HOW TO ETCH STERLING SILVER
PART IIIB : Using Nail Stamping Polish as a Resist
Using Nail Stamp Polish as a resist is a relatively new technique to metal etching. It's quick and easy to apply; and just as quick to remove if it’s not quite right when you apply it. No ruined, wasted Silver. Simply wipe with acetone and try again until you’re happy with the image.
You can use standard nail polish (the older and thicker the better) but I prefer the reliability of a specific ‘Stamping’ polish. It’s tackier and made to adhere. It’s never failed me in the etching solution. Having tried many brands, my favourite is the Konad brand. Black has been the most successful, though other dark colours work too. Keep away from less opaque colours. I buy it on eBay. I’m sure there are other brands that are just as good. If you find one, let me know x
You can paint it on with a brush or stamp it. If you intend to paint it, invest in some really fine tip nail art brushes. Use magnification, as this is where the detail and your skill as an artist can really come to the fore. The time you take in application is worth it, and the possibilities are endless.
Nail stamping plates however are where this form of resist really takes off in its ease of application, and this is the technique I’ll show you here.
You can buy nail stamping plates from so many suppliers, but be warned not all plates are the same. They need a good depth so you may need to invest / test a few. Some I’ve imported have been useless, so do your research and read the customer reviews. The guiding principle is - if it works on nails, it will work on Silver. I use Mo-You London plates, but they’re not cheap so don’t splash your cash until you’re sure this is the way for you. Buy a plate and see how you get on.
In addition to the stamping polish and the plate, you need a scraper and a stamper. Use a clear stamper so you can see where you’re placing your image.
You will also need lint free cotton wipes (I buy them in bulk) and Acetone. Plus you will need packing tape to clean your nail stamper.
You will need fine tipped brushes if you want to take the time to infill any areas on the design after stamping; and also to apply polish around the pieces when you’ve finished stamping.
I’d advise you to have a dedicated dust free working area to do this (the kitchen table is just fine if you don’t have a ‘dry desk’ / workshop space. Use an old tile or glass surface to work on as you will be using acetone to wipe down your area after stamping. Lay some sticky tape (stick side up) on one side of your working area to clean your stamper as you work.
How to Stamp with Stamping Polish
1. Clean your Silver and the stamping plate with a wipe of acetone. This will remove all grease and dust/filings.
It’s important to do this for the resist to stick.
2. Paint the top third of the area on the plate you’re going to use. You don’t need a lot.
3. Scrape the polish with the scraper over the plate. One solid swipe up the plate and one to the side (don’t over-scrape).
4. Roll the Stamper over the plate (in one single motion) to pick up the polish.
5. You now have your image on the Stamper to transfer to the Silver.
6. Without touching the Silver, line up the image over the Silver. Then press down, and roll the stamper away from you in one firm motion. (If it didn’t come out right, just wipe and do it again.)
7. Now you have your image on your Silver. Repeat the process until all of your pieces are stamped.
8. Leave to dry.
9. Stamp the Stamper on the sticky tape to clean any residue ready for its next use.
10. Touch up any spots that need it. (I cover a pair of reverse action tweezers with masking tape and use these to hold my pieces.) Touch up the design using a very fine paint brush, and a dab of Stamping Polish. If you make a mistake, wipe and start again. Leave to dry, then attach to your Etching Mount (see section on Etching Mounts).
Watch you tube videos of nail artists using nail stamps. Practice to see which technique you prefer. Some people like to roll and others to press their stamper.
Use a clear rubber stamper so that you can see the placement of the image onto the Silver.
Work on an acetone resistant surface. I use a glass chopping board. Wipe it down as you work.
Use acetone rather than nail polish remover. It’s cleaner and more effective.
Check your image in good light, and use magnification if you have it. It’s worth touching up areas now, as once etched you can’t put the Silver back.