Some questions on Etching names/logos


"The Montana Bladesmith"
Morning Everyone!

As some of you know, I'm planning on creating a line of stainless, stock removal knives. In order to create a separation between my stock removal and forged blades, these blades will be marked via etching. I recently purchased a Personalizer Plus, and have stencils on the way.

This is a totally new thing for me. I'd like to tap into the knowledge of those on the forums who have much more experience than me in this area.

First, the machine came with two different electrolytes.... "SC-E4" which says its for Carbides, Discalloy, inconel, stainless steels, Low carbon, and mild steel. Another bottle of electrolyte is marked "SC-E1" and says for Aluminum, Stainless, and mild steels, stellite, high alloy, and tool steel.

I've been playing with it this morning, experimenting on 52100 and 1084, and following the provided instructions, achieved a couple of pretty nice marks.
Since this is going to be mainly used on stainless (13C26 for now), which of these two electrolytes is the right/best for the job? (both say for stainless) I can already see that I'm going to want a big bottle of which ever works the best, and also of the cleaner.
Any insight or pointers would be readily accepted and greatly appreciated!
I'm also wide open to suggestions/procedures for getting good, consistent marks.

Many Thanks!
Ed, all my etching stuff is from Marking Methods, so I can't help you with the exact #'s on products, but I know that I've gone to etching everything with Marking Methods "general" solution. I have one for stainless, and one for carbon steel, etc... but they're general solution works well on everything.

My unit is variable on the current, and has an AC and DC setting.

I etch a deep mark with the DC setting, and then flip it to AC to darken it.

If you want it to really look good on carbon, I like to put cold blue over it.

No matter if I'm doing ss or carbon, I always go over the mark with a few light passes of whatever my final sanding grit was. Always.

I like to place my stencil with one piece of scotch tape so it's easily positionable, can breathe, but isn't held down to tight to the blade.

You probably already knew all this, it's just some stuff that popped into my head though.
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Just great to see you foolin' around again Ed ! I believe a line of stainless bladed knives from you will be very well received. You know what? when you get one of your first your stainless blades complete if you it was a full tang you could have a great testing area. They sure can do a neat job even on the very small nanes !!! Frank

Thanks for posting elsewhere about the q-tip method and the appropriate amount of etchant to have on the q-tip. That tip helped me out alot.

I've found that no sizzle means nothing is happening and it's time to re-wet and re-dab the q-tip. This may be needed 3 or 4 times during the etch and 3 or 4 times during darkening. It does work much better than ending up with a giant halo from too much etchant.

Also, from forum info I've been using DC to etch and AC to darken. ??? I guess perhaps I've got it backwards ???

Ed, that was a good thread on this subject I'll try to dig up a link for ya. Also very glad that your doing well after your surgery !

Josh, my understanding, like yours (and how I've been etching my blades) is that DC to etch, AC to darken.

I also use a Q-tip rather than a felt etching pad. I found the tendency to wet the felt too much and too large of a felt pad were things that made for a bad etch. I feel I have more control with a Q-tip, though Ernie laughed at me when I told him I was using it. :)

Ed, you want the felt, etching pad, q-tip, etc to be damp, but not dripping. I actually dip in the solution (I just use salt water), and then dab it on a paper towel to remove the excess solution. Be sure to lift off of the stencil periodically to allow it to gas off. I found better results and longer stencil life when I do very short etching contacts with more frequent lifts. This allows gassing off but also keeps the stencil cooler.

Like Nick, I place a piece of my finish grit sand paper over the edge of the counter, and I pull the blade across it from ricasso-to-tip on the very edge of the counter to clean up the etch without creating new fish hooks in the finish. It's pretty common to have a light cloudiness around the etch, but if you have excessive cloudiness or darkening around the etch, it's probably from too much solution. I always oil right away after etching and cleaning up, though it's not as big a deal in stainless.

As for the solution, I bet either one would work well. I'm using just salt water (with a home-built Crawford etcher), and it works equally well on stainless and carbon so that I cannot discern a noticeable difference.

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Thanks for the help fellas! And thanks for the PM Josh!

I'll give all of the information a try and see where it takes me. I ordered the steel today, so should have some blanks to grind in a couple of weeks. I'm gona practice/experiment with the suggestions you've given me and try to get it figured out before I have a train wreck on a blade trying to mark it!

