Thursday, December 19, 2019

Old dog, new trick

 This last year has been a creative one for me.I took two great classes this year, both of which pushed me in a new direction. The first, with Betty Busby, led to the purchase of a Silhouette cutting machine, which is my favorite new toy and has been in pretty continuous use since June. The class I took in September, with Mary Hettsmansperger, introduced me to the great fun of working with copper, and after that introduction I bought myself a torch and tools and supplies and have been noodling around with them. I made copper earrings for my STASH friends, using what I’ve figured out. 

In addition to what I learned in the class, I peruse the internet,especially YouTube, which is just a trove of information and tips and tricks. Several days ago I was looking at copper jewelry videos and came upon something ASTOUNDING!—well, to me at least. People are out there making etched copper jewelry, using etching masks that they cut on their Silhouette cutting machines. Worlds collide! My two, current, most favorite things working together. I had to try this. The stuff I was seeing online was wonderful. But I knew nothing about etching copper, so onto YouTube I went and learned all about it and I got scared. It involves acid. Bad acid. I am not acquainted with acid, except for horrible stories about people being disfigured by having acid thrown on them, or gruesome stories about body parts dissolved in acid. And I never studied chemistry where I might have learned something about it. Somehow I managed to get through both high school and college without a chemistry class. So yesterday I screwed up my courage and went shopping for acid and chemical gloves from the hardware store and Pyrex containers from the thrift store and hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore and today I was ready to etch. 

I had cut a small snowflake, from adhesive backed vinyl, with my cutter and stuck it to a piece of copper sheet that I had prepared. I covered the back and edges with packing tape and made a tab of packing tape that I could use to lift my copper piece into and out of the acid bath. The snowflake sticker and tape would protect the copper where they were placed. The uncovered areas would be etched by the acid. A bucket of water and baking soda were standing by to neutralize the acid when it was done. Since I was going to need good ventilation, and it was raining outside, I worked in the greenhouse, with window and both doors open and fan on. 

I prepared the mixture of hydrogen peroxide and Muriatic acid in my glass bowl, then carefully lowered the copper piece into the acid mixture. 

Soon I could see bubbles forming on the surface and the acid mixture began to turn green. After about 25 minutes I pulled it out and dunked it into the soda and water to neutralize and stop the action. 

I dried it off, cleaned up all the etching stuff, and went to the studio where I painted it with ammonia and salt to give the etched area a little patina. When that dried I removed the tape and the snowflake vinyl, which did not come off easily. I used a pin to pick it off a chunk at a time. It is interesting. I expected the etched area to be a little rough, but it’s smooth and lower than the unetched places. 

Then I polished it with fine steel wool and I’m pretty pleased!

I’m looking forward to more! I’m excited and not so scared of acid anymore. I am an old dog, but I can still learn something new. And my little copper snowflake? I think I’ll put a pin back on it and pin it to my coat.