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Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by KIRK!, Aug 21, 2008.

  1. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    This technique has been mentioned on here before, but I don't think anyone has done a full-on tech piece on it. If so...well, now there are two.

    I read the technique on a steam engine message board. I think I first saw the link to it on the HAMB.

    Anyway, it's not hard to do, but it's hard to get perfect. I haven't been going for perfect yet so it's been great for me. I have done a VIN# tag for my DeSoto modified and a tag for last year's Best Of Show award at Billetproof. Both were fine with a "patina'd" look. I actually etched in the VIN# on the DeSoto tag instead of using dies.

    Trading labor is always a good thing. My friend Larry Westervelt did some work for my modified a while back and has now built some bitchin' aluminum bomber seats. He wanted an old looking tag to put on them with his home-shop name, California Louver Company. He has been punching louvers for decades! You'll see that I made one in copper and one in brass.

    OK, on with the tech...

    -Brass or copper sheet (I used .032 I think)
    -Press-n-Peel Printed Circuit Board Transfer Film (PnP Blue. Available at
    -PCB Etchant (available at Radio Shack or Fry's)
    -2 flat-bottom plastic dishes (one smaller than the other)
    -Block of wood
    -Clothes iron
    -Scotch tape
    -Packing tape
    -Spray paint (from the auto paint supply, not cheap spray paint)
    -Sand paper (320, 500, 800, 1000, higher)
    -Metal polish
    -Paint polish

    1. Design your tag. I have been on the MAC for 19 years, so that's where I did this one. If you are going for an older look, keep it simple. I like to mark the holes to be drilled with center dots.

    When you're happy with your design you need to print it out in reverse. It needs to be stark black and white - no grays.



    2. Put your PnP Blue into the copier and copy your design onto the matte side. This sheet came out a little on the light side, but it ended up working fine.



    3. Cut it out.


    4. Cut your piece of copper or brass larger than the desired final size. You need the extra metal to tape the PnP Blue onto.


    5. Scuff the metal with steel wool to smooth it out. Then rinse it off with brake clean. Then wash it with soap and water to get your grimy fingerprints off of it. That means don't touch the flat surface again, dummy!


    6. Now tape the PnP Blue design-side down so that it can't slide around on the surface.


    7. Lay the metal with the PnP Blue facing up on a piece of flat wood. The wood acts as a flat surface to keep the plate flat while you iron. Then lay a doubled-over paper towel over it to keep the iron from touching it directly.


    8. Set the iron to the highest setting and iron with medium pressure for 3-4 minutes. The idea is to get the plate hot while applying pressure, incase you couldn't figure that out.



    9. When you are done ironing, the design will show up much better than it did before.


    10. IMPORTANT: Let the metal cool completely before peeling off the PnP Blue. If you do it too soon, it will not leave the resist image. You can cool it with water on the back. Just be sure not to get any on the design side because it can wash off.

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  2. HHRdave
    Joined: Jul 31, 2006
    Posts: 1,068

    from So Cal

    GREAT TECH ARTICLE! I guess you are still posting the rest..........
  3. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    11. There will likely be pinholes in the design. This is easily fixed with a nice Sharpie. Yes, that means that you could draw a design with a Sharpie and do this same technique.


    12. Cover the entire back of the tag with packing tape. This keeps the etchant from eating away the back. I like to leave a loop of tape on the end to act as a handle to lift it out of the etchant.



    13. The etchant works better and faster when it's hot, so partially fill the larger flat-bottom dish with water and heat it in the microwave. While the water is heating up, fill the smaller flat-bottom dish with about 1/4" of the PCB Etchant. Basically, enough to cover the tag. When the water is hot, place the smaller dish in the larger one to heat it up.




    14. Now, put the tag in the solution face up and leave it there for 20-40 minutes. The longer, the more pronounced the design. Agitate often. I like to put the piece of wood on top to keep the smaller dish from floating and keep some of the heat in.



