Saturday, February 23, 2013

Plug Those Holes

Plug holes in Brass Shell Casings Prior to Etching

(Note: This tutorial is for information on etching tube shapes, and assumes you have also read one of the many others available for basic etching information. Not all etching details are included here.)

Part1, Part2, Part3A, Part 3B, Part 3C, Update from Esprit Mystique on Jewelry Making Journal
Another excellent  tutorial found on Pinterest: Debra Read Etching Tutorial
Cool  bullet jewelry for sale here. The Smoking Bullet
Other online tutorials are out there.

  • Bamboo skewers
  • Toothpicks
  • Dense foam, sliced to 3/8” thick
  • Wood dowel the diameter of shell openings, or slightly larger 
Depending on your choice of etching you will want to plug the holes in the casing - to prevent the etchant from eating away at the inside of the brass tube. When etching flat metal (there are many tutorials online for this, including this one from you can easily cover the back side with packing tape. But tubes or bullets must be plugged.

Toothpicks work if the hole from removing the blasting cap isn't too big, but I've found that a piece of bamboo cooking skewer works better. (You only need a short piece, so cut it off, then resharpen a point in an electric pencil sharpener and you are ready to plug another one.)

The other end has a larger opening, which may be plugged with a piece of wood dowel that fits snugly, or try cutting plugs from dense foam. (I save the foam blocks from having my carpets cleaned, then slice them into 3/8" pieces with a serrated knife. Cut like a cookie -  do this BEFORE applying ink or Sharpie resists, or you risk rubbing off your art.)
The hole must be snugly filled or acid will seep inside. This one is NOT plugged properly.
It's better if the plug foam fills and overlaps the edges a bit.
After etching and neutralizing, the foam will be stained but should be intact. Be cautious when removing the plug, in case acid has seeped inside. If it has, rinse again in baking soda and water rinse until bubbling ceases, then re-rinse in water.

Sometimes these foam plugs are sturdy enough to reuse. Experiment with other types of styrofoam - the denser the better. The foam does help keep the bullets from resting completely on the bottom of the acid, which will hinder uniform etching all around. Some type of constant vibration (whether from sitting on top of your running dryer or from a small fish tank bubbler) will help keep the precipitates from collecting on the tube.

If you cut a foam plug that is too small, it can easily slide up into the casing. Now you need those narrower toothpicks - they can poke through from the end and help remove the foam.
Now, you are ready to decorate your casings by Adding Resist to Brass or Copper Tubes.

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