/2020 10:41:18
742 forum posts
33 photos
Posted by Robin Graham on 17/12/2020 21:42:02:

...I've had a look around on t'internet and the tutorials I've seen start with the assumption that the tutee has a laser printer. It seems that laser toner can be transferred to the the work to make the mask. But I haven't got a laser printer - just an inkjet...

Robin.

Conventional photo copiers use exactly the same technology as laser printers, (more accurately laser printers use the same technology as photocopiers). Perhaps you can find a copy shop, post office or library that will let you photocopy your inkjet printed image onto either the special paper or transparency paper. Better yet, a copy shop could probably just print from your SD card or USB stick.

Brian G

Robin Graham19/12/2020 22:41:18
793 forum posts
199 photos

Thanks for replies. Tony Moss's video which David gave a link to is very informative, and has been bookmarked for further ref. At the moment though I don't want to go to such lengths just to put my mark on the job. It seems like getting a photocopy or finding someone with a laser printer might be the way way to go.

In the distant days of my youth I tried etching brass by coating the metal with paraffin wax, scraping out my design and immersing in nitric acid, which was freely available at the time. The results were disappointing - very ragged around the edges. I gave up and moved on - probably to making a firework or something. I was only twelve, too many interesting things to investigate! I may revisit this approach in the light of stuff I've since learned.

Thanks again for leads, Robin.

Tim Stevens20/12/2020 12:41:05
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1374 forum posts

If the lack of acid or etchant is a problem, brass, copper, etc can be etched using common salt and a low-voltage source (such as a charger for an LED torch). Do a test run first as the connections need to be the 'right way round'. I was taught 'metals deposit at the cathode' so etching - metal removal - is at the anode. Then I forgot which is + and which is - ...

Cheers, Tim

Robert Atkinson 220/12/2020 13:49:17
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902 forum posts
17 photos

Where are you located? maybe someone nearby has a printer. Remember that as the mark will be small you can print multiple copies on a sheet so will have some for future projects.

Toner transfer paper for PCBs gives the best results e.g.
www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10-Sheets-of-Heat-Toner-Transfer-Paper-PCB-Manufacturing-Copper-Flux-Workshop/112357457268
(I've used this seller)

If there is no one near you I can get some paper and print yor artwork and post it to you.

Robert G8RPI.

Packmule22/12/2020 20:06:21
111 forum posts
5 photos

while having a look around the net I found this may be of use. Brass Etching

Bob

Oily Rag15/01/2021 16:21:50
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310 forum posts
126 photos

I have been reading through the archives concerning photoetching brass and thought it appropriate to raise the questions I have using this thread. Apologies if I am OOO (Out of Order!)

I have been asked about making several nameplates for a vintage tractor. The originals were all brass based, and I have detailed photocopies of the original plates. I have looked at all the archive posts about brass etching but there are a couple of questions that I am hoping the great and good on here can advise me on.

1. - 2 Plates carry stamped alphanumerics for such things as gear ratios and serial numbers. I am assuming that these need to be blanked out in any photoresistive mask. They have, in most cases, transferred in the photocopies with either 'fuzzy edges', shadows, and greyscale. We intend to re-stamp these as the original.

2. - The 'highlights' on the plates are in varying colours. One is red lettering for the manufacturer name with a black background with the lettering in the base material. Another has the lettering in a deep maroon on a bare (brass) background. I believe the original plates were stamped, the highlighting was probably paint applied by (probably) a roller, or via a masking process.

3. I read in the archives that 'Dianne' recommended using printers 'lith' paper - has anyone found a supplier?

4. Others talk of 'press and peel blue' and that Maplins was a source, since Maplin went to the wall is there another source other than the 'hold your breath' fleabay (I don't want to be dealing with china! via the East Midlands)

5. My HP deskjet is a printer/scanner/photocopier/telephone/calculator/radio (OK, I lied about the last 3 facilities on it!) I take it the photocopier element is not related to the laser copiers (someone mentioned photocopiers/laserjets use the same technology??) What's the score?

Thanks in advance of any responses to my questions.

