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Vinegar Etching


Myles Mulkey
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Hey everyone, just wondering the best way to go about etching with vinegar.

 

I'm working on a small san-mai Viking Age knife, and I'd like to bring out the character of the wrought and better show the transition between the wrought and the steel. I know I could get some hardcore acid from Radio Shack or something, but I really want to do this in a way that is period-authentic.

 

I figured vinegar was the most period-authentic way to do it, just not sure how to go about it.

 

The knife's been polished. I know I need to wash it and make sure there are no oils or residues on it before it goes into the etch. I guess I just need to know:

  1. How do I prepare the vinegar? Do I boil it to raise the acidity?
  2. How long do I leave the knife in there? Minutes? Hours? Overnight?
  3. Do I do any kind of polishing afterwards, or do I just rinse it with baking soda water to neutralize the acid? I'm worried if all I do is neutralize the acid the knife may come out dull looking.

Any advice?

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Boiling down the vinegar to 20% will work better. Boil down 4 gal to one to get 20%.

 

The amount of time left in depends on how long it takes to give you the desired etch. You have to use some steel wool every couple hours to clean off the oxides. The oxides will block the vinegar from further etching. Each time you wipe it down you'll see how deep the etch is.

 

When it's etched to your satisfaction rinse it under hot water and card it with steel wool. Then dry it and apply a corrosion protectant oil.

 

FWIW, I get real good results with wrought iron by alternating between FC and 20% vinegar. A couple dips in FC, rinse and then a couple hours in vinegar.

 

Most of the etched wrought iron I see on the forums is no where close to it's full potential. If I have a project that I want the wrought grain to really pop I etch it until I can feel the pattern not just kind of see it.

Edited by B Finnigan

Everything I need to know I learned from the people trapped in my basement.

 

 

I'm out of my mind but feel free to leave a message.

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Boiling down the vinegar to 20% will work better. Boil down 4 gal to one to get 20%.

 

The amount of time left in depends on how long it takes to give you the desired etch. You have to use some steel wool every couple hours to clean off the oxides. The oxides will block the vinegar from further etching. Each time you wipe it down you'll see how deep the etch is.

 

When it's etched to your satisfaction rinse it under hot water and card it with steel wool. Then dry it and apply a corrosion protectant oil.

 

FWIW, I get real good results with wrought iron by alternating between FC and 20% vinegar. A couple dips in FC, rinse and then a couple hours in vinegar.

 

Most of the etched wrought iron I see on the forums is no where close to it's full potential. If I have a project that I want the wrought grain to really pop I etch it until I can feel the pattern not just kind of see it.

 

I have really good results by just heating the vinegar right out of the bottle to boiling and putting the blade right into it. It helps to keep it warm by placing it in the oven on the warm setting and a glass container is best.

Use something to keep the blade on its spine so the etch is even.

I have used ferric and also nitric acid these two are alot faster depending on dillution rate.

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I was not under the impression that you could increase the acidity of vinegar by boiling. At least not beyond a couple percent, the boiling points of water and acetic acid are close enough together that the acid boils off too.

I use vinegar to etch my hamon blades and it works great, but for wrought iron I would recommend Ferric Chloride. I tried etching a wrought guard with vinegar and after hours the guard looked pretty much the same.

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I was not under the impression that you could increase the acidity of vinegar by boiling. At least not beyond a couple percent, the boiling points of water and acetic acid are close enough together that the acid boils off too.

I use vinegar to etch my hamon blades and it works great, but for wrought iron I would recommend Ferric Chloride. I tried etching a wrought guard with vinegar and after hours the guard looked pretty much the same.

I also have not seen any benefit from reducing the vinegar,It actually seemed to get weaker I first noticed this when canning peppers.

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i also dont think boiling vinegar really effects % of acid...hot acid will etch faster though, which is probably the bennefit people see when they use boiling vinegar...just my opinion.

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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ok...now tht i have more time, let me take a stab at answering this...pretty much echoing what was already said.

 

i personally het (not boil) my etchant...i usually use either white vin, apple cider vin, lemon juice, or more often than not a combination of the three...the "how long" part kinda depends on how the blade is reacting...Mr Finnigan is right about the oxides preventing further etching, but i go about that problem a little different...i etch many times in short duration...like 5 minutes or so depending...then i rinse in hot tap water, use a couple of sprits of windex to neutralize, rinse again, and use loose abrassives to clean the oxides...that part doesnt take very long sense i etch for short periods...ive never used steel wool, and i probably never will...but it seems to work for some makers, so if that is what you have access to, then try it out and see how it works for you...also, its probably important to note that when i am etching, it is to bring out a hamon, so i have to be carefull of scratching the soft steel, so steel wool kinda scares me a bit...im probably just paranoid, but the loose abrasives work for me, and are really cheap...just my opinion.

