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More Tips & Techniques.
There are a few things that will make your etching more efficient, less expensive and, hopefully, higher quality

Artwork

For creating artwork, bitmaps will work ok, but sometimes suffer from a case of the "jaggies". Bitmaps are not well suited to making clear circles, they consist of pixels arranged as squares and sometimes leave ragged looking edges. A much better alternative is to use a vector drawing program such as Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand . However, JASC Paint Shop Pro 6 will do bitmaps and vector shapes. I have found PSP 6 to be easy to use and the addition of vector graphics makes it much more versatile than it's competition for "low-end use". Adobe Photoshop is the recognized leader in graphic editing, but is extremely expensive and limited to bitmaps.

 

CAD programs are another good option, with much better scaling properties. Visio Technical and even AutoCAD will do a great job of creating smooth artwork for your etching, but at extremely high cost. An alternative may be the shareware version of Draft Choice. It is a freely available CAD program that works much like the older versions of AutoCAD without costing over $3000!

 

Links are provided to the manufacturer of each of these programs. In most cases you can download a demo version from these sites.

 

Tools

The aquarium department at your local pet shop or Wal-Mart should carry a couple of pieces of equipment that will help your etching turn out better. A small air pump (bubbler) will keep the etching solution agitated and promote quicker etching. Just make sure that you take the necessary precautions to prevent splashing the etchant out of your container. A vented lid will serve well here.

If you are using a glass or high-temp plastic container, try using an aquarium heater to raise the temperature of your etchant to around 110 degrees farenheit. This will make the etchant much more "aggressive" and speed the process. Just be sure that your container of choice will not melt or otherwise be damaged by the extra heat!

 

Materials

In my listing of materials, I forgot one of my personal favorites: aluminum soft drink cans! They are cheap and common, and they etch very quickly. I have found them to be very useful for small parts. The most difficult part of using these cans is getting them to lay flat once you cut them open. Try bending the edges at a 90 degree angle to stiffen the material. Remove the "painted" logo & etc. with laquer thinner and/or fine steel wool, coat with resist as you would any other part, and etch away! The finished pieces can either be buffed with steel wool for a brushed finish or will polish nicely.

Note, however, that your etchant must be diluted at least 1:1 with distilled water. This slows the etching process somewhat, allowing it to work on aluminum without creating a smoking mess.

 

If you have found this information helpful and/or interesting, please let me know. If you would like to see more of this type of information (as well as some more advanced techniques and methods) please E-mail Me!!