Etching page 3

Exposing and Developing the Stencil

Lights out in the room, safety light on (the yellow bug light). Make sure your stencil material is not yellow light sensitive. I use IMG’s stencil material. If you use some thing else, check their instructions.

Open the stencil material light tight bag, cut a small piece, approximately 2” square. Excess stencil material back in the bag and seal it right away. 

Place your mask (see below -the pattern you printed out on your printer) on the light table.

Place the stencil material on top of the mask. Close the lid. Turn on the light table for how ever many minutes you need to.

Light table off, put the stencil material into the already mixed up solution to develop.

Swirl it around, use an brush to help the developer work better. In a nut shell, where ever light strikes the stencil, that material stays in place. The mask blocks light from striking the stencil in some places and the developer solution dissolves that material leaving a very fine screen mesh - just like a silk screen for marking T-shirts. Once it the stencil has completely developed, run it under cool water for a bit to get rid of any remaining chemical.

Let it dry for a few minutes and it’s good to go.

A couple hints.

  Use a stop watch, track your exposure times until you get good, consistent results.

  I never measured my water temperature when making developer but I did make it a point to get to what I felt was room temperature just to make that a non-variable. I’d almost best too warm or too cold of water will affect the developing process.

  Very fine lines in your pattern just seem to be more trouble than they are worth.

 Bob Warner has an excellent tutorial on how to make a light box at


Making a Pattern Mask

  I use my ink jet printer and I have used a laser jet printer. I buy the overhead transparency material that is made either for the ink jet or laser jet. It’s available at the big box stores and office supply stores. Buy the small package. How many different 2”x2” logo’s will you need? A dozen will fit on one page and you probably only bought a page or two of stencil material.

If I am doing an ‘artsy’ logo, I scan in an image from Dover’s books or I’ll make a simple one in a word processor. It will need to be the exact size you want on your knife. I usually make several sizes on one sheet as the transparency material is a little pricey. Make it print on the finest resolution your printer can go and set it for the blackest print out it can be. The pattern has to block light to work. Blacker, darker, highest resolution, highest contrast is best. Your pattern is limited only by your imagination.


Making your own Electro-Etch Machine

  Again, it is Bob Warner to the rescue. He has plans for one here:

 Now Bob has just been getting hammered with questions for a couple years on these plans. He’s answered most every one of them already here: so please go there and do a search or post a message there for any questions. Do Bob a favor and don’t email him a question like, “If I don’t follow your plans and I substitute 10 different parts than what you specified, why doesn’t it work? They are your plans.” I’ve seen some of the emails he gets like that. It’s insane. He won’t know the answer and doesn’t want the liability if he did and you electrocuted yourself. There are several people that have made this etch machine and it is working great for them. Post your question on the forum there. I didn’t build it, but the plans are pretty simple and straight forward. If you are on a strict budget, build it. If you can’t solder, pony up the cash and buy one from the supplier listings at the end of this tutorial.




Making your own stencils is easy -- once you know how. Most are used for logos or makers marks but I think this process is over looked more than it should be, at least in the U.S. Etching is more common in Europe as a method to embellish knives and guns. Once you get up and going, start etching every thing you own just for the practice. I have a handsome set of hammers with multiple etches of my name on them for all posterity. You have read the entire sum of my knowledge and I encourage you to post any questions here: after doing a search there first. I bet your question has already been answered.

Mike Fitz got busy and put together this great supplier listing. I have not verified it as I put together this tutorial so if you find a dead link or out dated information please let me know and I’ll update it. Expect the prices have probably increased a bit. Mike has put comments in on his experiences with many of the vendors. I have placed Ron Caiborne at the head of the list. He builds and sells a great unit, from many reports, that is fairly priced and he is active in the community.


List of Etching Suppliers

Researched and compiled by Mike Fitz


Ron Claiborne
2918 Ellistown Road
Knoxville TN 37924

Contact: Ron Claiborne

Ron makes an etch machine for a reasonable cost that has good word of mouth support on the various knife forums.

