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1  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Cheap & Easy Metal Etching with Household Items on: March 11, 2015 08:13:03 PM
I've been going nuts with electroetching lately, it's super fun and pretty simple to do.  Best of all, it doesn't require expensive or hard-to-find materials.  You probably have most of what you need in your house already.  The only things I had to go out and buy were fingernail polish and nail polish remover (a buck each at the dollar store) and a pair of test leads (less than four dollars at Auto Zone).

Before you start etching everything you can lay your hands on, I should warn you that this process produces a gas that is probably hazardous to your health.  Make sure you do it in a well-ventilated area!

Got your window open?  Great, let's get started.

You will need:

plain white vinegar
regular table salt
fingernail polish (use the cheap kind, you'll need a good bit of it)
fingernail polish remover
9-volt battery
test leads (explained below)
small bowl for mixing the solution (I used a bottle cap)
cotton swabs
whatever you want to etch (must be a conductive metal that's not painted or anything - I'm using a stainless steel butter knife from the thrift store)

Test leads are a pair of wires (usually one red and one black) with a metal alligator clip on each end.  They're used to test simple electrical systems and they look like this:

You'll also need paper towels, and you may want to wear rubber gloves.  I don't, but then I don't care if I get nail polish all over my hands.  Your call.

The first thing you do is paint your knife blade (or whatever you're etching) with nail polish.  You want a nice even coat that's not too thick, I guess like you would put on your nails?  I don't wear nail polish, but I imagine that's how it works...

Just paint the surface you want etched.  You won't be immersing your piece in an acid bath, so don't worry about covering up the back.

While the nail polish is still wet, use your toothpicks to carve out the design you want to etch.  You have to work fast, especially if your etching surface is large, since nail polish is designed to dry quickly.  Keep in mind that whatever isn't covered with nail polish will be what gets etched.  I've found that designs with thin lines tend to work best, since it can be hard to get an even etch over a large open area.

Let your piece sit until the nail polish is completely dry.  Don't worry, it won't take long.  Once it's dry, mix up a solution of salt and vinegar in your little dish.  I don't measure this part, but a tablespoon of vinegar to a quarter teaspoon of salt seems like a reasonable ratio.

Using one of your test lead wires, connect the positive terminal of the battery to some bit of exposed metal on whatever you're etching.  (Traditionally, the red wire is the positive wire, but if you want to be a rebel and use the black wire I promise I won't tell anyone.)

Clip one end of the other wire to the negative battery terminal.  Clip the other end to the end of a cotton swab dipped in your salt-and-vinegar solution.

The cotton swab doesn't have to be super drippy, but there should be enough solution on there to make a good electrical connection with the alligator clip.  Make sure the clip is attached to the actual cotton bit, not the paper stick farther up.

Touch the wet end of the swab to the lines of your design.  It should start to bubble and hiss pretty quickly, and you may see wisps of smoke coming up.  Drag the cotton swab slowly along your design.  Try not to hold it in one place for too long - you want to keep moving so all your lines are etched evenly.

The cotton swab will start to get pretty grody.  That's good, it means it's working.  Smiley  Just dip the clean end in your solution, re-clip the black wire, and keep etching.

I think I went through both ends of two cotton swabs on my knife.  I should have timed how long I spent on the etching process, but I didn't think of it until right now.  Oh well.  Just be aware that the longer you spend etching, the deeper your design will be.

It was hard to get a photo to show it, but you should be able to tell the difference between etched lines and not-etched lines in your design - anything that hasn't been etched yet will still have the shiny surface of the original piece, while lines that have been etched will have a more matte surface.

When everything has been etched to your satisfaction, take some nail polish remover to your piece...

...and go "YAY!"

A few notes:
You may notice the alligator clip that's attached to the cotton swab bubbling and hissing during the etching process.  This is normal.  It's made of metal, too, and it's being etched just like your piece is.

I've tried using contact paper as a resist instead of nail polish, and I didn't like the results as well.  The salt-and-vinegar solution seeped under the contact paper in a few places, so the edges of the design weren't as crisp as the ones I did with nail polish.  If you want to experiment with different tapes and things, though, go for it!  Leave a comment saying how it went.

If you let your solution sit in your little dish so long that it evaporates, it leaves behind funky square salt crystals.  Smiley

So that's it!  Have fun!  Please let me know if any part of this tutorial is unclear, or if you have any questions.  Also, if you make something, I want to see!
2  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Experiments in Electroetching *link to tutorial added* on: March 10, 2015 07:10:35 PM
UPDATE: I made a tutorial!  Make your own etched metal everything!

My dad taught me how to do simple electroetching recently and I've been playing around with it ever since.

My first etching project (the blank side of a car key):

I used red nail polish for the resist, so I figured that's why the etched design looks red.  I started using black nail polish after that.

