This is actually one of the funnest things I do, but it’s incredibly time consuming. Enjoy a photo tutorial showing how I turned two strips of brass into two etched patina butterfly bracelets. The whole project takes about two days.
A butterfly design is stamped onto two brass blanks and I’ve used a Sharpie to give the bracelets a border and add some polka dots.
Masking tape is applied to the back of the bracelets so they can suspend into a vat of acid. The acid will not eat through the tape.
Etching solution is poured over the suspended bracelets and they’re left to soak for about an hour.
This is all done on my front porch. With gloves. I don’t want the acid touching me.
After soaking in etching solution for an hour the blanks are soaked in a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize the acid. The acid eats away the metal parts that don’t have an ink resist on them, so now my design is raised.
To remove the remaining ink, the blanks are soaked in acetone in a glass pan.
Now you can see I have a three dimensional relief.
Now the blanks are hammered into a shape for a cuff bracelet. I use a rolling pin as a form because I’m too cheap to spend the money on a professional mandrel. They’re expensive.
Now they’re starting to look like bracelets but they’re still ugly.
The cuffs go into my rock tumbler with stainless steel shot, a drop of dish soap, and water. An hour or so of tumbling hardens the metal and removes any rough edges.
Now I’m applying 3 colors of patina for the background color. Smudging with fingers gives a better effect than a paint brush.
Once the background color has dried, I add color to the butterfly wings. Still pretty ugly, huh?
After drying for a night, I use a sanding block on the bracelets. The patina is removed from the raised parts of the bracelet giving my butterflies beautiful gold edged wings. The top bracelet has been sanded, the bottom one has not.
Back into the tumbler the bracelets go to shine up the now exposed brass and polish them up again.
After about a half hour of tumbling they’re rinsed, drained, and dried.
The finished bracelets, photographed and put up for sale. Clicking on the pic will take you straight to the listing at earthegy.
Tips for etching copper and brass:
~It’s messy. Wear old clothes, do it outside, and don’t expect your manicure to survive.
~Your design options are only limited by what you can draw or stamp on your blanks. I can’t draw squat, so I stick to rubber stamps.
~If you don’t ink off the borders of your pieces the edges will be rough and ugly.
~Etching solution can be saved and reused for the next batch.
~You can’t put etching solution in a metal container. Get cheap plastic ones that will never be used for food again.
~Use coarse sanding blocks or you’ll be sanding the patina off for hours with little result.
~I use raw copper or brass. I haven’t tried sterling yet because it’s so ridiculously expensive.