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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Learning to Etch Sterling Silver

Etching sterling silver for the first time. A few things to purchse and a lot to learn.

Had to order silver nitrate (ground shipping only), stole one of the cats’ stainless steel food bowls (don’t worry; they won’t get it back), picked up coffee filters, aluminum wire, and more protective gloves.

I cut my 2-inch square out of the only piece of silver sheet I have then decided to experiment on a bead-cap size silver disk first.

The problem arose instantly… black gunk coming out of the etching project and blocking the connection of electricity to silver disk. My aluminum wire, apparently.

So I have to wonder… is my wire not really solid aluminum (although the package just states “aluminum” so I think that’s what it is) or is aluminum NOT the best conductor when using silver nitrate?

Small flat disk came out okay so I domed it and am awaiting a round of patinization.

Took the leap and tried the larger silver square next. Taped and nail-polished over most of the aluminum wire for minimal gunkitude.

The silver, however, still makes quite the mess on the face of the piece as it’s etching. Enough to interfere with the etching process. Not sure what if anything can be done about that. I took the piece out and rinsed it twice, but there still seemed to be stuff adhering to the places I wanted etched. So then I took a brush to it and (as expected) some of the resist started coming off. At that point I decided a shallow etch was better than a crappy etch (my silver sheet is only 26 gauge anyway so maybe shallow is best all around).

Cleaned the piece up and see some pitting where the more solid places of resist were (PNP) so will go over those areas with nail polish next time.

Won’t really be able to form an opinion until I file and patina these guys.

So for my special project I have the same design in copper (and one in reverse on copper), one in bronze, and one in sterling.

Since this is a design I was commissioned to make for a company, I’m not sure I can show you photos of the finished products, but I can show you the bead cap (after I patina it).

Well, have to try to get to bed now… long day tomorrow (driving to San Jose rink and back).

1 comment:

  1. are you using a plug in battery charger? I had that problem too. I used copper leads, silver leads, every kind of cathode suggested to no avail!
    When I switched to a 12 v battery for my power supply the etch worked without the black 'plating'.
    Also it helps to put a bowl or something over the whole operation to block out the light. Silver nitrate is used in the photog business and reacts to light. Marnie