Not every metal works with electroetching, what you're trying to etch has to be conductive and not coated with anything.  I tried a soup can and the inside of an aluminium can and neither one reacted.  Then I picked up some old stainless steel butter knives from the thrift shop and they worked wonderfully!  (Well, not the first one I tried, but that was only because I got impatient and didn't let the etching process go on long enough to get nice deep lines.)

I used nail polish for the resist on this one and spent a long time on the etching, so it's quite deep.

Here I was experimenting with a different resist method - I cut the design out of contact paper and stuck that to the knife instead of carving my design out of a layer of nail polish.  It didn't work as well as I'd hoped, the vinegar solution bled under the contact paper a little and it made the design look sort of fuzzy, but it turned out okay.

That's it so far, but I'm not finished playing around with this technique yet.  I'll do a tutorial with my next piece if anyone's interested, it's pretty easy to do and doesn't require any harsh chemicals.
3  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Green Lantern Hoop on: February 21, 2015 03:00:44 PM
I made this for my partner in the Box of Color swap.  The color she chose was green.

I found an outline of the Green Lantern logo online, added the text of the oath in GIMP, and printed it directly onto the fabric using the freezer paper method.  Then I crayon tinted the logo (this tutorial was very helpful, as I'd never tried crayon tinting before) and embroidered over the words.

Close-up of embroidery:
4  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Questionable Quests: A Harry Potter Game on: February 20, 2015 06:42:28 AM
I recently participated in the One Tiny Harry Potter Thing swap.  My partner's questionnaire was pretty general - she liked all the houses, had several favorite characters, and didn't request any particular kind of Tiny Thing - but she had some HP games on her Pinterest and listed as favorite projects on her profile, so I took that idea and ran with it.

I wanted to make a game that would be new and exciting every time you play.  I combined the concept of Fluxx (a card game where the object of the game changes when different Goal cards are played, and you win by collecting the Keeper cards named on the current Goal card) with a game board that can change configuration.

There are four different types of cards: Goals (which have a green edge), Actions (red edge), Spells (blue), and Items (yellow).  You collect Items to complete Goals.  Actions modify the game board (for example, the Moving Staircase Action card allows you to swap the positions of any two rooms) and Spells help change the Goals and move Items around.  I drew pictures for each card and scanned them, then assembled the cards in Excel (or rather, I wrote a macro to assemble them for me) and printed them out onto heavy cardstock.

To qualify as a Tiny Thing, every part of the game had to fit into a 4" cube.  I made the game board in 19 hexagon-shaped pieces that are just under 4" from corner to corner.  The game board can be assembled however the players choose, or it can be random.  Each piece of the board represents a room in Hogwarts, and players have to make their way to different rooms (usually with an Item card or two in play) to complete the Goals and earn Year tokens.  The first player to earn Year 7 wins.

I made the room outlines, room names, and hexagon grid within each room in GIMP, then printed them on cardstock, drew the details of each room in pen, and colored them with colored pencils.

There can be up to four players, one from each House.  I tried to make the players look like my partners's favorite characters (Snape, Cedric, Luna, and various Weasleys).  I also made game pieces to represent Filch (with Mrs. Norris) and Peeves, both of whom cause you to lose a turn if you're in the same room, and tapestries and paintings, which can be used to link rooms that aren't next to each other.

Everything fits into a 4"x4"x1.5" box.  My girlfriend came up with the name when I told her that the Goals were things like "take a sock to Dumbledore's office" and "hide a dungbomb in the Room of Requirement."  Cheesy

I hope it is not too complicated to be fun.  It started out that way, I went overboard coming up with ideas for Spell and Action cards and when I cut everything out and did a trial run the game was basically unplayable.  I ended up not even using about half of my original card ideas, making multiples of the cards that seemed to help the game along, and changing the rules quite a bit from how they started.  It should be better now, and I hope my partner enjoys it!
5  JEWELRY AND TRINKETS / Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General / Tree Pin on: January 05, 2015 02:16:25 PM

I made this pin for my aunt for Christmas.  The base is made of black shrink plastic, and I swear it was round when I cut it out.  I don't know if I did something wrong in the melting process or if I just have cheap terrible shrink plastic but it turned into an oval somehow.  Oh well, if it had turned out like I wanted it to, I would have made a different kind of pin, and my aunt probably wouldn't have liked it as well.  So it worked out.

Here's the back:

I couldn't figure out a nice, pretty way to attach the pin back and hold down the ends of the wires, so I went the quick ugly route and stuck everything down with hot glue.  It's not like anyone will see the back when she's wearing it, but I wish I knew a better method...
6  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Sonic Seam Ripper! on: December 30, 2014 06:37:40 AM
I got to meet the fabulous Mistress Jennie the other day, and since her Craftster signature has been "I really need a Sonic Seam Ripper" for ages and she mentioned once that people keep telling her they're making Sonic Seam Rippers for swap partners but no one's ever made one for her, I thought I'd surprise her with one of her very own.

