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Fine Embellishment Everything from hand engraving and scrimshaw to filework and carving. The fine art end of the knifemaker's craft.

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Old 09-23-2004, 09:42 AM
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Don Cowles Don Cowles is offline
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Etching technique

This is posted in response to Jim Small's question on how Antonio does his etching.

Friend Jim Small :
First off, I thank you for you interest in my work and how I do the etching (you asked me my technique). I won?t offer a definition of ?etching?, because the definition is in any dictionary or encyclopedia.

The art of etching has come to me through my family. My late father was an acid etcher before me. He passed on to me the basic knowledge, and I began investigating new techniques.

Although I have the title of ?Master Engraver?, I consider myself to be an apprentice, since I continue to learn new things every day. The technique that I use is the traditional one of the XIX century; it was handed down from engraver to engraver until the present.

I can etch all the metals that I know of in Spain (silver, gold, brass, German nickel, copper, zinc.....) but mainly, what I etch is the stainless steel of knife blades. The more rich in carbon the steel is, the better it will etch. You use a lot of steels rich in carbon, such as ATS - 34. Although we don?t use it in Spain, it should etch very well.

Basic technique :
It is necessary to degrease the metal well to etch. There are commercial degreasers (cleaning products) available in the market, but ethyl alcohol and household detergents are useful as well.
Next comes the drawing on the metal. There are many inks for engraving in the market; the composition is similar (they are all formed with asphalt and virgin wax). With testing, very good inks can be found.

I draw directly with the ink on the metal. To do this, one requires a mastery of drawing and a steady hand.

The acid that I use is usually nitric acid. There are different types of acids used for etching, but the characteristics of the nitric make it the one that I usually choose. It is quite aggressive with metals, and its way of etching is more violent (compared with other acids). They don?t usually advise it for fine and delicate works, but I personally control it quite well and I carry out very delicate works.
All my works are usually with nitric.

One can etch in ?low relief?, where the drawing is etched into the background, but I most often use the technique of engraving in ?high relief?. In this technique the drawing stands proud of the background.

When the metal is submerged in the acid. I should be concentrating on the corrosion of the acid. There are multiple factors that influence the action of the acid, such as the ambient temperature and the content of humidity in the atmosphere. The action of the acid is sometimes unpredictable, so it is not wise to walk away from the process and allow the acid to work unsupervised. We have to watch closely to stay on top of the process.

I should also say that, with the acid, other materials can be etched besides metals; it is a question of carrying out many tests. I will send some pictures of some engravings so that you can see them.

A greeting from Montejano.

The following pictures are step-by-step documentation of an etching job done by Antonio.


Don Cowles Custom Knives

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