Author Topic: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!  (Read 14797 times)

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Offline 4est Trekker

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How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« on: February 25, 2011, 07:55:29 am »
Hey, all.  I thought I'd share a little tutorial on how to cheaply etch your blade, tools, etc. on the cheap without getting cheap results.

Materials:
1) A 6-12 volt lantern battery (such as a PP9 9 volt)
2) 2 alligator clip leads
3) Small plastic container of water
4) Table salt
5) Cotton ball or Q-tips
6) Stencil material or other resist (see below for details)

 


Your first task is to create a stencil/resist that will allow only the steel you wish to etch to remain exposed.  One simple way is to use self-adhesive stencil paper (Hobby Lobby).  It's reusable and is fairly durable.  Or, you can use thick packing tape or fingernail polish (a little scary and not really recommended, but it does work and can be removed easily with acetone).  Alternately, some printing and copy companies can print stencils on vinyl.  You simply submit a digital version of you mark and then request a NEGATIVE stencil. 

Regardless, apply the resist to the surface you're going to etch and make sure it's attached VERY well!  Although I didn't do it on this tutorial, I usually tape the rest of the blade off for safety's sake.

Using a needle, engraver, Dremel, or woodburner (if using vinyl or tape), create your mark through the resist.  If using an adhesive resist, you can do this on another surface and then transfer the resist to the blade. Here's my example, a decorative version of my initials, CRI:

 


Now, mix up a solution of warm saltwater. I usually add salt until it no longer dissolves.

Next, connect one end of the positive alligator clip to the positive post on the battery, and the other to the blade.  Be careful not to scratch the surface if you've polished it to a high grit.  In this example I'm using a nearly-completed knife (no finish or edge yet), but it's safest to connect the positive lead to the tang of an unfinished knife to avoid scratching.

Then, take a small bit of cotton ball or a Q-tip, put it in the jaws of the negative alligator clip, and dip it in the saltwater.  Squeeze most of the excess out. (Note: the metal of the clip must come into contact with the water on the cotton ball/Q-tip.) 

Connect the negative lead to the negative terminal on the battery and then begin dabbing the area to be etched.  The cotton ball will "fizz" if all is connected properly. Here's what it would look like at first:

 


The black in the etch and on the cotton ball is the metal being removed.  You may have to replace the cotton when it begins to look like this:

 


Periodically dab the etch with a clean rag to removed excess water and metal.  When sufficiently etched (your preference), remove the stencil.  It will probably look pretty ugly at first:

 


A little cleaning will reveal your etch:

 

That's it!  Hope it helps.
"Walk softly, and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  Col. 3:17

Offline Cameroo

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 08:28:31 am »
Genius! Thanks a lot!

Online Pat B

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 08:42:07 am »
Very cool, 4est.    I was a saltwater outboard mechanic and this is similar to the galvanic carrosion that occurs with different metals in the salt water with the battery hooked up in the boat.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline Stoker

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 04:05:01 pm »
I don't think Mcgiver could have done any better  ;)
Thanks Leroy
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Offline skyarrow

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2011, 04:25:43 pm »
Great idea I normally just use a hammer and chisel while the steel is still glowing in my forge il have to try this on e  I repair my forge and start making things again you should move this to the how to threads I think it will work well there
"We don't have mistakes here, we just have happy accidents" Bob Ross RIP 1995

Offline Timo

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2011, 05:49:06 pm »
Very cool! Thanks for posting this!

Offline sailordad

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2011, 05:52:06 pm »
dude thats very cool
simple but cool

if using a q-tip
do you place alligator clip on the shaft or the end of the q-tip?
i always wanted a harley,untill it became the "thing to ride"
i ride because i love to,not to be part of the crowd

Offline Cameroo

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2011, 07:16:34 pm »
Sailordad, it would have to be touching the saltwater-soaked cotton, because wood does not conduct electricity.

Offline Barrage

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2011, 08:31:59 pm »
That is very neat.  Thanks for posting this, I didn't know you could do that.
Travis

Offline stickthrower

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Re: How to etch your mark on a knife blade...on the cheap!
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2011, 05:18:56 pm »
That is very cool.  I will have to try that on one of my next knives.  It would be cool to mark my knives.
Sartell, Minnesota