photo etching

Discussion in 'Tips, Tutorials & Tools' started by cgutzmer, Nov 6, 2006.

  1. cgutzmer

    cgutzmer Guest

    Can someone please explain to me exactly what this is and what it accomplishes? I did a google search and pretty much came up with lots of hits on equipment to do it but not what it was - didnt see anyhting for paper either. Course its late in the work day and my brain has entered shutdown...
  2. wunwinglow

    wunwinglow Active Member

    1. prepare image of part required. Imagine this as a 'silhouette' of your component. Image can be a drawing, black ink on top quality board, or computer data.

    2. Prepare 2 film images of your part. Fix these together along one edge, so that later on, the metal to be etched can be slipped between them. The two part images MUST be in exact registration with each other. Obvious I know, but I'll say it anyway.

    3. Clean metal sheet absolutely and dry.

    4. Dip or laminate a UV-sensitive mask coating (resist) on both sides of the metal.

    5. Put metal sheet between film sheets, place between vacuum sheet and glass to make sure film is pulled tight against resist surface, expose to UV light.

    6. Remove exposed metal and 'develop'. Where resist has been exposed, it washes off, leaving metal exposed. Resist not exposed stays stuck firmly to the metal sheet.

    7. Place metal in spray tank where etching fluid strikes the metal, gradually dissolving away the exposed material, BUT leaving behind metal protected by the resist. (Neat, eh!?)

    8. When etching fluid has dissolved all 'non-part' metal, remove from tank, rinse, and remove resist with solvent.

    9. Admire copy of your original drawing, reproduced EXACTLY in metal sheet!

    OK, there is a BIT more to it, but that is the essential process. I ran an etching company for 10 years, built my own tanks, did it all the old-fashioned way with pen, board, graphics camera and film. Nowadays it is all done with PC artwork data and photoplotters, but the chemistry is the same.

    Resists can be positive or negative working, and the astute amongst you will have twigged, if you have a slightly different image on the front and back films, you can 'half-etch', either details, fold creases, tags etc.

    Funnily enough, only today I've ordered my first batch of etchings for a cast resin conversion kit I am working up, ( see ) and I am using a company called PPD in Scotland. Excellent service, no commercial links ectept being a delighted customer. ( )

    You can do this stuff at home, but disposing of metal-loaded etching fluid, resist solvents etc is not nice. I just let the professionals do a great job for me instead.

    Check out local etchers, chemical millers, photo etchers etc. Model railroaders are well up with this process too.

    Biggest advantage is you can create tiny, tiny parts, in excellent accuracy, in brass, copper, nickel-silver etc., without needing to hold the metal and physically cut it; it is a no-stress process. Or quite big parts, provided they are, or start out, flat. YOu can of course fold, roll, solder and so on to build more complex shapes.

    Want to know more, just ask. I'll photograph some of my test etchings for the tank kit to show you what they look like whe done. Basically, if you can draw it, you can have it made in metal. Cool!

    Tim P (wunwinglow)
  3. blueeyedbear

    blueeyedbear Member

    Detail Parts

    If this link works, it will take you to a photo of the photoetched parts for a 1/72 Piper L-4. I photographed them to enlarge and print in cardstock at 1/48 scale. (I haven't finished either model, after about 8 or 9 years!)

    As you can see come of the parts are teeny-tiny. You might make them in 1/72 from cardstock, but not me! Parts/DCP_0270.jpg

  4. Renaud

    Renaud Member

  5. blueeyedbear

    blueeyedbear Member

    Holding shape

    One neat thing about photoetched parts, beyond the ability to make very small detail parts, is that once you get the part bent the way you want it, it stays that way. Push the seat belt down into the seat, and there it is with no gluing.

    A tip to using photoetched brass or stainless steel that is a bit on the stiff side: hold it with forceps and heat it in a candle or lighter flame for a minute. That will "draw" all the "temper" from the metal and remove all the springiness.

  6. cgutzmer

    cgutzmer Guest

    I understand correctly that when people get photoeched parts for their models they are in no way paper then? Well darn that :( I thought it was somehow modified for paper use ah well
  7. JerzyBin

    JerzyBin Member

    Hello All,

    this is my first post here, so I am starting with something i know :)

    I wrote my photo etching experiences here:,en/

    This is as wunwinglow said, the process is basically known to everyone, you only need to add some meat to it...

  8. Amazyah

    Amazyah Senior Member

    Howdy JerzyBin! Welcome to the forum!

    That is a really cool site, thanks for pointing it out!

    Have you done any building with paper or card? I take it by the link, you are a boat man, yes?

  9. xyberz

    xyberz Member

    Is photo etching a relatively expensive hobby to get into? That would be really cool to see a model made out of really thing photo etched parts.

    Then you can sand that bad boy down and paint it to exactly the way you like. Also the fact that it's a lot harder to damage and you can make more movable parts.

    Wow seems like something fun to do. =)
  10. JerzyBin

    JerzyBin Member

    yes I am into boats and ships. I used to build card models in the past, this is one of them, R-17 Rescue boat.


    xyberz - is etching expensive hobby? First of all you use etched parts only here are there. You do not make model out of etching parts completely. You etch something that is difficult to make manually or you need 100s of same copies of for instance door hatches, etc. For some people it will be expensive, for some not. It is affordable like any other modelling bits and pieces.

  11. Amazyah

    Amazyah Senior Member

    Great job on the rescue boat Jerzy! She looks awesome!
    I can see the waves splashing at her bow! What a marvelous job! I love it!


Share This Page