The process of etching by Mark Levings (teacher of Lyman Byxbe)


The steps in making an etching were explained by Mr. Levings.  A copper plate is ground out by heating, smoothing and rolling.  The plate is smoked with a candle to give it a dull black finish, and then the picture is sketched with the instrument known as the needle [or burin].  This requires only a slight touch.  The back and sides of the plate then are varnished.  Then the plate is placed in a sling made of silk thread, beeswaxed, and the plate is placed in a nitric acid and water solution.  The experienced etcher knows when to remove for delicate lines or heavier ones.  After the acid has etched the plate it is placed in water and the delicate lines are varnished out before it is replaced in the solution to etch the heaver lines.  The plate then is cleaned and inked with a mixture of wine leas [sic] and burnt linseed oil and run through the press.  This system of etching is the same that was used by Rembrandt in the 17th century with no improvement other than the use of more powerful acids.