Photo Etching on Silver

Etching has been a technique on my *must master* list for years. I'm very pleased I've finally made time for it. 

The motivation finally came from a customer in the States, who had bought a couple of pendants from me on Etsy
She wanted a locket as a memorial to loved one, but had a limited budget - I really wanted to make something nice for her.

Nest sketches for my customer.

Nest sketches for my customer.

It needed to be a small photo locket with a birds nest design, a smooth piece to be worn everyday. I sent her a few sketches and we were both pleased with the design she chose.

My usual laborious technique of applying design to metal is by hand sawing, then soldering layers together. I can get intricate neat results this way and a deep well defined relief, but the time and focus needed pushes the price up.

The nature of the design with overlapping lines lent itself well to etching - sawing it out at the scale required would have been tricky! 

So this was a perfect job to be etched. 

Photo etching is a fairly simple technique when you've got the right tools. 

1st late night photo-etching experiments.

1st late night photo-etching experiments.

These are the steps in the process for anyone interested :

  • Digitise the design; 
  • Increase the contrast;
  • Print on pcb film
    (the same stuff used for circuit board printing);
  • Iron on to flat silver sheet;
  • Leave in acid until etched;

Of course it isn't that straight forward if you haven't done it before!

It's difficult to know how much detail can be achieved so scaling the designs is a bit of guessing game. If there are air bubbles under the film it doesn't stick; Mixing the acid precisely can be difficult; and knowing how long to leave it in the acid needs some guess work too. . .

. . .But I did it! Above are the first results I had from late night experiments in between deadlines a few weeks ago.

And here is the final bird nest locket ready to send to my customer. I'm quite pleased with the results now.

Birds nest photo locket (2cm diameter)

Birds nest photo locket (2cm diameter)

I have big piles of old line drawings that are gagging to be made into silver! And years worth of photos that, with a little photoshopping, I hope will lend themselves well to etching too.

The possibilities are infinite! - Watch this space!. . .

I've just finished up the first few pieces and listed them my shop (see below).

This is a relatively quick technique (if nothing goes wrong!) so I'm hoping to have another small batch of reasonably priced stocking fillers ready for my British Craft weekend at Blackthorpe Barns (Nov 15-16th) & the lovely Cambridge Christmas event coming up in a couple of weeks (Monday Nov 24th). More details about those on my events page.

Wish me luck!

Meadow at the Moat, Fulbourn Fen - From Photo to Silver.

Meadow at the Moat, Fulbourn Fen - From Photo to Silver.