Micromark etching kit

kevsmith Jul 25, 2020

  1. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    Hi all

    has anybody any experience with the Micromark photo etching kit?

    I've got various things I want to do including an SD40-2B and fancy doing the handrails etc in house. I also want to do some overlays for the Bulleid pacifics unique cast driving wheels to go on the front of the Marklin wheels

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    Any advice gratefully received

    Kev
     
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  2. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Sorry, no advice. I did however purchase one about 10-15 years ago. As i was looking through the box a couple months ago i discovered my etchant had leaked inside the box, so it's a bit messy. I also have some blue sheets that I think are for running through a laser printer, then you iron the printout onto both sides of thin sheet metal (stainless or brass) and drop into the etch tank. The tank looks like an Ant Farm aquarium, with a fish tank heater and a bubbler bar that you connect to an air pump. I don't know if i will ever use it, because for a few thousand you can buy a 50W fiber laser and direct etch the metal, so I really want one of those.
     
  3. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Ugh - this is me. I bought a kit maybe 20 years ago and it's been in its box the whole time. Checked the contents maybe three years ago and no leaks but I imagine I need to be careful about that. Looking forward to a pro on this thread to show us how easy it is so I can get over my fear of trying it. :)
     
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  4. davejones

    davejones TrainBoard Member

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    In depth tutorial about how to use the kit. Video here:
     
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  5. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    I haven't used mine since discovering PPD in Scotland.
     
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  6. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yes, I have extensive experience in Home Etching, mainly using the Micro-Mark Etching Kit/Supplies.

    The kit will get you started but you will quickly find ways to improve your etchings.

    Biggest issue, the aerated tank system is great, but only for PC board etching. It is extremely slow for the etching of brass. The Ferric Chloride etchant is strong but only for a few etches then it gets weak. The warmer the etchant, the faster it etches.

    I use an old wide mouth Nalgene bottle to etch in. Warm the etchant up, pour it in the bottle, drop the brass in to etch, tighten the cap and shake-shake-shake!!! In 4 minutes or less you will have a pristine etching. Question is, are your arms up to shaking the hell outta that bottle???? I mean shake the hell out of it. Takes practice!!! Recently I have found a plastic wider mouth bottle but have not used it yet, maybe next weekend!

    Thing to remember is, if you want a crisp etching, use fresh etchant. Faster you etch it, the less undercuts you will have. Faster is better.

    Oh, don't apply too much pressure to that long orange plastic tweezer that is in the kit when you reach into the solution to pull out your brass piece. It's is extremely handy but can break easy.

    Chemical etchant and the stripper stores well in the bottles when not needed but the dry "resist" film does not age well. If you haven't used your etching kit in a while you will need fresh resist film. I just tried to order resist film from Micro-Mark last weekend but they were out so I found some on Amazon. Matter-of-fact I am working on some etching designs today!!! I'll be cleaning the brass sheets and coating them with the new resist film. If the sun holds up outside, I'll be exposing the sheets to my custom overlays by next weekend, then etching them.

    My suggestion is, clean and coat as many brass or stainless steel sheets as you can to use up the resist film then store the sheets between the pages of a large book, in the dark. Cut the sizes off the sheets that you need, store the excess back in the book, expose the sheet to UV rays, then etch.

    Make sure you have plenty of water in the event you have a spill. You'll need distilled water for this process. Etch in a well ventilated area.

    Any questions?????

    I can go on and on about my etching experiences but you'll need to develop your own experiences. Like, it's not good to warm a bottle of etchant in the microwave! It works and is faster but...............

    Below are 4 photos taken in early 2011 of the first test etch for my 1:220" scale Maxi IV intermodal wellcars. Crude but effective. This test etch afforded me the ability to see if all artwork worked for what I wanted it to do. I wound up making a select few changes to the artwork then I sent the design to a professional etcher to have these etched in nickelsilver. But it all started with the first test etch to see if I could make it work!

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    If you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to ask!!!

    Hobo Tim
     
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  7. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Welcome back to the game Tim! :D
     
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  8. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks Robert!!!

    Just keeping a low profile! Hanging out in the shadows reading all the new posts!

    BTW, your new modeling work is amazing!

    I have some things I am working on but not ready to show anything!

    Keep on keeping on in Z!!!
     
