How to Etch a Brass Cuff Bracelet and Apply Patina

How to Etch a Brass Cuff Bracelet and Apply Patina

hi this is Jan with Jan’s Jewelry
Supplies thanks for watching another one of our jewelry making videos today we’re
going to be etching some brass bracelet blanks first I’m going to be showing
you some of the things that you can use to create the relief in your designs and
when I say relief that’s the area that is not actually being etched you can use
rubber stamps with StazOn Ink sharpies and this piece I used to stamp and I
dotted the rest of the area with the Sharpie pen with this piece I used some
shaped stickers that I found at the dollar store
I found a variety of stickers from animals to stars and flowers some sea
life if you look around you should be able to find a variety of stickers that
you can use and with these stickers they just have an adhesive back you just peel
the backs off of them and stick them onto your piece where you want your
really relief you can also use masking tape if you want to mask off your pieces
you could get some thin tape and do some lines I’m just going to give you an
example just going to lay some masking tape down just kind of give you some
geometric shapes I’ve just laid down some pieces of masking tape and where
you see the brass that is where your piece will be etched when you lay it in
a solution we have a variety of these of flat bracelet blanks we have them in the
two-inch the one and a half inch and the one and 1/8 inch the two that I’ve used
are the one 1/8 and the 2 inch cuff I’m going to show you a couple of
different things that you can use to etch your pieces ferric chloride as one
of them the ferric chloride is a bit pricey for this small bottle it’s about
15 dollars and some pieces can take about half a bottle to etch it just
depends on the piece which you can do several pieces at one time if you have
room for it if you’ve got a curved bracelet you will probably need a deep
cup and the wider the cup is the more solution you’re going to use I prefer to
use the muriatic acid muriatic acid can be found at most hardware stores you can
use it to remove rust lower the pH in pools clean brick etch concrete and you
just use it with hydrogen peroxide and hydrogen peroxide is really cheap and
we’re doing a three to one ratio with three being the hydrogen peroxide no
matter which one you use you need to make sure that you are recycling it you
cannot pour this stuff down your drain or dump it in your trash can pouring it
down your drains you’re going to ruin your drains if you put it in the
trashcan it is going to go into the soil and it can poison our water if you
contact your household hazardous waste facility you can find out how you can
recycle that I tend to just keep pouring it in a bucket and until I get enough
accumulated and then I will take it down to have it recycled before I start adding my design to a
piece I go ahead and mask the backside area that I don’t want etched if this is
being etched from both sides your piece will start to become very thin so I make
sure I have tape pushed down pretty firmly on the backside and any access
tape that I have I will tear off on one side and then on the other side I will
kind of make a little tab so that I can easily lift it out of the etching
solution for this piece I’m going to use a rubber
stamp with stazon ink and a sharpie I generally just eyeball it unless I’m
doing intricate design that I may use some tape to mark exact areas and then
remove the tape before I etch but this doesn’t have to be exact and when I
stamped this center piece I didn’t get it completely stamped so I am going to
use some finger nail polish remover acetone to remove the stamp you can also
use alcohol I’m just going to use a little bit of this on a cloth or paper
towel actually to remove it and I want to make sure I get all of it off there
because if I don’t then the remaining may also etch where I don’t want it to
went ahead and grabbed a ruler while I’ve got the acetone and I’m going to go
ahead and lay it up against the bracelet so I have a better idea where the exact
center of the bracelet is I just want to get this one in the very
center of the bracelet now I’m going to put two down at the bottom I’m just going to go ahead and put this
way so it doesn’t dry out and I’m going to come back in with a sharpie and just
do a little spiral piece these are fine point sharpie so if you’re doing really
small work you might want the ultrafine now that I have my design the way that I
want it I’m going to get a little tub to put my piece in little sandwich
containers is what I’m using it will not fit in there going across so I’m going
to have to put it in diagonal but that gives it plenty of room without having
to put too much solution in I’ve got some cups here once marked at 3/4 of a
cup that is going to be my hydrogen peroxide and I have another cup that is
marked 1/4 cup and that is going to be my muriatic acid so go ahead and pour my
hydrogen peroxide once I start using the muriatic acid I
will want to use gloves and it would be a good idea to wear goggles as well I do
wear glasses so my eyes are pretty well protected but this will burn your skin
it definitely will burn your eyes so do protect your eyes and your skin go ahead
and pour the muriatic acid in and I’m just going to lay my piece in
with the tape on the bottom and my little lip on the side so I can
easily pick it out and this generally takes about 25 minutes I haven’t tried
it but you could probably apply heat and get it to go quicker I have used the
peroxide that you use to color hair and it goes a whole lot faster but it the
liquid gets really hot and it starts boiling and it’s scary
I’m not in that big of a hurry and don’t really want to handle something like
that so I just used the regular peroxide and set my alarm for 25 minutes and come
back and generally it’s ready I think the ferric chloride takes a
little less time but by using the muriatic acid I am saving a lot of
money and you can see as it sits there that it’s starting to the water starting
to turn a bluish color I believe that’s the copper and the brass that is turning
it color it’s just the reaction to the metal before you pull your piece out of
