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Etched Aluminum Bowl

Louise Rauh shares her etching process for her delicate, yet durable, aluminum bowl.

For Louise Rauh's master’s degree thesis in fine arts she dissolved metal in a deliberate pattern, while balancing the medium’s delicacy and durability. The result: exquisite, decorative aluminum bowls handpainted in vibrant acrylic inks.

Materials and Tools:

spun aluminum bowl
orange solvent
nitric acid
acrylic inks; pink, yellow and green
acrylic finish
respirator or dust mask
safety glasses
electric drill with wire brush attachment
hair dryer
rubber or latex gloves
covered mixing containers

Step 1


1. Sand off any marks from the solid bowl from the spinning process using wet sandpaper and a wire brush attached to an electric drill. Wear eye protection and a dust mask. Sand the inside and outside of the bowl.

2. Put on rubber gloves. Heat the bowl using a hair dryer. Paint a few leaves onto the inside of the bowl with asphaltum — a resist that adheres to the bowl.

Step 3

3. Paint a few leaves on the outside of the bowl with asphaltum. Let dry overnight.

4. Mix a small batch of caustic solution using four ounces of lye and one gallon of water.

5. Wearing rubber gloves put the dry bowl into the caustic solution and let it sit for four hours.

6. Remove the bowl from the caustic solution.

Step 7

7. Rinse the smut — that results from the chemical reaction — off with water. Dry the bowl.

8. Heat the bowl with a hair dryer. Apply another layer of leaves with the asphaltum resist — overlapping the previous layer. Put the bowl in the caustic solution for four hours.

Steps 12-13

9. Repeat this process eight times to establish a pattern and depth of surface design. The edges will be eaten away and holes will appear in the bowl.

10. Clean the bowl with orange solvent, rubbing it with newspaper. Wash the bowl with detergent.

11. Bleach the bowl in an acid solution to remove any traces of alloy metals. Rinse and dry the bowl.

12. Randomly apply dabs of translucent acrylic inks to the inside of the bowl and blend with a large paintbrush.

13. Apply the inks to the outside of the bowl in the same manner. Let dry.

14. Apply a clear coat acrylic finish to the inside and outside of the etched aluminum bowl. Let dry.

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