Etching with Ferric Chloride

In order to make these fleur de lis earrings, there’s a chemical process that I use.  Ferric Chloride.  It’s the same stuff that is used to make circuit boards used in computer technology.  There are other chemicals that can also create the same effects, but I use this one because most of them are just more caustic.  I care very deeply about the environment, some of the chemicals that can be used to create some great effects on metals have some not so great effects on the environment.  Ferric Chloride, although it can have some negative effects if not used and disposed of properly, can be negated to a much greater degree than most other chemicals.  Safety is paramount to any process that I use.  This one included.  Disclaimers aside, here’s a brief overview of what’s involved!

 

  1.  I clean all my metals prior to their “bath”.  Either with a brass or copper cleaner or acetone.
  2. Whatever design I decide to use on my piece is placed on the clean metal using any number of techniques, but all of the techniques implement the use of a “resist”.  The resist is something that when the metal is placed into the ferric chloride, the acid won’t eat at that part, but rather around it.  A resist may be any number of things.  Tape, sharpies, stamping ink.
  3. Once the design I want is on the metal, I fasten it to some tape and it gets the “spa treatment”!  Immersed in some warm Ferric Chloride until the acid has done its job.
  4. Once the bath is done the piece is immediately removed and put into a neutralizing bath comprised of a baking soda solution.
  5. the piece is then sanded and refined and ready to have it’s “makeup completed and made into something to wear.

I love this process, although admittedly it was a bit intimidating to do the first few times.  I love the unknown about it.  EVERYTHING affects the process.  The temperature outside, the temperature of the metal…..the climate… you name it.  I do this outdoors only so the environmental factors have a big role in the outcome.  But that’s what makes it fun.

 

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