How to make handprint jewellery

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to make handprint jewellery
Capture the tiny handprints of a newborn to wear as jewellery (Getty Creative)

Handprint jewellery is a way to carry or show off the handprint of your child. The baby's handprint from the birth certificate is used, or the parent can make a handprint of the child on a blank index card. This print is then transformed into an etching on metal, allowing the parents or grandparents to wear the metal piece as the focal point of their jewellery.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Brass plate blank
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • Copper cleaner
  • Green scrubbing pad
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tweezers
  • Scanner
  • Photo software
  • Laser printer
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Fine tip permanent marker
  • 4 glass bowls
  • Newspaper
  • Ferric chloride (PCB Enchant)
  • Baking soda
  • Ammonia
  • Rubber gloves
  • Duct tape
  • ZAcryl polymer (resist)
  • Small disposable art brush
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Jump ring

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    Prepare metal blanks

  1. 1

    Sand brass or copper blanks with sandpaper to make the blanks as smooth as possible. Once your image is etched it will be difficult to finish the metal, so you must finish it first. If you want to work the metal in any way, this would be when you should do that type of design work. The metal needs a flat surface larger than the handprint. Other areas of the metal can be curved or bent.

  2. 2

    Finish sanding with 400-grit sandpaper. Wash the blank with copper cleaner using a green scrubbing pad. Rinse. Wipe the blank with rubbing alcohol. From this point forward do not touch the surface with your fingers. Handle the blank with tweezers.

  3. 3

    Scan the baby handprint into the computer. Open the image using a photo software program. Reduce the handprint to the size to fit on the blank. Turn the image black and white. Filter the handprint with a horizontal line filter. Make the contrast strong, so that the lines are more solid and the background is white. What is black will resist etching. Save and print the image on a laser printer.

  4. 4

    Place the blank face up on the worktable. Cut tight around the handprint laser image with scissors. Position the laser image face side down on the blank using tweezers. Turn your iron to its hottest setting. Place the hot iron on top of the paper for two minutes to three minutes. Allow the metal blank to cool completely.

  5. 5

    Dip the blank in tepid water and gently rub off the paper, leaving the ink and image. If the image needs touch up, use a fine tip permanent marker.

    Etch handprint

  1. 1

    Position four glass bowls that are 750 mm to 100 mm (3 inches to 4 inches) across on the newspaper-covered worktable. Wear rubber gloves. Fill the etching bowl (bowl No. 1) half full with Ferric chloride (PCB Enchant). Fill the neutralising bath (bowl No. 2) half full with water and 36 to 54 ml (2 tbs. to 3 tbs) of baking soda. Fill the (bowl No. 3) half full with 4 parts water and 1 part ammonia. Fill the (bowl No. 4) half full with rinse water.

  2. 2

    Paint the back side of the blank with ZAcryl polymer (resist) using a disposable art brush. Allow the back to dry completely. Prevent the ZAcryl from sticking to any other surface when you paint the blank. Paint the front of the blank around the black image area with ZAcryl polymer (resist).

  3. 3

    Tear a thin strip of duct tape 25 cm (10 inches) long. Press the centre of the duct tape to the back of the blank. Suspend the blank, face side down in the middle of bowl No. 1 to begin the etching process. Etching can take from 1 hour to 12 hours depending on the strength of your etching medium. The blank is suspended in the etching fluid by the duct tape pressed to the sides of the bowl.

  4. 4

    Check the blank within the first hour and every two hours after that. If it looks like the etch is eating your image, take the blank through bowls No. 2 through No. 4. Beef up your image with a fine-line permanent marker. Place the blank back in the etch to continue.

  5. 5

    Finish the etch by taking the duct tape held blank and placing it for two minutes in each progressive bowl. Dry the blank thoroughly and remove the ZAcryl polymer (resist) based on the recommendations of the manufacturer.

  6. 6

    Attach the handprint metal plate to a jump ring. Open the jump ring and thread it through the hole in the blank. Close the jump ring with needle-nose pliers. Add the handprint to a necklace, bracelet, brooch or other jewellery item.

Tips and warnings

  • The metal plate can be further decorated with colourful beads, gemstones, crystals, paint or other jewellery items.
  • Always wear rubber gloves around etching chemicals and dispose of the chemicals as required in your area. Some chemical mixtures can be saved and reused in appropriate bottles.

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