the acid mixture you want to have a bath of water and baking soda the reason for
that is that it will neutral neutralize your piece and I’m just using some
rubber tongs to lift it a little bit and grabbing the tape I’m just going to set it down and in the
water and baking soda and you really don’t need to set it there long just set
it there for 30 seconds or so to let it neutralize and then I have a bucket that
I will discard the acid solution into and again make sure to recycle okay
I’ve had this sitting and the baking soda and water for just a minute and I’m
gonna wipe it off I’m going to dry it off I’m going to peel the tape off the
back and I am going to use some some more acetone to clean off the marks and
also sometimes there will be some adhesive left from your masking tape and
or your stickers if you use stickers so I want to clean off all the inks and
adhesive that there may be left there’s also some adhesive on the back you can see the design a little bit but
it’ll come out even more when you use a patina you may be able to see a little
bit of lines where some of it seeped through and that’s pretty normal sometimes just right around the edges
you’ll see a little bit where the acid has come through just a little bit the
main thing is to protect the pieces best that you can so it doesn’t end up being
really really thin I’m just going to take a little bit of steel wool and go
over the piece just to make sure that it’s clean and smooth I’m going to do the front and the back once I’ve gone over this with the steel
wool I’m going to clean up my workspace and wipe this off with some alcohol and
then before I had a patina when I go ahead and shape the bracelet you can use
a mandrel to shape the bracelet or you can bend it with your hands and then do
the last little bit with a mandrel or you can actually just use a rolling pin
most of the shape you can easily do by hand except for the very tips of it you
need to tap down a little bit for the ends I actually use a rubber mallet but
if you don’t have a rubber mallet you can take a regular hammer and just I
actually have taken a sock and wrapped it around the end of it and taking a
rubber band to attach it to the hammer and you just need to have a little bit
of protection a little soft area to where you’re not marring the metal I see
here this is a mandrel but I’m going to show you on the rolling pin not quite as
easy because the rolling pin does move but I’m just going to take this rubber
end of this mallet and tap this end down to where I get that little curled around
the center the center at the back that is I’m just going to turn it around and
do the other side I’m going to bend it around the rolling
pin a little bit and then just tap it down now that I have my cuffs shaped I
am going to add a patina there’s a number of different kinds of patinas on
the market the one that I’m using is the swellegant
darkening patina they do have a variety of colors they’ve got a blue a purple
green but I like the darkening patina so that’s what I’m going to be using some
people actually dip their items in a patina to me that’s just a waste of the
patina and I’m just going to put a little tiny bit in a cup I can always
add more if I need more and I will just dab it on with a brush and I don’t put
my brush down in the bottle because I’m always afraid I will contaminate the
rest of the patina so I just take out a little bit as I need it and this should
be plenty to do this bracelet and a lot of times we need to having it on it is
going to roll a little bit and you just want to dry it up where it rolled and
just keep dabbing it on when you’re finished with the patina the
bracelet should be a really really dark brown almost black on the outside
of the bracelet if you have any bare spots you want to go back and add a
little more patina where it’s a basically a solid color then I’m going
to go and do the inside of the bracelet as well now that I have the piece
completely covered with the patina I’m going to set it aside and let it dry if
you set it down and it’s sitting in a pool of patina the edges are going to be
wet so you want to set it make sure it if it drips that you set it in it on a
dry surface I let this set for about thirty minutes and it was still slightly
damp so I came back and used a blow dryer to dry it out completely if you
rub your fingers across it and any dampness comes off of it onto your hands
then you’re going to want to go ahead and dry it some more either let it sit
longer or come in with a dryer to make it completely dry I’m going to go ahead
and use some steel wool on this to take the patina off of the very top surface
and to do this I’m going to use a mask because there’s going to be a lot of
particles flying and you really don’t do not want to be breathing those particles
and your hands will get nasty with this as well so you might want to wear gloves you can see the design is starting to
show through and you can remove as much of the patina
as much or as little as you want some people will bring it back to a pretty
shiny surface some will keep it really really dark I like to leave a lot of the
patina on there quite a bit of the patina on to give it that antique look so you just keep removing the patina
until you get it to the color that you like so I have this at about the coloring
that I like it’s still pretty dark but you can see all the design you can come
in and add a clear coat to your piece and that will protect the patina and
swelligant does also have a clear coat I generally do not add a clear coat
because I figure if it starts to wear down I can add more patina and that
becomes a little more difficult you would have to strip the clear coat off to do that that’s it for this video thanks for watching we’ll see you next time I would like to take this opportunity to say one more time please
do not pour these chemicals down your sink
make sure you dispose of them properly there are household hazardous waste
facilities that you can take the chemicals to you don’t have to run up
there every time you use it just keep a big bucket and pour the stuff in there
and when you get enough to dispose of take it up to them and they will recycle
it properly


