Salt water etching 2016.

I taught at the John C Campbell folk school this weekend.  I had a fantastic time with a great class.  Here is a copy of my handout from the class.  I’m going to be teaching the class at the folk school again next June.  I will post a link for the class when it becomes available.  – Liz

Salt Water Etching Class notes- Liz EvansI learned the basics for this technique from the article: “D Battery + Saltwater = Cheap, Acid-Free Etching” by Ron Pascho published in the Art Jewelry November 2008 issue. It is a great article and I highly recommend reading it.

I moved from single D battery setup, described in the article, to a two battery holder with rechargeable batteries, and finally to a cellphone charger. The principle is the same. You need the following:

1. Power – Battery Holder + Batteries OR a charger. You need to have access to the anode (Red +) and cathode (Black -) wires.

2. Salt water – Super saturated solution (this works better if you make it up ahead of time.) I use Kosher Salt or Pickling Salt. You don’t want Iodized salt.

3. Copper plate to attach to the cathode (-) Black wire. This should be slightly larger than the piece you want to etch. This piece is reusable and only needs to be cleaned and well dried between uses.

4. Copper, Brass, bronze, or nickel silver piece that you want to etch. Attach to the anode (+) Red wire.

5. Duck-tape

6. Copper wire, 18-gauge. To attach the pieces to the wires.

7. A Resist – Nail Polish, Paint, Pain Pens, Permanent Marker, PnP Paper, or tape.

8. A non-conductive rod to hold your anode and cathode in place over the solution. A wooden dowel or bamboo skewer.

9. A non-conductive container to hold the solution (plastic or glass work well).

10. Cleaner to remove the resist and to initially remove oils from the piece. Barkeeper’s Friend or Penny Bright.

11. Plasticine

A night or two before you want to etch mix up your saltwater solution. Start by pouring out about 2 cups of water from a gallon of distilled water into a pitcher for later. Mix in 2 cups of pickling salt into that gallon jug of distilled water. Put the lid on and shake well. Let it rest for a few minutes and then shake again. If all the salt dissolves add more and shake again. Keep adding salt and shaking the jug until it stops absorbing the salt. Let it sit overnight and then add more salt and shake in the morning until a fine layer of salt stays on the bottom.

You can attach the anode and cathode wires directly to the copper / to etch pieces but I bought some stranded insulated copper wire with alligator clips to make extenders that could be cleaned or easily fixed if they got eaten through or rusted out. You could also just twist the anode and cathode wires directly to copper wires.

I used to say to clean your piece first but now my recommendation is to go ahead and attach your copper wire to both your cathode piece and your etching piece.

Take a copper wire and tape it to the back of your to etch piece. Cover the entire back of your piece with duck-tape. , unless you want the back of your piece etched as well. In that case you will need to plan for a space at the top of your piece that you can drill a small hole in for the wire to go through. The cathode copper piece only needs the wire taped or soldered to it you don’t have to cover the whole back with tape.

The piece that is going to be etched must be cleaned. I used Barkeeper’s Friend and a green scrubby to get all the oil off the face of the piece. You have to clean them until the water sheets off the metal. If it the water pulls away from the sides it still has oil on it, so keep scrubbing until you get a nice even sheet of water on the metal when you rinse it. Dry it off with paper towels and then don’t touch the front of the piece if at all possible. The duck-tape should hold even through the wash, but check it to make sure that it is still secure with no gaps. The wire gives you a hand hold.

Decorating: If you are attaching your copper wire using a hole you leave the area around the hole bare, don’t cover it and don’t paint it. Paint the edges and your design on the front with a paint pen or other resist. Cover all surfaces you do NOT want recessed/etched. You could also use a sharpie marker but I find that it wears off about half way through the etching process. 

