Here's an easy way to etch something on steel

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No voiceover, overlay text in the same location, and to the point. This is how you do an instructional video.

And now I can’t wait to use this on all my tools, which are currently identified only with high-vis green tape.


Agreed. The greatest. How does this work with different metals?

Anyone got a good source for some of those stickers?

Any Kinko’s can make them


Same general principle, often using different chemistry for the electrolyte, depending on the metal to be etched and what you use for the anode. You can also deposit one metal onto another, or combine the processes to etch and plate in the same bath. There are literally hundreds of instructions online, just Google electro-etching or electroplating


Electrolytic etching works well on most metals. I’ve used it to etch copper plates for printing and jewelry. The resist can be any insulator- vinyl is great if you have a small cutting plotter, if not wax is effective, as is enamel paint.Your electrolyte and power requirements change with scale and material. Make sure you have adequate ventilation, some of the byproducts (hydrogen) are flammable. As an interesting side note, you can reverse the leads and create a crude plating bath.


Love it. Now this is a wonderful thing!


try also a hobby place like Michael’s. i did this a year or so ago with some flasks i made as gifts. they came out great, and the recipients were quite impressed. a win all the way around.


I found a few examples of things I produced with electrolytic etching.

This print is off a 4" X 6" copper plate. The image was a toner transfer from a laser print of an ink drawing; the halftoning in the background resulted from etching around the dot pitch of the printer. not entirely succesfull, but interesting.

These are business card sized prints. It’s been (15?) years, but I think I scratched them directly into an enamel coated plate, 4-up, then etched. In places where the background hatching was too fine, the etching process overbit the plate and the lines run together. The drop out in the corners is the result of my crappy press, not the etching.

These last two were an experiment in trying to etch something 3D. The material is a 3" copper plumbing union, the mask was a vinyl stencil cut from an original drawn in Inkscape. The process for 3D is more or less the same as flat, but your cathode has to surround the part in the bath.

The rough texture at the bottom of the etched areas comes from re-plating- if you leave the part in the bath too long and at too high a current, weird stuff happens. The color changes across the etched surface are the result of me playing with a hot patina, in this case I think it was a dilute bleach solution.





Those are fantastic!


If you have more of these to share, we would love to see them here!


Here’s a couple of mine.

Copper plated with zinc:

Etched tin:

Etched brass filled in with black spray paint & then sanded:

Brass etched, then copper plated:


Those look great! Were the tin and brass pieces toner transfers? What was your power source? I have an adjustable 36V, 5A supply now, but when I was experimenting with the etching, I had to make do with a battery charger.


Aw, shucks. Thank you. :blush:

Thanks! I’ll look around, but I didn’t do much more of that. Right around then, life (in the shape of my daughter) intervened, and I discovered a pressing need to make a living. I miss making art though, and now that the spud is older, I’ll get back to it.

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Very nice! Is the etched brass one drawn or from an actual plant stencil?

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In the past I’ve used toner transfers & blue press-n-peel, yeah. A Sharpie works (kinda) to fill in the inevitable holes in the mask. Now I have access to a Cricut machine, so it’s cut-vinyl masks from now on. My power source is a converted PC power supply that can do 5V, 12V, 17V and 24V. In my experience with such projects, lower voltage for a longer duration works much better than high voltage for short durations.


Thanks! It’s a “worm’s-eye” photograph of dill weed flowers. I blew out the contrast in Photoshop & used that to make the etch mask.


My business makes them, and we do custom designs. Our customers usually use acid gel to etch glass and metal; much easier than this method.

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