How Do You Etch Brass?


Quick Answer

Etch brass by stamping or drawing a design with oil-based ink on the brass and setting the brass in the ferric chloride or etching solution for up to two hours. For the project, collect etching solution, a piece of brass, an oil-based black marker, a piece of plastic and a plastic container. Wear protective gloves, goggles and a face mask as well.

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Full Answer

Start by cleaning the piece of brass with nail polish remover containing acetone and a sanding or buffing sponge to remove any oils. Wear gloves to keep any skin oil from leaching onto the brass. Draw or trace on the desired design onto the cleaned brass using a rubber stamp, stencil or pen, as long as the ink is oil-based.

After allowing the ink to dry completely on the metal, tape any part of the brass that you don't want to be etched. Fill a plastic container with enough ferric chloride to completely cover the brass, and place it on a plastic-lined surface to protect it from the etching solution. Avoid aluminum as this can react badly to the ferric chloride. After placing the brass in the container, agitate it gently for a few moments to remove any bubbles, and then allow the brass to sit for up to two hours. Check the piece every 15 minutes to avoid completely dissolving the brass in the solution.

Retrieve the metal using a wooden skewer or toothpick. Because the solution etches all the metal but the oil-based design, return the brass if the etch isn't deep enough. Rinse the metal in warm water, and warm it in the oven until it dries out. Remove any remaining ink with acetone, and apply some patina and sealant.

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