545 A West Lambert Road
Brea, CA 92821

ph. 714-671-7744

Contact: Sy Haeri

Stencil supplied was a generic that said "YOUR NAME" curved over "CITY, STATE" in a green fabric with a shiny rubbery backing. Three sizes were supplied on one sheet, six stencils total, in a bold Arial-type font, ~ 3/16, 1/8, and 1/16" tall.
The letters cut deeply, evenly, and with very crisp edges to the letters. Cleaning by hand with a mild soap returned the stencil to nearly the original appearance.

Pricing: quoting Sy: " The cost of our green stencils for a 3x6" sheet is $12. Set up per logo is usually $30, unless it is something complicated. ... We attempt to fit as many images as possible depending on image size. Typically between 6 and 9 images, and they can be different sizes, too."

In addition to stencils, ElectroChem Etch markets the "Personalizer" and other etchers, and also a kit for making your own stencils


P.O. Box 379
Utica, NY 13503

ph. 800-775-3824

Contact: Patricia Bruno

Numerous stencils were supplied of typeface and small images of animals and fish. The material was a blue fabric with a shiny, nearly see-thru back. I found that this stencil is a bit more transparent to the current than some others and as such, heat became an issue. One needs less strikes (8-10) and must pay attention to the heat otherwise one would burn up the stencil. This is not a problem, but an observation regarding techique. 1/8" tall letters in a fine Arial-type font cut cleanly and deeply, with very crisp definition. 1/16" bolder Arial-type lettering cut very well, also, including the # sign that was in the type. ~5/8" tall images of an elk and a salmon cut very cleanly also, a good test of the mix of fine and bold portions of the image. Stencils seemed to clean up well, with some residue left in the finest portions of the elk image.

Pricing: per price sheet: "Artwork charges- one time only-For each new design....$35 Revision Charges..For Minor Revisions to existing Design.....$20. Stencils per sheet 2-1/2 x 7" $8.50; 3-3/4x7" $12.95; 5x7" $15.75." Pat said they are willing to mix sizes on one stencil sheet.

Pat was a joy to deal with and very helpful. They are very used to dealing with knifemakers, and are the supplier for the blank stencil material for making your own stencils, in addition to selling a full line of
marking products and solutions.

Lectroetch Co.
5342 Evergreen Parkway
Sheffield Village, OH 44054

ph. 440-934-1293

Contact: Dave in Sales

Stencils were supplied on a dark green fabric. Lectroetch used my MS Word file to generate my logo as a sample. The logo is 13/16" long and about 1/2" tall, with lettering 3/16" to 1/16" in an oddball font called Maiaindra bold. This is apprently a difficult font to work with, because unretouched, the stencils cut well but with alot of lack of definition to the edges. All 5 stencils on the sheet were tried with various numbers of strikes and current, but the lack of definition persisted. Some letters were crystal clear and crisp while others were a bit fuzzy. When contacted, Lectroetch immediately sent me another two samples, one on a higher-threads-per-inch fabric (gold) and one with the font replaced by a bold Arial-style. My logo still cut poorly with the "best" material, but the Arial-type on the green cut crisp and clear with no complaints. Apparently my font selection is a bit difficult to reproduce directly from a computer file.....After cleaning, there appeared to be alot of metal residue in the stencil, but repeat etches were well done without loss of definition.

Pricing: per Dave Badt, Pres.: "our 2.5x7" stencil sheets cost $9.75 each, regardless of the quantity of images on the sheet. There is a $25 one time setup fee for each new artboard and plate we have to create.........I have mentioned my decision to waive our normal $25 minimum charge for the makers only... to better meet their smaller requirements."

This company went out of their way to be courteous and helpful. I apologize to them for giving artwork that was not readily ammenable to direct use.
Marking Methods were correct that this font needed detailing by hand. Lectroetch is very willing to deal with the small requests of the individual maker, and their stencil made from their artwork was as good as any. They come highly recommended as the stencil source for a couple of the knifemaker's supply houses. Anecdotally, I was told that their stencils lasted so long one person went to a new stencil out of a sense of guilt...LOL. In addition to the stencils they carry a full array of equipment and supplies. Very prompt and professional, a joy for the small customer.

