I’m having fun, just the sort of thing I like: protective eye goggles over my glasses, scummy workshop shirt all buttoned up and chemical-resistant gloves pulled right up to my elbows, and all because I want to try etching some lino. I can’t show you the results yet, but I can tell you what I’ve done so far:
Whaddya mean, ‘you look ridiculous’?
- First, find the box of caustic soda crystals you bought years ago for un-blocking your kitchen sink
(hint: you’ve looked everywhere except under the sink…)
- Second, find the handy pack of wallpaper paste you put in your daughter’s ‘making box’ for doing papier mache. Make up about a half-litre of thick wallpaper paste in a glass jug or large glass jam jar
- Third, unearth a glass jam jar from the recycling bin, and a cleanish stick with which to stir things
- Fourth, empty your one and only multi-purpose plastic developing tray and line it with newspaper
- Fifth, fill two plastic carrier bags with small gravel to use as weights later on….
Half-fill the jam jar with cold water (this is important as water + caustic soda = heat, so don’t start with warm water!). Then slowly add teaspoonfuls of caustic soda crystals using a plastic spoon (so that the solution doesn’t eat away your precious metal spoon), stirring gently, until the solution reaches saturation point and no more crystals will dissolve in the water. Leave it to cool.
Once cool slowly add some of the caustic soda solution to the wallpaper paste and gently stir.
Place a lovely, grainy piece of wood in the newspaper-lined plastic developing tray. Paint with wallpaper/caustic soda paste. Apply lino (wiped grease-free with methylated spirits preferably) face-down to the area of wood you want to etch into your lino, and press down. Put a sheet of newspaper over the top of the lino and then weight it down with the bag of gravel, which will help to bend the lino in towards the wood.
At this point it doesn’t look very impressive
Wait for 1 – 5 hours depending on desired depth of line and/or relative humidity and temperature, then wash everything off carefully with cold water – preferably outside – and avoid splashing yourself or your clothes in the process.
Now my only problem is what to do if the end result is singularly uninspiring, since I’ve made it sound so exciting! Oh well, the obvious thing to do while I’m waiting is to go and make myself a large, cold gin-and-tonic. Cheers!