I cut bamboo skewers in half to lay over the top of the glass jars. They help with securing the wires in the right areas of the jars. I put a ~ 2in piece of copper onto the exposed end of the cathode wire (- black wire). I then attach the anode wire (+ red wire) to the piece you want to etch. Use the bamboo pieces to help hang both pieces so that they are parallel with the side with the design facing the copper cathode. If you don’t have a dowel or skewer you can hang them off the sides of the jar. They work better the closer they are to each other without touching. Fill to cover the pieces with salt water. Put the D batteries into the holder or plug in the charger. (Some cell phone chargers are smart so they know when something is plugged in or they take a few minutes to build up a charge.)

If you are etching a bead or both sides of a piece you will want to hang cathode pieces on either side of your piece, effectively sandwiching your piece between them without touching it. You would then connect both cathode pieces to the same black wire from your power source.

You should see bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles. If it is going well it will look kind of like an Alka-Seltzer going. The cathode piece will be the one fizzing. Which seems counter intuitive but is correct. Your etching piece will not fizz. The water will also start to turn really, really muddy orange. Let it bubble for an hour checking and wiping it the etch piece off every 15 min. I wiped off both the anode and cathode pieces. Check to see if you need to re-apply any resist. The larger your container the longer the etching will take.

Once the piece is etched you can peel off the duck-tape backing and scrub off the paint with a green scrubby, brillo pad, alcohol, or nail polish remover.

Let the water stand in the jars overnight. The precipitate all falls to the bottom. You can continue to use the same water until it stops fizzing.  

So what is it actually doing? You are making a circuit. The power source attaches to your + anode and –cathode plates. The salt water then completes the circuit. The electrical current flows from one plate to the other through the solution. This electrical current strips electrons away from the anode plate. The electrons are only pulled away from the exposed portions of the anode resulting in a recessed design. Each atom becomes a water-soluble copper ion that either combines with a chloride ion in the solution to form cupric chloride (Copper II chloride, CuCl2) or it attaches to the cathode where it looks like a thin coating of metal. You will want to dispose of the copper salts appropriately.


Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Table lands in Gros Morne Newfoundland

We got an early start to the day and made it to the Table lands trail head before anyone else.  It was still cool to and the hike was very spiffy.  Easy terrain, not a lot of ups and downs.  The fascinating thing about the Table lands is the landscape.  It’s like looking at Mars.  It is the same temp as everywhere else, the same rainfall, nothing different in any way, but the mountain and surrounding areas look like desert land, everywhere else is lush and green, this place is red dirt, boulders, and mountains with permanent ice sheets at their tops.   Why?

Interestingly enough it’s because it is a rare geologic formation, it is one of the few places in the world above the ocean where the Earth’s mantel has broken through the Earth’s crust and hardened into peridotite.  It is so different from everything around it.  There are apparently also fossil beds off the trail closer to the mountains themselves.  Seeing plants we associate with bogs, pitcher plants and sun dews, etc.  growing in what looks like a desert is just plain weird.  There were beautiful streams running off the mountains and across the valley.  

We made it back to the car just as a bus load of people showed up.  Yay early morning hike…. Wait I just said that there must be something wrong with me.  

We drove around a bit and found ourselves at Trout River.  A very nice town, with a lovely bay and boardwalk.  We went into the interpretive center and read up on the local history and looked at neat antique fishing equipment,  sleds, read the story behind a wedding dress on display with the sled, you have to go there if you want the story,  saw pictures of great catches including a lobster half red half black.  It was just charming.  We ate lunch next to the river for which the town is named.  Beautiful spot.  

We then drove up to the Bonne bay visitors center.  It has a wonderful panoramic view of the bay.  It also has art exhibits that change out periodically.  This time there were felt and weaving artists work on display.  It made me think of my friend Gellis, she would have loved it.  There were felted boulders… Yes you did read that right boulder sized sculptures made of felt. O.o   Some of the work was just stunning.  The video of the woman using her breath to activate the loom was interesting, I’m not sure she needed to be naked but hey, whatever warps your loom.   There was also a display that had a display naming the rock types that are found out at the Table lands, so I now know that the rock that felt like it was a reptile skin is actually named Serpentinite.  Cool-a?

