Making a Rondel Dagger – Interlude

The now finished blade came out really nicely, so I will not be ashamed to be associated with it. So I will definitively sign it. However I mentioned already that I do not currently have my own maker’s mark, since the one I used from 10 years age is now used as bluetooth logo. I am not sure whether continuing to use it could lead to legal trouble, but I guess it would lead to confusion. “That knife has a bluetooth? What does it do?”.

I tried to design a new logo, but all designs I came up with either do not appeal to me, or they require quite precise etching process to be made on a blade. And that would definitively not fit this blade, where I aim for as authentic medieval look as I can achieve.

An idea came to me to use my initials, but not in Latin script, but in Glagolitic. At least for this particular dagger. It has the advantage that not only is it a very simple design, it is also thematic – Glagolitic script is the official script of the Witcher 3 game from which the inspiration for the dagger originated. And I am not appropriating other people’s culture.

So today I set out to try how it looks and also to refine/remember my etching process, since I did not do it for quite a long time. For that I yesterday polished a piece of steel from my failed broken machete.

In the past I tried different materials as masking for etching and the best results I have got with material that does not look appealing in the least. But do not worry, it does not smell like what it looks like. It smells actually very nice when worked, because it has been made from equal parts of beeswax, bitumen and spruce resin, all boiled together and poured into water to solidify. I formed it in sticks and for last ten years it collected dust. But it does not spoil and it is just as usable as it was when new.

When heated with heat gun or even with hair dryer or a candle it quickly gets very sticky and adheres to the de-greased steel quite well. So I heat gently both the steel and the stick and rub them together to transfer some of the sticky material onto the blade. Then I use the air flow from the hot air gun to make an even thin layer. It is important for the layer not to be too thick, because it would be difficult to draw the design in it, but also not too thin because then it could delaminate during etching around the edges (delamination was a huge problem when I was trying to use paraffine btw.).

Next step is to draw the design. The layer remains fairly soft and plastic for long time and can be easily scratched through. For this I am using an old compass needle, but for finer design a razor blade or very sharp wood carving knife tip can also be used. It is important to keep the needle clean after every scratch, since the stuff adheres to it too. It is also necessary not only to scratch through, but more like scratch/chisel away. Minor mistakes can be repaired by pressing a piece of the mass on desired place and pressing it gently against the spot until it connects again. After just a few minutes of work under a magnifying glass I was ready to try etching.

For just a small logo I did not want to prepare whole big etching bath, so I used the masking mass to glue a bottle cap with cut-out top as a barrier for the etching fluid to remain in place. As a source of electrical current I have used a DC power supply from an external hard drive that has died on me a few years ago – it has an on/off switch which comes in handy. Anode (+) is connected on the steel and cathode (-) on a piece of graphite (a pencil core works too and I used it for very fine etchings in the past). As etching fluid I have used ordinary kitchen salt solution in the past, but today I have tried ferric chloride because I reasoned (correctly) that it will work better. It is solution for etching printed circuit boards diluted approximately 1:10.

It is important to not use too concentrated solution for two main reasons:

  1. The current that can go through the solution depends on concentration. Too high concentration can mean too high current and that can burn the DC power supply (lesson learned in the past).
  2. Too concentrated solution also etches too quickly and that is not desirable because it makes uneven “burned” looking and spotty etch.

After that I turned the switch on and waited for ten minutes. It was not complete success because towards the end the bath evaporated too much, it got warm and the masking layer delaminated around the whole logo. So I repeated the process once more with only five minutes etching time. I am satisfied with the result, the etching is clear and has nice black color that I know I would not get with table salt. Now I will play with the letters a bit in Photoshop to get the proportions right.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


  1. avalus says

    Ah, the wonders of RedOx chemistry. The etching looks very good and I like the design you came up with!
    Btw: I love the scribbles. Looks like some pages of my laboratory journal, on borning days :D Being creative can be really hard!

  2. dakotagreasemonkey says

    Last photo, I can see the one on the left is the one that got too hot, and lifted your mask. The 2nd one, on the right, turned out beautiful. Well done!
    Your formula for your etching mask is very interesting. Wonderfully simple, and so effective.

  3. rq says

    beeswax, bitumen and spruce resin

    That… actually sounds very lovely smelling. Not that I’d rub it all over myself, but it seems like it would create a pleasant working odour.

    I like the Glagolithic letters, but I also like the mischievous touch of the winking eye you’ve added to the “Chz(?)” directly to the right of the metal fragment.

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