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Up next: etching for champleve enameling

May 10, 2018


Back to bench work! I’ve got a big batch of earrings coming up next, along with some pendants and rings to match. These will be available at both Patchwork Santa Ana later this month, and Handcrafted LA, a brick and mortar shop in Los Angeles.  


Right now the resists are being applied, and I think this is the trickiest step. The last time I purchased transfer paper, it was a different brand- yellow, and much more papery feeling. It didn’t cooperate with my printer well: I could only print on the top 2.5” before the tones would smear around. This time I went back to Press n Peel Blue, which prints better and is more of a plastic than paper. The toner is transferred to your metal, meaning any line will be protected from the acid. The design will also end up mirror image, so everything (especially writing!) needs to be reversed prior to printing. 


If you don't mind how hot your iron is, you might melt your paper, as I did here!


Although a regular iron works fine for transfers, I frequently burn my fingers on it and prefer a wood burner with a burnishing attachment. It does mean that I need to start with somewhat smaller pieces of silver though since it isn’t as large of a heating surface as an iron. 


Although starting with a slightly abraded (220 sand paper) surface helps the transfers adhere, there are often areas which need to be touched up. I use brightly colored nail polish and broken saw blades instead of the bottle’s brush. Large areas, all edges and the back are also blocked off with nail polish to prevent accidental etching and prolong the life of the acid. 


I use ferric nitrate to etch fine and sterling silver at a ration of 400ml water to 300g acid. Gentle agitation helps remove silver particles from the etched areas and speed up the process. 






The acid is a pale purple granular consistency. It seems to be fairly easily available online, but I was able to find it at a local chemistry supply store as well. 

Once the etchings are cleaned up and the edges filed and sanded, I fill each one with enamel before firing. Some pieces, like these Sunset Earrings below get a little extra flourish of 24k gold. 




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