    15. Remove the tag and rinse it under running water. You can rub most of the resist off with your thumb. If it doesn't all want to come off, you can rinse it with brake clean. The Sharpie marks will not rub off, you'll need the brake clean for them. Remove the packing tape before you spray it with brake clean or you're screwed.





    16. Trim the tag to the desired size and shape and then paint. Try to use just enough paint to cover the background. The more you put on, the more you'll have to sand off.


    17. After the paint is thoroughly dry place your sandpaper face up on a VERY flat surface. I use the glass on the top of one of my pinball machines. Like any other sanding job, start coarse and move up to finer. I use the grits listed above, but use whatever you prefer.

    You may accidentally scratch the background of the tag - I did. Just spray another VERY light coat, let dry and start sanding again. This time be careful stupid!


    18. After I have as much paint off as I want, I use Nev-R-Dull to polish the tag. This seems to smooth the metal and painted surfaces alike. Polish the film off with a soft towel. If you have used cheap paint, the Nev-R-Dull may rub it right off.


    19. To finish the tag off I use Meguiar's Paint Polish. I apply it with my finger to make sure I don't scratch it. This really seems to smooth out the paint well and gets rid of minor scuffs. I suppose you could go to a wax too if you wanted. If you have used cheap paint, the polish will very likely rub it right off.





    20. Drill the marked holes, mount the tag, rule the world!
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  4. fordcragar
    Joined: Dec 28, 2005
    Posts: 3,180

    from Yakima WA.

    Very nice, thanks for posting. I'm going to make a tag for my power hammer.
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  5. This is GREAT! I have been searching for this process about two weeks as I need to do some tags for a project I am working on!!!
  6. Damn kirk that is freakin cool. I used to work in a sign shop and we would make tags like that daily but ours were a bit easier to do. I don't wanna hi jack the thread and it was pretty expensive for the equipment to do it with too. We used some really cool material that was made of everything from aluminum and brass, stainless, and even plastic too. They had a coating over it, it was anything form a solid color to a marbled or granite type finish. We would draw our tag out or import it through one of many programs, and then load the material into the Epilog laser ( a Co2 Laser that is computer controlled) and then simply burn off the un wanted portion of coating, pull it out drill the holes then polish it up. I could take a whole sheet of about 24x36 and lay it in there, have it set up, and BAM in about 20 minutes that whole sheet would be done, end it out to the cutting room and they would cut them all out, drill them, and send them back in to be polished. Some high dollar equipment for sure and not nearly as traditional or cool looking, more brand spanking new looking. We used that material to make all kinds of stuff from dash and knob plates to name plates for peoples desks etc. I like the old time look of your tags better though. :D

  7. Gator
    Joined: Dec 29, 2005
    Posts: 4,016


    You ROCK Kirk - Thanks!

    I actually had a similar tag made at a trophy shop a while back. It was screenprinted on with some sort of ink - I like this method much better.
  8. Wyle E Coyote
    Joined: May 24, 2006
    Posts: 442

    Wyle E Coyote

    Very Nice Kirk! Thanks!
  9. striper
    Joined: Mar 22, 2005
    Posts: 4,482


    Great tech, Kirk.

    Like you said, it has been on here before, but maybe not so well explained...and the pics help. I'm gunna do it!

  10. Outlaw Bender
    Joined: Sep 6, 2007
    Posts: 299

    Outlaw Bender

    I have seen that before ,but i´ts still a very cool techniqe.
    Thanks for posting.
  11. publicenemy1925
    Joined: Feb 4, 2007
    Posts: 3,188

    from OKC, OK

    That is soooooooo cool!
  12. Good deal. The old link quit working a long time ago.
  13. zman
    Joined: Apr 2, 2001
    Posts: 16,541

    from Garner, NC

  14. invizibletouch
    Joined: Jan 17, 2008
    Posts: 303

    from Mobile, AL

    Sweet! I did this last year as well and not to hi-jack but I'll throw in my worthless .02.

