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Etching Tutorial

 
 
The Modfather The Modfather is offline
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      09-16-2005
I'm going to attempt to tackle how to do some hand etching for case windows and clear cases here. First, a list of what you're going to need.
* Plexi or other material to be etched.
* A Dremel or other rotary tool
* Diamond engraving burrs and bits (Ebay has tons of these), make sure the shaft diameter is proper for your tool or that you have the right replacement colet for the bits.
* A large flat clean work area.
* A resporator mask (One of those cotton ones will do fine)
* A vacuume, preferably with a hose attachment to clean up.
* A sponge, in a shallow bowl of water
* Protective eyewear, goggles of some sort.
First, prep your piece by cleaning it with alcohol and try not to get any fingerprints or smudges on it. We're going to do this in a tracing method so you don't want to have something distorting the view through the plexiglass.
You should have a printout of what you want to etch prepared ahead of time. For your first etch I'd recommend something simple. Sillhouettes or simple line drawings are best. Print it out to the exact size you want on your plexi.
Remember to print this backwards because you need to etch it backwards so that when you look at the smooth side the etch is forward. This is espescially important if there's lettering on the etch.
I'd also recommend using white cotton gloves while handling the plexi at first, once you start working you might not want to wear them but at least during this part it's a good idea.
Position the printout on the side of the plexi that will be facing out in the place you want it and tape it to the plastic then lay the plexi down on your work area.
Try to work in an area that has overhead lighting because the plexi will refract the image and lighting coming from any particular direction will exaggerate this effect. A direct overhead light (preferably flourescent so it's diffused) is best.
Keep the moist sponge nearby, you'll use this to wipe off your bits every so often and keep them cool so they don't cause picking in the plastic. The bit will be moving fast and generating heat that can melt the plastic easily, you don't want this as it makes for little white spots in the etch.

Select a moderatly larger diamond bit for the beginning of your work (in the picture, I'd use the 7th bit from the left to start). You want to work with a light pressure and lay in your heavier lines with this. If you're doing a sillhouette that has no fine areas, you can use this to sort of lay in the "dark areas" but keep a close eye on the edges, they're not exactly where they appear to be because of the refraction, you're going to have to be steady handed about keeping your lines clean. Don't be afraid of going outside the lines, you're eventually going to take that paper off and freehand this toward the end.
Don't gouge the plastic, you're not trying to cut deep into it, you just want to basically scratch the plastic a fraction of an inch to make it opaque. Stop every 2 minutes or so and turn off the tool, wipe it off on the sponge, keep it running cool. It'll take a while to do this but the results will be better this way.
Once you have the heavy lines in, switch to a finer burr. #15 or #16 in the ones pictured (EBay as I said has TONS of these things, you'll wind up with many like these if you spend $5 or so).
Using this finer tool, put in your fine detail lines (if there are any) or work the outline of your design. This is where you need to be the most careful. It's even harder if you're doing something with bold lines because they have to be very precice. Hair and fur, for instance, are organic and can flow naturally but the edges of a specific shape aren't as forgiving so take your time with this. Keep the tool cool and use light pressure.
Once you've got that outline and the heavy work done you can remove the printout that you taped on and look at the etch. Clean it off with some soapy water and dry it with a lint free rag (gently)... You'll see the etch a lot better now that it's clean.
This is when you'll start working more freehand. I recommend that to do this you work against a black background. So if you have a piece of black material, lay the plexi on that. If you don't, anything dark will be good, just nothing with a pattern, a solid color only. White will confuse you, so use dark only.
Place the original image in front of you so you can refer to it and use different burrs for different effects. I recommend testing etching on scrap plastic with each of the burrs so you know what they all produce and can grab the right one for each stage in your final piece. Some burrs will cut deeper, faster and those will produce a different effect from others which tend to only faintly scratch the surface. This is how you'll get depth in your etch, by varying the depth of your etching. But you never want to etch too deeply or you'll run into other problems. Just work slow and steady with a light touch.
When you're finished, if it doesn't look like this, don't be discouraged.

Practice, practice, practice. It's an art form and it takes time to master.
For details on engraving and etching, check out sites on glass etching and engraving, a lot of the techniques used in that are the same as you will use in etching plexiglass. You can visit one of my sites http://www.thepyrographer.com and check out the glass engraving forum there, speak to SueB, she is a master glass engraver, some of her work can be seen there and it is truely breathtaking stuff. She can offer you a ton of great advice.
-Mike
 
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XhArD XhArD is offline
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      09-16-2005
Did you make that etching down the bottom?? Thats some psycho **** there, how long have you been doing etching? Or is it SueB's?
 
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unholy unholy is offline
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      09-16-2005
man i cant wait to start
nice tut..
 
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The Modfather The Modfather is offline
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      09-17-2005
That's someone else's. Neither mine or Sue's, I just wanted to show an example and didn't have any pics of my own to use handy. But it's about as good as I can do, no better to be sure. I've been doing the etching for a little over a year, but it's just adapting from one medium to another, etching is very much like pyrography, which is a lot like drawing which I've been doing since I was a little kid. Preschool. I just keep trying new things with art, whatever I can learn. I picked up airbrushing this year and did the Chopper side panel after about a couple of months of practicing. It's just adapting things you know to new ways of doing them for me. Sculpting really just fell in my lap. I didn't know anything about it and I got some clay and started messing around. Within a few hours I'd sculpted a damned good bust of my dad then just went on to do lots of other stuff with clay. I'll have to get some pics of the Necronomicase to show you guys, I think Robert's seen it.
-Mike
 
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unholy unholy is offline
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      09-17-2005
hehe see what i mean everyone uses the name "Necron" once in a while
 
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The Modfather The Modfather is offline
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      09-17-2005
They do? Is everyone else an H.P. Lovecraft fan?
 
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unholy unholy is offline
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      09-17-2005
H.P. Lovecraft??????
I got mine from the Name Necromancer, which is a riser of the dead....
 
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XhArD XhArD is offline
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      09-18-2005
Which you only heard in Diablo 2, right? Wait a minute... H.P. Lovecrafdt wrote The Call of Cthulhu. Theres a Metallica song called Call of Cthulhu
 
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unholy unholy is offline
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      09-18-2005
Quote:
Which you only heard in Diablo 2, right?
Actually wrong, many games and fiction sotries have the class/mage of necromancer i got it from BG2 SoA
 
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The Modfather The Modfather is offline
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      09-18-2005
Yes, Call of Cthulhu, and a lot of other stuff. Dunwitch Horror, Dagon, In The Mountains of Madness, etc etc etc...
 
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