Etching Linoleum <techniques
The Etched linoleum technique is an unpredictable and exciting technique that combines intaglio type mark making with traditional relief printing techniques. Relief printing is a subtractive printing process where areas meant not to print are physically removed. In this case an alkali solution is used to produce a chemical etch that removes surface areas of the printing plate producing an incised line. When the alkali solution comes in contact with the resin in the linoleum it produces recessed areas with a granule surface. The remaining areas that are in relief are the areas that will print. Materials most commonly used for this technique are caustic soda, lye, spray oven cleaner, Mr. Clean, crystal Drano or other brands of Sodium Hydroxide crystals.
Caution: The etch is a dangerous substance and must be kept out of the reach of children.
- Wooden Spoon / Baren
- Linoleum cutting tools
- Sodium Hydroxide crystals
- Glass rod, Wooden stick
- Rubber gloves
- Protective eye wear
- Scrub brush
- Wax / Elmer glue / Acrylic Medium
- Hair dryer
- Bowl of cold water
- Printing Paper
- Relief Printing Ink
Safety Procedures for Handling of the etch solution & Helpful Tips on Etching Linoleum
Caution: The mixing, handling, and etching of linoleum with Sodium Hydroxide crystals are extremely dangerous. To protect yourself and those around you from harm please follow these instructions:
- Always work in a well ventilated area
- Read the safety, handling instructions and caution labels on the Sodium Hydroxide crystal containers carefully.
- Always wear acid resistant gloves, safety goggles, apron and a respirator when handling acids.
- In the case of an accident or your need for assistance, make sure someone else in the room is aware of what you are doing.
- Soft linoleum will etch faster and better than old / hard linoleum.
- Etching in a warm weather will aid in quickening the etching process.
- The longer the etch remains on the printing element the deeper the etched / incised line will be.
- When mixing the Sodium Hydroxide crystals it is important to remember to always mix the Sodium Hydroxide crystals in to the water. Never add water to the Sodium Hydroxide crystals. Reversing this process could cause a furious reaction and perhaps an explosion.
- Should the etch solution splash or come in contact with skin and is allowed to remain in contact with the skin the result will be a sever burn, it can be washed off immediately with plenty of water and follow these general guide lines:
- Always keep a container of cold water nearby incases of an accident. If your skin comes in contact with the acid, wash the area immediately with plenty of cold water and soap for a minimum of 15 minutes. Get immediate medical attention
- If your eyes should come in contact, call for help and wash your eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes. Get immediate medical attention.
- If your body should come in contact with the acid, wash your entire body with the hose from the graining sink for a minimum of 15 minutes. Get immediate medical attention.
Application & Etching Procedure for Linoleum
- In front of the ventilation unit at the processing station or in a well-ventilated area begin by adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of cold water in either a glass jar or polyurethane container.
- Add the Sodium Hydroxide crystals (Lye or Caustic soda) with the aid of a wooden spoon to the contour one spoonful at a time. Allow for the crystals to fully dissolve prior to adding more crystals to the solution. Wear rubber gloves when mixing the solution and keep your face away from the mouth of the container and do not breath in the fumes or vapors produced by the chemical reaction.
- Now stir the compound with either the aid of a glass rod or wooden stick. Once you notice that no more crystals will dissolve the solution is fully saturated.
- The chemical reaction forms the combination of Sodium Hydroxide crystals (Lye or Caustic soda) and water will produce heat. Allow the solution to rest and cool for a 5 to 10 minutes.
- Once the material has fully cooled add 1 to 2 drops of denatured alcohol to the solution this will aid in making the solution flow easier.
- At this stage you can add either white glue or acrylic medium to the solution to produce a liquid paste. This process allows the etch solution to be applied in a more controlled fashion to the printing element and produces a temporary bond.
- On the printing element with the aid of either wax, acrylic glue or liquid asphaltum begin to block out the areas of the image which you do not want to etch. This can be done with a paintbrush, putty knife or other drawing instrument.
- The etch solution is applied to the printing element with the aid of a soft bristled nylon brush. Remember the longer the etch remains on the printing element the deeper the etched / incised line will be. Wear rubber gloves, a respirator, protective eyewear and an apron when applying the etch solution to the printing element. Keep your face away from the printing element during the etching process. Do not breathe in the fumes or vapors produced.
- Once the etch is complete and the desired effect is achieved begin removing the etch solution from the printing element by submerging the plate in a tray of cold water and scrubbing the plate surface with a scrub brush. Wear rubber gloves, a respirator, protective eyewear and an apron when cleaning the solution from the printing element and keep your face away from the wash out solution. Do not breathe in the fumes or vapors produced.
- The wax block out material can be removed with the aid of a hair dryer or heat gun. The acrylic glue can be removed with the scrub brush and water, while the liquid asphaltum can be removed with either baby oil, V.O.C, or mineral spirits.