How To Etch Damascus Steel - Knifever

By taking the time to learn how to properly etch stainless steel Damascus steel and carbon Damascus steel, you will avoid problems such as spots on the finished product.

When using acid, always wear appropriate protective equipment. Finish the etching in a well-ventilated space and wear gloves, goggles, and apron or old clothes.

Damascus etching is done with ferric chloride or hydrochloric acid. Before you start, check the expiration date of the acid you choose to make sure it is not too old. Using expired acid can cause etching problems, and you don't want to find that the acid is too old to work properly after you start using it.

You also need a baking soda bath. Mix the baking soda with distilled water and use a lot of baking soda so you can immerse in your composition to neutralize the acid and stop its dissolution.

Once you have everything ready, you can etch!

How to etch stainless steel and carbon Damascus steel

Step 1: Polish

Sand your Damascus to 400 to 600 grit. If you are using hydrochloric acid, you can set the particle size of Damascus to 1200 or keep it to 400. Anything works. For ferric acid, keep the particle size between 400 and 600.

Do not polish before etching! Polishing will close the holes in the metal, which will prevent acid absorption, and eventually, uneven etching will occur.

Step 2: Wash

To etch Damascus, it should be very clean. Wash your work thoroughly with alcohol, then pat dry with a clean cloth.

Avoid using materials such as acetone, as they will leave residues that interfere with etching, and do not touch the metal with your hands. The acid penetrates correctly on a very clean surface.

Step 3: Dilute

If you are using ferric acid, please dilute it with distilled water until the ratio of acid to water is close to 50/50. Never use tap water, spring water, or filtered water-they can all cause other problems. Please make sure that your distilled water has not been stored for more than one year.

Hydrochloric acid does not need to be diluted.

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Step 4: Heat the acid

For hydrochloric acid and ferric chloride, the temperature should be between 70 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about room temperature.

If you need to heat the acid for use, the best way is to place the container with the acid in a large bowl of warm water. Do not put acid in the microwave oven!

Step 5: Submerge

Hang the Damascus piece in a container filled with acid so that it hangs freely without touching the sides or bottom of the container.

To ensure acid penetration, you can swing the workpiece back and forth in the acid, but brushing is the best way to ensure uniform etching. Using an old toothbrush, lightly scrub the Damascus in acid to help remove any residual oil or grease that may have been missed during the cleaning process, and to brush away dissolved substances while the acid is working.

Let your work stay in acid for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 6: Neutralize

Remove the damascene block from the acid and soak it in a baking soda bath for 5 minutes to neutralize the acid.

You can also use Windex in this step, but don’t try to paint your work. Pour WINDEX into a container deep enough so that you can completely submerge your Damascus items.

After 5 minutes, clean your work with alcohol and dry it with a clean cloth. If you want, you can repeat steps 5 and 6 to get a deeper etching.

If you cover part of the work so that it will not etch, and you want to do another round in acid and baking soda, please completely remove the mask, clean the blade, and then reapply the mask before the second etching. It is not advisable to skip this step, even if your mask still looks good because the acid will penetrate a second time and ruin your design.

Step 7: Polishing



The stainless steel Damascus is used, and the layer in the steel is not affected by etching, which is why the stainless steel Damascus has a unique texture after it is completed. Use fine finishing sandpaper to lightly sand the top of the slightly raised steel, the other steel will remain black and unpolished, giving you a beautiful and dramatic contrast.

If you want, you can use 2000 grit polish and soft wheels for polishing to illuminate your Damascus work, but you will lose some of the contrast between the steel layers. Use this technique and sandpaper to see which one you prefer. If you decide to restore some contrast, you can quickly etch again, soak the cleaned part in acid for a few minutes, and then neutralize it with baking soda.

Some manufacturers like to soak the finished product in WD-40 for darker contrast. This will gradually disappear with use, but it does produce amazing visual contrast and is great for preparing your work for photos.

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