    I used some regular transfer paper I had laying around the office. Printed some designs (credit roadster to PACHECO I believe):


    Made this little rig with a pitcher and an aquarium aerator I bought for about 5 bucks:


    Couldn't get my hands on any PCB and after doing some research I found that a 2 to 1 mix of peroxide and muriatic acid works just as well.

    Fresh out the tank:

    Shot with flat black:

    After scuffing with a sandin block and some 120 grit:


    Cool tech Kirk!
  15. Django
    Joined: Nov 15, 2002
    Posts: 10,196

    from Chicago

    That's good to know on the Sharpie. When I tried to make some dataplates for the CAF, I thought I was just a big FAILURE. I'll have to give it another go...
  16. Imwalkin
    Joined: Jul 29, 2004
    Posts: 543

    from Tucson, Az

    nice job. I saw the other post but for some reason (Iam stupid) I could not understand it completly. I want to give this a try.
  17. Del Swanson
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 709

    Del Swanson
    from Racine, WI

    Thanks Kirk, that's really cool!
  18. LastMinuteMark
    Joined: Apr 11, 2008
    Posts: 349

    from So. Cal.

    great post, thanks for taking the time and sharing,

    what kind/type of paint did you use......
  19. Shifty Shifterton
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 4,965

    Shifty Shifterton

    Bitchin post. If that ferric etchant is like others I've used on steels, it's an outdoor process cause of the fumes. And needs emergency rinse water nearby anytime it's out of the bottle.

    Out of curiousity, roughly how much is the transfer film and consumer size bottle of acid?
  20. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    Actually the fumes aren't bad at all. My wife is super sensitive to chemical smells I cause in the garage; I do this in the house and she doesn't say a word.

    I don't remember prices, but I think the etchant was about $15 and the PnP works out to about $2 per 8.5x11 sheet.
  21. Turbo442
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 702


    That is too cool! Thanks for this tech, may need it one day. You even posted where to find the materials which is a big help.
    Reminds me of an old brass plaque we pulled off a 1930's crane.
  22. T-Bone
    Joined: Mar 17, 2001
    Posts: 359


    Great Tech. Also next time you pass thru Georgia, I'll have a pile of ironing waiting for you, you seem to have the touch. Haha
  23. Thanks for the tech article. The little badge you made looks nice. Looks like it would be fun to try.

    That PCB Board Etchant would etch copper a lot faster than brass, so you might want to try it on a sheet of copper sometime. I think I remember it etches copper about 1 mil in only about 10 or 15 minutes when you use it to etch circuit boards, and you can etch copper at room temperature.

    Another thing I remember about etching circuit boards with that ferric chloride stuff is that it helps to keep agitating the liquid (tilt the tray back and forth). When the solution etches the copper, some ugly black salts form as a byproduct of the etch, and the salts slow down the etch rate a lot. If you keep sloshing it, the salts slosh away so fresh etching solution can get back to work etching. You can sometimes lightly drag a Q-tip across the surface to wipe the slimy salts away too to speed up the etch.
  24. KIRK!
    Joined: Feb 20, 2002
    Posts: 12,032


    Um, I'll get right on that.
  25. Cool tech thread!
  26. chevnut
    Joined: Jun 29, 2006
    Posts: 978

    from Corona, Ca

    Kool tech. Thanks for sharing.
  27. Scott B
    Joined: Dec 31, 2002
    Posts: 548

    Scott B

    Hi Kirk.

    That seems really easy, now that I see how easy it is.
  28. pan-dragger
    Joined: Sep 13, 2006
    Posts: 3,187


    sweet tech kirk! i'm gonna try that.
  29. chopper99
    Joined: Jan 27, 2006
    Posts: 490


    Thanks Kirk, that was fantastic.
  30. the shadow
    Joined: Mar 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,087

    the shadow

    any of you guys interested in making a one off plate for me? I need one for mychamp car project? I can supply you with brass stock sheets + some cash for your project:D

    if interested please pm me.

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