We had dinner at the pub in the hotel and had excellent pub style fish and chips.  

Miklos and I then drove up the coast stopping at various pull off spots, saw several private harbors with small fishing lodges.   Trout streams and views across bogs and wetland to giant cliffs.  We drove up to Saint Puls then drove back as the sun started to sink in the sky.  We went to the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.  It was a sweet little light but we were too late for the tour and did wear our hiking shoes for the trail so we went back to Rocky Harbour to see the sun set.

While watching the sun slowly coming in and out of cloud banks we noticed that the people were walking along the shore line. Seems pretty natural.  Well this is a rocky shore.  Full of round, flat, smooth stones…. Ok who wouldn’t pick one up and start skipping them?  One Dad would start, then his kids would go oooo neat teach me, then another Dad would start and older Dads and young boys would all be there skipping stones.  The Moms and girls would try it a couple of time if they got it they were like cool, some would stay and skip stones then go what’s next, if hey didn’t they would throw a few more stones and go next, usually looking for sea glass or other interesting stuff.  The guys once started would happily be there till they left.  After noticing this Miklos and I watched, scored a few of the more ambitious throwers, then after a few minutes of quite Miklos looks at me and says, “Can we go down to walk on the beach?” I look at him, ” you want to skip rocks don’t you?” “Yes!” He says looking all abashed. It was so cute!  Of course we did.  I got to collect lots more cool rocks and he got to skip stones. It was a great evening.  


Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ferry then to Halifax

The ferry was a couple of hours later getting into port than expected so we decided to drive down the coast to Halofax instead of taking the interstate.  It was so pretty.  We stopped at Sheet Cove visitor center. It had a short walk down to a bridge that had a terrific view of waterfalls and rapids. There was a saw mill there at one point and you can still see the foundations and some of the other remnants of the buildings.  Overall a very nice walk and visitor center.  We have made it to Halifax and had dinner at Curly’s Portables,  yay for deep fried food.  Fried pickles, cheese burger and fries with diet coke (don’t judge) and gingerbread with rum pineapple sauce for desert. It was magnificent.  Now for the repacking of the suitcases and reveling in high speed internet connections. Yay!  Cheers! 

Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Boat ride, Drive around and Cow head…

We started this morning off going to Western Brook Pond.  The hike out to the boat was a 3km, 1.8 miles.  Through bogs and forests.  It was not a hard hike and the area was beautiful.  The morning was foggy and a little drizzly and very, very windy.  The boat tour took us on the Western Brook Pond, crazy I know given the trail name.  The pond is a fresh water fjord created by  glaciers.  The water is so pure that it won’t conduct electricity. It is 19 miles long and  average depth 238 feet – to max depth of 541 feet, the cliffs that surround it on three sides are immense 2200 ft high.   Cool-a?  It was beautiful, if really windy.  It has snow in some of the high spots, waterfalls, rugged cliffs, it is just stunningly beautiful.  

We drove up the coast had lunch at the SS Ethie wreck site.  You can still see parts of her on the shore line.  There is a beautiful view of the coast and stairs down to the beach.  

After lunch we drove up the coast, we were going to Stevie’s walk but saw a spit of land and decided to investigate.  We found our way out to Cows Head and decided to walk out to the lighthouse.  The trail was so cool.  It was walking through trees covered with lichen that were tall enough that they made tunnels.  There were huge boulders that the forest seemed to be sliding off of, and that had moss and water dripping from their edges.  Small caves and glimpses of sweeping coastline.  At one point there was a fork in the trail one side going up some stairs to the lighthouse the other going out to the point.  We decided to go out to the point.  It was the right choice.  

