When a friend asked me to make him a piece of jewelry that resembled a cave drawing I was a bit stumped. Then I thought of etching, duh! Etching metal is typically done with nitric acid or sometimes ferric chloride. Either way I know I will burn my face off.
Luckily, one of my MetalSmith teammates was kind enough to offer up instructions on using saltwater and batteries instead. While there was still a chance of burning my face off, it wasn't quite as risky as the toxic chemical route. So off to Home Depot, Radio Shack, and the deli I went. I picked up some kosher salt (no iodine), distilled water, D-batteries, and a small aquarium pump, among other things.
After some brainstorming my friend decided he wanted an image of Bucephalus on a rustic pendant. I had to Google this of course. Bucephalus was Alexander the Great's horse as well as a figurine in the movie The Black Stallion.
Photo courtesy of The Black Stallion
In order to properly etch the metal I had to draw this crazy looking horse on a sheet of copper with a permanent marker. It turned out like this.
Looks like a 3rd grader did it huh?
Whatever, I've come this far so I'm determined to follow through. As I'm rigging up battery lead wires to a container of saltwater and duct taping like crazy, I suddenly feel like a mix between Macgyver and a mad scientist.
I set my iPod to "Electric Head" and let the etching begin!
A little sawing, oxidizing, and buffing and Mr. Bucephalus is born...and I didn't burn my face off yay!