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  9. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I've heard these guys come up before - can you talk a little bit about your experience with them? How it works, how is pricing, how easy is it to send them a design, etc? Is it as easy as Shapeways? (just as an example a lot of us have experience with) I've read through their site and it looks good to me, I'm curious about real-world experiences.

    @HoboTim - would you say the DIY approach is worth it if you have just a small project you want to try out? Or does the learning curve only pay off if you're regularly doing this sort of work? I guess what I'm asking is if you're the type of modeller, like me, that once in a blue moon needs something would it be better to outsource it or is it easy enough to get right the first time as long as you pay attention to what you're doing? Probably a loaded question and a lot of "it depends" but that's what's on my mind about it (y)

    Thanks!! -Mike
     
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  10. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

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    Professional etching companies charge a one time TOOLING Fee for your artwork to etch. In 2005 I recall it being $95 with the company I used to etch the Ztrack 48' Thrall wellcars. Now it is $225 from that company. $300+ if you have a double etch (better 3D effect). So to answer your one question, if you want a project to be spot on before you have it professionally etched, you may want to test etch your piece first until you gain some experience in what works and what does not work. It can be an expensive mistake if your artwork is incorrect. Typical brass sheets are $50 each with nickelsilver being close to $100 a sheet for etching. Tooling is a one time cost.

    Practice makes perfect, or close to it. If you home etch you will have a better knowledge of what works and what doesn't work. There are a lot of professional etching companies out there. You choose what's best for you!

    PPD, PEI, the Mad Etcher, and many others. I use PEI for most of my etchings. http://www.photofabrication.com is their web address.

    You can find etching guidelines to guide you through the artwork process.

    Any other questions? Ask away!
     
  11. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

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    more than a decade ago I made two cast resin runs of the Mi-Jack Translift container crane. Total of 54 cranes. I created the artwork and printed overlays for it. I then etched all of the details for 55 cranes. 54 for the copies and 1 set for my original crane. 14 individual pieces. What made it easy was the etchings were .005" thick. .005" etches faster than does the .010" thick brass. I would have preferred to have a professional etcher etch the artwork then. I needed the experience and boy how I know that shaking the Nalgene bottle with warm etchant inside etches faster than using the aerator system. 55 took a while!

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    Five in the finishing process. The larger walkway is made up of 2 etched pieces.

    If you're thinking about diving into home etching, it is a learning activity. You can add it to your resume of hobby knowledge!

    Hobo Tim
     
  12. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    Just tried to order the kit from Micromark. They are out of stock and on back-order!

    Doh!
     
  13. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    With PPD I just send them a file, tell them mm or inches and about 1.5 weeks later the package is at my door. The reason to use them way over in Scotland is they have no minimum. You don't need to order a large sheet. The first time you pay for the artwork. If you order the same thing again, no artwork fee. I usually spend about $70-$75 on 3-4 sheets, this includes the artwork. They come shipping attached to hardboard so they don't get damaged.

    So if you know how to do the file it is just as easy as Shapeways. Well easier because Shapeways website sucks.
     
  14. davejones

    davejones TrainBoard Member

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    Seems like everything you may need is available from ebay and your local hardware. You could even use a clothes iron instead of a laminator. The only thing is finding a clear media that your printer likes to print the design mask onto. Years ago before I got rid of my Alps printer (idiot move) I use to print onto Overhead Projector Film using the black cartridge.
     
  15. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    I used Overhead Projector Film for my kit,
     
  16. Uncle Nugat

    Uncle Nugat TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Tim,

    I purchased a Micro-Mark etching kit. I'm doing some struts and details for some WW1 minis as well as some super details for the AZL Alco's. My artwork is complete and I'm getting ready to etch. What I'd like to know is, how do you "shake the hell outta that bottle" without screwing up your work. I understand there's a learning curve to this and understand the faster your etch/minimizes undercut. But don't you run the risk of ruining your etch by shaking the crap out of it or do you put some 'English' on that shake? Curious about this step, Thanks in advance.
     
  17. minzemaennchen

    minzemaennchen TrainBoard Member

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    I'm with Chris, use PPD for years, great service and quality. Setup costs are about GBP 25, an A4 sheet in nickel-silver GPB 12-15, no mess, no fuss.
     
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