This is a piece I did for a class a while ago (I posted it on the art forums) and since Photo-etching (the process used for the designs on the plates) is a pretty low-tech process I figured I could post a tutorial about it.
What happens is you draw a design on the metal, put the metal in the etchant, and the design (which is either printer toner or sharpie marker) acts as a resist, so only the part where the design isn't gets etched.
- Copper, bronze, or silver. Copper and bronze work really well, silver works OK. I believe brass works too but I haven't used it.
- Sandpaper if the metal is anything but shiney
- A jeweler's saw (optional, used for cutting the metal into the desired shape).
- A photocopier or laser printer
- Transparency sheet (acetate)
- a hot plate, pancake griddle, or in a pinch, an iron.
- PCB Etchant. Gross, brownish liquid sold at Radio Shack.
- An old tupperware container
- duct or masking tape
- a sharpie or gold paint pen
- an old spoon (or burnisher, if you actually have metalsmithing tools)
- household ammonia
- gloves (ok I never use gloves but YOU SHOULD!)
Cost: about $10 assuming you already have the tools. about $50 if you wanna use silver (I get mine from http://www.hooverandstrong.com
). And probably a lot more if you don't already own a hotplate or iron :-P
1. cut the metal into the desired shape (or buy pre-cut shapes if you don't have a saw).
2. clean the metal
. Sand it, scrub it with ammonia, make sure it is clean
. Try to hold it by the edges at this point.
3. Draw your design on paper or on the computer. Remember that the black parts will be raised and the white parts will be lowered. Reverse your design if necessary.
4. Print or photocopy your image onto the transparency sheet. You must use a laser printer, ink jet will not
5. Turn on your hot plate. Carefully place your clean metal directly on it. Let it get nice and hot.
6. Roghly cut your design out of the acetate. Leave some room to handle it by, but not so much that it hangs waaay over the edges of the metal and you'll have trouble keeping it off the hot plate.
7. Place your design toner side down
on the metal. Use tweezers. It's very difficult to move it once it's placed, so go slowly and make sure the first place you put it is the right one. Don't let the acetate touch the hot plate directly.
8. take the curved side of the spoon and rub all over the design (called Burnishing). You'll probably have to hold the metal down with the tweezers. Press smoothy and firmly, you're literally transferring the toner from the acetate to your metal.
9. Lift up the acetate. Slowly, starting at one corner. If the toner is coming with it, put it back down and burnish a little longer.
10. When your design is transferred, take the metal off of the hot plate and quench it in water. Or let it air-cool.
11. Fill in any gaps or flaws with the sharpie (which is acting as a resist).
12. Go along the edges of your piece with the sharpie to keep the etchant from eating away the sides.
13. Cover the back of the piece with duct or masking tape. Then use the masking tape to suspend the metal design-side-down in the tupperware container. You want it to lie fairly level, about a centimeter or two from the bottom of the container BUT NOT TOUCHING IT.
14. Fill the container with PCB Etchant until it just barely covers your piece.
Waiting is hard, because it takes different amounts of time depending on how old the etchant is. Check every 5 minutes until you get a feel for how quickly it is etching. It WILL eat through your metal if you leave it too long.
I've found that brand new etchant will be done in 20 minutes to an hour, and old etchant can take 8+ hours.
16. When your metal is sufficiently etched, take it out of the solution and rinse it. First rinse it in water, then rinse it in ammonia. If you don't rinse it in ammonia it will continue to etch over time. Plus the ammonia helps to get off the resist.
17. Pour the etchant back into the bottle, you can reuse it and it is VERY BAD FOR YOUR DRAIN. VERY BAD
. When the resist is completely spent, throw it away in the bottle. Don't dump it. It will eat your pipes.
Viola! you now have a design on metal to do with as you please.