Copper Gone: The Etching

Once the Copper Gone artwork was finished we had to turn it into a real copper etching. Although we weren’t sure at this point whether it was possible or even practical to use a photograph of a real etching on the cover (photographing shiny things is problematic), it had to happen so that we could see how the art looked in its natural, logical material.

A team effort, we ordered dangerous chemicals and donned aprons.

Copper Gone: The Etching

While I broke the artwork into parts so that it could be laser copied (back to front) onto the special blue paper used to make a black ‘resist’ on the copper, Graham cleaned the surface of the little copper tests sheets supplied by Art Fabrications.

Copper Gone: The Etching

We then heated the copper sheets one by one on the hotplate of the woodburner and brought it over to the ironing board, put the artwork on its blue paper over the copper, and ironed gently, peeling back to check that the line work was fully transferred. We played with different temperatures and ironing times so that we had a range of test sheets to monitor.

Copper Gone: The Etching

After this, the test sheets were put into a chemical bath of ferric chloride and immersed for four different time periods in a tub outside – again, to check which length of time worked best. We didn’t want the etch to be so deep it created too much shadow or distortion, and neither did we want it to be a mere tickling of the copper’s surface.

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

Once we were satisfied we had a version we liked, we took the timings from the most successful test and started cleaning up the album-sized copper (well I say ‘we’ – Graham took this one for the team, with wire wool and sore knees) – check this ‘before’n’after’:

Copper Gone: The Etching

Artwork was once again flipped and carefully positioned in two parts:

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

…and ironed on (the Glove Of Doom is because the copper is very hot at this point):

Copper Gone: The Etching

Then the paper’s peeled off to reveal…

Copper Gone: The Etching

After which point, the copper was lowered in its Heath Robinson-esque cradle of string and magnets into a much larger tub of ferric chloride, while the magic happened. This is how it came out:

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

And the last-but-two process – removing the resist with common nail varnish remover, to reveal glittering copper beneath! (Tip: don’t be tempted to use acetone free nail varnish remover to save your fingers – bike down Asda and get the real cheap nasty shit and put gloves on – it comes off in SECONDS!)

Copper Gone: The Etching

A final polish of the finished etching with lemon juice and salt:

Copper Gone: The Etching

And here is the finished piece:

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

Interestingly, despite a sealing with a special and expensive protective wax, we think there was another finishing stage to go through, as the piece continued to age and oxidise quite deliciously over the next few days – see how it changes:

Copper Gone: The Etching

Gorgeous eh?

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

Copper Gone: The Etching

See full post here: Inkymole2014-04-22.