Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Acid-etched emu, goose and brown eggs

Here's a cool process for those who don't want to work with dyes, but love the natural color of various egg shells. These eggs are acid-etched with vinegar. This process will get you as close to an etched egg with a dremel without the hazardous dust and mess,  using the acid to do the work for you. You start by drawing your design on the egg with pencil as you would normally start a ukrainian egg. The design should not be too elaborate, fine or fussy, otherwise the lines will look a bit blurry. You want a somewhat open design where the contrast between light and dark is great. The more open the design, the more striking the egg will be. I find that using a medium kitska tip makes the lines bolder and less likely to float off the egg (this is why you want less fine lines or you will have trouble with the wax filling up tiny spaces you were planning on leaving open). One tip I can give you is to wax around the emptying hole and incorporate it into you design. The egg will already be weak from the acid bath, especially near the blow hole. It lessens the chance of breakage in the unwaxing process. When you are finished waxing, sink the egg with a light weight (a filled small soda bottle) into the vinegar bath. I find that it takes less than 10 minutes for a brown egg, and up to 1/2 hour for a goose egg. An emu takes longer. I usually take a soft old toothbrush after the first vinegar bath for the emu and gently scrub off some of the shell color and assess if I want it lighter. It will then go back into the acid bath a couple more times with gentle scrubbing in between. Once I am satisfied, I thoroughly rinse the egg with cold water and spray with Simple Green cleaning spray to neutralize the acid, and rinse again. I will allow the egg to rest at least a day. I will then wax the entire egg so that when the wax melts, it melts all over the egg and is uniform in color. If you don't wax the entire thing, you may find that your egg looks blotchy in color, some dark areas mixed with some matt lighter areas. You are then free to spray with varnish. I like gloss varnish best, but you could use a matt vanish to retain a more natural look. Either way, you want to varnish to give the egg a little more stability (remember that it will be more fragile than usual) and to keep oils from your hands from discoloring the shell during handling. Just a note: seek out organic eggs, or eggs from your local farmer, since those shells will tend to be stronger than eggs with thin shells that are fed antibiotics. Good luck!

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