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Travis Melcher

Location: North Carolina
Joined: 20 Jul 2012

Posts: 51

PostPosted: Sat 14 Dec, 2013 4:48 pm    Post subject: acid etching steel?         Reply with quote

so what's the best acid to use to get a deep etch design in tempered steel? in mild? Thanks
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Peter Messent

Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Sat 14 Dec, 2013 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ferric chloride is the one I hear used most often; should be available from radio shack for PCB etching.

I've used muriatic acid and a mask to get a design before, think I got the acid from tractor supply. Tbh though I have a burning hatred for and fear of strong acids so I usually opt for the safer/easier option - electro etching!

I think that what you use would best be settled by what you intend to do, though; are you masking a design and etching it or something else? The mask I used with the muriatic acid didn't do well and the text came out rather blobby. But it was runes on a viking sword, so it wound up inadvertently looking like a welded iron inlay...
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JŠnos Sibinger

Location: Hungary/France
Joined: 31 May 2009

Posts: 50

PostPosted: Sun 15 Dec, 2013 12:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would go for Nitric acid. Altough it is evil, and super strong, leaves abeautyful and fine trace on the steel. I recommend to use a solution of 10 percent, since it is much slower. After the process, clean the surface carfully! And one more thing. Do this outside, if not, everything in Your surrounding will be rusty!!! I have already worked with this solution, and I am pleased with it. GIve it a go with ferric chlorid too, it is not as expensive, and said to result in beautyful, deep black colored etching, it is quite pupular in revealing the damascus steel's pattern. Just a little hint: When You are making the protecive wax cover, use bees wax, than heat it over a candle, so it turns black. On this surface You can make Your drawings much more easyily, since You know, what exactly are You doing! Happy

Good luck!

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Peter Lyon
Industry Professional

Location: New Zealand
Joined: 20 Nov 2006
Reading list: 39 books

Posts: 249

PostPosted: Sun 15 Dec, 2013 12:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I use Nitric acid too, diluted to about 15%; too strong and the reaction can run away if the etch area starts overheating. I use a soft and cheap brush to whisk off any bigger bubbles that form, which can leave a rough edge - throw the brush away at the end. I also use a tilt table to slosh the acid in a horizontal bath to sluice away bubbles as they form, it gives a cleaner and/or deeper etch. At the end, I wash the piece under running water, then neutralise any remaining acid with dilute sodium hydroxide (NaOH) - if you don't do this the item will rust 10 times faster than usual. I usually use laser-cut vinyl transfers as a mask, if you give them a day for the solvents to dry out they stick well as long as you don't scrub the surface.

Also, experiment to get your process sorted BEFORE doing it on a valuable piece that has a lot of time invested in it - there is no going back with etching!

Still hammering away
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Boris Bedrosov
Industry Professional

Location: Bourgas, Bulgaria
Joined: 06 Nov 2005

Posts: 700

PostPosted: Sun 15 Dec, 2013 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would vote for the Nitric acid (HNO3) etching also.

As I'm fond of old traditions and technologies, I use tar/gasolene solution to mask the areas and strong (about 30%) acid. Although the process was shown in the "Yushman Project" thread, it could be hard to find it, so I'll show how I do this again.

* the tar/gasolene solution is applied by hand or through a cardboard pattern

** after the tar dries off, the excesive tar is removed with great care

*** the plates in the plastic vessel, filled with the acid

**** and the result - after the etching the plates are MANDATORY washed under running water, then neutralized (already mentioned by Peter Lyon sodium hydroxide gives good results; I could recommend the simple but effective Sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 also)

"Everyone who has the right to wear a long sword, has to remember that his sword is his soul,
and he has to separate from it when he separates from his life"
Tokugawa Ieyasu

Find my works on Facebook:
Boris Bedrosov's Armoury
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Ken Nelson

Location: central Wisconsin, USA
Joined: 01 Apr 2007
Reading list: 12 books

Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon 16 Dec, 2013 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful work, Boris.

I will agree with using Ferric Chloride or Nitric acid for submersion etching. which to use may be a matter of which steel you are using, as they react and color a bit differently to various alloys. Try both on scrap pieces to determine color, depth, and control. I would also suggest diluting the Ferric Chloride as well. If you are using the Radio shack PCB etchant, try 3:1 and 4:1 water to etchant.

For small areas, or if a tank will not be suitable for you, there are other options. I have used pickling pastes designed to clean oxides off welds. These pastes are meant to stick to the work while etching, and are used in many places where welds are made in the field. I generally keep 4 pastes from AvestaPolarit in my shop for different uses. They tend to be low fuming, so there is less chance of everything in your shop rusting just by being close. For carbon steels, I recommend either their 101 (white) or their Greenone 120. Blueone 130 and Redone 140 will probably blur the edges, as they work better on stainless and high nickel steels.

"Live and learn, or you don't live long" L. Long
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T.F. McCraken

Location: Ingleside, Illinois
Joined: 13 Apr 2006

Posts: 128

PostPosted: Tue 17 Dec, 2013 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm about to commission a blade to be laser-etched. The etcher is looking into seeing if a blade will fit in his machine, but, I'll post results if they come out nice.

Murphy Cool

aka "Murphy"
See ya at Bristol Renaissance Faire!

The decisions we make, dictate the life we lead.

"I drank what?" -Socrates
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