There  are a couple  of things that are special in Newfoundland, one is a bright orange lichen on the rocks and the other is the way the trees grow on the coast into one dense over growth that looks solid from the outside but is hallow inside it is called Tuckamore.  Spruce, Juniper and Fir have stunted growth and nit together into a solid mesh on the outside.  This trial goes through the inside of that hollow space and it is magical. 

A land of the Faye, made of moss and ferns, shadow and green filtered light.  Trees covered in lichen making arches that surround you.  Little brooks run around giant boulders covered in moss.  At one point Miklos found a vista that was up through the trees.  When he poked his head trough the trees he said it was like the sceen in the a Hobbit when Bilbo climbs the tree in Murkwood and sees all the butterflies, but here it was dragonflies.  And a stunning view of bright blue skies and ocean coast.  

The trail ends at the point, which has a rock formation that looks like a Cows head, ok, I didn’t see it.  What I did see were some amazing rock formations.  Tidal pools and the bright orange lichen.  It was wonderful.

We had dinner at the hotel.  Miklos and I both had wonderful steak, locally raised angus beef.  Yum!


Published in: on August 7, 2015 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coast Walk and Ferry Rides

We  spent our last day on Newfoundland as we started but in reverse. We walked the Coast trail, more along the beach this time.  Got back to the van just before the rain started.  We went by the visitors center and I got a couple of CDs of local music.  We drove back through Corner Brook and alas the Church was again closed.  We had a Pizza Delight for dinner in Cornerbrook.  It isn’t a delight, nothing about it was a delight.  Ok I got free refills on drinks.  We then drove back to the Ferry.  The wait the boat was long.  Had sleeping births with windows, yay!  

Published in: on August 7, 2015 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  


We drove from the ferry over to Cornerbrook. Stopped in at the information center and looked up the 1930 sensus.  We found the address for the house my Dad grew up in and got a map of the town.  It was a bit surreal.  We stopped at the church were they went for years and where my Grandmother and my Greatgrandmother both were intragle to making the First United Church of Cornerbrook cookbook.  I have several additions of this cookbook at the house some with hand written notes and many letters from and to my Grandmother talking about the recipes and ideas for new things to include.  The church was locked up so we couldn’t go in but we walked around outside for a bit.  

We then drove over to the house and took some pictures.  No one was home so we didn’t get to go inside or around back but it was neat to think of my dad running around the neighborhood and seeing trees and houses that have been there since the 30s, knowing it probably looked pretty much the same.  I really had a pretty hard time there.  I wish I could ask him about his life there and what he loved and missed and what it was like, etc.  I took pictures of the papermill that was so pivotal to his, our lives.  My Dad went to school to be a forester like s father.  He went to the University of New Brunswick and then got his masters from the University of Washington.  My Grandfather worked for Bowater in Cornerbrook, then moved out to Victoria British Columbia when my Dad went out to Washington to school.  Bowater sent my Grandfather to Tennessee to scout locations for a new papermill.  He picked the site in Decatur Tn for the Bowater company.  When my Dad finished school he came to TN to see the new plant.  He met my Mother at a Christmas party and decided to take a job at the new mill rather than going back north.  So in a lot of ways I wouldn’t be here without that papermill in Cornerbrook.

We drove up to the Gros Morne park and hiked he Coastal trail.  Fantastic walk next to a trout stream that spills into the ocean.  The coastline is rugged, rocky and beautiful.  The trail runs along a coast filled with sun and salt bleached drift wood lined up along the rocky shoreline and on the other side are wetlands and bog plants and twisted juniper trees.  It was wildly beautiful.  I kept having visions of a massive battle between stone giants and Tree Ents that must have happened so long ago that it has faded from memory.  All that is left are their scattered remains littering the coast and bleaching in the sun.  

