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The Damascus Forum The art and study of Damascus steel making.

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  #1  
Old 04-21-2015, 08:56 AM
Reverend Reverend is offline
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Questions about Ferric Chloride??

I'm needing to re-etch a sword blade, but have never worked with Ferric Chloride before. I've seen a few You Tube vids and read the instructions. The instructions state to dilute the FC with vinegar before etching. Ok I got that. My questions have to do with finding an appropriate receptacle that I can use to bathe the blade. Being that the FC comes in a plastic bottle I'm assuming that a plastic container is safe. Looking in the local Building supply store i saw a few plastic planters about 30 inches long. Perfect. The only problem is that they have drainage holes in the bottom. Now I can sell those holes, but I'm not certain which adhesives will not be affected by the FC? Anyone know?

Also if I dilute the FC in vinegar, can it be stored again for future projects? If so, what do you use to store it in?
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  #2  
Old 04-21-2015, 11:01 AM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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Personally, I don't recommend diluting Ferric with vinegar..... Although some do it, I've found that it (diluting with vinegar) can yield some undesirable results..... such as odd colors, and light and dark patches.

My recommendation is to dilute the Ferric 3 to 1 with DISTILLED water.

As for the holes in the container, sealing them up with silicone will work fine. The Ferric won't affect the silicone.

The most important aspect when etching is the finish on the item (at least 600 grit, and I often prefer 1200 grit finish), and CLEAN. That means ANYTHING that isn't completely clean will not etch. Personally I put on latex gloves, clean the item with acetone (hint: DO NOT use white household paper towels....the process used to make them leaves residual chemicals in the paper towel that will leave a film on the steel that prevents etching) I recommend using the Scott's blue "shop towels", they do not contain the same chemicals as the white paper towels. After cleaning with acetone, I clean again with Windex, and completly dry it, then into the etchant. The etching process works best if the item is supended in the etchant.

After etching, I neutralize in a saturated solution of TSP, or you can use a heavy baking soda solution.


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Old 04-25-2015, 12:30 AM
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GHEzell GHEzell is offline
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I'd suggest using a piece of pvc pipe capped on one end over the planter for a container. If you use a flanged cap you can screw it to a wooden base so there will be no chance it will tip over. Glue the flanged cap to be bottom, and put another cap on the other end (not glued) to keep out dust and such, and you will be able to reuse the FC for years to come.


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Old 04-25-2015, 03:54 PM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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I etch with a 50/50 blend of Radio Shack FC and distilled water.

As Ed states, clean is important. However, I go to a full mirror polish and clean with alcohol and blue paper shop towels.

The etch is slower and I use 1200grit wet/dry paper to rub the blade every few minutes. This removes the black sludge from the blade and lets fresh FC get to the steel. After a while, the grain of the steel REALLY starts to jump out and hamons look awesome this way.

Nuetralize with windex and a dry or EXTREMELY light buff gets the look I like. The grain just glistens above the hamon, and the hardened edge comes out a bit smoother with better reflectivity.

I did this for a few hours (wet-sanding with FC) on a W-1 file steel tanto and it turned the entire blade nearly black. The finish was deep too, as it stopped coming off as I worked with the 1200grit. It was one of those 'discovery' moments in my knife making career.

However..., Ed makes prettier knives than I do, so take my advice with a grain of salt. The key is to do some experimenting to find the finish you like on given steels.


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  #5  
Old 04-28-2015, 08:55 AM
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Excellent info. Thanks again.
Ed, just to make sure I understand, you use 3 parts FeCh, to one part Distilled Water right? Just want to make sure I don't have it backwards...

Also to the rest of the gang, how long should I leave the blades in the solution?

Finally, what do you do with the solution once you're don etching?
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Old 04-29-2015, 12:55 AM
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GHEzell GHEzell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend View Post
Excellent info. Thanks again.
Ed, just to make sure I understand, you use 3 parts FeCh, to one part Distilled Water right? Just want to make sure I don't have it backwards...

Also to the rest of the gang, how long should I leave the blades in the solution?

Finally, what do you do with the solution once you're don etching?
Not Ed, but 3 parts water, 1 part FC is a pretty standard mix. If the FC is too concentrated it tends to etch both steels at the same rate and doesn't reveal the pattern as well.

Second question, this is where you'll ask 10 different knifemakers and get 10 different answers, we all have our favorite methods. My personal method is to etch 5 minutes, rinse and dry the blade, remove the oxides with polishing compound, clean the polishing compound off the blade, then etch another 5 minutes, repeating until I have the depth of etch I want. The blade needs to be absolutely clean when it goes in the etch! No fingerprints... When I'm happy with the etch, I'll rinse the blade, spray it down with ammonia to neutralize the FC, rinse again, then dry. If I want to keep the oxides, I'll boil the blade for 5 minutes, dry, and oil. Boiling the blade will change the nature of the oxides from one form (that wipes off easily) to another (more resistant to abrasion).

I've been using the same batch of ferric chloride for 3 years now, I honestly don't know how long it will last. If it is kept clean, it will last at least 3 years... It is very easy to contaminate though, with oils, organics, copper, etc... (copper will turn it into a copper plating solution!) this is why I suggested the tube with a top etchant container, having a top that fits snugly will help keep it from becoming contaminated. To dispose of it, pour it into a plastic container, seal, and sell on ebay...but seriously, baking soda (NOT baking powder) will produce a chemical reaction with ferric chloride that will render the solution relatively harmless to the environment. It will also produce heat, and lots of foam, and can make a mess if you're not expecting it. Best advice, take it to your local Hazardous Waste Disposal Company in a clearly marked plastic container.


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  #7  
Old 04-30-2015, 08:29 AM
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Gary Mulkey Gary Mulkey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GHEzell View Post
If I want to keep the oxides, I'll boil the blade for 5 minutes, dry, and oil. Boiling the blade will change the nature of the oxides from one form (that wipes off easily) to another (more resistant to abrasion).
Nice tip! Thanks.

Gary


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Old 05-09-2015, 03:50 PM
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Well let me add a few pics of my progress.
I went with a 3:1 (Dist. Water / FC) solution.
Put the blades in the bath for 10 minutes, removed them, sanded them with 600 grit and put them back in for another 10 minutes. I like the pattern. Let's see how the handles will turn out...







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