Martin

Grindstone Cowboy15/01/2021 16:57:01
490 forum posts
44 photos

Hi Martin

I can help with Question 5 - if it's a Deskjet, it's an ink-jet type of printer, so unfortunately can't do what a laser type would do.

Rob

Martin Connelly15/01/2021 17:32:41
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1660 forum posts
179 photos

Coincidentally I was looking at this YouTube video today. The "bonus material" at the end may be of some interest to you.

Martin C

Stuart Smith 515/01/2021 18:28:16
174 forum posts
26 photos

I have used press n peel sheet for pcbs and also brass etching. See my earlier post on 17/12/20 above.

If you want to buy from a reputable supplier, Rapid electronics stock it: **LINK**

As you can see, it isn’t cheap, but I bought a pack a few years ago and still not used it all. I cut a piece to just a bit bigger than required and tape it to an A4 piece of paper to feed through my laser printer.

You need either a laser printer or a photocopier to print onto the press n peel sheet. Before I got a laser printer I used to use a photo copier. It is the black toner that is ironed onto the brass or copper during the process. I have used sodium persulphate as an etchant recently. It is a white powder and is cleaner than the traditional ferric chloride.

Stuart

Edited By Stuart Smith 5 on 15/01/2021 18:28:40

Edited By Stuart Smith 5 on 15/01/2021 18:29:07

Edited By Stuart Smith 5 on 15/01/2021 18:31:14

Oily Rag15/01/2021 19:16:16
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310 forum posts
126 photos

Rob, Martin & Stuart,

Thanks for your replies. There is another option that I have heard about and think it may be worth consideration, which is to make a metal loaded resin mould of the face of the plates and stamp new plates with a flypress. I was talking to a close friend who worked at Abbey Sheet metals and he was telling me they used this method to do prototype car panels from original hand rolled panels or CNC milled wooden dies digitised off the clay model. He said they were good for 50 off, so sounds durable. Food for thought!

It is the painting that concerns me as much as anything though - the originals, at nearly 80 years old, look amazing where they have not been damaged, the paint must have been exceptionally durable (probably a true enamel!)

Thanks again,

Martin

Oily Rag15/01/2021 20:00:04
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310 forum posts
126 photos

Martin C,

Just viewed the toob vid on laser system - I like the distressed look shown at the end of the video. Could be the way to go - I have access to a laser cutter (cuts up to 2" thick steel plate so might be difficult to turn the gas down)

An authentic patina look always wins over a 'just out the showroom' look.

Martin S

Georgineer15/01/2021 20:01:54
488 forum posts
30 photos
Posted by Tim Stevens on 20/12/2020 12:41:05:

...I was taught 'metals deposit at the cathode' so etching - metal removal - is at the anode. Then I forgot which is + and which is - ...

Tim, you obviously weren't in any of my science classes!

Think of Anode as ADDnode.

Add is plus, so

ANODE is +

George B.

Martin Connelly16/01/2021 09:25:09
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1660 forum posts
179 photos

George B, I always remember the cathode in cathode ray tubes spit out negatively charged electrons so must be negative.

Martin C

SillyOldDuffer16/01/2021 11:34:46
Moderator
6866 forum posts
1539 photos
Posted by Georgineer on 15/01/2021 20:01:54:
Posted by Tim Stevens on 20/12/2020 12:41:05:

...I was taught 'metals deposit at the cathode' so etching - metal removal - is at the anode. Then I forgot which is + and which is - ...

Tim, you obviously weren't in any of my science classes!

Think of Anode as ADDnode.

Add is plus, so

ANODE is +

George B.

Amusing that electrical plus and minus are the wrong way round.

The physics behind voltaic cells was not understood for many years. Quite easy to show a battery had pressure (potential difference, volts), and current (amps), so obviously one terminal was the positive source and the other the negative sink. Much harder to work out which was which because most basic electrical effects work whichever way round the battery is connected. At the time they guessed which was plus and minus, and only much later was it found negative is the source and positive is the sink.

Off the cuff I can't think of a way of showing the direction in which a DC current flows from first principles. Depositing and etching metals is no good unless you understand the electronic model of the atom, which wasn't available at the time.

Direction of flow can be inferred from the operation of a Cathode Ray Tube, but is there a less high-tech method?

Dave

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