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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double post

Edited by Mike Fegan

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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Mike, what do you mean by loose abrasives? I'm not sure I know what you're talking about haha :lol:

 

like powdered aluminum oxide...or powdered black iron oxide (also used as nugui)...i just found out from another member the other day he uses glass lapping compound...some people use flitz, mothers, etc, etc...what i have been doing lately is mixing powdered aluminum oxide with 3 in 1 oil...

 

 

 

check for ceramic supply stores in your area...powdered oxides are used as pigment, so you should be able to score some for pretty cheap...i cant remember the exact price, but it came out to about 6 bucks for 1 lb of powdered ao...1 lb doesnt sound like a lot, but it will last a loooooooong time...

 

if you are having any trouble finding it, or what have you, let me know, i have a couple links saved.

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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ive never used the stropping compound, so i cant say for sure, but yeah, you seem to be on the right track...i was talking about stuff more like this

 

http://leslieceramics.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Chemical-Price-List-2011.pdf

 

or this

 

http://www.kramerindustriesonline.com/blasting-media/aluminum-oxide-grit-comparison.htm

 

 

come to think of it, a little bit of good old baking soda mixed in with some oil would probably do the trick...ive never tried this myself, but it is slightly abrasive and it also neutralizes any acid, and its cheap and available...seems to be a pretty good combination...ill have to try it and let you know, unless someone has already beat me to it and cares to share their experience.

Edited by Mike Fegan

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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The boiling point for acetic acid is 248 (F). My Ph test strips do show a much lower Ph after I have concentrated the vinegar. It's also very apparent when etching steel and iron. Regular distilled vinegar takes forever to etch heat scale and wrought iron.

 

If straight 5% vinegar worked good for me I would never go to the hassle of reducing it.

 

http://chemicalland21.com/petrochemical/acetic%20acid.htm

Edited by B Finnigan

Everything I need to know I learned from the people trapped in my basement.

 

 

I'm out of my mind but feel free to leave a message.

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The boiling point for acetic acid is 248 (F). My Ph test strips do show a much lower Ph after I have concentrated the vinegar. It's also very apparent when etching steel and iron. Regular distilled vinegar takes forever to etch heat scale and wrought iron.

 

If straight 5% vinegar worked good for me I would never go to the hassle of reducing it.

 

http://chemicalland21.com/petrochemical/acetic%20acid.htm

You should try nitric sometime for your wrought.I get reagent grade and mix it about 10 to 1 water/acid, it really brings out the grain in minutes.Then after neutralizing I use ferric to darken the grain again.It sounds dangerous and can be if you don't know what you are doing or careless.

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Well, it worked! I etched off and on for several hours, trying to clean off the oxides every so often. The grain in the iron is clearly visible now, if not subdued. But that's fine, I wanted a subtle grain in the iron, and I didn't really care what the steel did.

 

I probably could've let it go for a little longer, but I'm happy with the result anyway. The steel is kinda nasty looking though, got some pitting or something going on. It'll probably come off with a little more work. Plus this knife is for me, I like the rougher stuff anyway, and this one will be used so the etch and polish probably won't stay intact for long.

 

All in all, I'm very pleased. Thanks so much for the help guys. I'll post pictures of the finished knife in the Show and Tell section. Depending on free time, it should be done tomorrow or definitely by Wednesday.

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awesome! glad to hear it worked it out for you...can't wait to see the pictures...on some knives, that "rough" look you are talking about adds character to the blade, and it just looks "right".

In the eyes of a novice, i may be a master...but in the eyes of a master, im merely a novice.

 

 

ichi-go, ichi-e

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awesome! glad to hear it worked it out for you...can't wait to see the pictures...on some knives, that "rough" look you are talking about adds character to the blade, and it just looks "right".

Well if it was uniformly rough, it would look fine haha. Not sure what the issue was really, but I'll see if I can even things out. If not, oh well. I'm still happy :lol:

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I probably could've let it go for a little longer, but I'm happy with the result anyway. The steel is kinda nasty looking though, got some pitting or something going on. It'll probably come off with a little more work. Plus this knife is for me, I like the rougher stuff anyway, and this one will be used so the etch and polish probably won't stay intact for long.

 

This was exactly my experience with my first san mai endeavor. The 1095 etched like crazy and the wrought only slightly. I heated the vinegar first and the blade looked like an Alka-Seltzer as it worked. The effect was good, but I'd rather have cleaner steel and more figure in the wrought. Might try the ferric next time.

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I guess nobody else here thins their vinegar etchant out with water...lol.

 

Personally, I think I've been getting better looking etches after thinning my distilled vinegar about 20%. It takes awhile though...about 36-48 hours in the etchant to get to where I like it, scotch-briting off the oxides every 6 hours or so. I only etch to show hamon/differential hardening, and have very little experience with etching for p-welding. Your results may vary, and it's possible I'm way off base....:D

My hand-forged knives and tools at Etsy.com: http://www.etsy.com/shop/oldschooltools

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in our german forum has been a long discussion and many posts on using a strong instant coffee mixture, even over night

it may be less stressing to the steel than vinegar

there should be posts on this method around here also

Jokke

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