Etching Needle  



An etching needle is used to draw through hard ground or to scribe a line directly into a metal plate when making a drypoint. Anything with a sharp point can be used as and etching needle to a degree. However, not all scribes are created equal. Holly Morrison's preferred needle is a carbide tipped needle--terrific for drypoint. The image to the right illustrates a variety of etching needles. From left to right they are:

  • a diamond tipped needle
  • a carbide tipped needle
  • carbon steel twisted scribe
  • steel twisted scribe
  • steel needle with wood shaft
  • student made ground steel needle
  • student made multi-line tool
  • student made multi-line tool
rule etching needles
  The needle can be sharpened on the sharpening stone by rotating it with a push and pull motion. Be careful not to blunt the needle when sharpening.

Scrapers come in a variety of lengths and sizes. The scraper is used for reducing an area of a plate. The scraper is a very effective tool for manually removing a mark on the plate. the scraper will leave marks on the plate which are can by reduced with sand paper and then a burnisher.

Taping of the scraper shaft allows the scraper to be held more comfortably and firmly while working. first aid tape works best for this purpose. The scraper needs periodically sharpened on a sharpening stone. All three sides of the scraper should be razor sharp. The edge of the scraper can be maintained by using first the coarse, then the smooth side of a sharpening stone.

  etching scrapers
  etching burnishers

A burnisher is used to smooth or polish the surface of the plate. Reducing the plates surface with a burnisher effectively decreases the etched tooth and the ability of an area to hold ink. A burnisher is the tool often employed to create highlights in an intaglio print--to lighten tones in an aquatint or mezzotint.

Burnishers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to facilitate the nature of an area--from small to large--that needs to be attended to. Agate burnishers are also available as they are quite hard and can be manufactured in a variety of shapes. Be careful not to drop an agate burnisher.

The burnisher may need periodically polishing of its surface with emery cloth.

Engraving Burin    

An engraving burin typically has a bent metal shaft with a tip ground to a diamond or lozenge shaped point. The shaft is mounted in a handle designed to rest in the palm of the hand. Different size engraving tips are made to create differing weights of line.

It is beneficial to use engraver's copper when engraving. It is evenly milled and cuts smoothly. One can engrave zinc and industrial grade copper, but because of its uneven resistance when engraving it is difficult to learn on.

  engraving burins
  A roulette tool has a revolving textured wheel mounted on a shaft with a handle. Roulettes are manufactured with dot patterns, line patterns, or irregular patterns. The number of dots or lines the tool can produce is indicated as dpi or lpi. Roulettes are typically used directly on the bare copper as a means of quickly creating a texture that will hold ink.   roulettes
Mezzotint Rocker    
  The mezzotint rocker rounds out the group of non-acid platemaking tools. The rocker is used in a crisscross manner to create a dense texture on the plates surface. Mezzotint rockers have from 65 to 10 lines per inch. The toothy surface of a mezzotint plate holds ink in a remarkably rich, velvety manner.   mezzotint rocker
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                      Intaglio - a Studio Manual, was created as an electronic shop manual for the students at the VCU School of the Arts.