Hi all. I thought I’d share some recent experiments in etching face plates. After getting quotes of $200AU for Laser and standard engraving were I am, I decided to etch my own aluminium face plates, only to find out that black anodized aluminium can’t be etched. Instead of getting standard aluminium, I thought I’d try brass 1.2mm plate for a real antique look and am very happy with the results. The steps involved are the same as used for etching PCB’s;
1/ Artwork (Adobe Illustrator). 2/ Printed emulsion down (right reading) onto “Press n peel” toner transfer paper. You need to use a laser printer. Then iron onto the metal plate. I had to tape two sheets together to get the length. You can apparently use photo inkjet paper which would be cheaper but can end up with pin holes which will let the etchant through if not blocked out. 3/ Block out the back of plate and etch with ferric chloride. I added some citric acid which stops any buildup of sediment. This solution is called Edinburg Etch and can be used to etch copper, zinc, mild steel, aluminum and brass. http://www.polymetaal.nl/beguin/mape/edinburgh_etch.htm
4/ Apply some artificial aging and buff high areas. I used copper sulphate for the aging from a swimming pool supply store and some heat from butane torch to get a copper coin type finish. All up it was about $50AU for 3U of rack. The iron-on paper did require a fair bit of experimentation to get the temperature and pressure correct. You are basically melting the black toner and smudging it onto your plate. The toner repels the etchant.