Electro-Etch Part 1: Electronics

I hate using nasty chemicals at home. Hate it. If you work with them long enough you will damage yourself and/or your property at some point. I went 15 years using FeCl at home without any issues until one day I happened to spill a liter of it all over my work bench. That bench was covered in metal shavings created by the nearby drill press. It was an absolute nightmare that took about 4 hours to clean up, and I still get panicky when I think about it.

I’m working building  a stompbox for a friend, and I want to etch the enclosure, but I’m a little gun shy about breaking out the FeCl in my new garage. I’ve seen quite a few projects out there using salt water and a car battery to etch metal. I figured it was a good time to experiment so I dug through some boxes of scrap parts and found a fused power receptacle, a 12v transformer, some rectifier diodes, and a terminal block. I whipped up this schematic to get the idea straight in my head:ElectroEtch

The idea is pretty simple. You connect the piece you want to etch to the + alligator clip and a scrap piece of metal to the – alligator clip. You submerge both pieces into a very salty water solution (not touching) and turn on the (DC) power. Metal will be pulled from the anode (the work piece connected to +). After you’ve etched to the depth that you want you can use AC to “push and pull” material that is suspended in the solution back onto your etched surface which will darken that area. Here is the final unit I came up with using only scrap that I had lying around.


Part 2 coming soon….


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