Etching & Creating a Patina, again

Oct 15, 2002
I have been wondering how you guys create a patina or your knives. The cherokee rose that ferguson just got looks gorgous to me. I have been trying to create a patina with concentrated vinegar before, with more or less pleasing results.

If I recall that correctly, the blade on the rose was etched with FeCl3, right ?

Whatever you use, how do you get a patina without lots of brighter and darker spots ? I have been trying to use paper towels with vinegar, but it always leaves dots on the blade.

I don't know about FeCl3, what's the regular procedure ? I can see how the whole process with small blades would work, you just fill up a glass and drop the blade in, but what about a khukuri ? You'd need a really big bucket and lots of vinegar or whatever you use.

So, where's the trick ?

thanks for your help,

I like my blades all swirly and crazy looking, so the irregular vinegar/papertowel method works for me. I have heard of someone heating up a piece of 4" PVC pipe in the oven and then sealing the bottom and flattening it out so that a big blade could slip down into it once it was filled with an etching agent. Experts will be along shortly, i'm sure:)

I've tried grapefruit juice and mustard, with varying results. I usually etch with the stuff, then even it out with scotchbrite.
Then you'd love mine, Bruise:D no shelf/safe queens in my collection;)

Keep in mind that I'm no expert, having etched only a half-dozen blades, but here's how I have done mine.
The buffed mirror finish for me is hard to etch. Something about buffing smears the surface of the steel. If I have a mirror finished blade to start with, I start sanding with 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. I use Windex (or any other generic) glass cleaner as a lubricant. This keeps the paper from loading up, doesn't rust the blade, and does a good job of degreasing. Then I progress to 800 and to 1000. I've gone up to 2000 grit on some antique pieces.
After sanding, wipe the blade off with a paper towel and degrease again with denatured alcohol or acetone. It's very important not to have any fingerprints on the blade, or they will etch differently.
Dilute the Ferric Chloride (PCB circuit board etchant from Radio Shack) with 4 parts of distilled water. I bought a 24" long plastic tray for wetting wallpaper at the home improvement store. Pour about a cup of your diluted mixture in one end of the tray. I just fold up a paper towel and mop it onto the blade. You should probably wear gloves, but it hasn't hurt me yet. It helps to really flow the etchant on heavily and let it run off the blade.
When it's like I want it, in to the sink and rinse off. Then make a thin paste of baking soda with water and lightly scrub the blade with a wadded up paper towel. This will neutralize the FeCl.
Rinse, dry and oil heavily. The oil seems to "soak in", so oil it the next day if you have to.

Good luck and have fun!

Steve, does the water need to be distilled (I haven't read the directions on the fecl yet), and what kind of oil do you use to 'cure' it?
Steve, if I understand you correctly, you just pour the stuff over the blade several times ? It must etch pretty good, I'd guess this would take hours with vinegar ?

I'll see if I can get some FeCl3 around here, I have no idea where to buy stuff like that around here in Germany. You also mentioned that you used some kind of gun blue on the guard, I suppose that would work for the blade as well ? Is that stuff solid ?
Hi Aardvark! The water probably doesn't have to be distilled. I was just trying to take out as many variables as possible. The first piece I etched was an antique Talwar, so I didn't want to foul it up. :) I use choji oil which is just mineral oil with come cloves in it. Smells great! Probably any oil would do, especially if it had a rust preventative in it.

RichardAllen, I just keep dipping the paper towel or rag into the solution and mop it on heavily. It will take only a minute or two to fully etch the blade. Using hot vinegar took me about 15-20 minutes. The ferric chloride is used to etch the copper off of printed circuit boards. Perhaps it would be available from a company that sold electronic supplies.

I've blued one blade with gun blue, but I haven't used it since doing so. It comes in liquid or paste form. I suspect it would come off with use. I don't think that the cold blue sold to the general public can compare with the hot bluing tanks used by professionals.

Grapefruit juice took me about 15 - 20 minutes and the mustard I left gooped on the blade for about half an hour. Plus they're less deadly than the FeCl.
ferguson said:
I've blued one blade with gun blue, but I haven't used it since doing so. It comes in liquid or paste form. I suspect it would come off with use. I don't think that the cold blue sold to the general public can compare with the hot bluing tanks used by professionals.

I blued the blades on mine and my son's CS Trailmasters. I haven't seen his in years but mine held up quite well.
It does wear off just like any blue wears off over time albeit quicker than the hot blue will. I've found that it keeps the rust down considerably, you know what I'm talking about if you have any CS Carbon V knives.
The dayumed stuff rusts when you look at it almost!
The nice thing is that it is easily redone. It also needs oiled heavily without wiping it anymore than necessary to get the oil evenly dispersed over the blade.
I also deliberately got the cold blue on the brass guard and although it took some time it did sort of blacken it, actually got it very black, but didn't last nearly as long as it did on the steel but still darkened it enough to make it stealthy for night, as well as, day time military work.
My son was full time Mississippi National Guard at the time and was an acting platoon leader that was often on night maneuvers.

I'm wondering if the cold blue from Brownell's is that much better than the Birchwood Casey's? If it is then it is some dayumed good stuff as I recommend the B.C.'s highly!!!!

Steve I still need to send the Trailmaster to you for rehandleing, I haven't forgotten.:rolleyes: I'm just slow.:grumpy: But it is too good a knife to set around handleless much longer.:D :eek:
How about if I send you the figured ironwood slabs and the nickel silver guard and let you do it like you would do it for yourself?
Would that work?
After you're done with it I'll get around one day and make a leather sheath for it that it will deserve.:rolleyes: :eek: :D
ferguson said:
That will be fine Yvsa. :)

Thanks Steve, got your address.:D

Bill Marsh said:
Lver of sulphur works for me.
Bill what is this sulpher substance you speak of and will it help restore the pamor on a Keris?

And if not do you know of anything that will other than the arsenic bath that will do the same with pretty much the same results?
One of these days I'll try to get a "round TUIT" and take pix of my two and send them to you to see what you think of them.
One seems to be very old, so old that the point is so thin that it's almost non-existent.:eek:

The old one has real tortoise shell inserts in the scabbard and I think maybe an ivory handle, but not for sure as it's very discolored.:(