Copper Etching - Good information for those afraid of using Ferric Chloride

I know some people shy away from chemicals because they are afraid of what they can do to you- it took me a while to want to etch because becaue of it -

But there are more caustic materials under our kitchen counter to be more afraid of than the Ferric Chloride

Laundry Bleach for one .......

I came across a great article on the Chemistry of Ferric Chloride - for those of you who are a bit afraid to work with it

Here is a segment  from the article

"Since Rembrandt, etchers have used nitric acid and Dutch mordant to etch copper. At the turn of the century ferric chloride solution was introduced in gravure work, principally because of its interaction with gum bichromated gelatine. With the increased emphasis on health and safety at work, we have had to reappraise these and the other chemicals we use.
The salt, ferric chloride, has none of the disadvantages associated with the other two acid etching solutions: it does not produce dangerous fumes, is odourless and, though corrosive, is not absorbed through the skin.
Ferric chloride solutions in water are strong acidic but in their reaction with copper no significant fumes or gases are produced. "

You can read the rest of the article here:  

Now the highlighted red area is the most important to everyone - we always worry about fumes and absorption and working with chemicals - if you prevent what could happen even with chemicals they say are safer   - you are already ahead of the game 

Even though it says non absorbtion on the skin - I always use latex gloves to protect my hands - the stuff stains your hands - makes you look like a 100 pack a day smoker - yellows and darkens your skin. Sometimes its inevitable and I get it on my fingers or hands .  I have posted in the past that I sometimes use a dab of the Lysol toilet bowl cleaner (the blue stuff)  and it takes it off - this may not be good for some who are more allergic to chemical and are prone to break outs - so this is only a suggestion - you are the one to determine if you can use.  (works great on your sink when you stain it with the ferric as well - like new - next time I'll take a before and after pic ) 

 Even though it says does not produce dangerous fumes and is odourless -  I still put on my exhaust fan and have more than adequate supply of fresh air flowing through my studio. 

 I wear eye protection when pouring - just in case something fly's up and splashes me -  

 Stay safe - take things slowly  and be prepared should you spill any - it stains  (again I use the lysol toilet bowl cleaner on my concrete floor and on my stainless tables - works great) 

I still have to do the comparison of electro-etching  vs the ferric chloride -  since I am so happy with the Ferric I have not taken the opportunity to try the electrical version - but that does not mean its not as good.  Hopefully in the next month I'll have my comparison for you to see 
There are some good sites to check out like :


  1. Thanks for the great article. Very helpful. I'll be pinning it to my new board, "Jewelry: Etched", which so far has mostly your work in it.

  2. LOL thank you - if you ever need help let me know - can always work it out somehow