Sunday, July 26, 2015

The big etch

©2015 Barry Smith - Etched aluminium on rust
On Saturday afternoon I got to etch the panels for the peace post commission - with Fiona's help - this etch really did require two people; and Fiona's knowledge of course.

First up -  making 24 litres of etchant (salt and copper sulphate) - as you can see from the photos below Fiona was in charge of measuring and I was the mixer.

©2015 Barry Smith - Fiona adding salt to the water
©2015 Barry Smith - Copper sulphate added - lovely patterns and colour
©2015 Fiona Dempster - Mixing the salt and copper sulphate with an old cobweb broom
Then in went the lengths of aluminium - three or four at a time. The process generates quite a bit of heat and fumes when done on a large scale - hence all the work was being done outside. Heaps of bubbles and brown (copper residue) float up from the metal. We were doing a deep etch so the panels remained in the etchant for at least 6 minutes.

©2015 Fiona Dempster - Etching action on the panels
©2015 Fiona Dempster - Etching action on the panels
The muck was washed off into a tub for later disposal.

©2015 Fiona Dempster - Doesn't look pretty
©2015 Fiona Dempster - First clean with the jose
All the pieces were lined up on the gravel after washing.

©2015 Barry Smith - Ten etched and cleaned panels
The resist was was then cleaned off with methylated sports and lots of elbow crease - took me a good 1.5 hours to clean the 10 panels - but what a reward when you see the etched and cleaned pieces. Before I etched I added a leaf motif outline to the bottom of each of the peace word panels - it worked.

©2015 Barry Smith - Things of beauty - the paint and shellac resist removed to reveal the etching
©2015 Barry Smith - Good deep bite - love the organic nature of the letters
©2015 Barry Smith - The organic nature of the leaves appeals
©2015 Barry Smith - Good deep bite - love the organic nature of the letters
©2015 Barry Smith - Good deep bite - love the organic nature of the letters
©2015 Barry Smith - Love the organic nature of the leaf motif outline
I also did some small squares for the tops of the posts - also with part of the leaf motif outline.

©2015 Barry Smith - Paint resist in place 
©2015 Barry Smith - Good deep bite - lovely deep etched leaf outlines
I was very happy with the outcome. Now to move on to finish sanding the posts and installing the panels.


  1. Great post Barry, to see your process! Fiona is obviously an integral part of the process. The pieces look really stunning!

  2. super work! this will be magnificent installed!

  3. i love the photo of them leaning on the hedge with that grand big "rock" in the distance.

  4. Great work Barry! Love seeing your process... You and Fiona have quite a production set up! The panels are beautiful... Love the simplicity combined with subtle textures and interest;)

  5. THAT worked well...lovely contrast.

  6. Wow! What great texture and movement the etching achieved.

  7. This is real alchemy. The process looks like magic. I do like the simple shapes you have used. They have such power. The whole piece looks great

  8. absolutely beautiful. i am guessing this is a heavy gauge metal. when one does it for jewelry, you 'float' your metal face down into the etchant solution. this is great though, because you can be sure not go get bubbles that interfere with your design. you two did a wonderful job - really really impressive.
    actually, you've got me thinking - you either add resist to the back or tape - then even jeweler's sized pieces can be in the solution face up.
    you are inspiring, b - i admire you and fiona so much.

  9. C, V, L, JM, J EM, & MJ - talk about being neglectful - thanks for checking out the big etch and for your much appreciated comments. C & L - one of the reasons I still like the blog is the ability to share the process - I know I like other artists doing that. V - I'm hoping to complete the work in the coming week - I tho am looking forward to the installation - an a few photos with the rock in the background before they go to their new home. JM & J - I was pleased that the contrast worked - sigh of relief. EM - thanks for comment about simple shapes - clear lines is what I was aiming for. MJ - the metal is 2.5mm thick. The back was painted to stop any reaction. On smaller items we tend to use tape. Good to have the F&B team working on some of these bigger jobs. Maybe we could aim for an installation on 21 September!!! All - peace. B


Comments are welcomed - it is good to connect with fellow travellers.