Some of my Creations

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simple Method for Etching Metal for Jewelry

I've been having a lot of fun with this technique, and wanted to share, in case anyone out there wants to try something new! When I first got interested in this, I did a whole bunch of research and found out that there are MANY ways to etch metal - some are extremely high tech and others, like my humble little method, are low tech, easy and don't require any fancy equipment.

So what is etching, exactly? In this case, it is drawing or painting a design in an acid-resistant medium onto metal, then immersing it in a mordant solution that eats away the exposed metal, leaving your design in relief. Glass can also be etched, but that is a different process from this one!

Supplies Needed:

*Clean sheet metal or discs, any thickness if fine but I like 22-24 gauge
*Sharpie permanent markers or other resist (asphaltum varnish, paint etc.)
*Glass bowl
*Etching Mordant Solution
*Duct tape
*0000 steel wool (or other abrasive)
*Liver of sulfur (optional)
*Polishing pads or cloths

Here is my fun, low tech method for etching copper, brass and aluminum:

1. Start with CLEAN metal

2. Draw design with regular black sharpies of different sizes, depending on complexity.

3. Let dry and go over all ink again. And maybe even again. You want a few coats of ink.

4. Stick duct tape to the back and SLIGHTLY around edges of piece. Duct tape does the same thing as the sharpie, it "resists" the acid. There is this stuff called black asphaltum varnish too if you want, but it's messy and takes a long time to dry. Rio has it here:

5. Immerse completely in mordant solution in glass container (buy here:

6. Leave for about 2 hours. If it's warm where you live, less time may be necessary. You can check the etch in progress by removing the item, rinsing it, and then scratching it with your fingernail. You'll be able to get a feel for how deep the "cut" is this way.

7. Carefully remove items (not with fingers!), wash in sink with soap and baking soda, put baking soda in acid solution (which will foam up)clean and discard in paper towels in the trash. (if it's used up and won't etch anymore...usually you can resuse a few times first). Store in glass container with secure lid if saving for reuse.

8. Use 0000 size steel wool to scrape off sharpie and clean again

9. Liver of sulfur if desired and then polish off with pro polishing pads (or whatever)

And that's it! It's easy and fun!! If you want a deeper etch, just leave it in the acid for longer. You can also get etching fluid from radioshack here: that is supposed to work well on copper. The Rio stuff is for copper brass and aluminum. If you want to etch silver, you will need nitric acid of ferric nitrate. You can get the silver solution at Rio also. Ready to go "all out"? You can get a neat system that doesn't use acid from here:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's been nearly a year....

...since I wrote a blog post. This seems to be a recurring theme in my blogging life. I don't mean to neglect it so bad, I DO have plenty to share, but finding the time I guess is the real issue. And wondering if my five followers actually care anyway! ;)

In a nutshell, this year has been extremely busy for me. I went to 6 weeks of geology field camp this summer, which deserves a blogpost of its own, and then went to Hawaii for a volcano seismology class for 2 weeks, which also needs a post of its own. I got back to an illness in the family and had to take the semester off from school to care for my daughter while my mom was busy. I've enjoyed the break, I was honestly starting to feel a BIT burned out on school after my insane spring semester and summer...but I'm ready to go back now. 6 classes left! Can't wait to be done and get a job somewhere.

I've rolled out a new like of geeky handstamped science related jewelry this fall, and am really enjoying creating it! People seem to like it, I've had quite a few sales in my etsy shop of my new stuff. Yaay, I may have found myself a niche in this over saturated world of jewelry where so many people are just making things very similar to everyone else! I hope I can keep it up when I go back to school in a couple of weeks. You can check it out here:

I'm going to try to be better about regular blogging and tweeting, but no promises!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I'm very excited by the volcanic activity in Iceland, like all volcanophiles I know! Most excited for my classmate in Volcanoes class who is there now, setting up instrumentation to monitor any lightning being produced in the ash column! The beautiful, effusive fissure eruption of the last couple of weeks has been replaced by a more explosive eruption under the glacier. The explosivity is likely a result of the interaction of lava and ice/water. Huge lahars have been generated that have washed out to the ocean. All volcano nuts wish for large eruptions, and the hope is that maybe Katla volcano next door will also erupt. Sorry for the people in Europe who are stranded and can't fly, but this is what volcanoes do. We must adapt to the changing environment. If anything, we can now see how vulnerable a thing perfectly taken for granted by everyone - uniterrupted air travel - can be completely shut down by a *small* act of nature. This is a TINY eruption, imagine if there was a much bigger one? I love seeing volcanoes in the news, it makes me feel more validated as a future-volcanologist: I've had to defend my choice of studying volcanoes so often to people that don't think it's important!

PS. Proper pronunciation: AYA-feeyatla-yokutl

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Earthquakes and such

Well, my blog has been sadly neglected for a long time, I have been so busy at school. School is such a challenge for me, although I enjoy it. It's hard because my life is split...I'm here at school for 5 days of the week, home for the weekends with my boyfriend and daughter. There is no creative outlet for me here at school, which is insanely frustrating for me, since I really just want to make jewelry all day! But, if I were to bring my jewelry making supplies down here, I would get no school work done at all, ever!! So, I have to live frustrated until I'm home on the weekend, and then try to balance time with my daughter and boyfriend with time creating new things. I have three notebooks full of designs and ideas for jewelry, it will be YEARS before I get a chance to even attempt half of them! That's good though, in case I run into a creative dry spell in the future, at least I will have something to fall back on in those notebooks!

So, I've been getting into some metal stamping designs, and so far I'm really enjoying the results! Check out my pics of the new designs, and let me know what you think! I have TONS of ideas for stampings too, so stay tuned to my shop, I will have some for sale in there eventually!

