View Full Version : ETCHING STEEL?

05-18-2001, 03:32 PM

Do any of you here do etchings in steel plates or know what mordant I might use to etch steel? I just did a drypoint in steel and WHOOAH! what wretched fun! Kind of a coarse grainy feel to steel that worked great. I used a small diamond-tipped scriber that I bought a few years ago at a hardware store and it works alright. The point that is the industrial diamond is not long like a heron's beak, more like a cardinals beak but this didn't seem to be a problem.

...so I am just playing with various steels this week if anyone has any advice.


05-23-2001, 12:48 AM
Maybe amy would have the answer to this question, since she's done alot of etching. Actually the person to ask is Dduchene...it's his business. If I see him, I'll direct him here for you


05-24-2001, 07:27 PM
Hey bri!...been a while.
I have done over 100 limited edition etchings...all steel plate etchings. You can use ferric chloride to etch steel or a faster more coarse etch can be achieved with nitric acid. Do you still have my email addy??
If so feel free to write and ask anything you like. Some great textures can be achieved using by misting engine enamel, which is heat and chemical resistant, on the plate and etching. There are ways to alter the spray too for a coarse or very fine texture. take a look at my website on my etchings page...all the textures there are done with that technique. And yes..it is wretched fun lol
although I have not produced a plate in about 6 yrs. now..my press sits idle downstairs until I am free to do full time art one day I guess.
Anyway bri...I am at your disposal for info...feel free


05-24-2001, 09:51 PM




Hi! I appreciate your reply.

I read that (I think) Ferric Chloride, when used to etch copper, aids keeping the etch going vertically downward as opposed to eating out the sides and getting erosion/cave-ins. Is this why it etches steel in a more refined way than the Nitric? What is the proportion of your average steel-biting solution? What are the average times for: fine detail, average bear-bite, or deep throat, sabre tooth bite? You say that the Nitric bites faster and more coarse. Will diluting the Nitric change this? What is the largest edition that you ever pulled from a steel plate? I printed fifty once from a zinc plate and just about exploded from the vomitous repetition of it all, so I may not even need to know ;-} It is nice to have more to offer, but last year I sold an edition of 2.

Anyway, thanks for your help and I'll be thankful for any more input. It all started when I was planning to etch my initials and some insignias into my hardened steel tools. It always turns into a major project or something else altogether....Now I'm all about this....and ten other things.



05-26-2001, 06:13 PM
Hey bri,
you are only about 10 other things???...well get busy!! lol
ferric chloride will etch steel plates very very slowly if you are not using an etching tank or some other god awful fume generator.
I have always preferred nitric acid with a good ventilation system of course. A very fast etch and a lot less exposure time to any fumes. You can get steel etching acid from the Cronite Company in Parsippinay (sp)
NJ. They supply the engraved stationery industry and have all kinds of resources for etching steel and copper...look em up.

bear?..deep throat?..sabre tooth??
sorry bri..I am a self taught etcher too, never heard of those terms but a fine line drawing scratched through a ground will etch nicely in about 5 mins. The spray paint tones I described will take only a minute or two for each layer...fast. Diluting the nitric will slow the etch and refine it...also heating it will help. What I always did was save the spent acid and mix it back into fresh...that always seemed to soften the etch and save a lot of acid..which ain't too cheap. I have pulled an edition of 250 once from a steel plate 18 x 24 for a hotel chain...bought the whole edition. However I usually ran editions of 80 and sometimes 100...plus 10% artist proofs. in 1990 thats all I did....produced 8 limited editions that year...loved it. I used to run about 12 a day and in between go for bike rides or hike in the woods...was a good year. I never found the repitition tedious as each print was a tiny bit different from the first. I was doing full color prints from one plate, mixing the colors on the plate each time. When you turn it through the press ( which is excellent exercise ona 18 x 24 plate btw ) you are always a little bit anxious and excited about how the print will look when you peel it off the plate.....kept it interesting.

good luck bri and happy etching...always glad to help if I can.


05-27-2001, 07:22 PM

Thanks so much for your time and reply. This is going to be sweet-city!!!!! Steel, baby! ...and I'm already equipped with the Nitric, so this is going to be a ...'kin killin' week....I swear....... one more detailed egg tempera then I'm done....

I'll let you know if I do anything worth while.....

Thanks again,