How to Etch Copper & Brass

Written by clayton kim
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How to Etch Copper & Brass
Acids and bases can etch into brass and copper. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you have seen metallic artwork with intricate designs, you might have witnessed the art of etching. Etching removes a layer of the surface of a metal. Instead of using tools and fire to melt and bend copper and brass, the corrosive liquid eats away at the surface making indents and grooves. In ancient times, artisans were the only people who knew the techniques of etching. Now, you hold the information in your hands. Expand your horizons by etching some copper or brass.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Copper
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Glass containers
  • Spoon
  • Tweezers
  • Wax
  • Microwave
  • Paper towels
  • Sharp-pointed object
  • Protective gloves
  • Protective mask
  • Protective goggles
  • 5-percent perchloric acid
  • Distilled water
  • Glass stirrer

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Instructions

    Copper

  1. 1

    Rub petroleum jelly over the areas you do not watch to etch. It protects the copper from the corrosive materials or liquids.

  2. 2

    Mix a solution of 4/5 cup of vinegar with 1 tbsp of salt in a glass container. Mix the solution with a spoon.

  3. 3

    Submerge the piece of copper into the solution. Use tweezers.

  4. 4

    Let the solution etch the copper for 2 hours. Remove and check the copper. It could take up to 10 hours to etch the copper.

    Brass

  1. 1

    Melt wax in a glass container using a microwave. Pour the wax over the surface of the brass. Remove wax with paper towel in areas you do not want to etch. To make intricate designs, remove wax with a sharp-pointed object. The wax protects the brass from the corrosive materials or liquids.

  2. 2

    Mix a solution of 2 cups of perchloric acid and 1 cup of distilled water. Mix the solution with a glass stirrer.

  3. 3

    Submerge the piece of brass into the solution. Use tweezers.

  4. 4

    Let the solution etch the brass for 1 hour. Remove and check the brass. Repeat until the brass is etched.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear protective gloves, mask and goggles when handling perchloric acid. Perchloric acid is highly corrosive. If you spill the perchloric acid, pour vinegar on those areas to neutralise it.

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