Electrolytic Etching

Discussion in 'Motorized Bicycle Welding, Fabrication and Paintin' started by wret, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. wret

    wret Active Member

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    While contemplating methods of creating a head tube badge for my bike I came across some instructions for electrolytic etching. The fascinating part was that it could be done from a photographic image. There are several DIY's and youtube videos on the subject so I will only summarize here.

    1. Start with or manipulate an image so that it has only two colors (black and white) and is the right size your your project. I worked up my own arrangement of the Indian logo.

    2. Once you have everything they way you want it, you will need to create a mirror image and in negative. This can be done with the most basic graphics software, i.e., MS Paint.

    3. Using a laser printer, print the image on photograph inkjet paper. Yes it works. I jammed the machine with some heavier stuff but the lighter weight paper works. You need to use glossy inkjet paper or purpose specific etching paper (E3 Etch).

    4. Prepare flat metal object (brass in this case) by sanding with 600 grit paper.

    5. Iron the image onto the metal with dry iron on high. I left the iron on about 3 minutes. Use a piece of cotton cloth between the work and the iron. Roll / press the work while its hot to make sure there is good contact and adhesion.

    6. Let the metal cool completely. No peeking. Then submerge in water for a few minutes. Gently roll/peel the paper away and the toner is left adhered to the metal. If it appears that some of the areas aren't completely covered with toner, you can touch up with a paint pen.

    7. Prepare an electrolyte solution. I used a couple tablespoons of copper sulfate (septic system root killer) which is appropriate for copper and brass etching. I read that some use regular table salt and others say this doesn't work well. You can store and re-use your solution indefinitely.

    8. Connect a copper wire to the back of the metal piece and cover the whole back side with tape.

    9. Use some pieces of tubing or other insulators at the corners to keep it from coming into contact with the metal pan.

    10. Connect a DC power supply (charger or battery) negative to the pan and positive to the wire connected to the work piece. Submerge the piece etched face down. I found that with the piece very close to the pan my charger was overloaded and tripped out constantly. About an inch or so from the bottom seemed to work a lot better. Leave it turned on 1-3 hours depending on the etching depth you want.

    [​IMG]

    What I intended was to clean it up, then spray paint the whole thing followed by some fine sanding and polishing to highlight the raised areas. Sometime during the polishing, I stripped off most of the paint and ended up with a nice blend of coppery color and an overall antique effect that I rather liked.

    Here are the various stages of finishing:

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    #1 wret, Mar 17, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  2. wheelbender6

    wheelbender6 Active Member

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    Cool. I'll have to give that a try.
     
  3. maniac57

    maniac57 Old, Fat, and still faster than you

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    I want a nice brass skull etched sidecover badge for the clutch side, and something with some vintage looking script for the coil side.
    Taking orders yet?
     
  4. Intrepid Wheelwoman

    Intrepid Wheelwoman New Member

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    Thanks for sharing this technique Wret. I have some sheet brass and I wanted to make a radiator badge for my cyclecar, but wasn't certain how to go about it.
     
  5. wret

    wret Active Member

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    You know, that gives me an idea.... :)

    A little busy right now putting my bike together, but after that, maybe. I could definitely help you out with your graphics though. That goes for you too IW. I'm not a professional but I work with graphics a bit on the job, just industrial labeling stuff.
     
    #5 wret, Mar 18, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  6. Intrepid Wheelwoman

    Intrepid Wheelwoman New Member

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    Thank you Wret, that would be really helpful. The style of radiator badge I want takes this form with the lettering, but I'm not sure how to create the surrounding edges of the badge.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. wret

    wret Active Member

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    Did you have a particular shape in mind?
     
  8. wret

    wret Active Member

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    And do you think you would inflate the top or step up font size as you have shown?

    [​IMG]
     

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  9. Intrepid Wheelwoman

    Intrepid Wheelwoman New Member

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    Perfect! - Oh that's absolutely perfect. Thank you Wret. :D
    I had an image in my mind of what I wanted and didn't quite know how to get there.
     
  10. wret

    wret Active Member

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    Actually that one has shading. Here's a cleaner one:

    [​IMG]
     

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  11. Intrepid Wheelwoman

    Intrepid Wheelwoman New Member

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    Oh that is so much better :D

    The first badge will be for the cyclecar I'm presently building, but I want to build pedal cars as well and they will be sharing the same radiator badge. I really am pleased with what you've done Wret.
     
  12. wret

    wret Active Member

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    Glad to help. :)
     
  13. wret

    wret Active Member

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    Let me know if you need higher rez.
     
  14. a_dam

    a_dam New Member

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    Years ago I've played around alot with Microsoft Word's drawing functions. It does a suprising amount of cool stuff. Shapes and arrows. Lettering and Word Art. Things can be copied and manipulated as groups.

    Check it out. After a short time you can make professional looking logos and such.
     
  15. twostrokejimmy

    twostrokejimmy New Member

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    get it cut out of a sticker from a sign guy it will be cleaner saw this in a thread on ratrodbikes.com but the look is kool looks old
     
  16. wret

    wret Active Member

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    I had some down time from working on my bike and decided to try another brass badge idea. I'll probably stick with the first one.

    [​IMG]
     

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  17. a_dam

    a_dam New Member

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    That would be nice, for sure. But the main idea of the OP's method is that you can do it yourself by using a laser printer. I've done a few homemade t-shirts and signs by hand cutting with an x-acto knife in various things to make templates for silk screening or spray painting designs. Getting a template from a printer would be awesome.

    One time I etched in aluminum plate with muriatic acid. I cut the design from some thin wax-like material. It was sold in sheet form - I think it had something to do with canning (like pickles). The cut-out parts were etched by the acid really deep. I was surprised how well it worked.
    The same thing might be achieved with the old-school lacquer sheet silk screening material.

    Obviously this etching works with a laser printer. I would like to see the results with a solid ink printer.
     
  18. curtisfox

    curtisfox Well-Known Member

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    Wow! This is awesome got to try it when I get home,got tired of tHe -20's temps and am in LA visiting my brother"................curt
     
  19. forrestsmith

    forrestsmith New Member

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    Inspired by this post I thought I would give this a try, I love to tinker on things, that's why I have a Motorized Bike! I really like the idea of an arrow head So I drew my own in MS Paint, the actually Indian Head I barrowed off the internet and incorporated it into my design. In following the instructions the only thing I did different was I used a salt solution, about 1 1/2 cups dissolved in one liter of water, salt is a lot cheaper than the root killer (Copper Sulphate) For my badges I decided to make a aged look one and a more finished looking one, the aged look one is what I am putting on my bike. The hardest part for me was getting the paper off the Copper plate, not sure if it was my paper I used but I had to do this part over a few times. Its really a interesting project that you should give a try.

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  20. Maxvision

    Maxvision New Member

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    Well dayumn, wish I had read this post before I made my head badge. Instead of the laser printer method I had a sheet of vinyl stickers made.

    Used muriatic acid diluted with regular tap water in a plastic container. Attached the + from a battery charger set a 6V to the badge and the - from the charger to a piece of sheet brass. Brass etched real deep in just a couple hours.

    Has anyone tried to make the resist with an inkjet printer? Think it would work? Was a real biotch peeling the vinyl away from the really small lines. Lost a couple of lines but put them back in with a little paint before the etch.
     

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    #20 Maxvision, May 1, 2014
    Last edited: May 1, 2014

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