Did I ever tell you about the time we met a stranger from the internet in an empty parking lot, after dark, to buy plywood? As shady as that sounds (and felt), at $4 for an odd sized half-sheet of 3/4" plywood we were willing to take the risk. It all worked out well, and the people selling the plywood were actually very nice.
Now some of that plywood has been transformed into my new, super-awesome, all-in-one etching station!
Skipping my usual application of Polycrylic® I sealed the entire station structure with three coats of wipe-on polyurethane, mostly to save time.
These photos are just after I installed the Z*Acryl Vertical Etching Tank for Ferric Chloride.
The lid to the station is attached using a 30" piano hinge. With the lid closed, the etching station functions as an additional general studio work surface. I think that no matter what size your studio is, having equipment and furniture that can serve multiple functions is always a wise design choice.
I added a sheet of contact paper to the bottom of the well, below the etching tank. Drips are almost inevitable when using a vertical tank, and contact paper is easy to apply and remove if things get messy. I have a large box of various contact papers from an earlier project and decided to have some fun with the pattern, which is also something I can easily change if it gets tiring.
Eventually, I hope to add a second tank to the station. There is plenty of room to accomplish this, so if any one knows of a good deal on a new or used tank please send it my way.
I added a dry-erase sticker to take notes and easily track etch times.
The dry-erase board got some flair using a hole punch, contact paper, and a few random vinyl decals I had left over from another project. Using adhesive velcro tabs, I attached a dry-erase marker and eraser to the inside of the lid for added convenience.
In the well, I have stashed a few etching essentials. Tape, clothes pins, baby wipes and a tray.
The biggest challenge of my tiny printshop (other than the simple fact that it is tiny) is the lack of plumbing. I know some of you are laughing at the baby wipes, for which I admittedly have an almost obsessive love, but I think they are indispensable in a studio without running water.
The tray can be used to carry your plate to a source of running water, or filled with water and baking soda itself and used to neutralize your plate between etches.
I am constantly searching for trays at a more affordable price point than the professional developing trays so many of us are accustomed to using. This tray is a turkey roasting tray available for $1 at your local discount store. This is what I use when stripping vent covers and hinges at home, so I thought I would give it a try.
However, I have found that it is not ideal in the studio and it has already been replaced. Better options include the $3 turkey roasting pan available at the grocery store that comes with a metal rack and handles. This version claims to support up to twenty-five pounds. Another option is an extra large baking dish or lasagna pan. A plastic storage box or a (unused) cat litter tray can also work really well.
Note: plastic storage containers also make excellent soaking trays for paper.
You can see that it didn't take long for me to fill the lower shelves with a variety of supplies.
On the top shelf I have the ingredients for a few non-toxic grounds, nitrile gloves, and, of course, a stash of phonebooks. I know the phonebooks belong with the inking station, but right now, there isn't room.
On the bottom shelf I found a very nice storage container at the home improvement store. I like this one because it is relatively wide and very square inside. Both of these aspects influence the maximum size plate and/or paper that the container will accommodate.
I am going to use this container to hold a solution of soda ash and water which will remove the non-toxic grounds from my plate.
Maybe you are asking yourself, if soda ash dissolves latex paint and acrylic grounds, won't it also dissolve the plastic container? I don't know. I do know it won't happen right away, so I am going to try it. I will let you know if it starts to eat through the container.
Slowly, this tiny print shop is starting to take shape. Next up, I continue to build more storage solutions and start etching copper, yay!
Taking a quick look at the other side of my studio, it appears a work table and/or desk may need to be moved to the top of the project list.