Saturday, January 3, 2015

Simple Etcher for Maker's Mark

This is by far the simplest version of any electrolytic etcher. It can be used to etch and mark carbon and stainless steel. Coupled with a quality stencil, clean and professional results can be produced.

The adapter can be any AC adapter with a voltage around 12 VAC. The diode can be any common 6 A general purpose rectifier diode (Radio Shack or any electronics supply house will have one that will work.) A few daubs of silicone to secure the diode to the adapter case and we're off and running. If you need advice on the pad, there's some detail on Page II of the Poor Man's Etching Power Supply series.

Bill of Materials:

Adapter -

Diode -

Clips -

Happy New Year!

P.S. I have updated the Radio Shack links as they changed their site. November 10, 2015.


varngold said...

how canyo fabricate a stencil for etching though?

D. Comeau said...

A stencil is made by exposing a sheet of stencil film to UV light. The idea is you print your logo on an overhead projector transparency, lay the transparency on the stencil film and expose to UV light. Where your logo is black, the film is not exposed. Soak the film in some developing fluid and remove the unwanted (exposed) areas while leaving your image. This will create a reusable stencil.

If you want to look at a one-time mask, this can be accomplished with a laser printer (must be toner, not ink), some parchment paper and an iron. With this setup, you print a negative of your image on the parchment paper and use the clothes iron to transfer the toner to the steel. Once the toner is cools it sticks to the steel. Do any further masking with tape and go ahead and etch then mark.

Videos are available online for both of these methods.

Good luck!

samross said...

I just bought all the parts I was only able to find a 3 amp rectifier. Will that work?

D. Comeau said...

A 3 amp diode should be fine. I chose the 6 amp as it is a very common part. Let me know how it works. I'd love to see some of the results.

samross said...

Thanks, will do.

samross said...

Just tried it out. Used the AC adaptor you mention above, 300V/3amp rectifier, and... IT WORKS! I used it with a q-tip (instead of the pad), salt water and was able to mark a scrap of 1080 steel easily.


Unknown said...

Dan, If you just want to use this to mark, can you eliminate the diode? In the sketch it looks like the marking side comes before the wire enters the diode. Thank you for your tutorials.

D. Comeau said...

I'd go with the etch if I had to choose on one. It removes the metal from the surface much better. Many makers use only etch (DC), like a source from a battery.

Tiffany said...

Thank you so much for these instructions! I wasn't comfortable with sawing open an AC/DC adapter since I'm new to electrical work, so I combined your two models by using an AC transformer and mounting a switch (and wiring with diode) on a platform to attach to the transformer. It's beautiful and functional!

samross said...


Unknown said...

Good Day Dan

I have been following your posts for a while. I am knew to knife making and have found your post very helpful. I am trying to make your poor man's etching tool from an ac/dc adapter but need some help/advise. is it possible for me to email you some photographs of the adapter?
kind regards

D. Comeau said...

Hi, sure send me a message at knives @ dcknives . com.


Unknown said...

I'm thinking about a cut-down aluminum heatsink for the pad. Will that work or will the electrolysis eat it up?