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Author Topic: Saltwater Etch-Along  (Read 28991 times)

Offline 4est trekker

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Saltwater Etch-Along
« on: December 24, 2010, 01:58:00 PM »
Hey, all.  I thought I'd share a little tutorial on how to cheaply etch your blade, tools, etc.  Obviously, I'm not making blades like some of the pros on here, so mine don't warrant the mark that theirs do.  So, here's cheap way to "put your mark" on a blade.

1) A 6-12 volt lantern battery (such as a PP9 9 volt)
2) 2 alligator clip leads
3) Small plastic container of water
4) Table salt
5) Cotton ball or Q-tips
6) Stencil material or other resist (see below for details)


Your first task is to create a stencil/resist that will allow only the steel you wish to etch to remain exposed.  One simple way is to use self-adhesive stencil paper (Hobby Lobby).  It's reusable and is fairly durable.  Or, you can use thick packing tape or fingernail polish (a little scary and not really recommended, but it does work and can be removed easily with acetone).  Alternately, some printing and copy companies can print stencils on vinyl.  You simply submit a digital version of you mark and then request a NEGATIVE stencil.  

Regardless, apply the resist to the surface you're going to etch and make sure it's attached VERY well!  Although I didn't do it on this tutorial, I usually tape the rest of the blade off for safety's sake.

Using a needle, engraver, Dremel, or woodburner (if using vinyl or tape), create your mark through the resist.  If using an adhesive resist, you can do this on another surface and then transfer the resist to the blade. Here's my example, a decorative version of my initials, CRI:


Now, mix up a solution of warm saltwater. I usually add salt until it no longer dissolves.

Next, connect one end of the positive alligator clip to the positive post on the battery, and the other to the blade.  Be careful not to scratch the surface if you've polished it to a high grit.  In this example I'm using a nearly-completed knife (no finish or edge yet), but it's safest to connect the positive lead to the tang of an unfinished knife to avoid scratching.

Then, take a small bit of cotton ball or a Q-tip, put it in the jaws of the negative alligator clip, and dip it in the saltwater.  Squeeze most of the excess out. (Note: the metal of the clip must come into contact with the water on the cotton ball/Q-tip.)  

Connect the negative lead to the negative terminal on the battery and then begin dabbing the area to be etched.  The cotton ball will "fizz" if all is connected properly. Here's what it would look like at first:


The black in the etch and on the cotton ball is the metal being removed.  You may have to replace the cotton when it begins to look like this:


Periodically dab the etch with a clean rag to removed excess water and metal.  When sufficiently etched (your preference), remove the stencil.  It will probably look pretty ugly at first:


A little cleaning will reveal your etch:


That's it!  Hope it helps.
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Offline Lin Rhea

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2010, 02:15:00 PM »
Excellent tutorial! Thank you so much for that. I am sure it will be very helpful to some of us here.
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Offline J Reeves

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2010, 03:00:00 PM »
That is how I used to do it but I used a cell phone charger. Thanks for posting I am sure it will help someone
Technique and Knowledge is the largest factor in being able to build a good knife. Lin Rhea

Offline sticshooter

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2010, 03:18:00 PM »
Lets put this at the top. Great job.<><
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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2010, 08:48:00 AM »
great tute
been  thinking of trying this

Offline kansas stik man

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2010, 11:38:00 AM »
this looks great i have two unmarked blades and would like to start putting my mark on future ones but was not to sure about how to go about doing so.  this is it fast easy cheap all the things i love and seems to get really good results!!! really nice knowledge to pass on.


Offline Jeremy

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2010, 12:03:00 PM »
That's just too dang cool!  Thanks!
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Offline TheBigRedArcher

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2010, 10:50:00 AM »
I agree with Lin and Frank, Great tutorial, And Lin's comment of it being very helpful to some of us here... YEAH, ME!


Offline macapple

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2010, 12:13:00 PM »
J. Reeves.
a Question. How did you use a cell phone charger? This would   be a good use of a charger that has  been made obsolete. My pet peeve is that they change the charger every time you  get a new phone and there is no function for one's old charger.


P.S. This is my first reply on trad gang and I am unfamiliar with how it works so I hope this comes through.

Offline camoman

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2010, 02:29:00 PM »
Great thread!
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Offline Thumper Dunker

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2011, 06:17:00 PM »
Got to try that. Thanks
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Offline Cody D Works

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2011, 07:57:00 PM »
Has anyone tryed coating the blade with wax and drawing designs in it and etching out the designs? Would this work?

Also I would like the info on the phone charger idea as well that could be really useful.

Offline OconeeDan

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2011, 08:33:00 PM »
Very good tutorial, thanks!
A couple more can use a trickle battery charger, the smaller the better.  You can attach a stainless steel block on the negative lead and use a clean piece of felt wrapped around it and held with your fingers.
Apple cider vinegar will work as well as the salt water.  You may want to experiment with steel with exposure times and electrolytes (salt water or vinegar).

Offline Lone Ranger

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2011, 12:24:00 PM »
Very cool, I am going to try this on a Boker hunter I have with my initials!

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Offline katelandr

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2011, 07:53:00 PM »
Neat! Thanks for sharing

Offline scharms

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2011, 12:29:00 AM »
Great tips!  Love this site!
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Offline Shakes.602

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2011, 05:12:00 PM »
Good Job on this Way Cool Tute!!  :thumbsup:
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Offline kykiller

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2011, 11:10:00 AM »
wonder if that would work on a gun reciever.  I have an encore that I would like to put a deer scene on one side and maybe elk or ram on the other.
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Offline kybowhunter2

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2012, 05:27:00 PM »
What is the stincle you are using made from. im gonna try this and just wonderin what i need to get. Thanks

Offline SoNevada Archer

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Re: Saltwater Etch-Along
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2013, 06:59:00 PM »
very cool!
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