Day 20 – Transfer Image on Metal

Been doing some research on the topic of transferring image on metal for engraving. One of the more popular methods consists of using a laser/ inkjet (I don’t really know the difference) printer, print your image on a piece of parchment paper, lay it on your metal surface and rub it down with acetone.

That is something I will look into in the future. I don’t have a printer at home, and I don’t intend spend such money and effort to shop for one during this period in time. I found another more traditional method which I attempted this afternoon.

It works pretty decent too.

Step 1: Draw Design with Pencil

I have plenty of tracing paper at home; it is something I use often at work and I bought way more than I actually need. So on a piece of tracing paper, I draw my design with a pencil. I tried using my mechanical pencil with a HB pencil lead and a normal pencil with a 2B lead; the 2B lead works better because the lead is softer which means it leaves more graphite on the paper.

Step 2: Cover Drawn Design With Clear Tape

On my freshly drawn design, I covered it with a piece of sticky, clear tape to pick up all that graphite. Rubbed it down with my agate burnisher for good measures.

Step 3: Apply Varnish on Metal Surface

The method I found online calls for some kind of dammar varnish which a painter uses, but who can get such things during this time? Instead, I bought a bottle of nail polish from the nearby pharmacy. Wanted either a clear or a white one, but they were both out of stock, so I picked the next best option because I didn’t want to be seen lingering too long at the cosmetic section, picking nail polish.

My first bottle of nail polish.

On my metal surface, I applied a light and even coating of nail polish and waited for it to be in a state of dry, but still tacky. I don’t think it takes more than 30 secs.

Step 4: Stick Clear Tape on Metal Surface

From the tracing paper, I peeled the sticky tape off and reapplied on the metal surface with nail polish. I rubbed down the design again with my agate burnisher and waited a couple of minutes for the nail polish to be fully dry before I removed the stick tape (carefully).

The graphite should be left on the surface of the nail polish. I tried to rub them off with my finger and it is quite impossible to do so.

Step 5: Engrave

It works. A minor issue is when I engrave, there will be a tiny strip of nail polish that curled up with the metal. Just annoying and sometimes, distracting. Perhaps I should try to have my coat of nail polish even thinner if possible.



Rather successful, I must say, but not without cost. This afternoon I drew blood by slashing myself with my pair of scissors while I was opening a packaging. Thankfully, it wasn’t a very deep wound. Funny I thought it would be more likely for me to accidentally stab myself with one of my sharp gravers.

Now all I got to do is to hone my engraving skill by engraving. I wonder how proficient I would be if I engrave everyday until June 1st? Let’s find out.


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I design fine jewellery for a living.