Earthquakes. Ok, so there there seems to have been a lot of them in the news lately, and there is a lot of speculation out there about what is considered "normal" for any one year. Religious people are claiming it's the end of the world, non-religious people are scared, scratching their heads, wondering what is going on. I refer you to the NEIC (National Earthquake Information Center) website here to put your minds at ease:
Here, you can veiw the worlds catalog of daily earthquakes, an extensive amount of information, and view recent seismic activity and even archives of old earthquakes. If you look at the data for any day, any year, you will find many earthquakes. The earth is incredibly dynamic, and none of the earthquakes that have occurred recently are outside of scientific expectation, either in size or location. Haiti exists on a transform plate boundary and has had massive earthquakes because of this in the distant past. Chile exists in an active subduction zone, characterized by massive "mega-thrust" earthquake events and extensive volcanism. Tibet is part of the Himalayan orogeny, where the Indo-Australian plate is colliding with Asia, pushing up the Himalaya in the process - the region is prone to giant thrust faulting as a result of these collisional forces. Baja is part of the San Andreas fault system, another active transform plate boundary where earthquakes are common, and expected. The ONLY thing different about this years earthquakes is the fact that they are being so widely reported. So PLEASE put your mind at ease about the current seismic activity of the planet!!! Unless you live in a seismically active area (and you should know if you do!), you don't have to worry about your area suddenly becoming active.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Rant: Global Climate Change

I guess I'm a frustrated Earth and Environmental scientist. It really bothers me that issues that are global in scope and affect all of us have become completely politicized, to the point where people who have nothing to do with science and have never read a scientific paper in their lives are using their clout to influence millions of people over an issue as important and vital as global climate change. "Global Warming" is a term most scientists shun...but it's bandied about in the media as if the only result of human triggered climate change is going to be getting warmer. Overall, yes, that will result, but some places will get wetter and have more extremes of temperature (colder, wetter winters, drier, hotter summers), some will get warmer and drier and overall it will have an extremely negative affect on the earth system as a whole. People who see this as a black and white issue where the scientific community is divided over whether or not human triggered climate change exists have it all wrong. Most climate scientists agree that change is occuring, what is argued about is what the projected effects are going to be and how long it will take to reach a point of no return. What happens to the people of India when the Himalayan glaciers that supply so many of them with their drinking water melt completely and can't be replenished because mountain temperatures aren't cool enough to form glaciers? What happens to island nations like the Maldives and countries like Bangladesh whose lands are disappearing as sea levels rise? FACT: Warmer oceans=more evaporation=larger this going to be tolerable for the people of the gulf states in the US who have already dealt with many hurricane spawned tragedies? Ignoring these problems with pat answers like "This is the normal cycle of climate on the earth" or "We can't do anything about it anyway" allows for an intolerable "do nothing" attitude to pervade...and flies in the face of hard, rigorously peer reviewed scientific data. It comes directly from IGNORING scientists! When did the general population decide to presume to think they knew better than the people who study this for a living? What is it about this issue that makes people stick their heads in the sand and CHOOSE to ignore it? Is it because the prospect of change, of having to make sacrifices and alterations to one's lifestye is so unacceptable, they want to be reassured that it's ok to conduct business as usual? Well it's not. Each and every one of us owns a piece of this pie, whether we like it or not. Education, sacrifice, innovation, scientific study, technological advances and people like you caring about this are going to be the things that turns this around, to the benefit of all. My study of global change hydrology this semester has shown me that ignoring this problem won't make it go away and will change the earth in ways that few of us will find tolerable. I hope you will join me in doing your part, no matter how small, to bring balance back to our precious earth system. ~End Rant~

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My School Project

As an (OLD) undergrad student here at New Mexico Tech, I am lucky enough to be involved with a very interesting science project. This school is actually renowned for the research opportunities available, and it truly doesn't disappoint if you are at all interested in doing some work while studying. Although I am passionate about volcanoes, I also like seismology and faults a great deal too. Maybe because my family lived in LA for many years, and I was in countless earthquakes growing up (including the North Ridge Quake of '94), I don't know! But I am fascinated by the mechanics of the moving, dynamic earth, it never ceases to amaze me!

There are many types of faults and they all are formed in different tectonic regimes. The ones I am working on are in Southern California, one in the Salton trough, the other in the Whipple mountains. They are both low-angle normal faults, which in the world of geology are the most contentious type of fault. Some scientists don't believe they actually form and slip at low angles (<30 degrees), because that orientation defies accepted rock mechanic theory. Our group is working to answer some basic questions about how they form and slip at this mis-oriented angle. My part of the project is to conduct a particle size analysis of the fault rocks at different depths from the slip surface. I spend many hours looking down a microscope, taking pictures of "thin sections" of rocks and then manipulating the images. When I plot grain size vs. # of grains on a log scale, the pattern in the graph will help to constrain the conditions of formation of the rocks. It's challenging work, but exciting too cause no one else has ever done this in-depth of a study on low-angle normal fault rocks. Plus, I get to work with two geniuses of structural geologists and 2 genius metamorphic petrologists as well!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MSOE Team!!!

I've been so busy with school, it's hard to believe how long it's been since I posted on here! Things are challenging but good, I'm taking a Volcanoes class to keep me happy, and its working!

I'm very excited because I have been accepted into the Mad Scientists of Etsy team! Everyone in the team is like me, a creative science person! This is the first team I have been accepted into, I requested entrance into one of the jewelry teams but wasn't even turned down, just flat IGNORED. I'm very happy with my new team, it is a cool, creative, fun bunch of scientific people who make wonderful, varied crafts that they sell on Etsy as well. I am planning to make a treasury soon with items from people on the team, should be fun! Check out the team blog if you are interested!