I have always been fairly particular about the edges of the plate in my etchings.  When the image got to the point where it didn’t need to go back in the etch again, I would pull out a file and clean the edges up.  First, long strokes perpendicular  to the face to make everything nice and straight.  Then cutting a bevel on the edge at about a 45 degree angle.  I would roll the file a bit as I worked so that the transitions were slightly rounded and smooth.  Then out would come the abrasive nail files to polish that edge.  If you haven’t discovered them, the disposable abrasive nail files that you find at the local beauty supply work great for this purpose.  I just get a couple, starting with a medium grit and working down to the ultra fines.  Cheap and effective.

When I printed the plate I would very carefully wipe the edge with a soft rag after wiping the plate to make sure that all the ink had been removed from the bevel.  The result of all this work was a beautiful, clean plate mark.

Lately, however, I have been embracing a little more ‘natural’ edge treatment.

I use a Galvanic Etch process (etching with electricity rather than acid).  I started to use it when I set up my studio as I didn’t want to deal with the toxic materials and ventilation requirements implicit in an acid bath.  As I have become more comfortable with this process, however, I have come to understand that the marks created by this etch are different and unique. I have started to embrace these differences and use them to my advantage.

One of the characteristics of the Galvanic Etch process is that it operates more aggressively where there is a small area of plate exposed in a large field of resist.  Due to the way most resists harden, surface tension tends to pull them away from the edge of the plate, exposing the tiniest bit of metal, right on the edge.  Of course the etch then goes nuts on this edge, biting it deeply.  Subsequent etch cycles work this more and more, resulting in a ‘textured’ edge that often extends a bit into the field of the image.  I could file the edge when the image is otherwise complete, but the precise boundaries of this ‘grungy edge’ may reach deeply into the image, and that clean bevel interrupts what is happening there.

Consequently, I have started to leave these edges alone.  They are deeply textured and you still have to wipe the very edge of the plate with a rag to get the big blobs of ink off, but there is enough going on there that there is still plenty to hold ink.  The result is unique and somewhat characteristic of this particular etch process.

Closeup of the printed corner
of a galvianically etched plate
We often talk of our plates ‘fighting back’ and the need to either subdue it or accept the happy accident.  In this case, I am learning to appreciate that grunge.  For me, it is a new aesthetic.
Galvanic Sprit Tint
6″ x 9 1/4″
Edition of 18

Copyright 2012, Dean Russell Thompson
All Rights Reserved