Copper Etching
Or, fun with rubber stamps

I love texture, and copper etching has fascinated me for years. There are a number of ways to transfer resists to copper, such as printing on ‘press'n’peel’ paper (which you then iron onto the metal) —something I'd very much like to try, as it would allow considerable control over the design.

However, that would involve some ramp-up with inkscape (not to mention ironing out—ha!—the issues I'm having with my laser printer) so for the time being I'm using a simpler method: stayz-on ink and rubber stamps.

I like a layered look, so I ‘overstamp’ the various images to develop a rich, textured palimpsest. My friend Cyndy was in charge of the actual etching, and she used the standard ferric chloride (available most cheaply, I'm told, from Micromark).[1]

Etched copper, 2013. approx 24 gauge, 2-7/8 x 7-3/8” The black is the resist.

At some point I'd like to explore the re-usable (and thus far less environmentally unfriendly) etchant, but in the meantime, see above for an early experiment.

There are some technical considerations to keep in mind when etching copper. One is that the side to be etched should face downwards, the etched particles drift away. In the absence of a way to vibrate the solution, it needs to be swished every 15 minutes or so. (Again, I haven't tried using an aquarium pump, but I gather you can affix one to the outside of the glass dish so as not to have to swish by hand.)

Originally Cyndy used wide, clear packing tape to both cover the back of the metal (no sense exhausting the etchant eating the backside) and to suspend the metal in the bath. Someone suggested using double-sided tape and styrofoam sheet to suspend the metal. This works quite well, but I discovered the hard way that the foam and metal must be carefully removed and replaced in the acid, because even with safety glasses on I still got a drop of acid in my eye. Full-on enclosed goggles, people!

[1]This stuff is highly toxic to fish. If you use it, plan on paying to dispose of it properly, which means, not dumping it down the drain!