Marking Methods, Inc.
301 South Raymond Ave.
Alhambra, CA 91803

ph. 626-282-8823

Contact: Customer Service

My original post regarding my dealings with MM:
While I must say they aggravate me very much because of the way they conduct business, I am obligated to say they make a fine product. I have used my Mark 300 for nearly 17 years without problem and the stencils have always cut beautifully; despite having an apparently difficult font to reproduce, they did it by hand and the stencil cuts as crisp as anyone's.

Pricing: $12 per sheet for gold stencils..they wouldn't cut mine on the green stuff. $20 plate charge. $21.73 art charge per plate. I had my logo reproduced in three sizes, one sheet each, 5 per sheet. Cost was around $170 total.


Martronics Corp.
P.O. Box 200
Salkum, WA 98582

ph. 800-775-0797

Contact: Shirley

Three stencils on three different materials were supplied. My small 5/8" logo was provide on a purple fabric. It seems someone may have been eating a snickers when they packaged it, as it arrived gooey and dirty, plus it had a crease in it. It cut terrible, with ill-defined and incomplete letters. A second stencil made from a green rubbery-backed fabric saying "SAMPLE MARK" in 1/4" tall bold Arial-type font cut very clean and crisp. The third stencil was a very large version of my logo, ~ 2", on a blue plastic film, which looked like someone had done a drum-beat on it with a butterknife edge.. there were creases all over it. Despite this, it cut very well.

Pricing: per e-mail from Lisa: I couldn't get a real good breakdown for pricing, perhaps I asked the questions wrong. I sent my artwork and asked for a quote for one sheet each in three sizes. Their response: "for one sheet of 5-6 stencils using the artwork that you e-mailed to me the cost would be right around $70 no more. For one sheet of 5-6 stencils and artwork that we had to create or do alot of work on the cost would be $70 for the stencils and $25-$50 for the art and plate." They are really expensive or really cheap, I can't quite figure out what they mean. Perhaps they'll clarify.

Martronics is the manufacturer of the "Etch-o-Matic" etcher and sells the appropriate supplies, also.


Monode Marking Products, Inc.
7620 Tyler Blvd.
Mentor, OH 44060

ph. 440-975-8802

Contact: Karen Wagner, Sales Manager

The stencil supplied was on a purple fabric, and contained letters ranging from an artistic font italic "Monode" 3/8" tall to a phone number line in letters 1/16" in an Arial-type font. The stencil cut very cleanly and crisply across this broad range of sizes, with the only exception being a little bluriness on this really tiny "TM" after the "Monode".

Pricing: per telephone: Camera charge is $15. Art charge is $24, $15 for revisions such as a city change. Multiple sizes on the same sheet have a $32 art charge. 2-1/2x7" stencil sheets with 4-5 images per sheet are $10.90 each.

Monode carries an extensive line of etching devices and products, along with stamps, hot stamps, and stencil making equipment.


TUS Technologies
537 State Road
N. Dartmouth, MA 02747

ph. 508-997-3200

Contact: Juergen Hallemeier

Various stencil samples were supplied on a brown fabric, available in two weights. The first stencil was in a Times-Roman serif font about 1/4" tall, and cut very well. A second stencil in a handwritten-signature style with very bold letters 1/8-3/8" tall also cut excellently. The third stencil was multiple sizes of an Arial-type font ranging from ~3/8" tall bold "T.U.S." to 1/16" fine phone number. ALl of these sizes cut very crisp and cleanly also. These stencils also exhibited a high "transparency" to the current, cutting very fast, and generaing alot of heat at the conditions chosen. Care must be taken too avoid burning the stencils.

Pricing: per Juergen: "A typical sheet stencil 2-1/2"x7-1/2" with 5-6 impressions is $12.40 each. The setup charge is $20-for 4 impessions, $22-for five, and $24-for 6 impressions, using e-mailed art as you recently supplied." I make the assumption there would be an additional charge for TUS generating the artwork or retouching a supplied computer file.

TUS is very anxious to serve the knifemaking community and has contacted me by phone to see if I was satisfied. They carry an array of equipment and supplies.



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