Back in the April 2012 issue Hamilton Bowen discussed ways to recreate or create lettering on firearms including electro-etching. One daunting aspect is the cost of the equipment and the cost of the stencils Hamilton used in his article. A gunsmith like Hamilton or John King, who often collaborates with me on projects, will usually be able to use a stencil many times and the higher-end equipment pays for itself.

I really only do one-offs and, if it’s a military gun, marking it appropriately is a nice touch. The cost of having markings engraved or pantographed combined with shipping and insurance both ways is also very high.

I wanted to put lockplate and proof markings on a recently completed reproduction Napoleonic-era “An XII Carabine de Versailles” rifle kit from the Rifle Shoppe. I was able to recreate the markings in Photoshop but the costs of the stencil, shipping and insurance was daunting. A friend recommended the Etch-O-Matic, which was on sale for $79.95. My markings weren’t very large, so the company made me a stencil for $20 plus postage. The stencils are priced by size, and you can make and develop your own stencils with another kit and an ink jet printer. For the amount of etching I do, the company’s stencil service is more economical.

The stencils were on a single sheet. I cut them out, taped them to the metal with Scotch Blue tape and followed the directions. I got pretty good markings my first try, which took about an hour for all the markings on this project, mostly because the first time I use a new tool, I go slow. The etching process per mark takes less than a minute. Mistake 1: Tape is cheap. Be sure and tape the stencil well beyond its borders (I etched a barrel flat beyond the stencil and caused myself an emergency re-polish job. Ouch!) Mistake 2: Part of a learning curve. I tried to recreate the markings exactly. For a deep etch, the markings expand slightly and are larger than I think they should be. I’ll reduce the thickness of the letters next time.

This is a simple method to mark tools or knives, too. The stencils require a black on white image, and if from a computer, it should be of high resolution. The quality of the art will be reflected in the final product.
By Jeff John

Martronics Etch-O-Matic
P.O. Box 200, Salkum, WA 98582
(800) 775-0797

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