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4 posters

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness


    Posts : 1041
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    Age : 35
    Location : NJ, USA

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Empty Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness

    Post by Ivo Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:32 pm

    Good Day my fellow Crossbowyers,

    I know you all marveled at the beautifully engraved/etched metal parts on the highly decorated crossbows of the old....hearing this silent request I did my research and am ready to deliver something of a treat for you all. Get ready to etch beautiful designs of your choice on your steel prods, bow irons, ticklers and anything else that you want to catch the eye (and I bet you guys can think of some cool stuff Smile )

    Here I leave you with tutorial explaining the procedure. Have fun!

    Article origin:

    For etching, we’ll need a liquid conductor, suitable resist and a power supply that can be regulated.

    Liquid Conductor:

    Saltwater will do fine as it’s one of the more
    conductive water-based solutions. The conductivity of drinkable
    groundwater is usually in the range of 30K to 60K ohms. A 7% solution of
    saltwater has a conductivity of something under 1K ohms which is
    adequate for our purposes. Increasing the salt solution further doesn’t
    dramatically increase conductivity.

    Compared to acids and other etch methods, saltwater is safe, inexpensive and readily available.

    Suitable Resist:

    We need something nonconductive and waterproof
    which can withstand the mechanical action of etching and is easily
    removable. Traditionally, etching resist was some form of asphaltum.
    Lacquer spray paint/finish works fine--fast drying and is removed with
    acetone. Deft and Dupli-Color are two sprays which are suitable.
    Any lacquer-based spray product should work.

    Lacquer seems to work best on ferrous based metals. It doesn’t adhere as well on brass and galvanized metals.

    Finger nail polish works well as a resist.

    Power Supply:

    Save yourself the expense of a commercial DC
    power-source and just use dry cell batteries. Anything from 1.5V to 9V
    will work fine. The humble D cell will do everything you want done.

    Increasing the saltwater solution and/or voltage
    won’t make much difference--varying either or both won’t hurt anything,
    but doesn’t help much either. 1.5V and 7% saltwater will do the trick.

    To see how this works and to grasp the
    fundamentals, round up a 1.5V cell (AA, C or D--doesn’t matter), some
    leads, a glass container of some sort, a couple strips of ferrous-based
    metal--iron, steel, nails or some such.

    Mix up some saltwater (1 tablespoon of salt in a cup of water, this is the same mixture we used while quenching),
    spray one of the strips with a couple coats of lacquer-based spray and
    let dry--a heat-gun speeds things along. Clean the metal with acetone
    before spraying to get a good bond.

    Scratch what you want etched into the sprayed
    surface. Place the two strips (one sprayed, the other bare) into the
    saltwater bath and connect the leads. The positive pole of the battery
    goes to the strip you want etched--the sprayed one. The negative pole
    connects to the bare strip.

    Metal attached to the positive (+) pole will be etched.
    Metal attached to the negative (-) pole will produce bubbles.
    Cathode is the negative pole; Anode the positive pole.

    You’ll see bubbles emanating from the bare strip
    (cathode -). If they’re coming off the sprayed strip (anode +) then
    reverse the leads. You'll get a nice mark in minutes. Wait an hour for a
    very deep etch. Remove the strips from the bath, remove the sprayed
    material with acetone and inspect the etch. That’s it, that’s the whole
    deal! The rest is just refinement.

    For this demonstration, use the same material in
    both strips. Using dissimilar metals can lead to strange
    plating/stripping events which may stop the flow of current. Bubbling at
    the cathode (bare strip) tells you the thing is working. After etching
    ferrous metals you’ll have some brownish pond-scum-looking-stuff
    floating in the bath.

    Now for the regulation part:

    We’re going to put a variable resistor into the etching circuit. These devices are called potentiometers
    (pot for short). Think of them as a faucet whereby you can control the
    flow of current. The volume control on your radio is a potentiometer.
    Introducing a pot allows adjustment for all the various
    variables--battery strength, salt solution, size of etching area and so

    Below are diagrams for the front plate and wiring
    for an etching controller. It has a knob for the potentiometer--all
    good controllers have a knob--and two D cells are used in order to boost
    the voltage enough (3V) to light an LED. As long as we’re building this
    thing it might as well have a flashing light, although the LED is
    entirely optional and is added to the circuit mostly for amusement. LEDs
    have polarity and the long lead needs to go to the positive pole. Radio Shack part numbers are included in the wiring diagram.

    The 5k pot should be connected so that resistance
    is high when the knob is in the low numbers. As the knob is turned
    clockwise (to higher numbers) resistance drops, more current flows and
    the etching becomes more active. High dial number, more bubbles, faster
    etching. I do most etching between 8 and 9.

    In all etching, the degree of bubbling is the prime indicator with which to monitor the process. Saltwater etching as described above will produce a clean, crisp, deep etch without undercuts.

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Etch1

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Etcher

    Download to desktop, print out, glue to 1/8" Masonite, drill and install parts listed below.

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Control

    In the video below you can see variation of the process (manual etching with a Q-tip Smile ) - using a piece of sign making vinyl with a cutout pattern as a template/mast as opposed to lacquer (as was done in the above article) . Wicked fun stuff, low cost, and most importantly - non toxic.

    Enjoy!!! Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy


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    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Empty Re: Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness

    Post by Basilisk120 Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:34 pm

    Hey thanks. Yeah Eltro-etching doesn't look too hard if you have the correct equipment.
    Fresh Blood

    Doesn't mean
    I'm new to crossbows

    Fresh Blood Doesn't meanI'm new to crossbows

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    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Empty Re: Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness

    Post by huntsmanlance Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:30 am

    Now THAT is pretty cool Ivo!!! Thanks for posting this.....i can certainly think of some designs that would look great on a prod and such

    Fresh Blood

    Doesn't mean
    I'm new to crossbows

    Fresh Blood Doesn't meanI'm new to crossbows

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    Location : Finland

    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Empty Re: Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness

    Post by Väinämöinen Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:44 pm

    Thanks. I have been using ferrochloride for etching, but this looks interesting! Is it suitable for etching brass?

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    Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness Empty Re: Saline etching (Salt water) Goodness

    Post by Ivo Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:40 pm


    Sorry, I think it's good for ferrous metals only. Ferrochloride is the next best thing for etching in regards to toxicity of the process I hear.

    What are you etching, may I ask? Cool


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