Many Thanks!
Instead of using a felt pad, I connected an alligator clip to the etching lead. You dip the end of the q-tip in the solution, and clip the alligator clip to the top of the wet cotton, using the end of the same side to etch with. You have to dab-dab-dab over the stencil moving around to cover it all even.

DC to etch (its actually reverse polarity DC) This removes metal.

AC to darken. This takes a little out and puts a little back (hence the black)

I went to the Wally World fabric section and bought some felt on sale. Probably never have to buy felt again.

Just cut me a little rectangle piece of felt, wet it with solution, squeeze the snotz out of it until it feels almost dry and etch away. I use etching solution from IMG.

Keep your stencils clean. When I finish etching, I just blast both sides with Windex and a follow-up blast of water from a spray bottle. Put them into a piece of folded paper towel and store them away from light. Light is bad on those stencils.

DC (Etch) pulls the metal out of the mark hence the backwards lead. AC (Mark) put carbon back in the mark.
You don't want you pad too wet. Damp it on a paper towel till it doesn't leave wetness on the paper towel. But the pad should still feel damp.
You guys are exactly right about the current settings. I was just looking back through the thread and saw I wrote it backwards.

Glad you guys caught it because I haven't been online since I posted that the other day.

Sorry to give you bad info Ed! :eek:
Stencils came today!

I got the stencils from Ernie today (super guy to deal with!). I've been messing around with the different electrolytes that came with the etcher (Personalizer Plus), and I honestly can tell any difference in the mark that each leaves. The Q-Tip method works very well! I'm getting a nice deep mark with the etcher set on about 3-4 on the dial. I tried one at the highest setting (5) and I think I over did it...came out with one nasty looking halo around all the letters. I've not been able to make the mark dark/black yet...not sure what that trick might be??
I'm now understanding about the doesn't seem to really matter which type you use.
Well, I'm gona go practice some 3 EBKs that have to be marked and delivered locally by tomorrow...I'd hate to mess up someone's Christmas gift!

Thanks for all the guidance folks!
I have the marking methods 300 machine, msc1 electrolyte and ernie's stencils. Using the hand pad. One tip I would offer is to hold the positive down on the stencil for a two second count and up for one second. Etching for longer periods without lifting the q-tip will and can produce halos because it does not allow the gases to escape. Repeat this sequence until you receive the depth you are searching for. The DC will give the best deep etch and the AC will darken the etch. MM makes a neutralizing solution and cleaner (APC) in one. This also is a wonderful product. ASAP after etching rinse in water and neutralize. A soft buff lightly for carbon blades over the finished etch clean non-compound buffing wheel will clean up the etch if desired. On carbon steel or damascus I follow with a Black bluing of Wonder Blue (great stuff). Stainless blades receive a light buffing on a wheel with your final polish on SS. Clean the stencils in water and dry for maximum life and place between soft non-acid flat paper for storage. Bruce Bump has the same etcher and maybe he will chime in and have more/other tips for you. I am glad your back into the knife making realm. I wish you and yours a joyous holiday season with many blessings to fall upon you and the family this and many years to follow!
If you do buff, just be careful that you don't remove the dark from the bottom of the etch. Been there and done that.

Well, the EBKs are marked, but not as good as I had hoped. I thought I had it down with the practice on scrap, but the darkening of the letters continues to be an issue. Sometimes good, sometimes spotty. I called Steve Kelly and talked to him for a bit about it, and what he suggested worked the best yet for getting high contrast on the mark....just using the "Mark" setting and holding it for 45 seconds. The mark isn't as deep, but it looks MUCH better than when I did the "etch" for 3x 20 seconds, then switched to "mark" for 45 seconds....I'm seeing that this is as much an "art" as everything else that goes along with knifemaking.
I'm sure eventually I'll figure this out, but right now I'm really envious of you folks who get that sharp mark with the super dark contrast!:bud:

I'll see about getting a pic of the better marks and posting it later...that way you can better tell me what I'm doing wrong! :D
Ed, I use marking methods stuff but I can't tell any difference on their #1 and #4 solution, if your stuff is similar.
I use etch for 5x 15 sec and for the mark I leave it on a full 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. Like you I was having the problem of not getting the etch dark.
Yes it is really an art.:)