We came tot hotel to discover that the hotel is remodeling so No air conditioners in the rooms.  85 degrees here by the way is hot, really hot, Africa hot, ok not really, we just had to wait till the sun went down and open the patio door to cool off the room.  We went down to the hotel restaurant, Oceans Dinning room, for dinner.  I had a fantastic pork chop with maple screech sauce.  Miklos had the Duck confit which was also superb.  Desert was a lemon curd wih gingersnap and toasted meringue layered in a mason jar.  We also had. A fantastic bread pudding with partridge berry sauce.  All in all excellent day.  Cheers!

Published in: on August 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

P.E.I. And over Cape Breton and the ferry to Newfoundland

In the morning we got up and out the door stunningly early. Grabbed breakfast as we checked out of the hotel.  Drove into the national park and hiked the Greenwich dunes trail.  It is buggy.  Like douse your spouse in bugs spray and then use a flame thrower to cleanse a path kind of buggy.  Don’t use the bathroom there because you didn’t spray bugs spray there and you can’t pee that fast, kind of buggy.  Until you get out of the trees.  Flee from the trees.  Then it was breezy and beautiful.  Easy walking with views across meadows down to the waters edge.  Loads of wild flowers.  Saw a salamander, titty bitty thing, only about an inch or so long and bright orange.  We saw a very fluffy crow hanging out in the top of a pine tree. We also saw a tiny snake.  (Although we don’t tell Betty that because she hates snakes.). It was cute.  

Then the pah went into the woods.  Bugs, trees, bugs, streams, bugs, fields of deer moss, bugs, bugs and bugs.  But then the trail comes out to this oasis.  A series of boardwalks and floating walkways through this amazing wetlands.  They lead up to the sand dunes and onto a beach that had sand like brown sugar.  The wetlands were just spectacular.  Miklos loved the floating walkways. However after walking on the beach, back through the wetlands we made a mad dash through bug cage match 2015 and then back to the car.  

 It by far was my favorite hing on PEI.  

After the hike came the drive back across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the ferry in North Sydney.  We had dinner at Flavor on the Water.   We managed to pass up Lickin Chicken, I know, how could we?  Flavor was excellent.  It was right on the bay in Sydney with a beautiful view and a modern vibe.  Miklos got the Rootbeer BBQ Ribs and I got the Aged Cheddar stuffed Chicken breast with Apple slaw we both got the garlic mashed potatoes.   Both were outstanding.  We had lemon cheesecake with a berry reduction and a piece of chocolate tort both were stab your neighbor with a fork if they get to close to your next bite good.  

We got to the ferry terminal about 9ish.  We boarded and had sleeping compartments, which was awesome.  We didn’t leave port till almost midnight.  Tried to sleep, failed miserably until about twenty minutes before announced wake up happened. Got to Newfoundland at about 6:30am local time.  Which is about half an hour off of everywhere else.

Published in: on August 4, 2015 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  


We went to Green Gables!  I was so excited to get to see the setting that inspired one of my favorite book series.  PEI is all about Anne, really, really, really all about Anne.  It’s almost like an Anne and L. M. Montgomery omage. That and potatoes. 

The house and grounds have been made to match the descriptions from the books with items from the time period.  We went through the house and then took a walk down lovers lane and around the Balsom Hallow loop trail.  The house was beautiful.  The furniture, wall paper, appliances (like an awesome cast iron oven/stove) were very cool. Took loads of photos.  Then got an ice cream and looked throgh the gift shop.  I had a good time.  

We then decided to drive down the coast.  We stopped at different pull offs for photos of the beach.  The sand was red and brown.  It looks like Tennessee red clay from a distance.  We drove down to a lighthouse and Miklos and I walked out on an old pier.  It’s more of a retaining wall.  It was neat to see the water rush in curve around the shore and rush up along the retaining wall.  

The early afternoon was hot so we went back to the hotel.   Deciding to go back out later in the day.  

