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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Etching - Preparing The Plate For Acid

[Etching]  [Dry-Point (pointe-seche)]  [Preparing The Plate For Acid]  [Drawing On The Plate]  [Biting The Plate]  [Reworking Ground]  [Soft Ground]  [Aquatint]  [Mezzotint]  [A First Experiment In Etching] 

( Originally Published 1917 )

First make sure that there are no scratches on the surface of the plate. Remove any you may find with the burnisher and some olive oil. Clean the plate with turpentine and a soft rag. Benzine is also sometimes used. Use salt and vinegar to remove tarnish. Afterward use a mixture of ammonia and whiting. Wash off the whiting with water and dry the plate, after which it is ready for the ground. Warm the plate until the ball of ground will just melt through the silk when passed over the surface. Be careful not to have the plate too hot or the ground will be burned. Rub over the surface evenly with a bit of printing muslin to distribute the ground; then, using the dabber, tap first vigorously all over the plate; then softly, as it cools. The ground should be evenly distributed and as thin as possible, and yet resist the acid. The plate should not be heated too quickly or too much. Keep it just hot enough to melt the ground through the silk. If bubbles come on the plate, it is too hot. Should you have too much ground, rem9ve the surplus by first cleaning the dabber on another plate or a sheet of tissue paper, warmed on the heater. With this cleaned dabber take up the extra ground from the plate. The two things to guard against in putting on the ground are grease and dust on the plate.

To smoke the plate use a bundle of twisted wax tapers. Let the plate get cold before smoking on account of the danger of burning the ground. In smoking, hold the plate face downward by the hand-vise high above the head. Pass quickly backward and forward the lighted tapers. Be careful to smoke the edges. The centre will get enough smoke in covering the edges. Be very careful not to burn the ground either by stopping too long in one place or getting the taper too near the plate. The flame, but not the wick, should touch the ground. A little practise will enable the beginner to get a beautiful, dull black surface, like polished ebony, all over the plate. If you find any parts that are not smooth and are grey and shiny, the ground has been burned, and you must wash it all off with turpentine and begin again, since burned ground will not resist the acid.

Roller Ground.-Use equal parts of etching ground broken into bits and spike oil of lavender, 1 oz. by weight to 2 oz. by measure. Warm until dissolved, stirring with a glass rod. Place in a wide-mouthed bottle and keep corked. Use this paste ground with a leather covered roller. Spread the ground with a palette knife on a piece of plate-glass or another plate and charge the roller evenly with this paste. Roll the plate many times in various directions until it is covered with a thin even film of the ground. Heat the plate to expel the oil of lavender. This is shown by a slight change in colour. Smoke as usual.

Liquid Method.-Dissolve etching ground in spike oil of lavender, chloroform or mentholated ether in the following manner: A small piece of ground is put into a 6 oz. bottle filled with the liquid. Shake well and leave for a day or so. Pour off the liquid a couple of times to get rid of the sediment. Level the plate with a small spirit level and pour the liquid ground on until it just covers all the surface and fills all the corners. Put surplus back into bottle and allow plate to dry. Smoke as before.

To polish the plate after working on it with the scraper, use the materials in the following order: Arkansas stone, snake stone, water charcoal, oil charcoal, felt and powdered emery with water, oil rubber, and putty powder with a bit of old blanketing. All of the above are seldom needed-usually the oil charcoal and oil rubber are enough. The burnisher may be used to take out scratches which have a mysterious way of appearing on the plate no matter how careful you are.

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