So the discussion came up about a maker’s mark that HokieKen had etched on a knife project he posted. He was nice enough to share the parts he used to make the homemade etcher. Seeing as how he’s much more savvy than myself, he was gracious enough to walk me through making it, including multiple clarification questions, as well as ‘whipping up’ a wiring diagram. The etcher is, essentially, two transformers and a switch. Both transformers step down power from 120V AC to 12V, but one provides 12V AC and the other 12V DC, the switch allows you to swap back and forth between the two. I am most assured that there are more proper names for each of these transformers, but I was able to get them off Amazon, including the switch, banana plugs and lead wires for about $40, so I see no need to squabble over proper names! For those uninitiated (as I was about 4 days ago), the DC power actually etches the metal, the AC power oxidizes the same area, causing it to darken and stand out a bit more. You clip the (+) lead to the project and clip a cloth pad to the (-) lead. The pad is dipped in a high salinity solution (lots of salt in water), then power is supplied across the wet pad while it lays on a masked section of the project. The resulting reaction etches the metal where it’s not masked.
I had a vision in my head about what this was going to look like, all nicely nestled in a custom box with none of the ugly parts showing…well, this was v1 and, while it’s not awful, I might make a v2 in a more properly fit box. I used a wooden slide top box I just had hanging around…and it worked out ok!
One of my caveats was that I wanted every thing to be stored neatly contained in the box when not in use. So I had to provide for storage of the power cable and work leads…which took up a lot of room, comparatively. I also didn’t want cables hanging out, so I scavenged a power cable and receiver out of an old power supply such that I can unplug the power cable and store it when not in use. The banana clips should be accessible, but the work leads removable (hence the use of banana plugs in the first place).
So I laid everything out inside the box and, while there was enough room, the AC/DC (🤘🏼) switch hangs out (so I cut down the toggle a bit) and the banana plugs hang out the side. My concern is that they are ‘warts’ on the side of the box and may get knocked around. If I make a v2, that is specifically what I want to change…
I mortised out a hole for the power cable receiver which is just a small block. I secured the two transformers on a piece of hard board so they could be secured yet removable if needed. Then I laid out and mortised in the banana plugs and the switch. After it was all wired up, using Ken’s description and his wiring diagram, I added a small interior ‘wall’ to compartmentalize the electronics away from the storage. From there it was just some continuity testing and then live testing..and of course I went all ham with the laser engraver.
I’ve got some quality exterior adhesive vinyl for my Cricut cutter that works great for this sort of thing…I’ve used it before with a thrown together etcher. I hacked out some negative images in some scraps and started testing. I still want to do more testing to dial in the technique…specifically because I want to laser engrave the instructions on the side of the box so I’m consistent with my use. I make notes like this a lot, especially for tools I won’t use all the time. I hate reinventing the wheel each time I use a tool!
Anyway, much thanks to HokieKen. While I can’t come close to matching his metal work, at least I can’t etch like a (semi-) pro!
Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".