I love these etched tins and am to excited to show you how to do it! My children made these tins for their Grandfather’s Birthday. They literally drew the pictures onto the tins themselves and the designs were then permanently etched into the metal!
I have actually etched a few metal things before these using two different methods. Then, I was doing some research online and found this method and thought it was something my readers might want to try. I saw a few variations on this but I mostly followed this tutorial, by Kylyssa on Squidoo. My technique is a combo from what I had already done, and then hers, using the crayon for the resist.
Supplies: Pencil, copper wire, 6V Battery, Crayon, Metal Tin, Medium Plastic or Glass Container, wires with alligator clips attached on both ends, Acetone (Nail Polish Remover), sandpaper (if using an altoid tin or other tin with design and/or color on it), salt, and water.
Your supplies are shown above, and can all be bought at your local store like at Walmart. That 6V battery, I found in the camping department (they use them for lanterns). They are about $1. The wire and alligator clips can be bought at Radio Shack. They are about $3.
You could use Altoid tins, however, I bought a huge supply of plain tins, as I’m using them for many things. If you have Altoid tins you will need to sand off the design on the top (or anywhere that you want to end up etched), using sandpaper and lots of elbow grease!
If you buy tins from a hobby store that are like mine, you will still need to remove a protective layer they all have on them. You can remove this by using acetone (or nail polish remover). Make sure you remove all of this protective layer because the etching will not happen where any of that protective layer is left.
I take the top off of the bottom before I start working with them.
It makes them easier to work with and they come apart very easily, just be careful not to break the hinge.
You will take your crayon and cover the tin in crayon. Get as much crayon onto the tin as you can. The crayon is actually going to be the part that resists the etching and the tin will stay shiny where you have crayon.
Next you use an embossing gun (or hair dryer) to melt the crayon wax. This is very important to get a nice crayon layer, as you will get pot marks of etched dots wherever the crayon did not end up covering. I found this worked best by coloring a layer of crayon, melting the wax completely on the tin, and then adding more wax with the embossing gun going at the same time so it melts wherever you touch your crayon (because the tin is heated up and the crayon has the embossing gun over it as well).
You want as good of a layer of wax as you can get.
The above picture is what will happen if you don’t have a nice layer of wax. This was my first attempt and actually I was pretty happy about it….until my next attempts were exactly how I wanted it! If you look closely you can see lots of white dots etched all over the tin. Yes, you do see the initials that I etched into the tin, but the rest of the tin does not have a solid shiny look that can be achieved if this is done correctly.
After you have your layer of crayon on you need to let it cool (those tins can burn you as you do this because the metal conducts the heat all the way through them).
Take your pencil and draw a design into the crayon layer. You want to go all the way through the wax to the tin. This is quite easy to do. But you are also not trying to draw onto the tin, either. When you draw onto the tin, you are removing the wax. The above picture shows how the wax can curl up in tendrils and still stay attached. Make sure to brush this wax off or it can mess up your design by covering up some of the part that you drew.
Here is one that my Son drew up. It is a picture of he and his Grandpa wearing pirate hats. I did have my kids first draw out what design they wanted to do ahead of time. I traced the tin shape a couple of times on a piece of paper to give my kids places to figure out what they wanted to draw.
I love what they each chose to do. I was surprised by how easy this was for my kids to do. I did not have to do any redos or even touchups on them.
Next you will set up your etching bath. The above picture shows my set up.
Bend the copper wire so that it holds onto the container on the side (as you see on the left side of my container). Then you bend the wire back and forth the length and width of your container. You do this so that you have an even current running through the container.
Boil some water on the stove and dissolve salt into it until you can’t dissolve anymore salt into it.
Put the bent copper wire in place in the container and pour in your salt water. You should let the water cool off before continuing as the hot water could melt the crayon and ruin your design.
Attach the wires to the battery and into the water. One wire will go from the negative on the battery, to the copper wire (see my yellow clips). The next wire goes from the positive on the battery and then clips onto the tin (the green clips). You will then float your tin (that is crayon covered and already has the design drawn into it) in the water with the design face down into the water. To keep my tin completely level I draped the green clip’s wire over a glass. This will help the tin to etch uniformly.
Leave your tin for 5-10 minutes. You will see bubbles in the water and the water will get really yucky/mucky looking. This is all normal. The longer you leave the tin in the salt water, the deeper the etch will be. Take your tin out and wash the gunk off and then remove the crayon.
You could go one step further and put paint into the etched part, to accentuate the design. However, I did not find that I needed to do this.
Here are my kids’ tins with their own designs on them:
The above tin is my Daughter and her Grandpa climbing a grassy hill. The sun is in the top right corner, peeking out from a cloud.
My oldest thought it through and knew her Grandfather would be using these for all his small parts. She labeled one tin “gears and gadgets” and another “springs and stuff” and then drew gears and springs onto them. I thought that was so ingenious.
Here is my Son’s all finished up. Notice how shiny the rest of the tin is? We got good layers of wax on these babies to protect them during the etching.
Here they all are together.
My final thought is to have your kids also etch the bottoms. I had my kids write a message as well as their name, age, and the year.
My kids’ tins say “You are #1 Grapa from______”, “Love You”, and “I (heart) U!”.
What person wouldn’t adore a momento like this? I will be having them make some for themselves as well as for me! ;)
Keep tuning back in because I will have parts 2 and 3 to this tin etching! Each one will show you a variation on this kind of etching!
I am linking to the following parties; Stephanie Lynn