  1. Thanks so much for this — really enjoyed it. Have two questions (if you said these things, sorry, I must have missed them):

    Do you clean the metal at all before stamping on the design?

    Is each batch of solution good for only one piece, or can you use it again before consigning it to the waste bucket?

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi, Do you happen to know it ferro-chloride will work on cooper from the hardware store? I am talking about working with copper that is used for home/ tubes/ pipes that can be flattened to get sheets of cooper. Will the process of submerging in the solution/ ferro chloride takes longer? Will it work?

  3. Perhaps you should let the folks know that you are making "Cupric Chloride" when you mix these chemicals. MSDS info perhaps!

  4. Thank you for an excellent demo! Your bracelet cuffs are very lovely craftsmanship. I hope to get some skills in etching. Jewelry making is such a creative outlet for me and so diverse its hard to decide which direction to go. I think etching need to be seriously explored. Where do you buy your copper pieces, and are they precut? If you cut them yourself what tools do you use? I have both an angle grinder with metal cutting disks and also a Dremel Saw Max for finer work.

    Note to viewers:
    1. These are all HAZMAT materials and MUST BE DISPOSED OF PROPERLY. DO NOT FLUSH THIS DOWN THE DRAIN, AS THE COPPER RESIDUE WILL KILL FISH, SNAILS, TREES, PLANTS AND POLLUTE RIVERS AND OCEANS. Look up your local hazmat disposal sites, and take this there. Do not pollute the earth. Dissolved copper is highly toxic to any plants and fish.
    2. The resulting product from contact with copper is Cupric Chloride used for a variety of uses, and you may be able to reuse the waste in textile dying, etc. Look it up online. Recycle, reuse.
    3. Ferric Chloride is a one time use product and produces a lot of waste and is costly.
    4. Muriatic Acid + Peroxide is the way to go. Reuse indefinitely by adding one or other some more. There is an article on this to read. Plus Muriatic Acid will also clean your toilet built up minerals crud. Use with occasionally as it is toxic and strong, and may damage old water pipes.
    5. Do not inhale fumes. These are strong chemical reactions. Work in a very well ventilated place or outdoors and /or wear a nose mask – the $30 version that blocks chemicals. Just because this process is in the craft category, do not take this lightly. Harbor Freight has eye goggles for $2 each, and Nitrile gloves 50 pack for $13 at 0.9 mil (black color). Buy these for all your household needs and any furniture refinishing as they are caustic chemical resistant. Don't bother with the cheaper Nitrile gloves or Latex.

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