View Full Version : etching damascus

04-30-2003, 07:40 PM
I am finally going to try a piece of damascus. It will be an accent on a blade rather than a whole blade but I can't find a step by step on how to properly etch it. I have a small piece of twist damascus and I have a 17 fl oz bottle of ferric chloride. I have gone through the search and the tutorials but can't find anywhere a step by step. I have never used anything like this so as basic as possible would be great.

Ray Rogers
04-30-2003, 08:31 PM
Generally speaking, you cut the Ferric Chloride 50/50 with water, then put the damascus in it.

How long? I don't know. Depends on what kind of damascus it is. The best idea is to get etching instructions from the maker of the damascus. Most all the knife supply houses can provide instructions for any damascus they sell.

But, if you can't get instructions, then:

warm the acid a little

put the steel in the acid for about 1 minute

take it out and run cold water over it, rubbing very lightly with your fingers

do that until the steel has the contrast you want. This usually takes about 3 passes, never more than 6

Let it dry to set the contrast

Maybe, if you want to, rub very lightly with very, very fine sandpaper on the high spots only

If this doesn't work well, start experimenting.....

05-01-2003, 05:47 AM
hi steve
like ray said but if the acid is cold you'll have to go longer. i work out side so it takes 4-5 min per pass. i put wd40 on it after and let it sit . where did you get your ferric chloride i have to go down to vermont to get mine?

05-01-2003, 07:15 AM
I got it at the local computer hardware parts shop. It is just a local store Orion Computers. They charge $14.95 for 500ml. I just kept asking around until someone pointed me to these guys.
How is the cable damascus coming?

05-01-2003, 07:25 AM

This is a rarity for me, but I would check out Radio Shack (Hate the store for a few reasons). They usually carry it in the parts section, and a pint (I think thats the size) runs under $5 dollars. If you have to ask, ask for the circuit board stuff. Most of the employees I have run into give you blank stares if you asc about ferric chloride, but they do know where they have all the circuit board etching line.


05-01-2003, 07:32 AM
Unfortunately Radio Shack Canada doesn't carry the stuff anymore. They have become your basic stereo/ electronics store and are no longer really in the business of the electronic hobbyist.

05-01-2003, 09:03 AM
i'm just finishing a folder made with some cable i havent found any flaws in the weld yet:D

when i go to the states i go to Radio Shack but i only find the circuit board etching kit small bottle i'll ask for the pint thanks

george tichbour
05-01-2003, 04:52 PM
What I found out early is that the damascus has to be perfectly clean before etching for an even etch so I wash the damascus in soap and water immediately before etching then don't touch it with my fingers until it comes out of the etch.

Kelly Carlson
05-01-2003, 06:07 PM
My last bottle of Ferric Chloride from Radio Shack was labeled :Etchant".
An alternative, which I also prefer for stainless damascus, is muriatic acid, which is generally available from hardware stores and pool supply companies.
The procedure is basically the same as with ferric chloride. 50/50 mix with water. It works better warm, about 120 degrees F, or so, and I neutralize it immediately following etching in a TSP solution.

05-01-2003, 07:39 PM
I use the Radio Shack etchant mixed 50/50 with white vinegar. This mixture was recommended by the people who sell Thunderforged Damascus.
It will also etch a black oxide coating on carbon steels. I have used it on D2 and A2 with good results.

05-01-2003, 09:37 PM
i think some people use apple cider vinegar to etch with.

05-02-2003, 10:25 AM
How high a grit do you use on the damascus before the etch. I have mine at 600 grit right now and was wondering if I need to take it to 1500 grit like I do the 440.

Don Cowles
05-02-2003, 12:15 PM
Steve, 400 grit works best. I wouldn't go any finer.

There are exceptions- Mike Norris advises mirror polishing his stainless damascus before etching - but generally, 400 works fine.

Osprey Guy
05-02-2003, 12:54 PM

I don't have anywhere near the experience with damascus as so many of the guys here. But I've now done quite a few damsacus bolsters and I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it. With my limited experience I can offer one important idea...experiment!

When you etch damascus you're only affecting a small amount of the surface...that's the good news because you can experiment to your heart's content and if unhappy, the worst that can happen (generally) is that you just have to sand off the results and try again. I've done this with every new pattern I've purchased. In my case not only am I experimenting with the etch, but also with heat coloring...before I incorporate it into a design I want to know where it's going to take me...

Since the etchant is going to eat away at the steel anyway, taking it much beyond a 600grit seems somewhat pointless. However, I have found that if I go as high as 800 or even 1000 I wind up with slightly different results, especially when I then decide to heat color. As to how long to etch will mostly depend on you and how deep you want your pattern to be. I've heard some guys say that they like to be able to distinctly feel the etch...

I think the main message I want to share is to experiment...a little sandpaper will correct just about anything you don't like.

Important note: I've been experimenting/testing the damascus I buy when I first get it...way before I have to even think about taking it down to the finished thickness...that way I know what I'm going to get later on when I'm actually working on a piece and/or doing any final finishing,... It helps when planning out my design, and that way I also don't run the risk of having to sand off a mistake when already at the final thickness.

2 cents worth from a guy who's way new to using the stuff.

Dennis Greenbaum

Yeah baby! :smokin

05-02-2003, 01:32 PM
Thanks Dennis
Could you give me a quick explanation of heat colouring. Can it be done with any damascus or does it have to be a specific type of steel. I have a piece of twist damascus that I picked up at the Wolverine show from Koval but it was just a 3 inch piece so I have no idea even what the makeup of the steel is.

Osprey Guy
05-02-2003, 02:03 PM

So far every piece of damascus has responded in some way to heat coloring. I'm only using a small butane torch and doing what I guess you could call "spot coloring"...The steel definitely responds best when it's a finer finish...that's one reason why I lightly sand after etching.

Heat coloring is achieved through oxidizing the it's the same scenario as the etching...if you don't like, you sand and do over. You can't re-color something that's already been oxidized (I don't think so anyway).

I've found through experimenting that the colors will come up fairly fast once the metal's hot enough (I'm told that most metals will change color between 550-650 degrees F.) As soon as it approaches something you like stop a second or two before you think you should stop and dunk into water. I do mine by putting a 1/4" bar of metal (home depot) into an old, all-metal Panavise. I balance the bolsters on the bar, heat them with a pyrex container of water sitting right below. When it reaches color I simply knock them lightly into the water waiting below using an old stainless spoon. I wait for the heat to dissipate from the bolsters (in about 15-20 seconds) and then retrieve them with the spoon.

I'm still very much experimenting with this as it's very hard to predict color shifts consistently...but it is fascinating to play with!8o :D

Dennis Greenbaum

Yeah Baby!:smokin

PS. Something else of interest...try incorporating cold gun blue into this mix of interesting things to play with...I've been using Van's with interesting results...sometimes before or after etching or heat coloring.