Here's the seam ripper I started with, next to a photo of the actual prop.  My original idea was to build the Sonic body out of Sculpey clay, but I scrapped that because I was afraid it wouldn't be durable enough.  Also, I wasn't sure how well the seam ripper would hold up to being baked in the oven.

I ended up deconstructing a pen instead.  I took apart everything that would come apart, then used a small saw to cut the main shaft into two pieces and remove the clip.

Here it is partway through the assembly process.  The seam ripper fit neatly inside the pen shaft.  I put a mini hot glue stick in there first so it wouldn't go all the way in, then filled up the empty space around the seam ripper with more hot glue so it (hopefully) won't wobble around while it's being used.  I also sawed the clear seam ripper cover in half and glued a round wooden bead onto the open end, and carved down the clip end of the pen to try and make it not look so much like a pen with the clip cut off.

The top half of the seam ripper cover became the piece at the end with the light on it.  I painted the inside of the very end blue to represent the light and glued pieces of toothpick on for the cage-looking part.  At some point during construction the pink plastic bit on the end of the shorter seam ripper prong came off and was lost forever, so I superglued a tiny blue plastic bead in its place.  The silver button is a piece I cut from the pen's rubber grip.  Once everything was assembled I painted it up all sonic-y and sealed it with Mod Podge.

Sonic Seam Ripper!  I think she likes it.  Smiley
7  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Winter Holidays / Wooden Snowman Ornament on: December 16, 2014 09:09:20 PM

I made this cheerful little guy last week, using my dad's scroll saw and this pattern.  He's about 4" tall and made out of 1/4" thick poplar wood.

I was hesitant to attempt this pattern since it looks so complicated and I'm still a novice with the scroll saw, but it turned out to be easier than I expected.  The whole process (transferring the pattern to the wood, drilling all the starter holes, cutting out, sanding, and finishing) took about four hours.

He's finished with a mix of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits.  He makes me happy.  Smiley
8  Category Challenges / Occasions and Holidays: Challenge Entries / Green Man Carved Pumpkin on: November 02, 2014 06:23:30 PM
I carved this Green Man pumpkin a few weeks ago at carving class with my dad.  I used a picture from the book Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams as my inspiration, and I carved it with woodcarving gouges and knives.

9  Archive of Past Craftster Challenge Entries / CHALLENGE 103 ENTRIES / Apple/Bacon/Cheddar Chimichangas on: October 11, 2014 05:53:12 AM

I think apples and cheddar cheese make a tasty pair, and this grilled cheese sandwich recipe gave me the idea that bacon could make it even better.  This chimichanga recipe gave me the time and temperature at which to bake my creations, but the rest is my own.

Apple/Bacon/Cheddar Chimichangas (makes 4)

4 flour tortillas (I used 8-inch, but 10-inch would have been easier to keep closed)
12 slices bacon
1 medium Gala apple (you want to use a good baking apple so it doesn't turn to mush)
1 (13-oz) can cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 450*F.  Fully cook your bacon and chop your apple into smallish bits.  If you keep your tortillas in the fridge, microwave each one for about 5 seconds to make them easier to roll without breaking.  Put 3 slices of bacon in the middle of each tortilla, then top them with equal portions of chicken, apple pieces, pecans, and cheese.

Fold in the ends of the tortillas and roll them up.  If they're big enough to stay closed on their own, put them on a baking sheet seam-side down; if not, place them seam-side up so they don't fall apart and hold them closed with toothpicks.  Bake until tortillas are crispy, about 8-10 minutes.

10  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Inlaid Cedar Box on: September 07, 2014 07:46:46 AM
I made this box last week as a gift for my girlfriend.  It's made entirely of bits of cedar planking left over from when my dad lined some closets.  I used a scroll saw to make a heart inlay in the top of the box.

I had never done any inlay before so it was a learning experience - the trick is to stack your inlay wood on top of your outside wood and slightly tilt your scroll saw table so the angle of the cut compensates for the wood lost due to the thickness of the saw blade.  That way the inlay design will fall right into the cutout space and if you've used the right angle, they'll sit flush with each other.

I picked a mostly-white piece of cedar for the lid and a mostly-red piece for the heart, for contrast.  The fact that the white bit in the red lined up with the red bit in the white was a happy accident.

I used half-red-half-white pieces for the sides and front, to make a transition between the white lid and the red base, but I only had three pieces like that so the back is different.  I glued a piece of wood to the bottom of the lid to keep it from sliding around on the box.  This also helped flatted the lid out, since it was kind of warped.

I finished the box with a mix of linseed oil and mineral spirits.  I like how it turned out, and my girlfriend liked it too.  Smiley

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