Skip to later that day.  We got another boom burger for dinner.  Yes they are that good.  We then drove back over to the coast and were getting out at a pull off spot when we saw foxes.  One older one with a bad eye and a younger more energetic one.  We took pictures and then drove a little more up the coast to a cliffside overlook of the ocean.  We met a nice guy from New Brunswick and talked to him for awhile.  He was there with his wife and grand kids.  He was on crutches so was at the overlook while they played on the beach.  He told us that Apparently there were fox farms on pei for the fur trade. When the trade died out there were foxes that escaped and became naturalized to the island.  

We went on down the coast to watch the sunset and saw four more foxes playing by the side of the road.  Just awesome.

Sunset walking along cliff tops watching the surf and holding hands, great way to end the day.  Cheers!

Published in: on August 3, 2015 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cape Breton to Price Edward Island

We got up and again had magical blueberry pancakes. And a really nice cup of hot tea.   If only those could happen everyday.  Le sigh.  We then proceeded to hike out to the point,~ 2km one way, 2.4 miles round trip,  middle head trail is the name of the trail.  I learned a new abbreviation, puad, pointless up and downs.  I mean really.  The views along the way and seeing the baby seagulls just learning to fly for the first time was well worth it, but one more set of stairs and I was going to get a bulldozer and show them a level trail. 

We then got I the car an drove and drove and rinse and repeat. 

The bridge to PIE is eight miles long.  It is a marvel to drive across.  The welcome center on PIE  reminds me a bit of Pigeon Forge. Kitschy and touristy. 

Got a fantastic cheeseburger at Boom Burger.  They use local, beef, potatoes, cheddar cheese, butter, buns,  I mean it was awesome.  

We went to Anne of Green Gables chocolates and got some truffels.  Yummy! 

Hotel, Laundry, enough said.


Published in: on August 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cape Breton day 2

The day started as all days really should start with home made pancakes with wild blueberries that I didn’t have to make. And there was much rejoicing. Yaaaay!

We started with a short hike at the Bog trail.  It is a flat trail on raised platforms through a mountain top bog.  There were pitcher plants and all sorts of wild flowers.  Yellow Water lilies and purple water Iris were in bloom.  The breeze was nice and there were actually few bugs.  Pitcher plants are so weird but pretty when blooming.  There were fields and fields of them.  Once you start seeing them they are everywhere.  

It was still foggy but we drove up to the Skyline trail. Up and up and up and up and out then to stairs that led to an abys of fog.  The trial was amazing.  It goes along the ridge line and you can see for miles.  It is a 7km or 4 1/3 miles.  It is 950 -1330 feet high elevation.   After walking along a nice trail that has snippets , teaser peeks, really of the big views you see a thousand and one stairs and platforms that look like MC Escher was asked to design them that peter out to the very edge of the mountain top.  One one side a sheer drop to the ocean.  On the other a sheer drop into the valley you drive up to get to the trail head.  You could see the spaghetti road ways with itsy bitsy cars.  We saw glimpses of the ocean but mostly we saw a cloud bank that we could see both above and below it. 
By the time we headed back the sun had come out and it was hot.  We hiked from shady spot to shady spot.  It was a long haul back to the car.  I was glad to have cheese and crackers with a lot of water for lunch.  

We made our way back down the mountain stopping often to take pictures at overlooks.  We saw a moose!   Our first moose sighting in the wild.  Thought we saw a whale, rotten lying rocks in the surf just looked like whales.  I was very disappointed.  Walked along the beach, picked up some rocks.   

We stopped a couple of places along the shore to enjoy the surf.  The waves were just spectacular.  We worked our way back to the in and had dinner, which was again good.  My bacon, mushroom, Mac n cheese wasn’t as good as Miklos has the night before, so that was a bit diss appointing but the desert made up for it.  

I wandered over the grounds taking pictures and watched the sunset over the bay.  Just as the sun was setting I turned around and noticed a full, perfect, blue moon rising over the other side of the cove.  I must have looked funny going from one side of the grounds to the other as both the dun set and the moon rose.   In all a magnificent day.   Cheers!

Published in: on August 3, 2015 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment