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Custom badge Tech.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by rustybucket, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. rustybucket
    Joined: Dec 21, 2006
    Posts: 265


    There was a post some time ago here on the HAMB that really perked my interest… the post was about acid etching at home.

    In that post along with several examples of etched badges were links to an article that described the process in greater detail.

    I recently completed a little project for Ryan and thought it would be nice to add a little something extra so I decided to make a custom brass tag for it using info from the above articles. Ryan thought it would make a nice tech piece so below are the details.

    First, come up with a design. In my case I had a specific area I wanted the badge to go that dictated the shape so I traced the area including mounting holes and scanned that tracing so I could do the design in illustrator.

    Designs should be done in black and white. Areas that are white will eventually be eaten away and filled with paint and areas that are black will be bare metal… I did my design the way I wanted it to look in it’s finished state. When the design was completed I had to mirror the image and reverse the colors for the transfer process.

    Next is to transfer the design to the transfer paper. This process, which has its routs in custom circuit board design calls for the use of a special transfer paper called PNP blue. I ordered my paper from a company online. The paper is designed to be printed on a laser printer and comes in standard letter size 8/12 x 11. It’s a good idea to fill your page with as many designs as you can get on the page because chances are it will take a few transfers to get a good usable one. Determine what side of the paper your printer prints on and load the paper with the chalky blue side as the side to print and let her rip.

    Once printed, carefully cut out the designs. Next step is to prepare the bras to be etched. Cut out a corresponding piece of brass slightly larger than the design you intend to etch. The surface to be etched should be thoroughly cleaned and free from grease or oil, which could hinder the etching process. The opposite side should be protected from the etchent solution. There are several options to protect the backside. The easiest is to cover the back with tape, I have used masking tape as well as clear packing tape, both work but etchant has a tendency to work its way in around the edges especially with the masking tape. If the design is smaller than the brass its usually ok if there is a small compromise around the edges. A better way would be to apply a thin coat of paint to the back.

    Once the brass has been prepared its time to actually transfer the design to the brass. Lay down a couple of paper towels and place the bras on top. Place the trimmed PNP on the brass and tape it down to keep it from shifting. Add another layer of paper towels on top. The transfer process is done using heat. Smaller designs are easily transferred using an iron set on high. I have found that holding the iron down under pressure for about 25 or seconds followed by gently sliding the iron back and forth with light pressure for an additional 30 or so seconds works. At this point carefully take the hot brass to the sink and run water over it to cool it down. When its cool peel the PNP back to expose the transfer. If there are small areas that didn’t transfer you can fill them using a little spray paint on the tip of a fine brush. If the transfer failed miserably clean the part using solvent and start over. This step is one of the most challenging parts of the process. It takes a little practice to get a good transfer, once you get the transfer process down the rest is easy.

    Once you have a good transfer, mask off the remaining bare areas with tape and create a little handle with a loop of tape. The etching part of the process is done using a chemical called ferric chloride. Ferric chloride can be found at radio shack under the guise of PCB etchant or is widely available on line. I have found that the etching process is greatly enhanced by the use of heat and agitation. I bought a couple of small glass cooking pans with snap on lids, which are convenient to both etch in and store the etching solution. Place the brass in the glass container on the stove with the tape handle sticking up and fill it with enough etching solution to cover the brass by a ¼ inch. I jerry-rigged a set up to keep the temperature from getting too hot. It may take some experimenting and creativity to keep the solution from burning. It’s probably obvious but care should be taken to prevent a fire and to regulate fumes. If you’re stove is off limits this process can be done cold but will take longer. I have found that to get a good deep etch its best to leave the part in the solution for at least an hour. Agitating as often as possible will help aid etching. I usually agitate the solution over the brass by rocking the glass container or lifting and dropping the brass by the tape handle. To check progress lift the brass out of the solution. When it looks deep enough pull the part out and rinse it. Although ferric chloride wont burn your skin it will stain it and anything it comes in contact with…it will also eat / stain metal so it may not be advisable to do this process or rinse it in an area you care about.

    Once the part has finished etching and has been rinsed you can remove the tape and trim the brass / drill any mounting holes. I usually design a border into the part that can be used as a cutting guide. When the badge has been trimmed coat the whole front side with paint. When the paint has dried use a sanding block with some fine wet dry paper and wet sand the raised surface leaving the paint in the recess.

    The resulting part is a nice shiny new custom badge. The applications for this are almost limitless. With a little practice, very nice and professional looking badges can be done at home with minimal investment.

    Attached Files:

  2. TagMan
    Joined: Dec 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,992


    Clear and consise!

    Thanks for writing this up - I always wondered how that was done. Now, I gotta try it myself.
  3. Why did you have to go and show me how easy it is?

    Now I'm going to have to go and do it myself.:mad::D
  4. zman
    Joined: Apr 2, 2001
    Posts: 16,558

    from Garner, NC

    wow, very nice... thanks I can use this tech...
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  5. HomemadeHardtop57
    Joined: Nov 15, 2007
    Posts: 4,160


    So..I will need to use a laser printer? Also, is there a store that has this paper in stock that I can just walk in and buy it without having to do an internet order. Very, very cool post.

  6. ALindustrial
    Joined: Aug 7, 2007
    Posts: 852


    awesome job man... that thing turned out beautiful!!!!
  7. tdoty
    Joined: Jun 21, 2006
    Posts: 821


    Don't know if anyone in your area has the paper in stock, but a coper works as well as a laser printer.

    The PnP blue is great stuff. I've also done this with laser transparency film and a's just a little more labor intensive and challenging.

    Print your stuff on a quality inkjet and copy it, and you should be just fine.

    Tim D.
  8. the-rodster
    Joined: Jul 2, 2003
    Posts: 6,598


    That is so friggin cool.

  9. CrkInsp
    Joined: Jul 17, 2006
    Posts: 513

    from B.A. OK

    Great info. Very well done.
    P.S. Most office copiers are lasers.
  10. VonMoldy
    Joined: May 23, 2005
    Posts: 1,556

    from UTARRGH!

    I was trying to find this stuff online at radioshack to see if I could pick it up local. I found this though
    looks to be the same idea but you draw out the stuff with a pen instead of a transfer. Would this work. It wouldnt be good for fine details but a quick and possibly crappy way of doing a similar thing.
    This is freakin dope! I think even my toilet will end up with a custom timing tag from the toilet crappers timing association you know the TCTA!
  11. rustybucket
    Joined: Dec 21, 2006
    Posts: 265


    I haven’t tried using a marker but my guess would be the results would be poor. If you were to try and color a larger area with the marker I think there would be problems with getting good coverage. On slick nonabsorbent surfaces the solvent in markers actually activates the dried ink and pushes it around leaving thin spots. You might have better luck painting with a brush. Anything is worth a try though.
  12. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 18,939

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    As cool it is... wait till you see the finished product that Chris made for me. Much more to come once I get it all finished up...
  13. devildog101
    Joined: Apr 24, 2007
    Posts: 49


    Wow. Something new for me to try Thanks
  14. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305


    Ahhh! That's neat!!

    Man this is a great tech week!!! :eek:
  15. converseandbowlingshirts
    Joined: Nov 10, 2006
    Posts: 556

    from Eugene, OR

  16. Wow, that's very cool! That badge looks great! That's a real nice design you came up with!

    I remember making some circuit boards, that it speeds up the etch if you lightly drag a Q-tip over the areas you're etching once in a while. There's a slimy salt that forms on the surface as a by-product of the etching, and if you sort of sweep that slop away lightly with the Q-tip, the etch moves along faster. Taking the part out and rinsing it once in a while also speeds it up.

    It might keep it shiny longer if you spray the whole thing with clear lacquer or clear acrylic spray.
  17. Django
    Joined: Nov 15, 2002
    Posts: 10,197

    from Chicago

    That's awesome!

    I was trying to make a data plate for the B-24, but I just couldn't get the image to transfer properly. :(
  18. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    I made my own too. I'll post some pics when I get home.
  19. Mr T body
    Joined: Nov 2, 2005
    Posts: 2,125

    Mr T body
    Alliance Vendor
    from SoCal

    This is one of those threads that gets your brain working overtime. I have a plotter (cutter) that I use to produce vinyl decals and am wondering if vinyl will hold up to the ferric chloride. Hmmmm..... time to play :D
  20. RatBone
    Joined: Sep 15, 2006
    Posts: 660


  21. LOWCAB
    Joined: Aug 21, 2006
    Posts: 1,989

    from Houston

    He added more. I got a few things I want to try out.
  22. CRH
    Joined: Apr 30, 2006
    Posts: 554

    from Utah

    What a beautiful, professional AND classic looking logo. Great Tech, great design, I'm impressed.
  23. sixinarow
    Joined: Mar 18, 2007
    Posts: 169

    from Fargo, ND

    I also have access to a vinyl cutter, let me know your results.
  24. VonMoldy
    Joined: May 23, 2005
    Posts: 1,556

    from UTARRGH!

  25. duste01
    Joined: Nov 5, 2006
    Posts: 1,213


    Love the work and the finish, makes me feel like I can do something worthwhile too.
  26. Ace Brown
    Joined: May 3, 2005
    Posts: 751

    Ace Brown
    from OH

    So if i wanted the background say black or red or any color i guess, should i just paint it? I saw that one link a guy made a badge for his Atlas lathe and it was red and black, as did empire 32's badges. This is awesome. i had been wondering how to go about making some "fake" timing tags. Awesome stuff. Thanks

    edit: never mind, i just re-read the post and you did indeed paint it and sand off the excess. my mistake!
  27. patman
    Joined: Apr 30, 2007
    Posts: 547


    A laser printer (and most office copiers) uses toner to print stuff on the page. Toner is basically powdered hot melt glue with some color mixed in. The toner will protect the metal from the etch solution.

    If you've got an old laserprinter with a straight paper feed path and want to fiddle, you can modify it to accept thicker "paper", and just print directly on the metal sheet. UPDATE: this won't work...don't try it...

    Without that hack, the trick is to find a way to transfer the toner from the page to the metal you want to etch. I've tried this for making PCBs, and tried a couple of slightly different approaches. It's a bit fussy, but it might work for you in a pinch.

    Here's two I've used:

    1) Take a sheet of laser print labels and peel everything off so you're left with just the slippery backing sheet. On the computer, flip your design to a mirror image of what you want. Print the reversed image on the slippery side of the sheet, making sure you have the 'best quality' setting for the printer so it lays the toner on thick. CAREFULLY lay the sheet face down on the metal, and use a hot household iron to transfer the toner onto the metal, then CAREFULLY peel the sheet off leaving the toner on the metal.

    2) Get a sheet of really thin paper, the thinner the better. Newsprint will work. Some quilting/sewing supply stores sell paper that is water soluble, and some hospital gowns are actually made of this water soluble paper. If it's too flimsy to run through your printer without jamming, you can try sandwiching it with a thicker piece of paper, and sticking it down with laser print labels. DO NOT use regular will melt into a blob and ruin your printer. Same deal as #1, print it high quality in reverse on the thin paper, then iron it onto the metal. Soak it in water for a while, and rub the paper fibers off until only the toner remains.
  28. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    Here's one I did for the modified.

  29. lotus
    Joined: Sep 7, 2002
    Posts: 1,119

    from Taft, CA

    damn...this is easy enough that i might try it.
  30. How thick would you make the brass plate? Does it only work on brass or other metals as well?


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