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Chemical etching is the process of using acids to remove metal in a very precise manner. It has been used for centuries as a means of decorating metal, as well as for making master printing plates. This process is still widely used today in a number of industries.
Chemical etching is a relatively simple process, in its most basic form. Simple stated, the piece of metal to be etched is first covered with a waxy substance called a ground. The craftsman then uses a variety of tool to remove the ground from areas that are to be etched away. Once this is done the piece is put through an acid wash that removes only the metal that is not covered by the ground.
The history of chemical etching dates back at least as far as the middle ages, if not further. Gold and blacksmiths commonly used the process to decorate everything from weapons and armor to dishes and goblets. It is believed that it was first used in print making during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.